On our whistle stop tour of Canada we had to have a stop in Quebec!
by RLB2 on November 12, 2011
Vieux Quebec or Old Quebec is a historic neighbourhood in Quebec City. It is made up of the upper and lower towns, which are connected by the funicular and a whole load of steps. As the only North American city to still have it's ramparts, as well as bastions, gates and defensive works that surround Old Quebec, it has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. That in itself was enough to make me want to explore the area, which in my opinion has a pretty interesting history.The area was chosen in 1620 by Samuel de Champlain as the location of Chateau Saint-Louis (what has since been built as the Chateau Fronternac). From then Quebec maintained a strong military presence because of it's advantageous location on the Saint Lawrence river and Cap Diamant. The Lower town was inhabited by tradesmen and merchants whilst the Upper town was inhabited by military officials and clergymen. Much of the fortifications would have been destroyed in the 19th century were it not for the work of Governor Dufferin who worked hard to preserve the character of the walled city.When we arrived it was already dark and we walked from the train station, which is located outside of the walled city, into the walls and up the steep pavements to our hotel on the Ramparts. The next day wandering around Vieux Quebec was fantastic, it really is a very unique city in North America. We had at this point travelled across Canada from the West Coast, stopping in several of the big Canadian cities (including Vancouver, Victoria, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Toronto, Ottawa & Montreal) and none of them looked or felt like Vieux Quebec. Even now it feels very European and you are more likely to hear French than English (like all of Quebec) spoken in the shops, bars and restaurants.We explored much of the lower town, finding nice places to eat and shops to look in. We then headed up the funicular to the upper town, which seems much posher. We wandered around lots of the streets just absorbing the architecture and atmosphere. One thing we really liked were the metal roofs, some of which had oxidised and so were green, others were shiny silver and beautiful. The whole area was just a joy to walk around and really if visiting Quebec you can't miss it and it would be a shame to not stay within the walls.
When you visit Quebec you cannot miss the Chateau Frontenac, it dominates the skyline and overlooks the whole of the St Lawrence river. When we stayed in Quebec we had two nights in a different hotel and then I thought I would treat my Mum to somewhere very impressive and where better than this?The hotel itself was designated as a National Historic Site of Canada in 1980 and was built as part of a series of 'chateau' style hotels for the Canadian Pacific Railway, opening in 1893. To some people the hotel would appear a little dated and I've read some reviews to this effect, but I thought it was like stepping back to an age when opulence was everything. I also thought that because we had just travelled from Vancouver to Quebec on the train, it was a nice way to incorporate some of that old world charm into our holiday.Check-in was fast, polite and effortless and we were soon shown up to our lovely twin room. The lobby was quite busy when we were there with people waiting to do the 'behind-the-scenes' tour and so it was nice to be in the peace and quite of our room. We had amazing views over the Saint Lawrence River and the hotel's location is one of it's strong points. The decor in our room was a little old fashioned but all top quality and it somehow worked. In terms of facilities the hotel has everything you could possibly need, from a pool. hot tub and sauna, to conierge services and pay-per-view movies in your room. Sitting down for breakfast on a morning we noticed how busy the breakfast room was, so the hotel was obviously quite full. This did mean that things felt a little bit crowded and it certainly wasn't the peaceful breakfast we had hoped for. The other thing to remember is that this hotel is a tourist attraction in itself and so is often very busy with lots of tourists. I suppose if you were staying here for a prolonged period of time it would be a bit frustrating given how much money you will have spent to stay here. As we were only there for one night, and as we were kind of there as a set of tourists this didn't bother us too much. I would say you should really think about if you want to spend the sort of money you have to, to stay in a hotel that will not necessarily be peaceful and relaxed, and perhaps plagued by hordes of toursists, especially in the summer. In my opinion the hotel itself is amazing and worth the spend, it made our stay!
