Quebec City is a treat for anyone who loves history and the French way of life. It is a unique and lovely town for a short visit on the way to the Atlantic provinces of Canada. My time here will be short, but I hope to make the most of it by soaking in the sun and the ambience of the city.
I am staying at the Hotel Clarendon, which is the oldest operating hotel in the city. It also is in the most convenient area to see the historical section of this very modern city, and is surrounded by cobblestone walkways and 400 year old architecture. The rooms are small but luxurious, and the bed is wonderfully soft.
I start my day by slipping across the street to enjoy a cappuccino at a small patisserie (French Bakery). The pastry is flaky and filled with chocolate and sugar, and the coffee is creamy. As I sit at an outside table sipping and dreaming, the barista stops by to ask if I would like a hot chocolate that they made by mistake. Of course, I said “yes!”
I wander down the narrow streets, lined with artists, musicians, and stores selling local arts such as fur lined hats, silver jewelry, and carved wood. The Chateau Frontenac, a luxury hotel built in 1893, dominates the hill overlooking the St. Lawrence River. The streets are lined with outside cafes and people enjoying both the sunny weather and the great views.
After jumping on the hop-on/hop-off bus, I learn that there are many other areas of Old Quebec to enjoy. My favorite is a small street that is lined with street lights with large, round “shades” designed by local artists. The street is often closed down to allow the restaurants to bring their outdoor seats even further effect is to bring the living room outside so that those eating feel as if they are lounging in a very stylish living room.
My favorite stroll comes towards sunset, as I wander down the steps to the lower section of Old Quebec, known as Place Royale. This lovely square is considered the epicenter of French America, and was a marketplace in the 17th and 18th centuries. Now it is filled with boutiques, bars, and restaurants lined with flowers. If you ever saw the DiCaprio movie, “Catch Me If You Can” then you saw this small square fill in for a French village.
I enjoyed a lovely dinner of pizza at the outdoor cafe in the corner, and loved watching the people flow through the square. Towards the end of the evening, a group of teenagers, dressed for prom, came to have a special dinner before the dance. Everyone in the restaurant applauds them, and smiles with memories of their own teenage years.
At the far end of the square is the famous 1688 Notre-Dame-des-Victories church, which is the oldest stone church in North America. This church was the site of celebration when the French beat back the English during the early settlement of this area.
A “light and sound” show at the Musee du Fort which I watched earlier in the day helped me to understand just how many hundreds of years the two countries had fought over this area until they finally made peace and settled the land together.
As the gentle light of June settled into darkness, I made my way back to my hotel, stopping to listen to music on the street from a ancient man playing an accordian. What a way to end the day!