Saturday, June 30, 2012

Au revoir Québec et merci!

Well, today marks the official end of the UCBA French Study Abroad Program for 2012.  Fittingly enough, today is also Canada Day and I'm glad to be here for part of the day to wish my home and native land a happy birthday!

Some of the students have arrived home safely by air, another group is spending a few days in Montréal at the Jazz Festival before returning home to Cincinnati by car.

I'd like to say a grand merci to Sylvain, Andrée-Anne and Céline at Edu-Inter, our partner school, for all they have done this year to contribute to the program's success and also to help me with a few challenges encountered this year.  They were great to work with.  

I have enjoyed my time in Québec, speaking French all day long and being Canadian again for two weeks.  I have also learned more about the history of this wonderful region and discovered some hidden gems (especially la promenade des écrivains).  I am leaving with some new ideas, for my courses, my research and some changes I will make to this study abroad program when I offer it again.

Here are some final photos of one of the most beautiful and historic cities in North America.

Au revoir et à bientôt!

Les Baleines de Tadoussac

Today, I took a day trip up the St. Lawrence river to Tadoussac, the site of magnificent whale watching.  I have never done this before and decided to celebrate the end of the program with this excursion into unknown waters.  Wow, it was magnificent!  A three hour cruise on a small ferry-like boat allowed us to observe seals, otters, beluga, fin-back and minke whales.  They were quick in their dives, so it was difficult to catch them by photo but it was spectacular.  (The white dots are two beluga whales off the side of the boat).  The weather was drizzly, which made for some great colours and cloud formations in the sky.

Aside from the whales and other marine life, the landscape was breathtaking, especially the fjord and its waterfall (la Chute du Caribou) which separates Baie de Ste Catherine from Tadoussac.  The river is very wide at this point (25 km between each shore - the south shore is the Gaspé peninsula) and it is a majestic view of this massive body of water that flows into the Atlantic ocean 800 kms from this point.  We wondered what Jacques Cartier thought when he first entered the mouth of the St. Lawrence over 500 years ago.

Le Canada est beau, n'est-ce pas?

Museés encore!

I've made some wonderful discoveries this year in Québec.  Most notably have been the museums and galleries I had not previously visited.  One such delight is the Maison Chevalier, a former 19th century restored mansion with period interiors, furnishings and a 3D exhibit tracing the history of Québec.  An unexpected surprise was the vaults in the basement - former wine cellar - which is now used to display artisans at work at their craft.

Le Musée de la Civilisation has two other subsidiaries that I made time to visit this week.  Firstly, le Musée de l'Amérique Française.  Situated on the site of the first seminary in New France and the first site of Université Laval, this was a museum that I put on the course excursion list because it traces the history of French in North America.  Most people are aware that the French first settled in Québec and in Canada, but not everyone realizes that there are French settlements from the Atlantic coast of the USA, through the Midwest and out to the West coast.  The history explains many city and town names in the US as well as links up with what students have learned about the Louisiana Purchase and its effects on Haiti, USA, France and Britain.  I was impressed with the museum and disappointed that not even one of my students wanted to visit it, especially considering this is a part of their country's history too.

The last of the museums - Centre d'Interprétation de Place-Royale - is located in the heart of Vieux Québec.   This collection offers a wonderful National Film Board of Canada short production on Champlain and the beginnings of French commerce in port of Québec.  Many artifacts as well as a timeline on the development of the square from Champlain to Frontenac and through the British conquest.

I enjoyed my explorations of new museums in the city and its surroundings.  The weather was rainy off and on all this week, so it was perfect for indoor discoveries.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Le Cirque du Soleil, sous la pluie


Last night we had the opportunity to see the world famous Cirque du Soleil perform live, outside under the highways of Québec City. We all stood on uneven, gravel ground (and had the rain pour down for a short time!) for about one hour to see the show. Quel spectacle!  Unfortunately, it was a shorter show last night because of the weather, but certainly the performers wowed us with their acrobatics and unique style.

Many people don't realize that the Cirque du Soleil is québécois by nationality. Founded in 1984 by two Quebec street performers, the company is based out of Montréal now and is world renowned, particulary in Las Vegas where it now has two permanent shows. It is described as "contemporary circus because of its "theatrical, character-driven approach and the absence of performing animals" . It really is a combination of acrobats, circus and street performance with a live musical soundtrack.

As a way to to pay hommage to their roots and to thank the people of Québec, the
 Cirque offers free one-hour shows every evening during the summer months in Québec City. I read that this also provides good training ground and practice for junior members and for the troupe to try out new shows and ideas.

C'est magnifique!

Le Musée de la Civilisation

Musée de la civilisationThe Musée de la Civilisation is one of the largest and most extensive museum in Québec City.It houses several different exhibitions at once and also is part of a museum complex that includes 4 other museums around View Québec.  The main museum has a permanent exhibition on the history and modern times of Québec - including film clips, realia, documents and models.  Our group visited this last year and found it very informative when learning about the different epochs in Québec's evolution.  We have a tendancy to concentrate on the history, the great battle, the loss of French to English, but it is important to remember that Québec has a modern history that is very noteworthy:  the Quiet Revolution, October Crisis, Referendums, 1967 World Exposition and 1976 Winter Olympics in Montréal and of course who could forget the great Maurice "Rocket" Richard and the Montréal Canadiens, the first NHL Hockey team! 

Of the temporary exhibits currently at the museum, I was particularly interested the retrospective of Michel Tremblay, Québec's most prolific and popular modern playwright/author.  As an undergraduate student at the University of Alberta, I remember studying Les Belles Soeurs and seeing a staged version.  I enjoyed hearing his interviews and taking a walk inside his life.

In addition to Tremblay's exhibit, there was a retrospective display commemorating the 75th anniversary of CBC-Radio Canada, the first Francophone Radio and Television station in North America.  It wasn't quite a trip down memory lane for me, because being from English Canada, we didn't get a lot of the older, vintage shows and programming until official bilingualism was declared in Canada in 1969.

 The big event at the museum this summer is the exhibition on Samurai - a private collection of weapons, armour and dress from the beginnings of the Samurai class in Japan in the 1100s to the end of this honoured class in the late 1800s.  Needless to say, it was beautiful.  I was surprised to see that the collection is on loan from a couple, avid collectors from Dallas, Texas.,

A suivre, demain...