By the Banks of Lake Ontario - Toronto, Canada

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By the Banks of Lake Ontario - Toronto, Canada

 
 
 

KPI: Key Performance Indicator - A measurement which evaluates a task's success and tracks progress towards a specific marketing goal.

CRM: Customer Relationship Management - A set of programs which enable companies to organise and personalise customer services and support.

CAC: Customer Acquisition Cost - The calculated overall price of sales and marketing expenses of a set time frame, divided by the number of new customers in that time period.

To Skip Stones: To throw flat(-ish) stones in a spinning manner that will bring them to ricochet along the surface of the water, which inexplicably brings about a sense of pensiveness.

 
 

Toronto is a busy city. And the Toronto life is a fast paced one.

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John, Tim and Steve live such lives, sleep in the suburbs, and work Down Town, "where the iron reaches for the sky". "Tim has his coffee to go and he rushes to work on his morning commute." and "Steve doesn't go out too much, C++ is a quite consuming affair"

As the iron reaches for the sky, thousands of careers reach for new heights

As the iron reaches for the sky, thousands of careers reach for new heights

 

All in all, "KPI CRM and CAC, these things do matter a great deal you see".

And what else but these things, and "API" (Application Programming Interface) should be their focus, if they want to finally get that condo (appartment) that's so much closer to "the company tower" ?

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But in the middle of all this commotion, in the midst of worthwhile gusty winds of professional ambition, some sit down by the banks of Toronto's big Lake Ontario, and ponder.

Like Geoff for example. He "comes alone to think and make a few stones skip" under the late-autumn sun, or once in a while. "He thinks"

A view onto Lake ontario and the Toronto skyline

A view onto Lake ontario and the Toronto skyline

 

"He thinks, there must something more to all this, all the days that fly by in a mist, they just skip off, from the shore of, his life, skip like the stones skip."

Geoff, by Lake Ontario in Oakville

Geoff, by Lake Ontario in Oakville

 

And on the beaches of the city, or by the quieter banks of Lake Ontario in restful suburbs, stones skip, and thoughts are pondered by those who dare sit down, and question the pace of city lives.

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Thanks a bunch scrolling/listening/looking - and if you wanna support this Ukulele Road Trips adventure feel free to donate here or hop over to Patreon.com/ukuleleroadtrips

This #GoingNorth adventure made possible thanks to the generosity and help of many local Torontonians - and Mississaugans - and also thanks to CloudMusic Ukuleles, the ukes I'm carrying/playing/using as note stands on this crazy advenutre

 
do feed the ukulele player

do feed the ukulele player

 

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Sur Les Murs de Québec ! - Québec City, Québec

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Sur Les Murs de Québec ! - Québec City, Québec

 
 
 

There's a huge party on the walls of Québec ! The accordion is starting to play lively melodies in the heart of the city, and the whole town is invited to come and dance !

Viens-t'en ma blonde allez à soir c'est l'parté ! Y-a tout plein d'beau monde sur les ramparts un peu pactés ! Come over here my sweetheart, huge party tonight ! There's lots of good people, a bit drunk, dancing of the walls !

And the historical figures of Québec also cannot resist the sound of drums and flutes, they're off to mingle with the masses, holding hands and skipping to the music.

 
 

All the famed characters of Québec's past, they're here joining in! Lieutenant-Général Montcalm is there, Lord Dufferin as lively as always, Price the architect enjoying the view and of course, the explorer Jacques Cartier, here before everyone else, but still very much around !

The commotion is a-goin' on atop the steep stairs of the "break-neck stairs" or "Escalier Casse-cou", just above the most European of streets in North America.

The commotion is a-goin' on atop the steep stairs of the "break-neck stairs" or "Escalier Casse-cou", just above the most European of streets in North America.

 

And off to dance we go ! T'es ben jolie dans ton p'tit jupon frisé, si tu m'aimes tu m'suis on va aller drêt-là giguer ! You're well cute in your little crumpled dress, if you love me me, follow me and let's skip away ! Because this is no ordinary party that the city's invited to! The guests of honour being:

GENERAL MONTCALM

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Y'a Montcalm qui perd le sien ! There's Montcalm who's losing his calm ! 

