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Published: August 23rd 2016
Quebec City 18 to 20 August 2016
We think that Quebec City is one of the loveliest old town in North America. Despite the summer holidays in Canada, the streets weren’t over-crowded and the roads were pretty good. Our hotel was about 15kms out from the walled Old Town but parking was excellent, thanks to the advice of the receptionist at our hotel. Both days we parked in a multi-story park in Place DÝouville, just outside Porte (meaning ‘gate’) St-Jean.
Arriving in the city later in the afternoon, we went into the Old Town to see the lights.
On the way we drove through Parc des Champs-de-Bataille where a lot of military memorabilia was used for hard-scaping.
As soon as we parked and walked through the old gate we were amongst the restaurant set. Down the road (which was closed to traffic at night) was a running race with a difference. A couple was running with a beer jug full of beer. The guy on the microphone was speaking French which was the main language spoken at public events. It was funny to watch!
the Saint Alexandre Pub and sat down with a much needed cold drink and watched the outside entertainment.
Old Town is Quebec City’s main sight with the upper part of which is surrounded by a stone wall built by both French and British armies. It is now a tourist district with many small boutiques and hundreds of historical and photographic points of interest. Some of the buildings are original structures, while others are built in the same style and architecture as former buildings. Located at a commanding position on cliffs overlooking the St. Lawrence Seaway, Quebec City's Old Town is an UNESCO World Heritage Site and the only city in North America (outside Mexico and the Caribbean) with its original city walls.
We found that all restaurants in the Old City posted menus out front in French and in English. Tom had another poutine (fries, gravy, and cheese curds) on our second night in town but we had a lovely steak the first night, something I hadn’t done for several weeks. We favoured their boutique beers and the occasional local wine.
The café culture is very much a part of Quebec
City as in most of Europe.
We then walked down to the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac passing many street performers on the way. There was a lot happening.
The Chateau is a landmark building, seen from most vantage points in and outside the Old Town. It was beautiful lit up at night. It is the most photographed hotel in North America. We wandered around inside for a while also.
We love cities at night and Quebec City was no exception.
A bit of info about Quebec City: it is the capital of the province of Quebec. Quebec is a city of about 700,000 residents.
Fortunately, the city has a remarkable history, as the fortress capital of New France since the 17th century.
Quebec was first settled by Europeans in 1608 in an "abitation" led by Samuel de Champlain and celebrated its 400th anniversary in 2008. The generally accepted dates of Champlain's arrival in the city are July 3rd and 4th and were marked with major celebrations. The area was also inhabited by Native peoples for many centuries before the arrival of the
Europeans, and their ongoing presence has been notable since then.
Founded by the French to make a claim in the New World, the name Quebec originally referred to just the city. It is an aboriginal word for "where the river narrows" as the St. Lawrence River dramatically closes in just east of the city.
The French lost the city and its colony of New France to the British in the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in 1759. Much of the French nobility returned to France which resulted in British ruling over the remaining French population. Fortunately, the rulers of the colony allowed the French to retain their language and religion leaving much of the culture intact.
The 1840s saw an influx of Irish immigrants during the Potato Famine. Due to cholera and typhus outbreaks, ships were quarantined at Grosse Ile to the east of the city past l'Ile d'Orleans which we visited after leaving Quebec City. The bodies of those who perished on the journey and while in quarantine are buried there.
French is the official language of the province of Quebec though in the tourist areas
of Quebec City English is widely spoken as a second language by almost all of the staff.
Our full day in Quebec City was from 10.00am to 10.00pm. I think we walked over 20,000 steps judging from Tom’s stepper counter!!!!!
We saw all the major sites in the Old Town. We had a lovely lunch of crepes with ham and salad. They make fantastic crepes. What we really loved was the beautiful shops such as a very special leather shop, a huge Christmas shop, beautiful clothes and incredible icecream shops!!! We dodged the souvenir shops.
We walked down the Governor’s Walk (Terrasse Dufferin). This was a scenic walk starting at the top of the Funicular, continuing along the wall overlooking the old city. The many staircases lead to overlooks offering scenic views of the St. Lawrence. The walk ended at the gazebo on the Plains of Abraham.
We also saw the unused Ice Slide at Terrasse Dufferin. During the winter you can slide down an ice slide on a toboggan.
We then did a guided tour through The Citadel. This fortification at the juncture of
the Old City wall and Grande Allée holds a changing of the guard ceremony mornings at 10AM complete with traditional bearskin hats. We however saw a ceremony to do with the changing of the Commandant which happens every 2 years. Four parachutists joined the celebrations with the Canadian and 22 Battalion flag tied to their feet.
The Plains of Abraham Battlefield Park, which is outside the Old City walls
had good signs around telling the story of the battles. This is the site of the 1759 battle that saw the British conquer Quebec, now used for public events, sports, and leisure activities.
We then walked on the ‘ramparts’ of the Old Town’s wall, back to the restaurant area to have dinner.
There were 3 celebrations happening on this Friday night – a Beer Festival, a circus performance and the start of the 3-day Celtic Festival. Again, there was a lot happening.
We were locked out of the circus performance as they restricted numbers. However, we saw it over the fence and the music was fantastic. The Beer Festival was packed so we decided not to go into the
massive tents. Near our car park was the stage for the Celtic Festival. The leader of the band playing who had a massive beard looking like a leprechaun, was ‘çalling’ a square dance in French. A big crowd was dancing, following his instructions.
There are a lot of Irish pubs in Quebec City which was excellent. We certainly saw the Irish influence in the Old Town.
We also visited the Cathedral-Basilica of Notre-Dame de Québec. Founded in 1647, the oldest in the Americas north of Mexico. The cathedral celebrated its 350th anniversary in 2014.
The morning of our departure from beautiful Quebec City, we drove north to see more of the western coast of the St Lawrence river as we had been told it was well worth visiting….so we did!!!
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