As my husband and I pick our way along the cobblestone streets of Old Quebec, I am grateful to Madame Josef for telling me about this special city—”the most beautiful city in North America!”
Madame Josef loved France and all things French. We were scared of her black hair, black clothes and most of all her impossibly high heeled black ankle boots. She was my seventh grade French teacher and I barely knew where France was. When she asked me a question in French she would point her bony finger at me and say my name, and my mind would immediately go into a panicky blank state and no matter how much I had practiced– I would fumble the response.
However, she is the one who told us about Quebec City, “the most beautiful city in North America– and they speak French there!” And I wanted to see it and hear French spoken in real life. It was on my bucket list long before I knew what a bucket list was….
So here I am, decades later, finally wandering the streets of Quebec City. My French has all but disappeared—I am barely able to say “Bonjour”– but I am definitely enjoying this beautiful city.
Quebec City sits on a rock ridge high above the St Lawrence River. It was founded in 1609 by Samuel Champlain because of its strategic location at the narrowest point of the river. The river and the rock ridge made it easy to defend—and the French succeeded in defending it until 1759 when it fell to the English General, James Wolf. As things turned out General Wolf’s conquest there eventually determined the future of north America as an English speaking continent—except for Quebec!
As you enter Quebec City you go under the arch of a big rock wall that surrounds the City—setting it apart from all other north American cities. The wall no longer serves a function in terms of defense; today the wall defines a city that has retained its unique beauty, history, language, as well as delicious food and drink. Here is a huge mural depicting the city and its history–
Once inside the wall you are greeted with cobblestone streets, flower bowers on old shop windows, amazing street performers and the most photographed hotel in the world, The Frontenac. It sits high on the ridge—a landmark visible from the land or the river—unmistakable. Here are a couple of different views so you can get a feeling of its size and beauty.
And here’s a Salvador Dali sculpture on the plaza out front:
There are many fantastic street performers out at designated corners throughout the city–they have to audition to get a spot! Some sing, some play instruments and many do acrobatics. We learned that there is a circus training school in Quebec and that many of their graduates go on to perform with the Cirque du Soleil…. That’s a pretty high quality street performer!
Bicycling to Montmorency Falls
Just 8 miles outside of Quebec City there is a large waterfall that is actually twice as tall as Niagara Falls! We rented bikes and followed our guide out on a beautiful bikeway, past the outdoor market and off to the Falls!
Touring L’Ile D’Orleans
Right across the St Lawrence river is an island where much of the local produce, wine, cider and maple syrup is made. We took a day tour and explored it–my biggest revelation was the maple syrup–most of the world’s maple syrup is made in Quebec because it has the right type of maple trees and the perfect weather conditions. I now know how they make it, and I have wonderful recipes for using it. You should never serve it warm! And maple butter is WONDERFUL! (and it does not contain any dairy…)
We also discovered this delightful contraption on the island that enables you to picnic outside while it moves as if you are on a boat! They were all over the L’Ile d’Orleans
I hope you enjoyed this quick tour of Quebec city.
When I get ambitious enough to blog again I will show you photos of some of the locations mentioned in the “Bury Your Dead” tour–focusing on Louise Penny’s book–based in Quebec City! Dave and I both read the book and thoroughly enjoyed the tour. In fact, I love her books–they start a little slow but definitely grow on you– and I am reading her whole series now….. (That could impede my future blogging progress).