Unfortunately for the French, things didn't turn out too well in the XVIIIth Century in Nouvelle Franse. Brigadier General Louis-Joseph de Montcalm was sent to Canada by the French crown, having already fought in two wars in Europe. Here in New France, during the seven year war (1756-1763), he lead the line against the English, winning quite a few important battles along the way.

However, faced by an overwhelming opposition, he would see his dear city of Québec besieged and surrounded by the English in 1759. When the English managed to land nearby, Montcalm decided to rush out and attack rather than to wait for reinforcements. On the "Plains of Abraham", that would be his demise. Montcalm lost his calm, and the battle. Wounded during the fights, his imminent death would inspire him this tragic relief:

"That way I won't have to see the English in Québec" he told the surgeon's brother.

"Oh no!"

"Oh no!"

 

LORD DUFFERIN

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Y a un lord qui ronge du frein (Dufferin) ! There's a lord with the bit between his teeth !  

This play on words is a bit tricky, so bare with me. "Ronger [du] frein", to chew a brake, in French, means to be eager to get going. And this Lord "Dufferin" ('du frein') sounds like "Lord of the brake" in French. Hence why this is hilarious. Mainly because Lord Dufferin had a very exciting life.

This charismatic Englishman, Frederick Hamilton-Temple-Blackwood had a career as long as his name in Lebanon, Turkey, India... Sent to Canada by the English as Governor General in 1872, he actively oversaw a period of rapid change, politically, and economically. Always at the ready to meet the locals, help the disadvantaged, and see things first hand, he was also a most charming presence in high society, as that facial hair-trimming indicates. He was actually responsible for saving the old Québec city walls from destruction when they started to get hacked down by the council, and even persuaded them to rebuild what they had destroyed. No walls, no party, so thanks where thanks are due.

Fun fact about Frederick, as a young man, he published his witty and successful journal of a cold adventure up North, mainly through Iceland: "Letters from High Latitudes". An eager adventure, Going North, does that ring a bell?

PRICE THE ARCHITECT

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Y a un Price qui dessine bien ! There's a Price who draws well ! 

Unmissable, in the heart of the city, sitting atop the hill of the old town, the Château Frontenac peers over the celebrations. The architect of this famous Québec landmark too, has joined in with the fun below !

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The train companies at the end of the 1800s were building lavish beautiful hotels to advertise train travel. And Bruce Price, an American, was chosen to build the one in Québec after having drawn up the train station of Montréal. Very inspired by the location and in the style of the fortifications built by Lord Dufferin, Price devised the unmistakable landmark. Inaugurated in 1892, the big central tower was however only added a three decades later.

JACQUES CARTIER

Et Jacques Cartier qui se souviens ! And Jacques Cartier who does remember !

Jacques Cartier, remembering his discovery of Québec. Not his actual real face, of which no pictures remain.

Jacques Cartier, remembering his discovery of Québec. Not his actual real face, of which no pictures remain.

 

"Je me souviens" I remember- the official motto of Québec and a sentence you will see on every car, and, everywhere really. The region has come a long way since Montcalm was defeated by the Brits, with Lord Dufferin, and new buildings making up the identity of the city. Still, the French speaking population remembers, they were founded by the French crown. On the animated grey walls of the Québec as in their hearts, lies the blue fleur-de-lis, symbol of the King of France.

 
blue is the colour!

blue is the colour!

 

Jacques Cartier, sailor from Saint-Malo in France, is sent in 1532 by François the 1st, King of France to find a path to Asia through North America. Despite there being quite a walk to the Pacific, Jacques Cartier was funded to travel three times to Canadas (which means in the native's tongue: bunch of huts).

Not too much came of the excursions of Jacques Cartier, but it is the first foot of the French Monarchy in Nouvelle Franse. Only with Samuel de Champlain are then larger viable colonies established. Samuel doesn't feature here, but his maps do in the background ! And it's possible he got his song already

Since you're here,

The dancing cultural and ukulele-ed adventure Ukulele Road Trips tips its hat for your support! You can become a Dufferin of kindness and encourage the discoveries and melodies of this site on the Ukulele Road Trips Patreon Page.

