We spent the last two days in Quebec City. This is the only ‘big city’ we intend to visit on our trip; and that is only because one just must see Old Town Quebec. This city is the birthplace of our nation. There has been a settlement here for over 400 years and the old town is preserved within the fortified walls of the 18th century.
We, being us and lazy, did not attempt to catch the 8:15 am shuttle from our hotel and we only missed the 9:45 shuttle by 5 minutes – and that only because it came early. Truly. But all is well, we caught the 10:05 city bus instead and it took us to the top of the Old Town rather than the bottom where the hotel shuttle stops. This worked out well because we were able to go to the Quebec parliament buildings without climbing the hill from Old Town. We next went to the Plains of Abraham – National Battlefields Park; the first National Park in Canada, and the site of the 1759 battle that lasted 30 minutes between the British and the French. This battle was the beginning of the end for the French colonization of Canada. Montreal surrendered a month later and Britain gradually took over all of the French settlements.
The drill hall at Battlefields National Park.
After an extensive tour of the Plains we walked over to the Citadel which was built by the British between 1820-1852 to fortify Quebec against annexation by the US. The Citadel is still a working military base and the home of the Royal 22nd Regiment. Since we had spent longer than we planned on the Plains we did not take the hour long tour inside the Citadel but did walk the top of the exterior wall. The buildings of the citadel are hidden below the hilltop and beyond a huge stonework dry moat.
Then we walked down the steep steps to the Dufferin Terrace boardwalk along the cliff bank in front of the Chateau Frontenac. We had lunch in the cafe and wandered Old Town until time to head back to the Chateau for the 6 pm shuttle to the hotel.
The Dufferin Terrace and the Chateau Frontenac
Our second day we had a lazy morning (are you noticing a theme here?) and took a Countryside Bus Tour in the afternoon. We went to the Montmorency Waterfall which is about 30 meters higher than Niagara. We rode the gondola to the top of the falls and walked to the middle of the bridge for a good look straight down the front of the falls. That is a LOT of water!
The spill way at the top
We drove over the bridge to the Island of Orleans which was the first settlement by the French in Canada in the early 17th century. 32 families came over and received land on the island to farm. Since everyone needed to access their land by boat (no roads back in the day of course) the French divided the island in half down the center and all the plots went from the middle to the river on both sides. It is 22 miles long and 5 miles wide. Over the centuries many of the farmers subdivided some of their land and sold it to summer visitors but there is now a total moratorium on subdivision and building on the island.
We went to one of the oldest houses in Quebec, a farm house built in 1641 that is still lived in and is a bakery. A favorite treat here is maple butter made from maple sugar and spread on bread and cinnamon rolls, etc. Very tasty stuff, but very sweet.
We also went to St Anne’s Basicila on the Beauprè shore. This church is a major pilgrimage for the Roman Catholic faith and over a million people visit it annually. For most of this month they have special services and over 125,000 people come. We had gone to the workshop and store of a family that works with copper the old European way – they are the only ones in North America to do it still. The father of the people that now do the work designed and made the doors for the church and did all the silver and gold work in the Bascilica. Each door weighs 700 lbs. They were gorgeous.
All in all we had two busy, diverse and wonderful days in Quebec City. Tomorrow we head for the Gaspè Peninsula. It is 883 kilometer around the outside. We plan to take 5 days to do it; so it will be a leisurely drive. The scenery is supposed to be fabulous but it is also supposed to rain, so we will see what we will see.