Wednesday, July 04, 2012

A Day In Quebec City

I knew from reading and hearing about Quebec City that it was the hub of French Canada, and that French was the language spoken there - but it did not really hit me that I could travel within Canada and feel like I had stumbled into another country until I got there. Surrounded by the French language, I walked all over this Canadian city to see the sights, all on one day.

I picked up the Quebec Region Tourist Guide when I passed through the airport, and found that this little book had suggested walking tours and highlighted all the spots to see for me. Perfect - I set out for the day after a great sleep and huge breakfast at my Secret Deal hotel booked on one of the many last minute deal websites.

I discovered in the light of day that I had stayed in the Saint-Roch area, and found the elevator between this Lower Town area to Upper Town, and rue Saint Jean. Here was a quaint little village with shops and cafes, and St Matthew's Church.

Not far from here was Parliament Hill, and I took some time to take in the beautiful building, architectural detail and statues, gardens and surrounds, of the grand and functional Parliament Building.

This vantage point also gave me a view of Old Quebec, the St Lawrence River and all the surrounding mountains, which all lay beyond the old city walls.

Walking through a tunnel of the city wall and into Vieux-Quebec (Old Quebec), I strolled down towards the river, taking in the village feel of the cobbled streets, horse-and-carts passing along, and the flagged establishments along the streets. Gorgeous, it felt like another world!

The iconic Chateau Frontenac loomed, as I approached it's street entrance. I walked through the arch and past the front doors to the hotel, where tourists were spilling out from their luxurious stay. This allowed me to take in the magnificent building from the Parc des Gouverneurs and the Terrasse Dufferin, with the river in full view also.

From this boardwalk along the front of the grand hotel, I could enjoy it without the full effects of the crowd before joining the masses at the start of the walkway, and before the options to head down to Lower Town.

Rather than head down at this point, I walked through Old Town to take in the little streets and the character of the buildings. I found my way out of the walled town, and past Place de le FAO, and then onto the Port area of the river. Down on this level of the city, the view of Chateau Frontenac is pretty impressive, as is the cliffs below it.

Just below the city's most iconic sight is Quartier Petit Champlain, where a cluster of laneways have shops, cafes and galleries gives you a strong sense of Europe. The potted flowers spilling from windowsills and hanging plants, and the warmth of the proprietors. So pretty!

To return to the main level of the city, there is the choice of several flights of stairs, or the very European funicular. Given the steep assent of the cable car, I now wonder just how many flights of stairs the latter option required!

With the intention of going to the Citadel, which promised a good understanding of the battle between the French and English in 1759, I walked past Chateau Frontenac and the walkway along the river. Here, after experiencing all 4 seasons of weather for the day thus far, the clouds darkened, and a thunderstorm threatened. And when it arrived, the lightening was spectacular and unnerving, and the rain belted! I had sheltered back near the City Walls, and the resting place for the working horses of the Old Town, before making a final dash for the direction of my hotel and left luggage.

I took shelter again at one point along rue Saint Jean and finally experienced proper French Canadian poutine, before getting to the grand railway and bus station, for my departure to Montreal.

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