First Words — 12 August 2016
Seeing Quebec like a native (in summer)

By Mark Gauert

City & Shore Magazine

At the border with Canada, the U.S. Customs officer asked where we were going.

“South Florida?’’ he said, under a bright blue sky and 57 chilly degrees. “Why would anyone want to leave this?’’

I thought about him when I opened my baking car the next day in the parking garage in downtown Fort Lauderdale. That we’d get him in January.

There’s a symmetry, I think, for any South Floridian traveling in Québec a few days after the summer solstice. They are our snowbirds. But we are their sunbirds.

Their roads fill each summer with visitors fleeing the South. Our roads fill each winter with visitors fleeing the North.

We complain about congestion in our season. They complain about congestion in theirs.

We put on our swimming trunks and jump into their lakes to cool off. They put on their Speedos and jump into our ocean to warm up.

They are our fellow travelers, only in cars tagged with Québec plates pressed with the words Je me souviens. 

I remember.

I remember the beach this summer on Lake Memphrémagog, with young families splashing into sparkling fresh water about the same temperature as our salty Gulfstream in January. I remember the happy crowds pressing up to the stages at the Montréal Jazz Festival, just like they do at SunFest in West Palm Beach. I remember the bagels pulled warm from the oven at the Café Noir (, just like we have here – except theirs are scented in hard maple and beech wood smoke.

We can agree or disagree, wood-smoked bagels there vs. water-steamed bagels here. But we’ll never know until we try.

When I posted that I was traveling this summer, friends would often express concern for my safety. Traveling in these days of terrorism seems risky, maybe even ill-advised. (Especially if it’s just for bagels – although, the wood-smoked bagels and maple-syrup beignets at Café Noir in Magog, Québec, are certainly worth calculating the risk).

But it takes a trip away to appreciate what others see in their homes. And, sometimes, to see what we have in ours.

Take a look through this issue – our first ever in August! – and you’ll see plenty of reasons to appreciate South Florida now. You’ll find 10 things to do in and around Boca Raton and Delray Beach, for example, and not one of them involve a pink flamingo. You’ll meet our newest full-time resident, Phil Collins – the legendary pop star who has reunited with his family in Miami Beach. Although you may not be able to get a wood-smoked bagel here, you will find some of the best burgers in the world. And, if you’re looking for a place to settle down – regardless of age – you’ll find many beautiful places in the sun.

Just picture it all under a bright blue sky – and a temperature far north of 57 degrees – and I ask, why would anyone want to leave this?


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