On Slow Travel and Gratitude

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I learned that phrase “slow travel” from my friend Frances who writes the blog Materfamilias Writes. She used it last spring when she and her husband were travelling in Europe for two months. Slowly travelling, savouring their life away from home.

View of Rivière Saint-Jean from the cycling trail.

That’s what Hubby and I have been doing this last while, slow travelling. We still are actually. Hence the sketchy posting schedule. We spent a week in little L’Anse-Saint-Jean, Quebec. Cycling every day. Not to mention eating, drinking wine, lolling, and reading, reading, reading.

Old covered bridge cum art gallery.

While we were in Quebec, I started and finished Tanis Rideout’s wonderful book, Above All Things. In fact I was so immersed in it for a few days that when I put it down, I could scarcely remember where I was. I breathlessly followed George Mallory up Everest almost hoping that the disastrous outcome of his 1924 summit attempt would not be what I already knew it was. If that makes any sense.

I’m still thinking and talking to Hubby about that book. And reading articles about Everest and the spell it seems to cast on climbers and non-climbers alike. I’ll probably write about that when I get home. But if you want to read a gripping book, with wonderful prose, and a plot that is kind of Into Thin Air meets Mrs. Dalloway, Above All Things is the book for you. Just know you should probably clear your calendar before you begin.

These quirky statues are all over the village.

When we were in L’Anse-Saint-Jean we didn’t only ride and read. We also partook of the gastronomic wonders the village has to offer. After our ride one day, we snarfed down the best hotdogs made by anyone, anywhere, ever. Grilled dogs and toasted buns and shredded cabbage, and whatever else they do to them that makes them what they are. And wonderfully golden hand-cut fries. Hubby and I normally take a pass on french fries and most fast food since his heart surgery. Well, except for my occasional treat of fish and chips. He’s way more disciplined then me. But we always go to La Fringale for hotdogs and fries when we’re in L’Anse-Saint-Jean.

Post ride hotdog ecstasy.

One night we booked a table for dinner at the B&B up the road from our condo resort. At the very end of the road, actually, where the main street that runs the length of the village, twisting up and down and around hills, alongside first Rivière Saint-Jean, then beside the famous Fjord-du-Saguenay, finally runs out.

The Saguenay fjord at sunset.

We strolled up the hill to Auberge La Fjordelaise just at sunset. The day-trippers that come by tour-boat from Tadoussac were long gone. There were a few kayakers way out on the fjord, so far out they looked almost like a raft of ducks. But mostly everything was still. And lovely.

The B&B at the end of the road.
Our table looked out on the wrap-around porch of the B&B and the fjord beyond.

We had a wonderful meal that evening. Laughing with our waiter and waitress, having no trouble communicating despite our meager French and their limited English. It’s amazing what you can say using smiles, gestures, and a few words here and there. Hubby is quite proud of the fact that he can crack a joke in French, and get a big laugh.

Our first course. The salmon is locally caught and smoked.

As we ate our dessert, and watched the far side of the fjord disappear in the darkness, we chatted about how lucky we felt to be there. How grateful we are for our life. The fact that we were able to retire when we wanted, not wealthy by any means, but financially secure and able to do pretty much as we want. The fact that we are still healthy, still active, and still keen to see and learn new things.

I was reminded of the American lady we chatted with over dinner in Peru in 2017. Like us, she was entranced with the place and the people. The hard lives and incredible work ethic of Peruvians, and the unfailing friendliness we had experienced on our travels there. She said she couldn’t wait to tell her daughters about her trip, and how they had “won the birth lottery,” as she put it.

And that night at Auberge La Fjordelaise Hubby and I talked about how grateful we are that we won the birth lottery too. We neither of us inherited wealth or power. But we were both inculcated with a love of learning, and the ability to find joy in really simple things. Like a perfectly grilled hotdog. A good book. A tasty morsel of local smoked salmon. Or a slow stroll home in the dark along the fjord. The black water, a few lights from moored sailboats way out under the shadow of the surrounding tree-covered hills, the light from a couple of windows spilling out onto the pavement.

“How lucky we are,” we said. To be able to be here. To be here. And to so appreciate being here.