#GoingNorth through the cool breezes of Québec is made possible with the help of Cloud Music Ukuleles whose website you can visit for quality cold-resistant ukes and gear !

 
bye !

bye !

 

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Dancing with Saint Catherine - Rimouski, Québec

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Dancing with Saint Catherine - Rimouski, Québec

 
 
 

Boys and Girls, Ladies and Gentlemen, Gather Round! It's Catherine's special day!

Which means the violinists are ready, the accordion is set, and the drums, just waiting to go! The traditional dances of Québec are sweeping everyone into a night of laughs, clapping and skipping.

Skipping and clapping is best when shared - here in action, a duet of tap dancers !

Skipping and clapping is best when shared - here in action, a duet of tap dancers !

 

In Rimouski, Québec, on the banks of the Saint-Laurent, while it's below 0°c outside, the temperature rises every year in the concert hall for the "Sainte Catherine". Here, young locals take part in a fired up celebration of their folk music.

 
 

Originally, in slightly (much) more conformist times, this dance had an added purpose: to get the unmarried women over 25 or so, out on the folk dance floor, so they could meet a handsome mate. Preferably one that can cook up a nice Poutine. These lucky ladies even got single-d out by wearing special hats, and you can here more about this subject (amongst other things) in the company of locals Aubert and Marie, in the dancy Rimouski Podcast ! (Also available on itunes and any good podcast app)

Marie (right) and Aubert (left with the hat) give these ukulele road trips their fair share of interesting facts in the podcast ! Here pictured with a couple of coloc' and busy with a (board game) road trip of their own.

Marie (right) and Aubert (left with the hat) give these ukulele road trips their fair share of interesting facts in the podcast ! Here pictured with a couple of coloc' and busy with a (board game) road trip of their own.

 

Saint Catherine was actually a Christian Saint who refused to be wed and died a martyr in Egypt in 305 A.D., when she was about 25. Hence why she's now the patron saint of all the single ladies (all the single ladies).

"What? No thanks, I've got a feather, I'm fine thanks, no man for me".

"What? No thanks, I've got a feather, I'm fine thanks, no man for me".

 

You can enjoy the singing of a few unmarried women in the following video, singing first of all about the hard labour of the harvest, and then, about an unruly man, making the one on the right to complain she's quite "bad-lucky", which is 'canadian-frenglish' for unfortunate.

 
 

So, in order of appearance we have: a choir of old unmarried ladies, following that, a couple of explanations of specific steps and grabs, after which, it's all very much up and dancing.

As you can see, everyone is invited to get involved with the hopping and swirling about, the man in the béret having made a good job of beefing up the atmosphere on the dance floor.

"èveribodïe danse naouh" tum, tum, tum-tum tum, tum

"èveribodïe danse naouh" tum, tum, tum-tum tum, tum

 

So, a band boasting quite a few violins, a big Irish drum, tipppidy-tappy tap-dancers, a guy on a guitar, the choir of young women dressed up as old hags, accordions... a festival a colour, music and jokes. To my very un-Quebecois eyes, this feels less like a night out, and more like a joyous miracle. People can here actually go out, have fun, dance, hold hands, run around together, -and this is the important bit- withtout having to be completely drunk to be able to cope with the awful pop music from the charts. On this dance floor, only moving melodies straight from the musicians' movements, to your ears.

And everyone's invited! Great dancers, terrible dancers, once-a-year dancers, backpacking bards melting in huge hiking shoes and seven layers of jumpers dancers... all will irresistibly join in.

Thanks for reading ! And viewing! And clapping along.

You can tap-dance your way to supporting this musical backpacking project over on the Patreon page.

The nice people at Cloud Music Ukuleles are helping us (Ben+big ukulele+small ukulele) to be #GoingNorth ! You can check out their ukes and such on their page.

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Too freezing to play Ukulele? - Rimouski, Québec

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Too freezing to play Ukulele? - Rimouski, Québec

 
 
 

Sometimes, no matter how musical you feel, and how much you're used to walking/singing around with your uke in hand, the cold wins; "it's far too freezing to play ukulele".

