Technically, this was our second day in Québec City, but our first full one. We arrived late last night, and you can read about our welcome in my previous post.
We had a restful sleep in our gorgeous hotel, then after a quick petite-déjeuner, and with a spring in our steps, we entered old town Québec, ready to embrace all the new experiences awaiting us.
We started by walking along the old fortified wall and heading to get a view of the parliament building and, eventually, the Saint Lawrence River (pictured at the top of this post).
We enjoyed the many gates, doorways, and bridges that afforded us the different views. They have many cannons along the walls, which especially caught our attention. See, after learning of our visit to Québec City, my cousin’s husband, Pat (a native Québecer) gave us a mission to find a cannon ball embedded in the trunk of a tree in the old town. We made sure to take pictures of the cannons—because we thought we could doubly impress Pat if we did so!
Well, after surviving the cannons, we kept walking along the route, and eventually arrived at Dufferin Terrace and Château Frontenac. It’s here where you can see the beautiful monument to Samuel de Champlain:
We had already pre-booked a tour for Château Frontenac, so decided to not linger there, but instead went up Rue Saint-Louis to gaze upon the beautiful architecture. We almost immediately were distracted by this side street where vendors were selling art.
Marcie and I are not ones to buy a lot of souvenirs, except for artwork. We are running out of wall space, but I had no choice but to purchase this adorable print by Francois Thomassin. I think his artwork would be wonderful in a children’s book.
Weaving up another side street, we came upon Chapelle des Ursulines, which is a Catholic Church with beautiful stained glass windows and many pieces of religious artwork that were saved from the riots of the French Revolution and brought to Québec. There was a very kind and knowledgable man outside the church, and he regaled us with the history and legacy of the Catholic church in Québec and encouraged us to go inside.
We did take a quick peek, but did not spend much time there—after all, we had a cannonball to find!
And find it, we did . . .
I won’t say WHERE we found it, in case you want to search for it yourself. Also, I’m not sure WHY there is a cannonball in the tree. One story claims that the cannonball landed there during the Battle of Québec in 1759 and then the tree grew around and over it. Who knows? Pat was very pleased that we found it; he immediately assigned us a new challenge, which we will try to undertake . . .
It was next time for lunch, and we overheard a tour guide waxing poetic about a restaurant we passed, so we decided to go in.
We weren’t looking for an expensive or heavy lunch, but we did not regret dining at La Buche! It was pure Canadiana! To begin with, it is decorated with many items such as skates, skis, snowshoes, and . . . er, taxidermy.
We dined out in the back terrace, where we enjoyed incredible food. I had tried poutine in Montréal, but nothing like what I was served here:
Let’s just say that other bacon should go hang its head in shame. Because all other bacon has failed in comparison to this bacon.
As for Marcie, she had a grilled cheese sandwich unlike any we had ever seen:
Yes, I know. It does not look like grilled cheese. I actually think it was battered and then grilled. Or deep fried. I don’t want to think about it too much, actually. I think we ate our calorie count for the day in one fell swoop.
Afterwards, we visited the bathroom. It was comprised of unisex stalls and every square inch was covered in graffiti. The sink was a bathtub:
The faucets are actually the soap dispensers!
Well, it was time to make our tour at Château Frontenac. We found our guide, Michel, in full top hat and tailed coat waiting for us on Dufferin Terrace near the hotel.
I ended up discovering A LOT of unexpected inspiration at Château Frontenac, this most historic of hotels. I’m working on a book that involves a hotel angle to it, and taking the tour got me rethinking a few details. (Alas, a writer is always at work . . . even when he is on vacation!) Mostly, this hotel allowed me to think about all the different services, details, and aspects of hotel life. I’ve read up on hotels of course, but nothing seems to top actually walking through one such as Château Frontenac and seeing it for yourself.
Well, there’s a lot one could tell about this hotel and its history, but suffice it to say that it was the largest hotel in North America for quite some time, and is still one of the most prestigious. It has had its ups and downs with fires, economic downturns, royal visits—you name it. The leaders of the allied powers even met here during World War II to plot their strategies.
Our tour included the grand ballroom . . .
The ladies’ tea room . . .
And the 1608 bar . . .
The 1608 bar may have been my favourite place in the hotel. It was the old reading room, and we definitely want to come back here for a drink. In the adjoining room, where they serve the famous Château Frontenac brunch, we saw all sorts of taxidermy, much of it very strange . . .
Yes, that was a two-headed duckling!
Here are a few other details I snatched from the hotel:
Marcie and I now harbour the fantasy of returning to Québec City one Christmas and staying at this gorgeous hotel. It won’t be this Christmas, but hopefully one holiday season soon . . .
After our hotel tour, we went below Dufferin Terrace to explore the Saint-Louis Forts and Châteaux national historic site, which is administered by Parks Canada and is underground. Similar to my experience at the Pointe-À-Callièreo museum in Montréal, we were able to explore the old rooms and gaze upon beautiful artifacts from this early period when Québec was New France.
My favourite artifacts, of course, were this lock and key:
After emerging from the past, we spent the rest of our afternoon ambling the beautiful old streets (some of them delightfully narrow) and squares, taking in the many sights, smells, and sounds.
We did a little shopping (Marcie bought a pair of Québec-made moccasins!) and took many photos. Here are just a few of them, including the many doors and details that caught my eye . . .
Well, that was our wonderful first day. We are next looking forward to exploring the Plains of Abraham.