Beautiful morning on the St. Lawrence.

The next morning we were up at the crack of dawn, to head down the road to St. Simeon where we caught the ferry across the Saint Lawrence to Rivière-du-Loup. And then made our way east along the Saint John River to my mum’s.

We’re here for a few more days. Someone is having a 92nd birthday while we’re here. We are telling no one that it’s Thursday, and that cake and ice cream will be available to all comers. Mum hates to be the centre of attention. Hates fuss. When we had a surprise party, and a white stretch limo for her and my step-dad’s 25th anniversary, I thought we might all be sent to bed without supper. I’ll never forget the look on my Mum’s face when the limo pulled into the yard. Scary. And when Hubby quipped that maybe she would prefer the hot air balloon ride he’d booked for later, I feared for his safety. Ha. My mum has long been a force to be reckoned with.

Still. Cake and ice cream and people who just happen to be passing and drop in. That will probably be safe. I’ll let you know.

P.S. Above All Things by Tanis Rideout is available at Amazon. I’m have an affiliate relationship with Amazon. If you buy the book by clicking on my link, I will earn a commission at no extra cost to you.

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29 thoughts on “On Slow Travel and Gratitude”

  1. “There is more to life than simply increasing its speed”, Mahatma Ghandi said….and you have described it beautifully
    Best way to travel….
    Happy Birthday to your Mom
    Dottoressa

  2. All sounds perfect Sue . Counting your blessings is an underrated pastime . The short poem Leisure by William Henry Davies sums it up for me . Happy Birthday mum – I’m on your side , hate fuss .

  3. It looks wonderful. Not sure if Mr Green and I could do this for more than a week without there being some kind of volcanic explosions but it plainly works for you. Agree totally that there is a benefit to being born into a family that doesn’t have a lot of money but which appreciates learning and literacy. Enjoy the rest of the long slow summer.

  4. It’s lovely to read about your travels through your spectacular country. You sound relaxed and happy, which is exactly what holidays should bring and your enjoyment of life’s simple pleasures in infectious. Best wishes to your mum on her birthday.

  5. Slow travel is delicious. It allows one time to think. To be. To appreciate.
    Hope that your mum enjoys a low key birthday. Safe travels.

  6. “Hubby and I talked about how grateful we are that we won the birth lottery too.” Yes. My John and I use the exact same phrase.

  7. I’m very glad you are having such a slow and lovely holiday. Our phrase, said to each other as we move about a weekend day, is “Good life, good life.”

  8. Travel is supposed to open our minds, but that’s hard if it’s limited to rushing around. And what I always prefer are the people, the different cultures that can seem so exotic yet one can always make a real connection with people nonetheless. Folks is folks.

  9. Since you were an English teacher could you help me with Faulkner? Can I read “Above All things” instead of “Absolon Absolon”? That’s my book club choice for the month. But I’d rather read your book. What to do? Any hints about how to make Faulkner comprehensible?

    1. Oh, dear… I’m not a help when it comes to Faulkner, Sandy. I’m not a fan at all. Had enough of him during my American Lit course in university. Vowed never to read him again. Also I have begun to refuse to even consider some books chosen by my own book club. I still show up for chat and food, unrepentant that I haven’t read the book. Life‘s too short, and there are too many wonderful, books to struggle through those which I find painful.
      Would definitely recommend swapping Faulkner for Tanis Rideout. Especially since her book is so topical what with all the controversy over Everest this year.

  10. What a delightful read! It is miserably hot in Texas now , and your pictures and descriptions of your travel were a wonderful respite from the scorching earth we are surviving for the next few months. I love your grateful and appreciative heart.

  11. Hi … sorry I’m a little late … with any luck you’re still celebrating!! Happy Birthday to your mum … I hope she had a wonderful day … enjoying her visitors, ice cream and cake 🎂
    Great post, as always Sue!
    Rosie xxx

  12. What a lovely reflection on travel and partnership and recognizing and appreciating one’s fortunate situation. Slow travel through Canada in late summer sounds wonderful. My husband and I are off to Switzerland for a couple of weeks soon and I’m very much looking forward to experiencing a new-to-us country.

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