QUEBEC CITY, CHARLEVOIX, WILLIE MAYS AND ROBBIE ALOMAR
QUEBEC CITY - We’re still in a semi-recession/depression/slowdown. But you’d never know it by looking at the situation here.
All weekend, there was a celebration of the history of Nouvelle France going on in the old town of Quebec. Guys were dressed in short knickers and thick wool socks with tri-corner hats, and the women were spilling out of their tightly bound tops and corsets.
They were openly (gasp) selling Beaujolais and Quebec beer at kiosks outside Notre Dame du Victoires in the lower town, but this is still Canada and there was a guy on hand to make sure your libation didn’t migrate up to the Dufferin Terrace. Sigh.
I had dinner with some newfound Quebec friends the other night, and they were saying the city isn’t doing all that badly in the tourism department.
“They keep investing in things,” one chap told me over duck confit and steak tartare (everyone here eats tartare; I was half expecting it at breakfast today). “The 400th anniversary party is going on for a few more years.”
Toronto, of course, continues to celebrate things like Caribana and Taste of the Danforth and the September film festival. But it’s taken the longest time for the folks at 100 Queen West to understand that you have to invest in the city to make money.
It’s something that Mel Lastman never understood, much to our chagrin.
I’ll do more on it later, but I managed a couple nights at the stunning Auberge St. Antoine while I was here. Wow; luxury and history and remarkable service and outstanding food all in one wonderful package.
Had a chance to spend part of the weekend northeast of Quebec City in Charlevoix, touring a remarkable privately owned garden near La Malbaie on the north shore of the St. Lawrence, which is salty this far east and several miles wide and is called the “sea” and not the “river.”
It’s a beautiful part of Quebec that we in Ontario don’t hear enough about. I’ll try to remedy that in a very small way with a story in the fall that focuses on Baie St. Paul, a lovely artists colony that’s the home of Cirque du Soleil.
The light is exquisite, the people friendly as all get out.
Mind you, there are few folks on the globe as friendly as Americans. I pulled out of QC Sunday morning and ended up docking at the Sagamore Resort on Lake George in the southern Adirondacks of New York; kind of a mountainous version of Muskoka.
The service leads a lot to be desired. And I mean a lot. But the company at the bar on a Sunday evening was outstanding. I was watching Tiger stomp all over Padraig Harrington at Firestone when a couple guys asked me about golf. Pretty soon we were chatting about Woods, the local golf course and the greatest baseball player in history.
Thankfully these were all supremely intelligent folks and, to a man, we agreed that nobody can touch Willie Mays.
I covered baseball and the Blue Jays for six years and never saw anyone approaching the total package that was Willie Mays. But I gotta say that even though we had our personal differences at the end of his Toronto career, Roberto Alomar came close.
Alomar had an incredible gift for coming up big in the clutch, as witnessed by his home run in the ALCS against the A’s. He also had a dizzying array of infield moves that resulted in endless loops of tape in the TSN highlight reels.
But it was the little things that made Alomar the best Blue Jay in history and easily the best all-around player in his time. He knew how to read pitchers. He knew how to read outfielders. He knew how to move runners over with a groundout to the right side of the infield. Hell, he probably knew where the beer salesman was at any time in the third deck.
Alomar was, pardon the exaggeration, a bit like Wayne Gretzky that way. Other guys hit more power or maybe more average. But nobody knew the game like Robbie Alomar.
I read in the Star the other day that he’d like to coach. If he could pass on one-tenth of the smarts he showed in a Jays’ uniform, he’d be fabulous at it.