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August 19

 

Well, here I am at the airport again…. It’s 6:50 am and I am on my way to Quebec City to attend a conference and to take some training on the next version of the software with which I work.

 

I had breathed a sigh of relief a couple of days ago reading the newspaper to find that Air Canada had finally cleared its backlog from the blackout and was back on normal schedule. As usual, I was premature in my relief. About the exact moment I arrived at the Air Canada section of the airport their computer reservation system was hit by a virus. Lucky me……

 

Actually, I was further, and temporarily, insulated from the impending mess because after I wended (wound?) my way through the enourmous lineup of people waiting to get to the check-in counter I ended up at the kiosk computer check-in section where there were only short lineups. I noticed that the person in front of me in line could not get her boarding pass at the kiosk, but I thought little about it. My turn came and I got my passes right away.

 

At that point I noticed that almost none of the kiosks were working properly. It turned out that very few people were able to get boarding passes for any flight, either at the counter or at the kiosk. Only thirty out of over one hundred on my flight had gotten passes before the virus closed things down completely.

 

At that point, as the PA system announced what the problem was I began to realize what kind of a day was ahead of me. My boarding pass was going to be no good to me if the flights couldn’t leave!!

 

After one and a half hours in the holding pen they decided to issue hand written boarding passes to those with e-tickets, use “festival seating” and get the planes the hell out of there, which they did. Actually, that was the only good thing to come out of this mess, instead of seat 26F I got seat 12D.

 

We arrived in Montreal the correct number of minutes later, but that was an hour after my flight to Quebec City had left. I spoke to a testy lady at the gate who directed me to the farthest gate possible away from where I was, and off I went, with about fifteen others from the same flight all going to the same conference.

 

We arrived at the gate just in time for a flight which was then ready to leave, and was boarding its last passengers. Some had not shown up for as they were, of course, delayed on some other Air Canada flight somewhere. Some of our bunch got on this flight, and as we had been wait listed by Air Canada for this one we got to the top of the list for the next one in ¾ hour. Most of us made it onto that plane so I arrived in Quebec City three hours later than planned having had no lunch or dinner.

 

While I am most definitely not a fan of Air Canada’s I must admit that they handled this situation very well. The staff, for the most part, worked hard to get the job done, and there was no mass confusion or shouting. As one of my American friends at the conference, who had flown here via Vancouver said, that’s because we’re Canadians. Maybe she’s right.

 

So, here I am in Quebec City after a lengthy day, and in the midst of friends and associates with whom I have worked since 1992. It’s very warm here, in the high 20’s at 11:00 at night and I have not had a chance to see anything of the city yet except the Provincial Legislature which is across the street from my hotel. I’m staying at the Hilton only because that is where the conference and the training are being held, and also where all of the aforementioned folks are or will be staying.

 

One of the reasons I come to this conference is to “network” with the people here to remind them of how I can help them make money by doing what I do, and they get more opportunity to do what they do. While on the short flight from Montreal to Quebec City I sat beside an executive of the company who makes the software and who sponsor the conference and it turns out that his department provides professional services to large clients. He knew me by reputation (no he didn’t ask to change seats!!) and said that he needed someone like me for his group. So…. I guess networking can pay off.

 

As an example of the value of this, the client for whom I was working in California and Ireland for the last one and one half years was because of sub-contracting to a dealer who I had met at one of these conferences several years ago.

 

I met up with the aforementioned friend from San Diego and some others and we headed off to the “Allee” to find a place to have dinner. At that point it was about 10:00pm Quebec time, but only 8:00pm stomach time.

 

We headed off past the Legislative building and turned left at the edge of the entrance to the Citadel.  Just ahead was a gate

 through the old wall surrounding most of the old city (P) and, after passing through we found ourselves in the midst of a highly developed, but charming tourist version of Quebec . As this area is the edge of the historic part of the city it has more than its share of visitors from outside and although all of the buildings are charming “old timers” very colourful and decorated, the occupants of the stores were, in order of frequency, souvenir shops, restaurants, and a distant third, clothing stores. We wandered down the street toward the St. Lawrence River trying to find a place which struck us all as interesting (and affordable). In the end we back tracked a block or two to a little place down a few steps from the street.

 

We had a very nice, and typically French, lengthy meal (Marsha would love that) and talked shop some, and some general conversation about Dubbya and American politics. All of the others were ‘Merican so I  was outnumbered, but in some cases I had a better handle on the facts than some of them did.

