New France. A 400 year old city with a complex history that includes changing hands several times between the French and the British. Québec CIty (aka Québec), once the capital of the Dominion of Canada is now the capital of the province of Québec. Québec, the 11th largest city in Canada, is also the only fortified city north of Mexico. The walls of the city were made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985. We stayed in Lévis, a town across the St. Lawrence River which is fairly narrow at this point. This location was close to a 15-minute ferry ride over to Québec. A great option, as driving and parking in the city can be challenging. There were more weather changes while here, including a couple of rainy days. And now the weather was starting to get a bit chilly. Fall was in the air. Crossing over on the ferry with the locals was really fun, after a few days it became our “commute”. We spent most of our time in the old city, la vielle ville, our favorite section. It’s reminiscent of a European city with cobblestone streets, stone buildings, old churches, parks and gardens and of course, the walls surrounding the city. And VERY French. The city also has many cafes, shops and, of course, the Chateau Frontenac, the most photographed hotel in the world. It’s a beautiful structure and an outstanding landmark. The first day we arrived, we just happened upon the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec, an elite cycling event that’s part of an effort to bring international sports events to the city. We saw the lead racers go by as they made one of the final turns of the race. Then the peloton and the team cars came zooming by. SO cool.
On Saturday, we spent the entire morning at the Marché du Vieux-Port de Québec, the farmers market, a permanent structure that’s open daily, and has additional vendors on Saturdays. This was one of our “top” farmers markets in Canada.
Lots of produce, cheeses, sausage, meats, fresh seafood, jellies, beautiful pies and other baked goods, fresh pasta, sauces and much more. They also offer breakfast and lunch options. And we discovered one more new local dish – meat pie – delicious.
We also visited the Citadel, a very impressive structure, to see the changing of the guard only to find that they’d stopped it a week earlier (contrary to what the tourist office told us) – the guard changes only during the peak tourist season. They did offer a tour, and I opted out since I’ve seen so many forts lately and wasn’t up for another full blown fort tour just yet. So instead we walked around the beautiful park on the Plains of Abraham right outside the Citadel, which also happens to be where the British defeated the French in 1758.
We made it a point to go see the Joan of Arc statue, donated by an anonymous American. Then, as we walked in one of the parks we happened upon a mommy’s exercise group. With the trainer holding one of the babies. Cute.
Visiting the shops was also fun. There are really nice ones, offering beautiful clothes, accessories, leather goods and various forms of art. And there are also the requisite tourist schlock shops. Another fun activity for us was people watching. There were musicians playing in the street, people sitting out in the cafes, tourists from different countries and people just going about their day.
Last, but not least, there was the food. The French of course can do food. And the Québécois are no different. At times, we felt like we were back in France. Although the locals here were more able and willing to speak English than other places we visited in Québec, the French ambiance still remained. In fact Hector more than once started a sentence with “here in France” before catching himself.
Québec offers something for everyone; history, romance, interesting architecture, great food, beautiful art, music, elegant shopping, boating on the St. Lawrence, bicycling, parks, trails and of course, everything French. A perfect ending to our Canadian adventure. Next we are headed back to the USA for leaf season in Vermont (derived from the French for “green mountains”). ~ Brenda