Sunday, July 29, 2007

July 26, 27, and 28 - Quebec City

We've been having too much fun to blog of late, so I'm catching up a little. We pulled out of Prince Edward Island on Thursday, crossing the Confederation Bridge. The bridge was shrouded in fog, so we didn't get any pictures. The bridge is six miles long and only ten years old. Prior to it's construction the island province was only accessible by air or sea. It was free to cross on the way in but cost us $40.00 to get out!

We drove through northern New Brunswick and back in to Quebec. This end of Quebec is entirely French speaking. We found few who could even get by in a little bit of English. The farms are prosperous, the forests vast and there is a special french charm to the villages. Unlike western Quebec, the road signs and others are only in French.

We stopped for the night in Rimouski on the St. Lawrence Seaway. We were surprised how large this city, we considered obscure, turned out to be. We ate in a family style restaurant where we enjoyed our first escargot. Candleman enjoyed them more than Booklogged however. The food was nice and though the waitress couldn't speak English we got along okay.

Friday was spent driving along the North Shore. What a treat that was. There are high table lands along that coast with rivers cutting through them down to the sea. So it was up over the top, with majestic views of the sea, then back down steep narrow roads into villages, this repeated several times. The villages were always charming and inviting. Each featured a large cathedral expressing centuries of devotion. They all had narrow winding streets which were steep and seemed like I imagine the French Riviera to be.

One village specialized in sidewalk cafes, the next specialized in art, the next in boutiques, its fun how things become localized as like minded artisans and merchants congregate.

At Tadoussac the road meets the Saguenay River which in navigable. Building a bridge would be an enormous challenge over its wide mouth, especially one high enough for ships to pass under. So, they ferry the traffic across. Three free ferries (say that three times real fast), large enough to hold fifty cars and trucks run furiously back and forth keeping pretty good pace with the traffic. We were only delayed about 20 minutes and the ferries were filling up each time.

We arrived in Quebec City at around 3:30 PM. This afforded us time to a take a bus tour of the city. It was worth the money for we learned so much about this wonderful place. Perched strategically high above the St. Lawrence, Quebec is the only walled city remaining in North America. The Citadel, well designed to defend the city and the walls surrounding the city are well maintained. All of the buildings within the walls are old and full of history and character. The streets inside are narrow and winding and seem very European. It was great to spend time wandering these beautiful and surprising streets. There are museums, theaters, boutiques and sidewalk cafes everywhere. Quebec is a very pedestrian city, though you can drive around inside the walls. Just outside the walls is a large and wonderful parking terrace that is hidden beneath a park. One can walk to almost anywhere within the walls from the parking terrace in 20 minutes or less. Beneath the walls on the St. Lawrence side is the old lower city. It has been largely reconstructed around a few old buildings that are nearly400 years old. An active church and Champlain's first home are there. Newer buildings here are built like those of the long past. The streets are open only to pedestrians. The shops and cafes are all dolled up with flowers and bright window treatments and we had a ball walking along looking at it all.

We spent Saturday revisiting favorite places from the tour. In the evening we caught a bus out to Montmornecy Falls to see the International Fireworks competition. China presented that evening. It rained and rained but let up just as the fireworks were about to begin. Unfortunately, the humidity and temperature combined with the heat and smoke from the fireworks developed a dense fog and not long into the wonderfully choreographed musical extravaganza we could no longer see much but brightly colored clouds. We had a great experience though and were mostly sad for the Chinese performers who had worked so hard to present something the audience and judges hardly got to see. The falls are magnificent and taller than Niagara, though not nearly so wide.

We got home after midnight, tired but pleased with our experience.

All in all Quebec is far and away our favorite city of the trip. It's charm, warmth, history and welcoming feeling are superior to any place we've visited. Montreal doesn't even come close!


Les said...

Marvelous post! I'm ready to pay Quebec City a visit after reading your lovely journal entry. I was born in Ottawa in 1961 and we lived there for a year before moving to Lenoxville, Quebec (and then on to Alberta in 1966). I would love to visit those provinces, but Quebec City would be at the top of my list. Gorgeous photos!!

Alyson said...

That's too bad about the fireworks competition. I feel bad for those performes as well. Quebec City sounds delightful. This trip of yours has just totally rearranged my top vacation spots list.

Lotus Reads said...

I was quite confident that Quebec City would enthrall you both. Montreal is really quite blah in comparison and Toronto (I am sorry to say) even worse!