Quebec is the city we were all looking forward to the most. Super imposing Chateau Frontenac, the most photographed hotel in the world, welcomed us from its perch overlooking the city as we sailed down the Saint Lawrence. We all clambered ashore early afternoon yesterday with high expectations. Voted best tourist destination in Canada for the last six years, I must say it did not disappoint!
Quebec City, the only walled city north of Mexico, has two parts: Upper Town or Old Québec which is on a natural rock rise and Lower Town or Petit Champlain which is on the water. They are connected by 30 stairways and a funicular. France established the city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, at the narrowest point of the Saint Lawrence River over 400 years ago. A smart move because it meant France could control access to the Great Lakes as well as the interior.
French influence is at every turn, from the language to the food and architecture. We spent a few enjoyable hours strolling the cobbled streets, popping in and out of shops, and enjoying the huge murals, abundance of flowers in full bloom, street musicians, and fun Halloween-themed photo parks. Cyd’s passing comment that Quebec is “quaint as crap” cracked us all up.
We enjoyed a tour that took us around Old Québec and then a short distance out of town. While in town we drove past Notre Dame Basilica-Cathedral, which has the only Holy Door outside of Europe; the oldest house in town, now a restaurant; a large urban park called the Plains of Abraham where a 20-minute battle between the French and English settled ownership of the city once and for all; a statue of Jeanne d’Arc on horseback; cascading window boxes; and the house where Queen Victoria’s father lived with his mistress and six children before he was obligated to move back to Europe, marry a princess, and father a future queen.
As we headed a short way out of town our guide shared fun stories about fur trappers, cod fisherman, agricultural practices, Scottish immigrants, annual snow fall, and his love of the area. We passed farms and lush gardens on our way to Montmorency Falls, a beautiful falls that just happens to be 100 feet taller than Niagara Falls. Because it started pouring rain before we arrived we passed on getting a closer look by riding the gondola, climbing the scenic stairway, crossing the suspension bridge, or ziplining.
Our next stop was at the magnificent Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupre Shrine, the oldest pilgrimage destination north of Mexico. We entered through handmade copper doors and were immediately taken with the central vault which is completely covered in gold, soft green, and cream mosaics. Soft light came from some 240 stained-glass windows and brought our attention to the beautiful tile floors. The shrine is dedicated to the grandmother of Jesus and has beckoned pilgrims since the 1600s. Besides the obvious wow factor of the interior, two other things caught our eye: a pieta nestled in an alcove and a display of crutches left by people giving thanks for divine healing. We lit two candles for Aunt Jerry before we left, one upstairs and one in the original chapel downstairs. On the hill to one side of the shrine is the Way of the Cross: fourteen stations evoking different moments of the Passion of Jesus. They are situated on a zigzag path going up a small incline. Each scene includes up to five life-size people in cast bronze. Very moving.
On our short trip back to town we learned that Canada is the second largest country in the world with a population of 36 millions and that the number one employer in Quebec is the insurance industry. Dan should have worked that into one of his quizzes and we would all have guessed wrong. We drove through an area where the guide pointed out old root cellars built into the sides of hills, some dating back to the 1600s, and outdoor bread ovens, very few in use today. Each oven is completely separate from the house, protected by a simple shelter, and positioned so that the prevailing winds don’t blow smoke or sparks towards the house.
Although Quebecois cuisine is known to artfully combine French, Indigenous, and British influences, humble poutine holds the honor of being its most emblematic dish. For those of you unfamiliar, think French fries topped with gravy and cheese curds. For the sweet tooth, all things maple seem to be the rage. We watched a lady roll boiled syrup around a stick on shaved ice. Voila…maple taffy. For the cutting edge cook, boreal spices and birch syrup.
Cocktail conversation was compliments of Rick last night and Dan tonight. Rick passed out three by five cards with eight of Canada’s ten provinces listed in random order. We were to put them in order west to east! Clever idea. Dan had another nine-question news quiz tonight with stumpers about Colin Kaepernick, the average age of vehicles on U.S. roads, and Justin Timberlake’s music catalog. Dan continues to tally correct answers for his awards presentation a few days from now.
We headed to bed knowing that Ian made landfall south of Tampa this afternoon, so there is a good chance that all is well with Jen’s home. With Jen out of danger we watched in fascination and sadness as the storm inched its way across Florida right toward Walter and Cleone’s daughter’s home north of Orlando. Fingers crossed Michelle and her husband are spared being that far inland. From all reports it looks like it will be the deadliest storm to hit Florida in 60 years.
… No Way! …
The almost 300 year old wall around Quebec City is 3.5 miles long, well maintained, and can be walked.
I only had time to enjoy a small portion of it and the amazing views it affords.
There are only six other Holy Doors in the world: four in Rome, one in Spain, and one in France.
They symbolize a passage between this life and what lies ahead.
The lifespan of a sugar maple tree is 250-300 years!
Quebec Bridge is the world’s longest cantilever bridge.
In winter, Quebec is home to the only ice hotel in North America.
Dan loves to regale folks with the fact that the Mongeons immigrated to Massachusetts from Quebec.