on February 27, 2012
We boarded the bus for the Countryside Tour in front of Chateau Frontenac at 1 PM. Just like our morning City Tour, the driver first made a detour to drop off passengers who had signed up for the Ice Hotel tour.My wife and I both liked the Countryside Tour much more than the City Tour. Our first stop was Montmorency Falls. As we exited the bus we could hear the constant roar of the half-frozen waterfall before we could see it. There is a path leading to a suspension bridge that traverses the falls and continues to its base. We were given 45 minutes to walk around the area. This 45 minutes of outdoor time was unexpected. Neither my wife nor I was wearing enough layers to deal with the bone-chilling wind. The reason being, I thought we would be spending most of our day in the heated tour bus. Rather than retreat to the bus or the nearby lodge for warmth, we endured the cold for the entire time allotted for this stop. We had to keep the camera in our pockets when not using it because the cold had already drained one battery.My wife and I walked to the end of the suspension bridge. We did not have enough time to walk to the base of the falls. We had a good time standing on the bridge and watching the water crash through the snow and ice below.The next destination on our tour was L’Île d'Orléans (Orleans Island). We were driven over a bridge to get there. The island contains farmland and very old houses - some as old as 300 years old. Some of the products of the island are strawberries, apple cider, and maple syrup. Everything was snow-covered during our visit so we had to use our imagination to get an idea of how the place looks in spring and summer.While on the island, we made a stop at Chocolaterie de l'Ile d'Orleans, a chocolate shop where we browsed some of the products and had a cup of C$4 hot chocolate. There were chocolate products shaped into everything from animals to iPods. We were told that we could get a nice view of Quebec City if we made a short walk across the street from the shop. It was nice but not the best view of the city I saw during our vacation.Chez Marie was our next stop on the island. This quaint bakery is housed in a stone building that was constructed in 1652. Had we not been told this fact, I would have never had guessed it from the interior. In warmer weather, bread is made in an outdoor oven that is more than 150 years old. One of the signature products of Chez Marie is its maple spread. We tried some on a slice of bread for C$2.50/slice. Wow! It was so sweet and delicious!We were driven back across the bridge to the main land where our next stop was the Albert Gilles Copper Art Museum. Admittedly, this did not sound like any place I really wanted to see but, silly me, it turned out to be one of my favorite stops. Canada is the third largest producer of copper behind the U.S. and Chile. This particular museum was started by the late Albert Gilles who immigrated to Canada from France in 1930. His daughter met us and gave us a brief overview of copper mining. She then took a plain sheet of copper and used etching tools to create artwork on the sheet. This was a tedious process in which the slightest mistake could totally ruin the entire creation. This demonstration gave us an appreciation of how much work it took to create the masterpieces we were about to see as we roamed the museum. Some of the pieces were for sale. The highlight of our visit was Albert Gilles' tribute to the life of Jesus Christ. These copper masterpieces were very detailed and exquisite. It took several decades to create this collection. Our final stop of our Countryside Tour was Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré Basilica. This is one of the most magnificent basilicas I've seen to date. It is grand and highly decorated. The basilica is dedicated to St. Anne, Jesus' grandmother (Mary's mother). Near the front of the sanctuary is a golden arm statue containing a glass opening. Inside the glass is a bone which we were told is the forearm of St. Anne. Annually, nearly a million people make pilgrimages to St. Anne's Basilica for healing. Those who have been healed sometimes leave behind their canes, crutches, and other medical devices as a testimony. These were on display at the back of the church. We were given 45 minutes to explore the basilica on our own before we needed to be back on the tour bus for our ride back to Quebec City.With that, this wonderful half-day excursion had come to an end. My wife and I were dropped off back at our hotel at 6 PM. It had been a great day of touring.
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