24 hours in Quebec City

While I would strongly recommend that if you can in any way make it possible to spend a lot longer in this beautiful Canadian city, you should.  However, it is totally understandable that sometimes all you can get is a day or even less.  That is what happened to me.  I was hoping to spend at least a full day revisiting the city after almost 20 years, with traffic delays, by the time I arrived was dinner time on a Thursday and I knew that it would be impossible for me to stay beyond lunch hour on Friday.

So despite the late arrival on Thursday — we ended up in our hotel rooms (at the Best Western Plus on Courrone Street in Center-ville) around 7 PM after a long road trip, we did not want to waste a minute.  So we took the car right up to the walled city (despite my skepticism of having a vehicle around my neck and figuring out where to park) because we though that having a vehicle will give us the freedom to change plans at short notice.  Well, in the month of October there aren’t many tourists and that is why we found street parking right away (Canadians have made it extremely convenient to park with meters that accept credit cards and there is plenty of parking everywhere).

We walked around for a while just to get a sense of what was going and obviously compared to how lively the area is when we went the first time in summer, it was a lot quieter.  It also means that it was a lot easier to get into restaurants and bars that are nearly impossible to get in during peak season.  Being fairly hungry by this time, we went to the highly recommended Pub Le D’Orsay (65 Rue De Buade).  It is a very charming place and even if you are traveling solo, this place is very welcoming because we saw a lot of single travelers enjoying themselves at the bar and exchanging tips on sightseeing and enjoying the city.  The interior of the restaurant is warm, inviting, and casual, essentially what would one expect from a pub.

I did not even pay attention to the wine menu because this is a place to pick a beer from about a dozen beers brewed all over Canada.  In our group of three, we chose separate ones and liked all of them.  For our meal I had a grilled vegetables and goat cheese sandwich that comes with French fries and a sides of salad.  My wife had a smoked salmon bagel sandwich; that too came with fries and salad.  My sister-in-law had a steak.  All three dishes were delicious and we loved the whole experience of eating there.  By the time we were done, it was almost 10 PM.  We walked around a little bit in the quiet streets and chose against a dessert.  We decided to get a good night’s sleep.

The next morning we got ready just around 9 AM to get a relatively early start on the day.  We typically keep our breakfasts simple and would rather blow our budget on lunch (great way to eat for less money in a highly recommended restaurant).  For dinner, we might occasionally spend a lot of money but we would rather eat at a mid-priced casual place like D’Orsay.  So for breakfast, we hit the fairly well known street next to the public library.  This street has several places to dine for all three meals and we found this totally French bakery (Brulerie St Roch at 375 Rue Saint-Joseph Est) that serves a variety of croissants and pastries.  Combine it with a cup of coffee and you will be in good shape to get through the morning.

So now that it was daytime and despite having been successful at parking the car the night before, this time we chose to walk to the walled city just to have that opportunity to stop wherever we liked and explore all the small streets that are best jnjoyed by walking while wearing extremely comfortable shoes.  It was really delightful to explore several streets in the area.  For lunch we headed to Cafe Bistro Du Cap at 67 Rue du Sault au Matelot, and enjoyed delicious crepes.  Soon after, it was time for us to head west to Ottawa.

Is suicide compatible with happiness?

I am obsessed with pursuit of happiness as the only goal of my life but I recently read about the suicide of Lynne Rosen and John Littig, a couple who made a living as happiness consultants.  We do not know how such positive-minded folks decided to kill themselves in a joint suicide pact, but I started to wonder if living no longer gives you happiness, is it okay to kill yourself.  Remember, I view this dilemma through a purely philosophical lens without any guidance from any religion.  Personally for me, I am so excited about living (despite all the mundane problems that we have in our lives), and would rather be immortal to be able to enjoy all the wonderful things that will happen in the future (the optimist in me makes me think human beings will keep moving forward rather than kill each other and wipe out human civilization), but I am willing to make an exception in case I am terminally ill, in a vegetative state or going through tremendous physical suffering, in which case I am all for assisted suicide.

It is clear that this couple were not in physical pain but if their logic was that it would be better to be dead than suffer whatever problem they were facing, then, it is contrary to what they preached about.  Plus, we should all remember that there is hope only as long as we are alive, so regardless of the severity of the problems we are facing, we should rise to the challenge rather than give up.

Why am I unhappy despite being rich?

Anecdotal evidence has always said that people in poor countries are generally much happier while folks in wealthy nations work too hard, live under high levels of stress, worry too much, consume way too many medicines, particularly anti-depressants, and their families are falling apart.  A new survey has found that 7 out of the ten happiest countries are in Latin America, a region mired in poverty, violence, and corruption.

African kids smiling for the camera

While I could go on and on about why people are unhappy despite having it all, a Singaporean businessman Richard Low puts it best: “We work like dogs and get paid peanuts. There’s hardly any time for holidays or just to relax in general because you’re always thinking ahead: when the next deadline or meeting is. There is hardly a fair sense of work-life balance here.”

Ladies and gentlemen, you have to remember the Camus principle that we earn money so that we can buy time with it.  Remember, time is ultimate currency, and only when you have time you can be happy.