 

It was very pleasant and about 11:30 we wandered back through the still thriving and active streets to our hotel, where the others repaired to the bar, and I headed for some sleep. Needing to get up at 3:00 am Vancouver time I figured I needed some sleep.

 

August 20

 

I struggled up at 6:00 to get ready in time for the course which I came here to attend. I made it on time and spent the day saying hello to old friends and listening to the new stuff being put into the next version of the software. As usual it was a combination of regurgitating old stuff, and brief glimpses of what’s next. Also as usual, what’s next was very interesting and will present some additional sales opportunity.

 

At the end of the sessions, and a wee rest, I again met up with my friend from San Diego and we headed off to another part of “Le Alee” this time to a party organized by one of the software manufacturers who are at the conference. As we walked toward the party we noticed that every single restaurant along the way was packed, both inside and outside. This is Wednesday night, so I can’t imagine what its like on the weekend.

 

The restaurant which the group had chosen to host their event was obvious, even from a distance, because the crowd outside on the narrow plaza was very rowdy. Ken and I both said that this must be it, and it was.

 

Typically for this kind of event, it was noisy, crowded, and crawling with boys and girls posturing and trying to impress each other. A long time employee of mine, who is now on her own as a dealer, and a consultant has not lost her touch. Five minutes after she got there she was surrounded by ten guys all vying to impress her with their charm and wit. She sure knows how to work the crowd. We used to call her “flip” after her habit of flipping her long hair back when men are around.

 

Again, I got the chance to say hello to some old friends and catch up on each other’s lives. After a couple of hours of this a large group of us calved ourselves off of the crowd and headed off to find a place for dinner. It turned out that we ended up being fourteen in number and after a loooong walk led my a member of the group from New York who claimed to know where we were going, we found the place he had in mind.

 

It was a noisy Italian restaurant, and after a short wait they were able to seat us all (at three separate tables). I sat with my friend and two guys from New York , our leader and his business partner. Our leader quickly revealed himself to be a totally self-possessed arrogant jerk of the worst New York type, and his partner is a smart soft spoken Jewish guy who keeps Kosher (as best he can) and has been around this sub-industry for years.

 

These two squabble like husband and wife constantly, but in the same vein, they share each other’s food and seem to like each other. Very strange.

 

So, once again after a couple of noisy hours at dinner we headed back to the hotel, where the others headed for the bar, and I headed for bed.

 

August 21

 

Today I am a tourist. After a late-ish breakfast, I transformed myself from a consultant to a tourist and ventured out to see the sights. After examining the map of the centre of the City (P) I decided to take a circle walk from the hotel starting at the same gate to the old City which I had seen on my first evening, so I set off past the Legislative Building (P) again and turned once again toward the wall and the river at the bottom of the picturesque street.

 

All of the buildings, once you pass through the old wall are very quaint looking and all are created in the style which one imagines was prevalent in the nineteenth century and earlier. The buildings are either amazingly well looked after, or are newer than the design might indicate. It’s probably a mixture of both.

 

There are quite a number of horse drawn carriages available in this area offering the tourist a restful way of getting around. (P)

 

I wandered down the hill looking at the pretty sight and taking my usual gazillions of pictures. (P) Almost at the end of the street I took an arbitrary left turn and wandered down a hill to a nice little street bordered on one side by a church yard which contained a semi-permanent craft market. On the street below the elevated market was a street musician playing a squeeze box. I took a movie of this pleasant scene and will attach it to this narrative once I figure out how to compress the movie to a size which will download to your computer quickly enough. The format of movies on my new camera is different than on my old and supposedly less versatile one which I used on my March trip to Ireland . Sigh!!!!

