After my pleasant train journey on VIA Rail from Montreal, I arrived in Quebec City on a lovely warm Sunday afternoon in late
June. A taxi collected me and we drove a short distance through pedestrian congested streets to a special holiday treat for my overnight: the world-famous five-star Chateau Frontenac! No, I did not win the Canadian lottery, but I did have enough travel points accumulated to be able to ‘afford’ this luxurious stop-over. I only additionally paid for breakfast and I relished every minute of my stay there. This historic hotel, which was originally built in the 19th century on the site of an ancient military fort, deserves every distinction as the ultimate accommodation. I don’t think I could ever do better than that – except to save enough points for two nights next time!
When I checked in, I was immediately informed that my room had been upgraded! I looked at the clerk quizzically and explained: “But I am not paying for this room, it is through travel points.”
She smiled as she informed me that there was a river view room available, so instead of looking inland at the architecture of old city (equally appealing!), I would be able to look over the
Boardwalk and the St. Lawrence River! I appreciated this welcoming gesture and was further charmed when a pleasant bell-hop brought my bags to the room by service elevator. When he came in, he explained every feature of the tastefully decorated room – in French, when he discovered that I could speak the language. (Both English and French are capably spoken by tourism industry workers in Quebec City). I unpacked a little and freshened up, but I was eager to hit the streets. I had not been to this Belle Ville for over 20 years, and that had been in mid-winter – at that time of year the river breeze is frigid and less conducive to a leisurely stroll unless all bundled up! Mind you, I have been here several times in my younger years, thanks to my parents, who usually stopped for the night when we were driving to Nova Scotia in summertime, There were a few other forays, with my high school French class and my brother Marc, to name a few. I can’t remember off-hand, but I am sure my brothers will remind me if I ever went downhill skiing at nearby Mont Ste. Anne – maybe we just went to have a look in summertime. Or maybe they slalomed without me!
As I wandered around the quaint narrow streets, dodging occasional vehicles (along with thousands of other visitors), I admired the beautiful buildings that had been proudly restored. Quebec City had celebrated its 400th anniversary in 2008 and is now recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
I could easily see why – as it is the only city in North America that has preserved its buildings to represent ‘a fortified city of the colonial era.’ While the little lanes were packed with tourists, I did not see any garbage or other forms of detritus about. Every park, lane-way, monument, house, restaurant, hotel and sidewalk was immaculate and totally litter-free. What an example for other cities to follow!
I also strolled along La Terrasse (Boardwalk) until it merged into la Promenade des Gouveneurs. I walked up the steps, admiring the river views until I came to
the grounds of the historic Quebec Citadelle, a Parks Canada site. I covered a good portion of the grounds but did not go inside this time, nor did I venture over to the notable Plains of Abraham where Wolfe (eng) and Montcalm (fre)battled it out in 1759 and both died as a result of fatal injuries. The French surrendered at that time. But you can read a Canadian history book to find out more!
It was getting late (for me) and as I hadn’t eaten any dinner, I popped into a creperie around 8 p.m for a light meal. A folk singer performed some easy listening oldie goldies in English and
French on his guitar, which complemented the casual but congenial ambience of the outdoor patio. Again, it was only a few steps from the hotel. I could feel fatigue coming on, so I quickly savoured my egg/onion crêpe and headed back to the Chateau Frontenac. There, I slept very well on a supremely comfortable bed!
Next morning, after a huge breakfast in my room, I decided that a walking tour would give me a little more background on this fascinating city. I did take a tour in English with a group of Americans who had arrived by cruise ship. Robert, our guide plied us with so much information that I truly regretted not having brought my voice recorder! What I am now left with are impressions, and the need to re-read that Canadian history book to reinforce what I heard on this sensational two-hour walk around town.
We covered quite a bit of ground, and a few of the principle sites of the city include the following in photos:
After I checked out (late – with the gracious hotel staff’s permission!), I left my baggage in a safe storage room behind the desk of the concierge. By then, my big breakfast had worn off and my feet were worn out from Robert’s comprehensive tour. Guess where I went for lunch? Aux Anciens Canadiens, of course, for a repeat gastronomic experience after a 38 year absence! Although it was mid-summer and not mid-winter, I still consumed all the filling courses, but for only $20.00 CAD, I wouldn’t need another meal that day! I started with Quebec Pea Soup, which was followed by stuffed slices of duck in a divine fruit sauce with tender-crisp vegetables and a healthy serving of mashed/baked potatoes.
Then I found room , somewhere, for a gigantic slice of sugar pie with whipped cream (tarte au sucre).
I really did roll down to the Old Port (Vieux-Port), below the Old City’s walls after that. The steep uphill return was difficult because I was so overstuffed. But I do NOT regret it – that was traditional Quebec dining at its finest with a price that could not be compared with anywhere else!
By now, it was mid afternoon – I was hot and felt very sluggish, but I am glad I took some time to see a few more points of interest. Then I spent the rest of the day and into the evening lounging in little parks, gazing at the river from the Boardwalk and later sitting in comfy chairs in the lounge at Chateau Frontenac. Around 8 p.m., I collected my gear, picked up a taxi and headed to the Palais du Gare (train station) where I waited for a bus to take me across the St. Lawrence River to connect with the famous Ocean train, which would depart around 10:30 p.m. and carry me for the next 20 hours all the way to Halifax Nova Scotia!