The first thing I notice is the Hudson’s Bay blanket. They are iconically Canadian and part of our country’s history. But there it is, on my bed… in a Monastery in old Quebec City. The four muted, primary stripes of the blanket are the only colours in the room. A vision of white; austere and simple, recalling the original nuns’ cells.
The cozy alcove is for contemplation. The gentle falling snowflakes outside, for dreaming. There are no distractions. No television, but yoga is offered daily in the refurbished convent/school/hospital. Quiet is to be adhered to. Breakfast to be partaken in silence.
After three nights at the regal Chateau Frontenac, this is a complete change. An opportunity for simplicity and reflection, for quiet and still. Yet to my chagrin, I discover that I’m not very good at it.
I’ve spent the last three nights in the city on my own; Bruce’s unavoidable trip to Vancouver suddenly in the midst of our ‘getaway’. So, I toured and researched, did my usual ‘saturation’ of a city. I’ve been outside in minus 20 degrees C, for days straight. I’m worn out, yet somehow energised by spending time in one of the cities I love most.
So, with my sweetheart due to arrive about 10 pm, I check into the Monastery at 3 pm. I fully expect to rest and rejuvenate, do some writing, happily ensconcing myself in the serenity of it all.
About 4:30, courtesy of a visiting yoga group, I discover I had needed a reservation for the in-house restaurant. I’ll have to go back out for dinner and I’m soon layered up, pulling on my winter boots, wrapped in multiple scarves and leave the calm haven behind.
I wander to the quaintness of Petit Champlain in the lower town. I find a cozy bar for dinner, then step back outside and discover a snow storm is blowing over the icy St. Lawrence River. It’s now dark, blustery and colder than ever. Undaunted, I decide to venture beyond the old city walls to a recommended wine shop.
I have it in my mind that a welcome glass of wine when my beau arrives might allay his bewilderment at the unexpected monastery setting. With the address of the wine boutique tucked safely inside my mitten, I walk. Soon I trudge on, and on, and onwards yet, beyond the embrace of the city walls. I quickly resemble a walking snow-woman. The stinging flakes pelt my face and whip around me like frosting on an icicle. Thirty minutes later, I almost stagger into the shop. Other customers walk in, more dignified as they remove their ski goggles, unperturbed under their fur-trimmed, super-sturdy winter coats. My lack of heavy-grade winter attire confirms I’m clearly not a local.
I choose a nice bottle of Quebec white and relish the ten minutes of raising my body temperature before the harsh reality sets in; I still have to make my way back through the white swirling streets. I reach ‘home’ with one hour to thaw before hubby arrives.
“How’s your stay been in the monastery?” Bruce asks, as we sip my hard-earned wine. He’s expecting to hear that I’ve relaxed and taken refuge from the winter chill.
Yet, I admit that I haven’t taken advantage of the unique setting, that I really haven’t been here much. And then there was that snowstorm…
We agree that we still have another day, and evening, to enjoy the surroundings and pulling the wooly-warm HBC blanket up around us, I remind Bruce that breakfast in the morning is in silence… in total silence.
I often relish the absence of speaking, in fact I adore silence. Yet silence at breakfast, in a room full of people feels odd. And then…
As teaspoons tinkle and plates clatter, and absent the greeting of the day, our other senses compensate.
‘Good mornings’ are given with a nod and refills of coffee thanked with the warmth of a smile.
You gaze just a little longer at the poignant black and white photos on the wall, or the lush green vertical planters – coriander and parsley profuse.
You marvel at the snow, cradled and settled prettily in the white window panes. You’re thankful for the warmth and comfort.
You gaze out to the adorable little house on the monastery grounds and conjure its past. But when you can’t enquire… its mystery remains intact, and that’s more than fine.
You take a deep breath and settle… is it not a welcoming change to be silent?
You look across to your partner. You hold each other’s gaze just a little longer than usual.
Thankfully, you’ve had a ‘million’ breakfasts together, but this indeed, is unique…