It was a long enough drive yesterday.  I set out early, after sharing a coffee and toast with Dad.  I gave Mom a kiss and then Max and I were off.  I didn’t sleep much the night before, anticipating the solo drive through Montreal.  Apart from the disappointment that Mom and Dad weren’t making the journey with me, this part of the trip was causing me the most anxiety.

In the end, at the rest stop just east of Cornwall, I met a family that was driving home to the other side of Montreal and they offered to  guide me through the city on a route that they use all of the time, from the 40, across the Pont Champlain, 15 South, the 30 and then north on the 20.  I had originally planned to make my way to the Lafontaine Tunnel, but this ended up being a tremendous relief, having someone guiding me.  As they went off on the 30, we waved wildly and bonked horns…so wonderful to bump into a french-speaking woman, her husband and young son…and to have them assist in such a concrete way!  About half way across the Pont Champlain, I prayed my gratitude out loud.

The remainder of the day’s drive went really well.  I felt so overcome with the beauty of the St. Lawrence River as it stretched out to my left…such a vast expanse of water.  The clouds hung heavy, but were so transformed by the intense light, as the sun had moved low to the west.  I thought of the artist, Rene Deroin and his connection with this landscape…I thought about painting, belugas, the sacred and poetry.  It was a very spiritual experience. 

About an hour past Quebec City, the weather changed.  The cloud fell down on the dark water and the hills to the right of me.  Finally I was wrapped and moving in a blanket of white, fog so thick I had never experienced anything like it!  It took us another hour to pull into Riviere-du-Loup.  It was raining hard and sitting at about 13 degrees when I pulled into a wee roadside motel.  Max was sooo happy and so was I!  It was a great little spot, up above an escarpment overlooking the St. Lawrence River.  Once settled, a good walk and some degree of wandering, a stop at a french corner store and the yummy little meal that I tried to capture in the photograph below, but can not possibly be explained.  An excellent meal!  I knew when I closed my eyes that I would be spending the morning wandering this beautiful and historic city.

Riviere-du-Loup Meal

The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz by Mordecai Richler

Had I attended high school in Canada, I’m guessing this novel would have been on my reading list, but given that I went to Charles M. Russell in Great Falls, Montana, I was reading All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren instead.

It feels like the perfect ‘read’ to start off the summer.  Half way through, I’m taken by Duddy’s determination or as some would say, his sheer tenacity.

I am enjoying Richler’s honest portrayal of the Jewish ghetto of Montreal and I feel as though my reading is revealing more of our Canadian story, a theme that seems to be the weft of my entire vacation.  The core belief of Duddy’s grandfather that, “A man without land is nothing,” feels very substantial to me and really drives Duddy to make some questionable choices as he goes along.

‘The teacher’, Mr. MacPherson, of the initial chapters, is intended to be secondary, but for me, there is such significance to the character written into these pages.  Schooling, as well as family, is at the very center of who we become in our world.

I highly recommend that if you are looking at a summer-read and have not picked this one up OR watched the critically acclaimed motion picture of 1974 (I will watch it after reading the book), this might be one for you.