Autumn Leaves and Country Charm!
Last year, we took the opportunity of my university's first ever "Fall Break" to take a long weekend trip to Asheville, North Carolina. All it all, the trip was fabulous, packed with amazing food, great microbreweries, and scenic hikes. One thing that we were slightly disappointed in: Fall colors had yet to materialize in their full glory in the first week of October. We could see just how spectacular the colors would be, but alas that promise was not quite enough. We were a week too early.
We thought that this year we would be too late to see the fall colors. Two weekends ago, after our first 4-week session of French classes were completed, I made the executive decision that we needed a break from French grammar. (Will was as happy as a clam in his false beginner class, but I was in the "Intermediate" level, and I think anyone who had to deal with French subjunctives for seven days of 3-hour class sessions deserves a break!)
Quebec's Eastern Township is reported to be very quaint--and only 60 miles from Montreal--so we headed east out of the city for a day in the countryside in an attempt to see if we could catch any last remaining bits of fall color.
And what countryside! This picture--completely untouched (not even cropped!)--was taken by me, on my phone, inside a moving car, as Will drove along the picturesque country highway.
In part, we know about this area because we are both big fans of Louise Penny's murder mystery series featuring Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surete de Quebec (and more on that on another post when I write about murder mystery series we're gobbling up), and she mentioned a few of these Eastern Township locales as inspiration for her fictional town of Three Pines, Quebec.
And, clearly, these towns are grasping at the publicity while they can. We were slightly tickled pink at the sign below as you enter the population 5000+ town of Knowlton. We took the obligatory picture, along with other fans of the series.
By the time we were in our second Eastern Township inspiration, the "Three Pines Welcomes You" stickers (supplied, doubtless, by the towns' Quebec equivalent of Chamber of Commerce) started to seem a bit cheesily opportunistic...
None of the obvious grab at tourism dollars could mar the charm of these little villages though. Will, Katie, and I took a stroll through Sutton (local population of only about 3000 or so, but teeming with tourists!) and enjoyed the sunshine, golden leaves, and friendly neighbors working in their gardens.
At one point, an unleashed tiny bulldog mix came out to growl at Katie--which elicited, of course, much louder barking than one would imagine coming out of our own sweet-looking dog (but which Will and I are sadly too familiar with)--and his owner came out to apologize.
"I'm so sorry about that, I don't know what came over him..." "He's normally very friendly... It depends, probably..."
Of course, all this is said in Quebecois French, and so we respond with the universally understood language of sympathetic dog owners: Smile encouragingly, nod in sage agreement, and shrug sheepishly about the utter un-dependability of our dogs.
We soaked up some lovely country charm and reveled in the beauty of being (briefly) in a small town before returning to cosmopolitan Montreal and digging into some Portuguese Piri-Piri chicken.
The next day, a Sunday, we walked the 2.5 miles from our home to the top of Mont Royal, as popular with perambulator-pushing native Montrealers as it is with busloads of foreign tourists. Our three months thus far (late April-June, then late September on) in Quebec has taught us just how much Montrealers enjoy their parks. Any halfway decent weather will get people out to enjoy picnics, jogs, hikes, bike rides, and just relaxing on the lawn.
Now we do as Montrealers do, and we soak up every bit of good weather we can by getting outside.
Sadly, we had quite a bit of rain last week, and a lot of the beautiful leaves fell. We feared that now it was really too late to enjoy fall colors, but we decided to make another--slightly shorter--expedition to Rougemont, a town a bit less than an hour east from Montreal, to visit a cider house (Cidrerie Michel Jodoin). We read on Tripadvisor that the cidrerie also has a scenic hike (with a small entrance fee) right behind its buildings. Perfect!
Will joined a short tour of the cider operations and a free tasting while Katie and I sat outside to soak up the sun and the beautiful country air. Then we went on what was supposed to be a 3.6 km hike but which turned out to be 3+ miles long--possibly because we took a wrong turn, having missed the path buried in all the fallen leaves...?
We keep forgetting that people who live out east or west have different ideas (from us midwesterners) about what constitutes an "easy" hike, and this jaunt turned out to be a little more strenuous than one would expect for a cider house operation. However, it was gorgeous, and a good time was had by all.
By the time we finished the hike, the cidrerie was hopping with people enjoying their family, friends, and lots of dogs, in the last really nice autumnal weekend.
Then we made it back to Montreal and tore through our Indian feast (in one of the many ethnic restaurants along popular Boulevard St. Laurent) of samosas, pakoras, tandoori chicken, butter chicken, lamb curry, aloo gobi, garlic nan, and mango lassi.
We're really appreciating the fact that Montreal is a town where we can have the best of diverse cosmopolitan living and easy access to bucolic countryside charm. Now only if it didn't have those winters...