That's definitely the case in Rimouski, by the icy banks of the gusty St Laurent River in Québec. Not only is it far colder than what you imagine the coldest place on the planet feels like, but snow storms might just suprise you at any moment.

However, for the diehard bard, there's a workaround. "Just put your gloves on, that will do quite nicely".

 
 

It's impossible to train your fingers to resist the harsh cold winds of North-Western Gaspesia "... they'll turn blue and surely fall off before the second refrain". 

Much more realistic is to train yourself to play with skiing gloves.

"Just major chords here in Rimouski", because due to the super-complicated technique - sticking out one single finger on the left hand and just moving up and down the ukulele - you can only play major chords. Except for an A (minor) "But it's okay it's not that tricky anyway".

When it's below 0 degrees Kelvin, as it is, most Winters on the beaches here, you don't sit around inside complaining anyway. You (snow-)suit up, get out there, and leave the whining and the minor chords to people in warmer climates.

Everything with gloves and a ukulele, just sounds rainbow-y and so very merry. I don't think there's much more I can do, I could change the key, (insert change of Key here), but I'll just go with the woop-di-doos (actually, cancel it) - woop-di-doo, woop-di-doo, woop-di-doo...
The other side of the camera on the banks of le Saint Laurent. A wild ukulele huddles in the grass nearby.

The other side of the camera on the banks of le Saint Laurent. A wild ukulele huddles in the grass nearby.

 

The wider point being, I guess, that "boredom is a luxury, like memes that say 'oh FML!' and a suite of minor chords, but in the North", well, as some locals mentioned to me, you just get on with it, really. And if in other countries, you'd stay home because of a temperature half this cold outside, here, you deal with it and go out anyway, otherwise you'll never step outdoors ever again.

If you want to learn more about the town of Rimouski from the locals, head over to the Rimouski Ukulele Road Trips podcast! [coming soon-ish]. It's got two locals, exactly as many jokes, and songs too.

Une soupe au "Bercail" ! That's at the cool co-op near the Cathedral, in case you're just on your way through the cold winds to the center of town too.

Une soupe au "Bercail" ! That's at the cool co-op near the Cathedral, in case you're just on your way through the cold winds to the center of town too.

 

No need to be too fanatical and brave, and after a sing-along on the freezing beaches, a warm onion soup is a most comforting treat.

Speaking of warm comfort, you can support the trip over on the Patreon, which is a bit like showing appreciation with thumbs up, except on Patreon, it's not only nice, it's useful.

The #GoingNorth adventure is made possible with a helping string from the folks at Cloud Music ukuleles whose ukes withstand pretty low temperatures quite well as it turns out.

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'L'instant' - Gaspé, Québec

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'L'instant' - Gaspé, Québec

 
 
 

We humans are a funny bunch. For many reasons, but one in particular was distracting me as I was making my way from Percé to Gaspé, on the Eastern shores of the Gaspésie Peninsula.

A mode of transport to go with the grey #GoingNorth Road Trip

A mode of transport to go with the grey #GoingNorth Road Trip

 

You may have noticed this yourself, we think ahead a lot, and we think backwards quite a bit too. Worrying about the future, or dwelling on what was. And, the 'moment', 'l'instant', eludes us. Thinking is great, but when it is taking your mind off the grey and majestic landscapes of Gaspésie, it's a pain in the ... brain.

Some light snow to add to the beauty of the very Eastern shore of Gaspesia

Some light snow to add to the beauty of the very Eastern shore of Gaspesia

 

Set the scene. Everything is grey and beautiful (very much like this particular Ukulele Road Trip. It's grey too anyway). A couple drives through this inspiring picture, more concerned about the holiday photo-album than the feeling of freedom the landscape quietly offers.

On tourne un peu en rond, tout se mélange et confond, peut-être qu'en fait au fond, on ne sait pas ce qui compte. On poursuit l'aujourd'hui, tout le long de la Gaspésie, et s'il s'était enfui, cet aujourd'hui ?

