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This past weekend, S and I celebrated our fifth anniversary. It doesn't sound like much -- and indeed, it seems like just yesterday we were tying the knot -- but as far as modern marriages go, we are ahead of the curve. Case in point: we ran into a friend we hadn't heard from in a while in the Starbucks on our way out. He got married in 2010; they are going through a divorce.

So we decided to visit Quebec City. Or rather, we decided to visit Vieux-Quebec. Unfortunately, it rained on us. Fortunately, we make our own fun. Like Montreal, particularly Old Montreal, Quebec City has a decidedly European flair: cobblestone streets, small boutiques and markets, and lots of history. We stopped for coffee in a tiny bistro, and had dinner at Le Pain Beni, where everything except the pasta was available gluten-free!

S / Me: "Take a picture of me sticking my head inside!" / "Go stick your head inside so I can take a picture!"

Uttered at the exact same time upon seeing the cannon. Yet more proof that we are a match made in Purgatory.

We didn't do much in Vieux-Quebec, but we did get some good pictures despite the dreary day. Back at our hotel, we laid low and celebrated five years of deciding to make it extra-complicated to break up. I don't kiss and tell, but I will say it involved rum and the soundtrack of Braveheart.

There was a busload of German tourists staying in our hotel, and we all got up at the same time. We stood in line for coffee speaking a strange amalgamation of English/French/broken German.

The real gem and purpose of our journey was the Basilica at Sainte-Anne de Beaupre. A masterpiece of gothic architecture and one of the oldest pilgrimage sites in North America. We love churches, especially impressive ones such as this. (Remember, you're looking at the atheists who got married in a church.)

The Basilica grounds were impressive, sporting chapels, monasteries, and depictions of the Crucifixion. S and I did the walk, all the while praising Jeebus for his fortitude. It was a lot of work for very little payoff, as the monastery we reached at the top of the hill was empty and closed to visitors.

S: We should just stand there and knock until a monk answers.
Me: lol he would be stone-faced, like "Yes, child."
S: "Is Jesus home?"
Me: "... *door slam*"

If we had gotten a door-slam, we could have walked back down the hill at peace.

For the most part, we were entirely respectful and totally self-deprecating of our atheist status. When I happened upon the tomb of Alfred Pampalon, patron saint of alcohol and drug addicts, I had to wait a long time in order to snap the picture. See, for me, it was simple historical curiosity -- but for the genuine Catholics who were there ... well, I would have felt bad for intruding on their prayers by taking a picture of their dead guy.

The Basilica and its grounds are magnificent. We did not expect them to be so firmly entrenched in the city limits, however. In fact, we initially drove right past it because no way could that really be it; there's a McDonald's across the street.

In closing, on the road we kept seeing faded signs proclaiming Denny's was on the horizon. Since we had just come from a heavily Catholic experience, and since Denny's is the usual victim in our "white Christian status-quo" jokes, we decided to stop there to use the washroom.

Turns out we'd been misreading the old signs; it was Benny's. Disappointed.

lamora: Not from a tap-dancing jelly-boy who may or may not have been a high-school thespian. (this one i like : bill & dave)

Right along the 45 parallel -- halfway between the Equator and the North Pole.

I'm kind of cheating in this case, but it does take 2.5hrs to drive there -- and it was kind of a trip because my parents had only been once, very briefly. So I'm going to talk about where my mother-in-law* lives: Stanstead, QC. This is in the Eastern Townships, and the town also comprises Beebe Plain, which has the honor of being divided between Quebec and Vermont. Actually, one of the most interesting sights Canusa Street, which is literally a road that runs right along the Canadian and USA border.

Stanstead is a sleepy, quiet town with only a few thousand residents. It's also a peculiar mix of bilingualism. Nominally a French town (most tiny places in rural Quebec are predominantly French), Stanstead gives off an almost American vibe while retaining its European roots. You've got the English folk who descended from the first settlers, you've got the French folk alongside them, and then you've got the mixed families with their easy codeswitching.

S and an American high-five across the border. WORLD PEACE!

There are border checkpoints all along this dividing line, but this spot is an exception. Yes, there are cameras and border patrol that passes by regularly -- but Customs proper is one block over. There is a library here whose grounds cover both countries (there is seriously a line drawn down the floor inside; it was closed so no pics.) Yes, the library has dual-citizenship. However, the only entrance to the library is in America.

US Customs has permitted Canadians to enter the library only if they remain on the sidewalk leading up to the door. That's where I was standing to snap this photo. If you step onto the street, you get arrested. I'm not even kidding.

We went for a picnic lunch in lavender fields, visited the famed stone circle (inspired by Stonehenge), skipped stones at the lake, and got chummy around the border. It was a wonderful day, and my parents really enjoyed themselves. Stanstead is one of those little towns you wouldn't think of visiting, but there are a few really neat things to be found there.


*S's mother. I have two mother-in-laws; the other owns a restaurant close to where we live now.


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