Quebec City is one made up of an upper and lower section, the old funicular connects the Haute-Ville(upper town) to the Basse-Ville (lower town). The funicular railway was origianlly opened in 1879, but was converted to electrical operations in 1907 and rebuilt in 1946 after a fire. We knew that the funicular was there before we walked down to the lower town and we planned to catch it back up to the upper town after our explorations. However, if you are travelling with less mobile or disabled relatives then this is a great way for them to get to and from the lower town.It's not expensive to use costing only a couple of dollars each way and really isn't that much of an experience because it is so fast. Having said that the views out over the lower town as you travel up the steep incline are pretty impressive. The entrance to the funiclar is through a shop which is terribly touristy, but then I found Quebec to be a little bit like that on the whole and there is nothing bad about it in small amounts.You just turn up to the entrance, pay your fare and the train leaves on demand when there are enough people. In the summer (like when we were there) this funicular is very busy and was quite hot and stuffy for the few minutes it took to whip us up the hill.All in all a very quick and easy way to get between the two most popular areas of Quebec for a very reasonable amount of money. I would recommend it to everyone visiting Quebec.
So after enjoying a lovely lunch sat in the sunshine of Quebec the sky clouded over and it started raining. \not fancying spending the next few hours getting wet and miserable, we decided to go and visit this museum. We weren't sure how much of this museum would be in English being that we were in French speaking Canada.However, when we walked in and saw the bilingual displays we were reassured and went straight ahead and bought tickets. The museum was huge and we only had an afternoon to explore, so we chose to look at the Canadian exhibits to focus on to start with. Our first exhibit was a bit confusing and we were confronted with a cacophany of noise from lots of different displays which explore what being Canadian means to various people. The display moves through the different territories and was a really innovative way of showing the different aspects of Canada. The whole room was black, so the individual video displays really do stand out. There were also several interactive displays that were a great way to pick bits of information out that really interest you. I wouldn't say that this area was suitable for children though, it's very detailed and there is a lot of information to read and take in. We moved from this section to an area about First Nations, it gave a really ineresting background to the main First Nation groups and some of their history. I found this section particularly interesting and was pleased to see what a wonderfully large part of the museum this display takes up. We spent a long time wandering round this area looking at the different artefacts, from tipees, to dog sleds and covering every different First Nation group. It really highlighted the major differences between the groups and how the area in which they inhabit has shaped what they 'specialise' in, the way they migrate and even the clothes they wear.The next section we headed to was the one that explained the immigration of Europeans into Canada. This was also very interesting as I wasn't completely clear on how everything had happened. I found it particularly fascinating to see how propaganda had made the distance from the U.K. to Canada seem much less than it was to encourage people to emigrate from Britain and also the money and land offered to men willing to work the interior territories. This was particularly interesting to me because several members of my famiily tree actually made the trip across the Atlantic to become famers in Canada.Unfortunately by the time we had been round these section the museum was closing, we hadn't hit any of the other areas that included Ancient Rome and a whole section about Science. I think perhaps you would need two or three visits to really get round the whole museum if you wanted to. However, I found that after our rainy afternoon visit we had a bit of what we call information overload and really couldn't have taken much more in. Having said that it was more educational than spending the day sat in a coffee shop or a pub and I highly recommend coming here just for the exhibits about the history of Canada!
Who would have thought that half-way through our trip across Canada we would come to a city that not only felt like it was in the middle of France, but whose food matched up to anything I have ever tasted in France? Well we did and that city is Quebc City and the place we found that served this great food was this cafe just off the water front. Just like in Paris the main seating seemed to be outside, so perhaps not the best place to sit in the middle of winter, however in June it was lovely.We ordered at the counter inside, where we were served by a lovely young girl who could translate my English much better than I could translate her French. We ordered two baguettes with various fillings, two coffees and a couple of delicious looking sweet pastries. The choice was pretty impressive, with lots of sandwich fillings, soup, pastries, pizza or even pasta to pick from. This cafe wasn't listed in our guide book and we found it completely by accident and what a find it turned out to be, everything beautifully prepared, fresh and tasty. The atmosphere outside was very relaxed and we could watch the world walk by whilst enjoying our food. We weren't pestered by staff and our only interruption was from a couple of little sparrow who were hoping for some crumbs from our table. They were sadly disappointed as we didn't waste a bit of our lovely food.We enjoyed our lunch here so much that we came back for breakfast the next day, enjoying lovely pastries and strong coffee to start our day of adventures around Quebec City. All in all a fantastic little find (if I do say so myself) that wasn't in our guidebook and so might not be in yours. Try and find it if you are looking for a taste of France in the heart of Canada!
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