Going round in circles slighlty, everything does become a blur, maybe in truth, we know not what does matter. We search for today, all along Gaspesia, what if it had run away, this elusive today ?

 
 

Allez, viens avec moi, ne cherchons pas de quoi remplir en rentrant, des albums dans les tiroirs, mourants! Allez, viens avec moi, savourons ensemble et chacun dans la brume du Saint Laurent, l'instant.

Hark, come with me, let us not search what to bring back, and have it wither and die in a draw back home. Hark, come with me, let us delight together, and each one of us, in the mist of the Saint Laurent, in the moment.

by the way, take a brief moment to share this song and drop a comment/clickedilike - or this page will stay like the background of the song in Gaspesia: deserted

À GASPÉ

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In the video, behind the man with the little guitar and just before the beautiful rounded low mountains in the background, lies the town of Gaspé. Or Gespeg if you're an indigenous Mi'kmaq. Which, let's face it, you probably aren't. 

The town of Gaspé is the setting for the fanciest museum you'll find in these parts: the 'Musée de la Gaspésie'.

In English, this roughly translates as "Museum of Gaspesia" (although subtleties of language make a literal translation tricky)

In English, this roughly translates as "Museum of Gaspesia" (although subtleties of language make a literal translation tricky)

 

I arrived by chance during the seasonal in-door hand-made market. You couldn't wish for a better view whilst shopping for mugs and handmade stained glass. I'm travelling on a budget so I had a traditional Gaspesian... er, coffee.

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Things you may learn in this museum include what a traditional native tipi looks like. It looks a bit like the ones set up as decorative memorials on the banks of the modern city.

But you may also learn about the locals and their struggles, that had been having a relaxing time walking around freely for 9000 years, until the Europeans turned up.

LES MI'KMAQ ET LES ACADIENS

The coast of Gaspesia where I am now, is a very important historical place for the country as a whole. It is where the Europeans first set foot, and first started to build settlements. The story of it all isn't exactly natives vs. Europeans, though. It's a bit more interesting than that.

There were two main groups of native Americans in the region, the Mi'kmaq, which we've mentioned before, and the Acadiens; who sound a bit like badies in a Doctor Who episode. The Mi'kmaq are more the hunting type, connected with the land and nomadic in their lifestyle. The Acadiens on the other hand were leaning more towards farming and livestock. Whenever a war broke out in the XVIIIth Century between the British and the French (who live right next to each other in Europe by the way, but would rather fight not too close to home), the Mi'kmaq sided with their friends the French, whereas  the Acadiens tended to side with the British.

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The Mi'Kmaq didn't much like the British and always struggled to accept their occupation, when the peninsula was under their control. So much so that when the friendly French captured British soldiers, the French had to give them special surveillance, even sometimes keep them on their ships, so that the Mi'Kmaq would not go ahead and "sacrifice" them. Too much zeal is sometimes not the way.

Unfortunately, in 1760, the French lost, left for good, and more and more of the Mi'kmaq lands were given to the Acadiens. The Acadiens kept complaining the Mi'Kmaq were not good at planning enough, depending on "nature" and "wild fruits" and "hunting" and other crazy things no one who enjoys a good Starbucks would ever give a second thought for. Things were said. Feelings were hurt. This created a lot of tension, and a loss of Mi'Kmaq hunting and fishing territories. Luckily, the British had a great answer to these issues after a while: they simply took away the rights, and most of the lands, of both the Acadiens, and of the Mi'kmaq. Problem solved. A bit like harsh parenting, but, one that destroys identity and violates indigenous rights.

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Do I have a song about this? No. But if I don't mention it here, I'm not sure I ever will.

And thanks for the magazine on Mi'Kmaq history, girl who works at the museum and with whom I had a chat about Gaspesia during my coffee !

Thanks for reading ! And viewing! And having made it all the way down here!

If you think this odd website of this Backpacking French Ukulele guy is a good thing to have in the world, you can support the project via this Patreon page. If you don't think it's a good thing, obviously, don't do it.

The nice people at Cloud Music Ukuleles  are making these "Moments" and "les instants" of the #GoingNorth adventure possible. Have a moment on their website for some ukulele-(window)-shopping.

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