Travelling to France….or so it felt
We had to go to the airport to collect our hire car, so Mike and Janice kindly took us there the evening before we left Ottawa. Whilst the car hire company thought we would appreciate an upgrade to an off-road Jeep, a month of bouncing around glugging fuel was not going to work for us. And with four suitcases, an SUV with no cover in the trunk wasn’t going to work either. So we were happy when they managed to dig out a sedan with a boot. Whew that took a bit of effort! Good thing we were off to a nice relaxing farewell dinner (and wine!) after that.
It was sad to bid Mike and Janice farewell, although we were very excited at the prospect of the next leg of our adventure. Ensuring that they still imparted their local knowledge, they suggested we stop at a village called Hudson on our way to Quebec City. This turned out to be great advice – a quaint little place with a great coffee shop and the last bit of English we were likely to hear for a while!
Arriving in the city….
We had booked a loft apartment in Vieux-Quebec (old Quebec), near the port. Not sure how we’d go driving into the big smoke, parking and unloading our bags, we were a tad apprehensive. Fortunately, it turned out to be a breeze! There was a parking space in the street outside to enable us to unload and after a short stroll around the neighbourhood, we had found a parking station for our car a couple of minutes walk away. So easy! And that was the beginning of a wonderful stay!
Exploring the Port….
Being lovers of all things water, as soon as we had the bags inside and the car parked we went for a walk along the St Lawrence River. It’s a huge expanse of water connecting the Great Lakes with the Atlantic Ocean. It traverses the Canadian provinces of Quebec and Ontario, and is part of the international boundary between Ontario, Canada, and the U.S. state of New York.
There was a cruise ship at the passenger terminal, but as it was about to leave, we were fortunate that all the passengers were on board. This made for a quiet stroll along the waters edge to the marina and markets nearby. En route, much to Walter’s excitement, we came across another loch. This time it was automated rather than the old crank system that we saw in Ottawa. At this stage, little did we know that we’d be experiencing the lock from the deck of a yacht (or for the North Americans, sailboat) a couple of days later.
During our travels we had missed lunch, so when we came across Chez Victor – a burger and poutine restaurant that appeared loved by locals – we were happy to sit down for a good feed. Given Quebec is the home of poutine, Glenda had her first one of the trip and Walter continued his quest to try poutine in every province across Canada. Poutine is a dish originating from the province of Quebec consisting of French fries and cheese curds topped with a brown gravy, although there are now many variations, not least of all Lobster Poutine (but more on that later).
Unearthing the treasures of Old Quebec City….
We truly felt as though we had entered Europe, more specifically France. Whilst the buildings are not as old, the architecture is so similar, many of the streets are cobblestone and the buildings are so picturesque. We are convinced there is more English spoken by the Parisians than those in Quebec City. This meant that Glenda’s French was put to the test – and fortunately in most instances she passed, albeit only scraping through!
We enjoyed the artwork – both on the streets and in the little art galleries. We browsed antique stores and enjoyed a bite to eat or a coffee at the little cafes. We took the opportunity to join a guided tour of the Quebec National Assembly. The system of government is based on the Westminster system, so it is similar to Australia, – although Quebec was the last Canadian province to get rid of the Senate a few years ago. Given most of the group were from the US, they largely seemed to have trouble understanding the details provided by the guide. We had access to the gallery of the beautiful “Blue Room”, viewing the seat of the speaker of the house (President) and the leaders of the ruling party and opposition. The “Red Room” was being used by some heads of state of French countries so we were unable to go into it.
Up, up, up….
The Citadelle of Quebec is an active military installation and the secondary official residence of the Governor General of Canada. It is located on a rocky promontory above the St Lawrence River. In order to get there, we had to climb lots of stairs, passing the Fairmont Hotel which apparently is the most photographed hotel in the world. It is truly captivating.
We also came across a huge screen and area where they were setting up for Quebec’s summer festival – we’ve since found out that the international headline acts draw more than 100,000 people each night. People queue for more than 5 hours to get in
Whilst exploring the port on the first afternoon, we had spotted a sailing school that provided an introductory three-hour lesson. We decided that this would be a much better option for us than going on a cruise with lots of tourists and a running commentary. And it turned out wonderfully! After a couple of days of very hot weather, a change had come through, bringing lots of wind. Not so nice for other things but perfect for getting out on a boat. It was even better than expected as we ended up with only 6 of us on board – two instructors and four “students”. We were a bit naughty as we feigned ignorance and had a relaxing time – although Walter did help out a few times when needed.
After three hours in the wind we were cold and ragged – perfect time to have a shower and head out to a nearby French restaurant for dinner and wine. We were at a little table for two right by the window, the server was excellent and the food was yummy. A fabulous final night in Quebec City.
Au revoir Quebec City!