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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The magical tale liveth on…

In July 16, 1997 I left Hartford, Connecticut on a state business trip to Québec City, Canada.  My purpose – to visit a 19th century estate called Domaine Cataraqui, owned by the government of Québec and converted into a historic cultural center.  My objective was to return to Connecticut with aspirations of converting Connecticut’s mansions, located in state parks, into Centers for the Arts.

After a full day of meetings with officials from the Parliament in Québec City, I decided to go into Old Québec and walk around.  Prior to my trip I was told by friends to make sure I checked out a restaurant in Old Québec called "Au Parmesan".  After a few hours of walking around in the 94 degree heat I saw the sign Au Parmesan and I walked towards it.  I witnessed the owner, Luigi, throwing strawberries out into the street at potential customers in an attempt to lure them into the restaurant.  I headed for the entrance.
Luigi saw me coming, motioned me in, and placed me at a little table behind the door.  The place was jam packed with people.  I noticed an accordion player and a singing waiter were weaving their way around the tables. (note 1)   Later, I discovered my discreet little table disappears during the winter months to make room for a coat rack.  Moments later as I was putting my souvenir bags carefully under the table Luigi returned with a man.  “Madame”, he said, “would you mind if this gentleman shared the table with you”.  Well, that was a first for me.  I looked up, saw what I thought was about a six foot guy with dark hair, dark eyes and, yes, of course a French accent.  What was I supposed to do? Say no? 

So, after a short introduction Serge sat down and we had dinner.  And after small talk and a wonderful Italian meal the bill came.  Now, being the well-brought-up woman that I am I waited for him to pick it up.  And I waited, and waited, and waited.    Serge asked me if I wanted to see a little bit of the city.  I said yes but I needed to go back to my hotel, drop off my purchases and change into something a little more appropriate for a night out on the town.  He said he would wait and then pulled out his wallet and got out his share of the bill.  Say what???  I made some kind of smart remark, got out my share and told him I would return in about one hour.   Okay, so all this 50/50 stuff was new to me.  That’s fair I said to myself.  He doesn’t know me, nor I him.

I literally ran back to the Hilton, showered and changed (thank God for the little black number I threw in my suitcase) and called for a cab to take me the near mile back to the restaurant.   Forty minutes.  Not bad.  As I entered the restaurant Serge rose from his seat and I quickly discovered my tall, dark and handsome friend was very dark and handsome but, well, not so tall.  Without another thought about it I let him take my hand and we walked across the street toward the Château Frontenac. (note 2)

We went into the piano bar at the Château and we were instantly pointed out by the piano player.  We stayed for one drink and decided to take in some real night life.  We walked out of the ramparts of Old Québec, down Grande Allée and went into a 3 story bar (the name escapes me now) and danced till the wee hours.  Then we walked back into Old Québec, up to the Plains of Abraham (note 3) and around the Citadelle. (note 4)

By now it was close to 3:30am and I was exhausted.  Serge drove me back to my hotel, dropped me off and we made plans to meet for breakfast and spend the day touring the area until my 4:00pm flight back to Hartford.

I awoke early (as I always do) and called my mother to tell her I met someone.  Another first.  I waited for Serge to arrive around 8:00ish, thinking that was a reasonable time.  But then 9:00ish came, and then 9:30ish. Finally, around 10:00 my phone rang and he was down in the lobby.  Okay – it’s all good I thought – no big deal.  But me being me could not refrain from saying to him. “so, what time do you have breakfast?”   He laughed and said he thought I would sleep in.   He learned that day that I never did and never will “sleep in”.

We took off to the Museum of Québec and then down to Notre Dame de Victoire.  

We walked a bit around Petit Champlain and then up the Funiculaire to the Boardwalk at Château Frontenac.

After that Serge decided to take me to L'Île d'Orléans, a fifteen minute drive from Québec City, for lunch. We drove around the island and I fell in love with it. (note 5) 

 We stopped at a little Casse-Crôute and I had my first “poutine”, a delicious dish of french fries, soft cheese and a brown gravy poured all over the place.


    I made my 4:00pm flight with plans to meet Serge two weeks later at Lake Placid.  And every two weeks thereafter we met 
    somewhere between Kingston, Ontario, where Serge had a course at the Military College and Hartford, Connecticut where I continued working for the State of Connecticut, specifically getting involved in the restoration of the Eolia mansion at Harkness Memorial State Park in Waterford. 

    Then in October, three months after that first date Serge proposed to me on the Plains of Abraham and we made plans for an April wedding (note 6) the following year. 

    Having told you our story I would be remiss in not explaining the significance of the “notes” throughout the story.

    1. The singing waiter, Roberto, at Au Parmesan, sang Andrea Bocelli’s Con Te Partiro at our wedding and remained a very close friend of ours.
    2. On April 4, 1998, our wedding reception was at Château Frontenac and it was the hotel for our family and guests.     
    3. Serge proposed to me with a bottle of champagne and a ring he pulled from his backpack on the Plains of Abraham.
    4.  Our rehearsal dinner was held at the Citadel.
    5.  We made our first home on L'Île d'Orléans and it was the birthplace of my son, Jamy.
    6. I just threw this last “note” in to explain why the month of April was chosen. I thought a spring wedding, much like spring in Paris, would be perfect.  Alas, no one told me that April in Québec is much like January in New England Burrrrrrrrrrr  
                  Our beginning was truly unique
            An unbelievable tale of destiny and fate
                     Another year has passed
           Magically blessed - me and my soul mate.