Today was on to discover Quebec City. With a goal of being on the road by 10:00 a.m., we exceeded expectations by being out at 9:30. Guylaine had booked a B&B in Levis, which is across the water by ferry from Quebec City’s old town. We stopped for a tailgate lunch and Guylaine had once again packed lunch for us of cous cous salad with chickpeas and veggies and plums. If I hang out with her for too long, I’ll be a stick figure and I can’t afford new riding gear, so I might have to binge on chocolate bars in the middle of the night. 😊
We arrived in Levis about 1:00 p.m. and located our lodging. Turns out it’s a beautiful little studio suite that will suit us just fine. As an added bonus, it is literally across the street from the ferry terminal! We dropped our things and jumped on the ferry to go over to the old town and do some reconnaissance.
We noticed on our way down the hill towards our accommodations, that the Chateau Frontenac is in full grandeur across the water as well. Turns out we have a better view from this side of the water than when you are in the old town itself. When riding the ferry across, you begin to see “la petite France”. The buildings reminded me of the way they look in French movies. Samuel de Champlain is the gros fromage around here, being the founder of Quebec in 1608. There are monuments of him in more than one location. Some of the streets are brick-paved and the buildings in the old city have been preserved in traditional style. It is one of the most picturesque places on my whole trip. Our search for a tourist information centre with a map led us up many a hill and even more stairs. Not quite sure where we had arrived, it was impossible to miss the Chateau Frontenac. We strolled the boardwalk around it before finding our way around to the lobby.
The Chateau Frontenac was named for the Count of Frontenac who was governor of new France for two 10-year periods. The hotel is one of the beautiful CPR hotels, but varies in architecture from the classical style of the majority of these hotels. It is much more castle-like and is perched on the top of the hill, with an amazing view of the St. Lawrence River. As these original hotels are, it is beautiful inside and we wandered around for a few minutes in awe of it. In 1943 and 1944, the hotel hosted two historic conferences with Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and William Lyon Mackenzie King.
The gentleman at the bus tour desk in the Chateau Frontenac, told us where we could find the tourist information centre. Walking out the door and onto the street we saw that we had walked right by it while our attention was focussed in the opposite direction. Classic Alyson navigation!
Clemence at the tourist information centre was very helpful, cheerfully providing us with a city map and the information we were looking for regarding tours and sights. Upon hearing about my journey, she went the extra mile and provided me with information for my ride to Les Escoumins and the Gaspe peninsula. If only she could be cloned, for that kind of service is rare! Heading back out, armed with a map this time, we decided we would stroll a circle route (or rather a square-ish one) and see some sights today, have some dinner and then cross the river back to our room.
Our tramping took us to the Basilique Cathedrale – Notre-Dame-de-Quebec. The cathedral was built in 1647 and destroyed by bombardment and then by fire. It was reconstructed in 1925 and is now designated a national historic site. The cathedral includes a crypt which contains the remains of four New France governors and the bishops of Quebec City. It was open for us to wander through and truly a work of art. I always marvel at how these magnificent structures were constructed without the aid of modern technology. It also reminds me of how cheap the lives of peasants and trades workers were back in those days.
Our path eventually took us up a hill that was a bit arduous in the heat, but we persevered and arrived at the fortress wall of the city. Climbing what felt like a billion stairs, we got to the top of the wall and were rewarded with a great view of the city. Gaspard Chaussegros de Lery was the engineer who campaigned to have the entire city walled so it was less vulnerable to British attack.
Following our intended route, we left the walls of the old city to walk over to the Parliament Buildings – up another hill……to find that they were mostly gated off for construction. However, there were various statues of influential premiers and a partial view of the building that got included in the photos anyway. There is, however, an impressive fountain out front of the building that was definitely photo-worthy.
Completing the last leg of our “square” tour, we found the Café de Paris and decided it was the place for dinner. It was a good choice and we had no problem polishing off our prosciutto and melon appy and seafood entrees. Then it was time for a leisurely walk back to the ferry. Wandering through the streets, there were a million little shops. We didn’t go into too many, but I was finally seduced by a little shop with very reasonably priced little light dresses. Perhaps it was the heat of the day, for I went in and found them irresistible. The shop-keeper ended up being very happy to see me as I provided her with at least a day’s change in loonies and toonies!
Returning to our room, we dropped off our things and went back to the waterfront to watch the sun set behind the Chateau Frontenac. There was a bonus show at the water park there where they made the water dance with the music and coloured lights. The water wasn’t the only thing dancing – it was fun to see the little kids enjoying the music and jumping around to it. I would have been too, had I not had laptop in hand! On our way back, we arranged for the breakfast included in our room price to be delivered a bit early so we can make an early-ish start to head back over tomorrow morning. Capping the evening off with gelato from the shop next door, I think it could be called a very successful day!