 

After enjoying this quiet and pleasant interlude I turned toward the river again, past the entrance to the Chateau Frontenac (P) which dominates the skyline from almost any vantage point, and descended a steep set of stairs to a park across the road. The terrain here is interesting as this part of the city is built on a high  escarpment, which I would guess to be about 200 feet, which then overlooks part of the City directly below (P) and the St. Lawrence river just beyond. After some more picture taking in the park (P) I returned to the boardwalk adjacent to the Chateau Frontenac and for the photographic experience, paid $3.00 for the trip down the escarpment on the Funiculaire. This very vertical descent is interesting as you are surrounded by glass on all four sides and it creates an illusion of falling, but slowly. (P)

 

At the bottom we were ejected into the middle of a very touristy, but again quaint looking set of streets which extend from the base of the escarpment to the river about four blocks away. (P) I wandered virtually the whole length of this section of streets taking in the sights and snapping away at interesting looking buildings. One strange one is a newly renovated section of a building clad totally in copper sheeting. (P)

 

One building bordering a square, where some excavation of previous levels of the city were displayed had an very interesting mural on its wall. The mural depicts a number of groups of people going about their business, but the interesting part is that some of the people are from today, and some are from much earlier times. They are juxtaposed in the same scene. This to me was an excellent visual way of showing that over time these places have been used and enjoyed by generations of people. (P)

 

I came across several street musicians in my wanderings, including a harp player (P) and a fiddler playing traditional Quebecois tunes and doing the heel/toe stomping routine on a board brought along for the purpose. A movie of this fiddle player will be placed here when I solve my little technical problem.  I did go into several of the shops but as I expected they offered only tourist souvenirs which were of no interest to me.

 

I decided to return to the top of the escarpment, but this time I climbed the million (it seemed) stairs to the top instead of taking the return trip on the Funiculaire. (P) (Don’t ask me why I took the Funiculaire down and walked up, there is no rational explanation.) When I reached the top, gasping for air, and with my knees wobbling, I got some bottled cold water and sat down on a bench on the boardwalk to recover. It was very pleasant sitting there watching the people, listening to the harp player and watching the comings and goings on the St. Laurence River below. (P)

 

Once recovered, which took some time, I decided to take the “Promenade” route back to the hotel and started along the boardwalk in that direction. Within about a quarter mile, this section of the boardwalk ended at the base of a set of stairs easily twice as high as the ones I had recently climbed. I steeled myself and up I went, slowly but with determination. I soon realized that the stairs were going to continue to appear for quite a while yet, almost all in the uphill direction, and interspersed with flat spots. All of the flat spots had benches for the weary and breathless to recover, (P) but I pride myself on the fact that I did not use any. I did stop to take a few pictures of the ship traffic on the river below. (P)

 

Eventually, about three pounds lighter I arrived at the top which opened up to a broad expanse of rolling green park, next to the old Citadel of Quebec. I recovered there for a bit, again taking in the people and the surroundings, before venturing across the park to look at a particular piece. (P) What was interesting about this particular piece was that this is the Plains of Abraham , which we all know played such an important part in the formation of our country. It in itself is not particularly interesting to look at except for its provenance. This is where the British climbed the escarpment in the dead of night and defeated the French to win control of French Canada. So….. depending on which side of the fence you are sitting on, this was a very good thing or a very bad thing. It was mildly interesting to me that this spot seems to be treated with a considerable amount of respect by the Quebec (or Quebec City ) government.

 

I stood there for a little while looking at the place and trying to imagine what that day must have been like. Of course the spot is surrounded by twenty story American chain hotels, so a little bit of the feel was lost.

 

I then turned away to begin the short walk back to the hotel. I had an appointment for a meeting at 3:30 which I did not want to miss, so after a brief rest I recreated the consultant persona and went for my meeting.

 

The person with whom I met gave me an extra entry badge so that I could spend some time at the conference Exhibit Centre that evening. (I had not registered for the conference itself, only the training sessions prior to the start of the conference) I spent a couple of hours saying hello to many old friends, talking to some product manufacturers and generally doing my networking thing. It was rewarding on a personal level to get to see these folks, and has the potential to be rewarding from a business point of view as well.

 

Having had about enough at that point I retired to my room for the rest of the evening and organized myself for my departure tomorrow morning to Toronto where I plan to spend a couple of days with my cousins who live there.

 

I have really enjoyed Quebec City, but to tell the truth, even in the hospitality industry it’s very easy to identify the Quebecois who don’t like anyone who is not fluent in French, and they got to be a real pain.

 

I was able to restrain myself from telling one or two of them (in fractured French) what I thought of them. If you think about it, it is weird to be in a part of your own country where you feel like a foreigner. That’s what it felt like for me, and from their comments, for a fairly high number of my associates who were there.

 

I have spent only a very little time here and just skimmed the surface, but it is very pleasant, and a place I would come back to for a longer visit.

 

 

 

 

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