bonjour quebec!

i've been meaning to blog about our weekend at quebec city several weeks ago. i thought i should wait for my digicam pictures to come before blogging, and when they did come, i was just too lazy to sit down and devote my online time to blogging. hehe.

i can't believe it's the middle of september already. our quebec city getaway happened during the last week of august. (talk about procrastination!) i had booked a night's stay at a small hotel ten minutes away from that popular quebec destination: "old quebec", or "vieux quebec" as they say it in french. it is in a town known as saint foy. we had crossed an enormous bridge over the st. lawrence river to get to this place.

the view of st. lawrence river by a church atop the cote l'eglise

you are unmistakably in quebec province when everything is in french, starting from the very first stop sign at the border which reads "arret." it is challenging to the ordinary tourist to decipher signs without english translations, but i think that adds to the fun of the trip. my AAA agent, who claims that quebec is one of his favorite places in northern america, advised me to use some handy french phrases such as "bonjour" and "parlez-vous anglais?" (do you speak english?) to appease the quebec natives of my earnest effort in speaking their language. i got to use those phrases a lot, with the obligatory "merci beaucoup."

getting to montreal from new jersey is six hours, and from there it's another two hours to quebec city. by my faulty reading of the quebec area map, we had taken the scenic route by the st. lawrence river towards old quebec. it ended up being to our advantage as we got to drive by said river. that road was undergoing major construction, though, but in less than 10 minutes we were by the parking lot at champlain boulevard.

it was still technically summer then, but the breeze was chilly. it felt like autumn. one rule i've learned with places here in america is that it's always colder by a body of water. it compelled me to take off my summer skirt and put on jeans.

we were conveniently parked next to the musee de la civilisation. we started our walking tour of old quebec from that building, going up the steps to get to the other street which forms part of the so-called "lower town". there were tourists in groups guided around the area by a costumed french guide. we just started to walk around instinctively, exploring the cobblestone streets (which for a brief moment looked like we were in medieval europe) until our feet took us to the center of place royale.

in the middle of the place royale is a statue of king louis xiv, and to the right is the notre dame des victoires church. much to our disappointment, we couldn't get inside the church as there was a wedding going on. we moved on and amused ourselves with the giant mural at the back of a building. i got to pose with samuel de champlain in there.

mural at old quebec

the place royale has a few street performers to capture the attention of curious tourists. one performer in particular who attracted our eyes and ears was this guy who played music with about a dozen champagne glasses. he was selling his music in CDs for $20 canadian.

champagne glass music

touring old quebec by foot is truly a good cardio-workout because of its steep, uphill streets. to appreciate the view from the "upper town", you must undergo this task. a good place to take in the saint lawrence river is at montmorency park, where you can see the ferry boats and cruise ships sail through this majestic body of water--the same body of water which served as a passageway of the first french settlers to this part of the continent centuries ago.

view from montmorency park

we continued to walk until we reached a square where people seemed to be waiting for some sort of show. i bravely approached a policeman with my handy "parlez-vous anglais?", to which he said "little beet", and i asked why there were so many people in the area waiting for something. he told me there was a "le parade" of a military nature. we decided to wait around for the parade and sure enough, uniformed men marched by with flags and saxophones....some even in bright plaid kilts and bagpipes!

men in kilts!

close to the holy trinity anglican church is an area devoted to quebec's artisans and painters selling their works. an entire sidestreet is even filled with these independent painters and artists with artworks featuring beautiful sceneries of quebec. we wanted to buy a piece of colored artwork but they were much too expensive for our budget. there were also caricaturists nearby.

terrasse dufferin

we were able to reach the plaza at the terrasse dufferin. people were being entertained by yet another group of street performers. we were able to discover the famous funicular, a cable-car type of ride which transports people to and from the lower and upper town of old quebec. just the shortcut we needed after all the "hiking" we did.i did read on travel websites that this public outdoor "elevator" was supposed to be free, however, we were charged $1.50 canadian each to get on it. the ride was about less than ten seconds, and we were magically whisked to the quartier du petit champlain, a narrow, cobblestoned street filled with shops and little outdoor cafes.

quartier du petit champlain, a cramped shopping street

we found our way back to our parking lot by the museum, tired of all the walking and ready to call it a day. so we drove back to our little hotel and rested to prepare for next day's discoveries.

the plaque in front of the church

because the next day was a sunday, we were determined to find a catholic church in quebec city. our hotel's brochure told us there was one close to old quebec which we were able to find, but the parking baffled us. we weren't sure if we could safely park in the street next to where the church was without being ticketed, plus we had nobody to ask if that church celebrated mass in english. our exasperation prompted us to just visit the last place on my itinerary, the observation deck at the marie guyart building. there, we found paid parking, and by coincidence came across the "chapelle historique du bon pasteur." a french woman went out of her way to try to explain to my family in little english and mostly hand gestures that it is a beautiful church inside with beautiful music. she handed us brochures of the church written entirely in french which looked like there were important musicians taking part in the mass. the lady was correct, it was absolutely gorgeous inside. the interior was like being in an opera house, as there was an upper level at either side of the main altar. the music itself was sung by live classical singers which made the mass a truly heavenly listening experience. but we had to endure it in french. hehe. nevertheless, language barrier aside, our sunday obligation was fulfilled.

follow the yellow footsteps to the top of the observatory

right across the street was the observatory building which we climbed by elevator. on its 31st floor, you get a good 360-degree view of quebec city...zoom it in via little telescopes they provide you with.

old quebec, with le chataeu frontenac in the middle of it all

it was cloudy and drizzling that day, but we took it as a sign for us to prepare heading home. our stomachs vehemently reminded us to have lunch first, though, and so we tried to look for something uniquely quebecan to eat at before leaving there. thankfully, grand allee boulevard was just a block away from the observatory where different restaurants lined up for people to choose from. they had their menus conveniently posted outdoors for the discriminating tourist to study first before stepping inside any one restaurant. our only discrimination was towards which restaurant would offer english menus, haha. thankfully, the louis hebert restaurant had an english-speaking usherette approach us and translated the menu for us. we chose this place to eat at. although it seemed fancy, the prices seemed reasonable enough. i was not too happy with my meal, though. i requested my meat to be well-done and it ended up tasting rather bitter.

and so our long drive home was smothered with heavy rains until we reached montreal. quebec city was intimidating for all its french-ness, but the place is exquisitely european in ambience. my sister and i were disappointed with the scarcity of tim horton's in quebec. it is canada's very own dunkin donuts! we were lucky to spot one along the highway, where i had to pronounce "danois avec pecanes"
(danish bread with pecans) as best as i could to the cashier, and concluded the transaction with a polite "merci beaucoup". it was fun to say a few french phrases.

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