Je me souviens...

As you travel north across the forested mountains of regional Québec, on that long, swirving, lonely road, you can't help but think of the unsoiled majesty that still dominates the land. High above you, in the clouded gray skies, and an eagle screams. A drizzle of rain blurs your windshield. It has been more than three hours since you've left Québec City but still you can only see the endless carpet of coniferous trees. How many lakes and rivers had you seen? You had lost count an hour ago.

When finally you emerge from the woodlands, your ears pop from the pressure of altitude dissipating. At last, some signs of civilisation, you think, as you reach a crossroads surrounded by scattered conviences. In a short time, you would reach Chicoutimi.

The Sun pierces the clouds more and more, shining down on all those isolated farms. In passing some few fields of yellow flowers, you are reminded of the fresh smells of summer's blooming. On the horizon appears your destination, Ville de Saguenay, which native people used to call Chicoutimi. It meant 'where the depths are no more'. It was the birthplace of the Witch of the North.

Built across a steep ravine, Chicoutimi stands divided, atop age-old rocks, tall solid bridges linking the two halves of the city together despite the unending determination of Saguenay River. You approach from the southern side, rapidly passing through the despairing sight of the newer developments, those flat expanses of large surface stores, brand names and familiar products. The city takes form as you plunge into the old commercial center, remembering the days long past when you used to play around these jumping streets, paved over crazy hills.

As you cross the bridge over the rumbling waters, you penetrate into another world, even simpler, poorer, lonelier. Here the hills rise up to new heights, giving you spectacular views of the whole little french-speaking town. How many people live here anyway? Probably not even 200,000 souls. Cross-bearing catholic churches, now mostly abandoned, still look over the quiet community. Ascending still more, you reach the lady's house.

Waiting at her front porch, she waves hello and says 'Bienvenue en Amérique!'

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