1 - Dispatch From Departures Old and New

We are off on an anniversary trip. Our first one was very long ago - using phone calls, travel agents, checks written at a ticket office - and carbon copies. This one has been arranged using terms unknown back then: Boot-up, wi-fi, online, web search, virtual tour, chat group, web-site, e-ticket, cut and paste, ink-jet, link, scan, LED, web price, cell phone, app, download, web-alert, log-in, GPS, streaming, flat screen, cloud, attachment, PDF, email, blog - and with the assorted spam, crash and reboot thrown in.

We board a huge new aircraft, a marvel full of technology. A button reclines seats into lounge chairs or even into beds. Individual choices of 27 movies, 24 music channels, 10 video games, a satellite map that follows the flight - all with a cast of thousands of remote control buttons and icons to learn.

But even before the door closes, some small bit of this complexity fails. Digitized safety instructions start and stop - then the screens all go blank. They pour us a drink. The lights blink off. The screens say, “Please Wait.” Workmen come aboard. Another drink. Then “Reboot Fail” - and we must off-load while they fix the glitches.

Add in a lighting storm that closes O’Hara for several hours. We will arrive a day late and (with the terrible exchange rate) - a dollar short.

Now to sleep, perhaps to dream - of better departures in simpler times.

- Re-booting Rod

2 - Dispatch From Nouvelle-France

My high school French never did me much good.  I only took it because:
A.  A useful language to know.
B.  It would always be the international language.
C.  Mom spoke it and would do my homework.
D.  Brother was taking it and would do my homework.
Turned out the answer was: “None of the above”.  I can get by to find a beer and a toilet, but misunderstandings are bound to occur.


Take la Grand Defile du Geants.  We had a big parade for our Giants in San Francisco, just after the World Series - it was good.   So when we found out that Quebec City was going to have a Giant’s parade we jumped right in.  Our black and orange baseball hats were not needed - but digging in a few drawers and Vola! - 17th Century French peasants.  

The parade is just the start of the week-long Les FĂȘtes de la Nouvelle-France - though you won’t see it translated into English.  This is all about the French speakers who got here first only to be conquered by the British in 1759 - a bit of that war is still going on.  By law, English must come after French, but sometimes they just don’t bother.

So we played dress-up and they welcomed our efforts.  I suspect there were a few others non-frogs here just because they like costume parties.  One man, looking like the Count of Monte Crisco, was parading two big poodles, draped with fleur de lis coats.  I asked if their names where Jacque and Fifi - he said, “no.  Maxine and Wilson.”

Viva la Quebec!

- M. Rene Stuart


3 - Dispatch From a Bridge


Quebec City is old.  She was important as a seaport, but then the railroad was invented.  The deep and wide St. Laurence cut her off from the train routes, modern Canada's bloodstream.  Enter the engineers.

Bridge plans started in the 1850’s.  The first was up by 1904, but just as it was being finished someone found a bad calculation and sent a letter to the engineer in charge - by snail mail.  An urgent telegram came back too late.  The whole thing fell into the St. Laurence along with 96 men.

They didn’t give up.  After due investigation, a second bridge was being finished in 1916,  and 100,000 people came to see the last section being lifted into place.  Opps!  It is still at the bottom of the river with another 13 souls.

The present 1917 bridge at 1800 feet, is the longest of its kind - and listed as one of the engineering wonders of the world.  It allows us to take a bike ride literally “to die for”.

Quebec now has her trains and we have a great peddle up one side of the St Larry, over the bridge and down the other - with a ferry back over to where we started.  Their vast system of bike paths is well engineered too - landscaped. well signed, and sprinkled with big pieces of public art.  Bike cops and repair patrols are out - and the free map shows a couple of micro-breweries.  Bless those engineers!

- Cycle Stew


4 - Dispatch From the Fireworks

An anniversary night should hold the promise of fireworks!  Often a girl’s expectations are dashed - at other times ... far exceeded.

Tonight is our 35th.  I have promised her fireworks - and fireworks I shall deliver!   Luckily it also happens to be the 100th anniversary of the International Fireworks Competition - held for the 17th time at the base of a huge cataract outside of Quebec City.

The natural amphitheater affords fantastic acoustics for the team’s chosen music - in this case a mix from Strauss to Pink Floyd.  A suspension bridge passes over the top of the falls offering multiple places from which to shoot off, or even drop the fireworks.  Each country in the competition has one night to score - and tonight is Italy’s effort - entitled “Notte Di Fuoco” (Fire's Night)

We put down a hotel blanket on the grass and pull out our picnic and wine.  Others nearby are mostly locals attracted by the incredible weather - Mexico’s team was rained on last week.  Mick and Louise provide that local contact that is the real highlight of any travel.  He, from Port-a-Prince, and she a teacher, proved to be as fun as the fireworks to follow.  An instant bond.

The dark brings a projection show using the falls to tell the legend of La Dame Blanche, who jumped off in her wedding dress when her lover did not come home from the war.  Nearly 300 feet of whitewater for a screen produces a ghostly apparition to tell her sad tale.   No anniversaries for her.

All rise for the Italian National Anthem.  (Have you heard it?  No disrespect - but no wonder they can’t win any wars.)  Then it begins.  The music rocks, rockets burst, bombs explode and everyone applauds each of the 10 acts.

It ends with the CanCan - a bribe to the local judges?  But its great music for pyrotechnic interpretation - fiery candles rising like dancer’s legs and ruffles of starbursts showing lifted skirts.  I have no idea how the other countries scored, but I vote for Italy.  I caught it on my camera: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sgofcLMTbEs

 As for Jean - these fireworks will have to do.  She is so spoiled already.

- Rockets Red Rod

5 - Dispatch From a Wedding Dress

You can’t even trust your best friend.  That was the lesson Jean got for her 35th wedding anniversary - that plus dinner and a show.

A few weeks back, Jean’s Maid of Honor and bestest oldest friend, came up to spend a few days.  She found a pretense to have Jean dig out her wedding dress and try it on.  Then I dug out the Hawaiian shirt I wore, added an old shell lei and some flowers that just 'happened' to be in the house.  We went out on the back deck to use the willow tree to mimic a photo from our wedding album.  What fun!


Little did Jean know that the resulting picture would end a long trail of photos that I strung together and put into a movie for our anniversary - some old shots of our long and lucky adventures through married life.  They aren’t the best photography - but each one was selected to remind her of specific fun event - and suggest to her that I might still be worth keeping.  

Movie:  You Are Still the One

I loaded it on her iPad and set it out to play over midnight drinks, just the two of us on the terrace of  Le Chateau Frontenac.  An iSurprise!

And yes, she still can wear that dress.

- Cecil B. Stew
PS.  The shirt shrunk.

YOU'RE STILL THE ONE Lyrics by Orleans
We've been together since way back when
Sometimes I never want to see you again
But I want you to know, after all these years
You're still the one I want whisperin' in my ear

You're still the one -- I want to talk to in bed
Still the one -- that turns my head
We're still having fun, and you're still the one

I looked at your face every day
But I never saw it 'til we went away
When winter came, I just wanted to go
Deep in the desert, I longed for the snow

You're still the one -- that makes me laugh
Still the one -- that's my better half
We're still having fun, and you're still the one

You're still the one -- that makes me strong
Still the one -- I want to take along
We're still having fun, and you're still the one
(yes you are)

Changing, our love is going gold
Even though we grow old, it grows new

You're still the one -- that I love to touch
Still the one -- and I can't get enough
We're still having fun, and you're still the one