Friday, September 8, 2017

Miriam and Patricia's Excellent Adventure: Following Chief Inspector Gamache

My friend Patricia wanted to have an adventure for her upcoming significant birthday. She had recently read nearly every Chief Inspector Gamache mystery novel by Canadian author, Louise Penny and decided that we should do a Louise Penny tour of the Eastern Townships of Quebec, the setting for all of the Chief Inspector Gamache novels. Penny was launching her new novel, Glass Houses, at the park in Knowlton, Quebec, better known as Three Pines, and that is where our adventure began. We checked into Aubergue Knowlton above the bistro, scene of many of the Three Pines events in Penny's novels. In the morning, we headed to Sutton, where we visited the frequently mentioned boulangerie and the small Episcopal church where two main characters were married. The scenery was magnificent everywhere. 

In the afternoon we joined several hundred other Louise Penny fans to meet and greet her as well as to hear her talk about her newest book. Her charm and grace was infectious. People stood in line for over two hours to get books signed. The book launch was sponsored by Brome Lake Books—owned in the books by Myrna, but in real life by a charming family with several teenage boys. Evening took us to Theater Lac Brome, where we saw a fascinating cabaret show.

Sunday, we visited the morning service at the Abbaye de Saint-Benoit-du-Lac, the setting for The Beautiful Mystery, Penny's eighth Inspector Gamache book. Gregorian chants played a large role in the 11:00 am service which took place in an arts and crafts sanctuary. In the basement, the monks sold cheese and other products from their extensive farm.

We then toured the countryside until we came upon the Manor Hovey, Manor Bellechasse in A Rule Against Murder.  The resort was still all a-buzz because Louise Penny had just finished a week there, which she spent with Bill and Hilary Clinton, and Chelsea and her family. We had a lovely lunch on the beautiful bistro's porch and talked to the excited waitress, who told us, among other things, that Hilary doesn't drink. Very funny.

Monday morning, we began our journey to Quebec City. About half of the trip was through beautiful countryside, which smelled of lavender—a product of the area. Then we hit the interstate which we took to a ferry across the St. Lawrence River from Quebec City. The first thing that came into view was the Chateau Frontenac. It was a great way to enter the city. Our hotel was in the middle of Old Quebec, which we explored that afternoon. We ate supper in one of the restaurants mentioned in Bury Your Dead. Next day I wandered around the old city a bit and met Patricia for lunch at the Chateau Frontenac.

 The highlight of the trip was the Bury Your Dead private tour, with Marie, an outstanding tour guide. We visited all the important sites in the book, including the Literary and Historical Society, called the Morrin Center in real life—really cool. Also visited the cathedral, several houses mentioned in the book, the Plains of Abraham, and ended up at the small restaurant where Louise Penny sat as she gathered information for the book. All in all, a fascinating way to tour that great city.

When I got home, I read Bury Your Dead. Although Marie had mentioned the killer, it didn't matter to me because in my mind, I was able to follow every scene that took place in Quebec. Very satisfying and fulfilling. I would heartily recommend this type of literary adventure. Minotaur Books, Louise Penny's publisher, has done a remarkable job of creating web pages for each of her books. You can find the cultural settings pages here. We followed their guidance as we created our tour.

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