Day 648: Pudenda Agenda

When Laetitia’s morning coffee finished brewing, she walked into the library and scanned the bookshelves looking for inspiration. She found Bailey and Hurst’s Rude World, one book in their trilogy about rude place names. When she toured the UK, her groups visited many of the places listed in their books, but she hadn’t done that recently. Scanning the index she found one listing in Quebec, “Fanny.” Laetitia’s map indicated that it was east of Quebec City and north of the Saint Lawrence River, just off highway 389.

Laetitia’s group left Quebec City and drove east along the north shore of the river, and then north toward their destination. Most of Canada is bilingual, but in Quebec the road signs are often just in French. The area has abundant wildlife, especially moose, and there are signs advising drivers to be alert. Generally, the signs depict the silhouette of a moose and words of warning in French such as nuit danger (night danger), prudence (caution), or risqué (risk). In Laetitia’s group were mostly Americans unfamiliar with French and “prudence” or “risqué” have different meanings in English. The group viewed the juxtaposition of the signs as they went further into the wilderness as a commentary on the declining morality of the moose population, going from prudence to risqué, as they got further from civilization.

The group arrived at Lac Fanny to find “Fanny” was name of a dirt road connecting campsites. There was no hotel, restaurant, or bar for happy hour. However there was a camp of fisherman who had just come ashore with a good catch and who invited the group to join them for a shore dinner. Laetitia wondered whether she was just lucky, or whether the invitation came because her group was mostly young and female.

During some after-dinner beers around the campfire, one of the fishermen had a story about a lad who arrived looking for putain (a prostitute). He was from a small town, and some men in a bar back home told him that the prevalence of ladies of that persuasion was the source of the name of the local lake and street. The fishermen laughed and sent him back home to his girlfriend. Laetitia’s group seemed baffled until she sent a whispered message around the circle that “poontang” was a corruption of “putain.” The story provided the limerick of the day.

A profligate lad whose agenda
Was to chase after female pudenda
Proved not to be canny
When he came to Fanny
So he was sent back home to Glenda.

Day 647: Danse Sans Pantalons

Laetitia and her group spent most of the day driving along the south shore of the Saint Lawrence River toward Quebec City. After crossing the river, the group visited the old fortifications and the Plains of Abraham, where Wolfe defeated Montcalm in 1759, a decisive battle in the British conquest of North America. The group planned to stay and dine that evening at Chateau Frontenac, one of the grand hotels built by the Canadian Pacific Railway during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

After making those arrangements, Laetitia walked down the hill through the old town near the hotel. Her grandmother had been there years ago and instructed her to have some of the French-press coffee served in the local restaurants. Times had changed, and Laetitia found that they now served only the auto-drip variety. She wasn’t disappointed—she liked coffee made that way, too—but she had hoped to be able to tell her grandmother about reliving the remembered Québécois experience.

Laetitia went for her happy hour sojourn to a cabaret in old town. She found a perch at one end of the establishment’s long bar and ordered a pastis. She watched the bartender pour a shot of the yellow, anise-flavored liquor into a glass and saw the drink turn cloudy as he added five parts water to it. As she sipped it and watched the crowd, Laetitia noticed that some of the bar patrons were ordering something they called la jaune Russe, which appeared to be pastis cut with vodka instead of water. After a few of those, a woman named Marie-France began dancing a kind of can-can on the bar. When the crowd began to shout “sans pantalons,” (without pants), took her pants off and tossed them into the crowd in the manner of a bride tossing a bouquet. “Maybe it’s a Canadian thing,” Laetitia thought, remembering paparazzi-style photos from the 1970s of Canada’s first lady, Margaret Trudeau, panty-less at a night club. It was getting close to the time to meet her group at the restaurant, so she dashed off a limerick and walked through the old city to the Chateau Frontenac.

When after some drinks, Marie-France
On the bar gave a wild can-can dance.
She made the crowd roar
And cry out for more
But, alas, she’d but one pair of pants.

Day 646: Cap-Chat Coup de Grâce?

In the morning, Laetitia and her group made the short drive from Sainte-Anne-des-Monts to Parc National de la Gaspésie, where they spent most of the day. It is a park featuring twenty-five peaks over 3,000 feet and the highest Appalachian Mountain peak in Quebec Province. It also has the only caribou herd south of the Saint Lawrence River. Afterward they visited the Cap-Chat lighthouse, built in 1909. The group then spent the evening in the town of Cap-Chat.

There are three stories about the origin of the name Cap-Chat. One is that at some time in the past, a person with an anthropomorphic bent thought that the so-named headland bore a feline resemblance. (Chat means “cat” in French.) Another involves the vengeance of the “Cat Fairy,” who turned a tomcat to stone for eating small animals that the fairy claimed as her children. A third is that it is a corruption of Aymar de Chaste, the name of a French admiral who became New France’s Lieutenant-General in 1603.

Laetitia always found happy-hour crowds a great source of limericks, and today’s group was no exception. A bit of gossip about two teenagers circulating around the waterfront pub where she went provided the limerick of the day.

When Andres took off Aimée’s bra
He thought he was near coup de grâce
‘Til he found her girdle
An unyielding hurdle
‘Twas the gossip today in Cap-Chat.

Day 645: Pudenda Referenda

After leaving Percé, Laetitia took her group to Forillon National Park at the tip of the Gaspé Peninsula. They spent the day hiking and enjoying the scenery and bird life of this magnificent area. When they departed they drove along the south bank of the Saint Lawrence River estuary to Sainte-Anne-des-Monts, where they were spending the evening. This small city is located between the Chic-Choc Mountains and the south shore of the river. It was named after the mother of the Virgin Mary, whose local shrine is a destination for pilgrims during the feast of La Bonne Sainte Anne every summer. Laetitia and the group visited the Exploramer Aquarium before going to their hotel. The aquarium features underwater life from the area.

From her barstool perch during happy hour, Laetitia sipped a Blanche de Quebec (Belgian-style unfiltered wheat beer) and watched a drunk expound with slurred speech about female pudenda, especially that of his wife, whom he referred to as Sainte-Anne-des-Mons and with whom he had just had a spat. After a while, some members of the crowd began to tire of his rant and started polling the other patrons about whether they wanted him to stop or continue. After several votes, the count was unanimous against, and he left the bar, but not before Laetitia had the limerick of the day.

At the bar, it took three referenda
To quash a drunk’s rant on pudenda
But the crowd had enough
And he left in a huff
Unwilling to change his agenda.