Quebec street

Every now and then everyone needs a break. This year the break took place in Quebec, which is a long way from where I hang my hat. It was a different world in a lot of respects. First, it was in another country. Second, the landscape was different. Finally, English was a second language up there.

It was very nice. Canada is an excellent place for summer vacations. The boreal forest is something everyone should see at least once. The dark pine and mixed hardwood has a spicy, earthy smell. The call of the loon is mysterious, mournful. There are many freshwater lakes and streams, the forest thickens as you go northward.

In the past we’ve gone camping for real, with a tent in the middle of nowhere. This time we took the civilized approach and rented a series of cabins in some national parks, first at Mont Tremblant and then at Jacques Cartier. From these perches we ventured forth to various destinations.

The most remarkable was old Quebec.

What a neat place. For North America it’s pretty old, I believe the oldest structures dated from 1608 or so. It’s a taste of Europe in Canada, with cobblestone streets and profligate shops set in typical 18th Century (mostly) sturdy stone structures. The city was busy, there were crowds of tourists and locals. It was definitely worth seeing, probably my favorite moment was sitting in the D’Orsay restaurant.

We were seated by an open window, there was a pleasant breeze. The staff was professional and bilingual, the food was top-notch. Me? I had to sample a local specialty, Quebecois Poutine chased with a fresh-poured pint of Guinness. It was amazing.

A regret? That I speak no French. Now, it was never a serious hinder. Most people there in the province were bilingual; however, I think it’s polite to speak at least some of the local tongue. I’ve spent a lot of time overseas and I’ve always felt that way. Maybe it’s just me. If I ever return to Quebec, and I may, I’ll be sure to Rosetta Stone some French first. Seventh-grade French doesn’t cut it.

This segues into the locals. They were friendly, helpful. Yeah, OK, some of them had no English or very limited English. So what? Quebec’s first language is French- their land, their rules. A traveler has to adapt to local norms and customs, not the other way around. We were grateful that those who could speak English did so. Once again, very helpful and nice people.

And the food! I had one of the best steaks of my life in a restaurant called Baton Rouge in Terrebonne, north of Montreal. The everyday produce in the stores was of excellent quality as well. The French, whether in Canada or in France, know how to eat in style. The food was awesome, and it formed a formidable barrier to my weight loss goals.

Speaking of which. The rough forest and hills lent themselves to exercise in the great outdoors. We went on hikes, I got to do some rough compass work on some trails.

lake view quebec

Really worked up a sweat on those well-marked, rugged trails. It was awesome, very enjoyable.

Of course there were some minuses. For many, the northern insects can be a barrier. The biting flies. The mosquitoes. These are the prices that must be paid for such natural beauty. After all, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Plus, some might be off-put by the remoteness of these locations, although Park Jacques Cartier was within easy reach of Quebec City.

In short, this was an excellent trip. I can recommend Quebec to anyone.

Much thanks goes to the people of Quebec, and the helpful staff of Sepaq, the people who made our visit to the national parks so pleasant.

Quebec, highly recommend!


Reading before the fire

Woman reads book near fireplace

I just finished John Birmingham’s Zero Day Code on audiobook, the thing was some twelve hours long. If I had read it, it would have taken four or five hours of my time. Now that I’m done I have to say that the audio experience was pretty darn excellent, like having your favorite uncle tell you a story before the stove on a cold winter’s day.

OK, maybe this is not a revelation for a lot of you, but it was for me. I’ve always devoured the written word, books have been my friends since I was a little kid. Don’t know how many I’ve read, but it’s been one hell of a lot.

Zero Day Code left me little choice but to listen. It’s been released as an Audible exclusive, so outside of Patreon you’re out of luck if you want to read. It’s also the case that the final draft isn’t available on Patreon either, so the final polished product is only available as an audio book.

Well, I really wanted to check out Zero Day Code, so I bought the audio book. A friend has loaned me a number of audio books in the past, but those were all documentaries. Listening to a novel was a very different experience.

It was amazing, excellent. The narrator (Degas) did a fine job. He did women’s voices, different accents, everything. Birmingham’s prose came to life as never before, the effect was cinematic.

Really, I can’t heap much more praise on this effort. How can you top a five-star, which this was?

The best part of it was that me and a couple of hundred others were involved in the project from the start through Patreon, and it was super-cool to listen to the culmination.

By all means, take some time out of your busy day and relax with Mr. Degas’s voice.

It’s like sitting in front of the fire.

“Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!”


…Which of course is a line from the poem by Shelley, “Ozymandias.”

The lines that follow are haunting.

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away.
This poem is a dirge for civilizations past, and it leads into today’s subject, the worldwide launch of John Birmingham’s Zero Day Code. You should buy this immediately if you’re a post-apocalyptic junkie. His novel (can you call an audio book a novel? Probably.) checks all the blocks.
Violence. Check.
Action. Check.
Chilling realism. Check.
Plausibility. Check.
Strong characters. Check.
I’m not going to bust out a full scale review, I’ll just give this book a strong “recommend.” This novel and the creative process that surrounded it has been talked about in these pages enough. Click on the link above and check it out for yourself.
It’s totally worth it.