May 24, 2011

The Open Road: Quebec City

pretty peonies along the Rue Saint Laurence
The thing I miss the most about my first real life job is all the travel. I went all over the Eastern US, all over the West Coast, and to many places in-between.  And, every year for a week, we traveled up to Quebec City--North America's oldest walled city (and I think the only one intact). It was founded in 1608, built on the Cap Diamant--a high rocky bluff soaring over the St. Lawrence River. It was quite literally the city on a hill for the New France.  During the French and Indian War, the British General James Wolfe successfuly scaled the Cap Diamant, and beat the French troops in a short, essential battle on the Plains of Abraham (which is now a beautiful park designed by the fellows who designed Central Park). The French lost control of the city, and eventually lost the war, and most of Canada and the French lands in what is now the US as a result. (yes, I know, this is an absurdly condensed version of whats actually a complex and fascinating story.) The city fascinates me because it should have been impenetrable--and yet it was conquered, and the entire face of North America was changed as a result. Meanwhile, much of its old glory remains in its fortifications, its design and its traditions.

Anyway, it is one of my very favorite places in North America, and as you are thinking about your summer travel plans, I highly recommend you check it out.  If you do go, don't bother renting a car. Stay within walking distance of the walled city, and you will find everything you could want to see is accessible.  The Citadelle de Quebec, the Plains of Abraham, the old city and the lower city will hold your attention for your visit. And, should you like to see more, you can even venture out to the Montmorency Falls (which I never did see) across the river with the help of a ferry.

And don't miss the great little alleys filled with the work of local artists--Du Tresor is the most famous--I bought some wonderful original watercolors for myself and the family there--$12 each. 
Grey stone and Teal Trim and Black Shutter FTW.  The old town is full of these charming shops.
The best restaurant in Quebec City. I still remember our meal here when I first visited at age 12. Down the alley is the convent of St. Ursula, which is I think the first convent in North America.  I never got to visit it, because every time I went to Quebec City they were on retreat, and the chapel and convent grounds were closed to visitors.
(I think this statue is Joan of Arc) That is Ch√Ęteau Frontenac, which commands the
skyline of the walled city, and has the best view, and the best gin & tonics.
The walled city is built high on a cliff, which the British shockingly scaled during the Battle of Quebec.  Below is the oldest part of the city, including Notre Dame de Victories, the oldest church in Quebec (center spire).  This is now an odd mix of tourist galleries and restaurants, and shipping industry. You get to take a funicular to get down there! Fun!
This is a really big gun in the Citadelle de Quebec, which looks out over the Saint Laurence River.  This is a gorgeous five point fortress, and every time I go I take a tour, because it is fascinating and beautiful.  It is the home of the only bi-lingual regiment in the Canadian Army, and  But I will refrain from saying anything more about it, for fear that I will make a mistake and Dad will write a really long comment explaining my errors and then get frustrated when it won't post and he'll email it to me and I'll have to write a redaction on the blog.
Oh, and here's my travel diary from the first time I visited from work.  

1 comment:

  1. The American Musicological Society conference was in Quebec City in 2007, and my attendance was sort of my last hurrah as a single girl (I got married two weeks later).

    My then-head-of-department and his wife treated me to dinner at that restaurant. It was the first weekend in November, and the first snow fell that night. Everyone was given a delicate little glass of something alcoholic and wonderful, I can't remember what, while we were putting our coats on, to keep us warm for the walk back to the hotel. It was a good night.