Cole Slaw, Graffiti, and the Frontenac

July 7, 2010 at 8:41 am 1 comment

Last Monday was one of the days on the trip that I was most excited to experience: Québec City! I’ve been wanting to visit Québec ever since my first trip to Montréal, but never seemed to have the time to drive a few more hours east. A few years ago, Skate Canada was in Québec and I thought I was going to go, but when I didn’t get credentialed, I couldn’t afford the cost of the trip, as well as a ticket, so I stayed home while my friends stayed in the room I’d booked in the Frontenac. I might still be a little bitter, especially after seeing the Frontenac. We’ll get there in a few paragraphs.

Although the drive from Montréal to Québec is only a few hours, it seemed a lot longer because it was fairly dull, and Jules and I were both so excited. When we finally got to the area, it was rainy and foggy, so our master plan of stopping at the waterfront in Lévis to take photos of Québec across the river wasn’t as fantastic as we’d hoped it would be. The view was lovely, so I hope I have the chance to photograph it on a sunny day sometime. Our Lévis stop meant that we crossed the river just as rush hour was beginning, so that combined with a lot of construction meant that we sat in traffic for an hour. I had no idea that was possible in a small city like Québec.

Fortunately, the day quickly redeemed itself. We checked into the Auberge du Littoral, near the river, east of downtown, and the girl working the reception desk highlighted a walking tour of downtown for us on a tourist map. She showed us where to park, where we could walk on the walls, where they had the war, where to buy our souvenirs, and where to buy cute clothes. Comprehensive and extremely helpful, especially since our time was limited!

We were starving, and no trip to La Belle Province is complete without a stop at St-Hubert, home of the best cole slaw in the world, so we paused at a St-Hubert near our inn, and then got on our way.

Stepping out of the parking garage was like stepping back in time, or at least, finding ourselves suddenly in Europe. I think I said to Jules, “I was on a street in Oxford that looked exactly like this!” There’s no other place in North America that comes so close to being European. Of course, les Québecois are proud of this and of their French heritage. Where Montréal bridges the gap between French- and Anglo-Canada, Québec stays firmly (and proudly) rooted on the French side. It’s the heart of the separatist movement (those in favour of Québec’s secession from the rest of Canada). I avoid political discussions, even in my own country, so I didn’t engage any residents in their views on the issue, but I did witness plenty of separatist graffiti, spray-painted on the walls of the Citadel. It made me so sad to see that—whether I agree or disagree with the politics, I don’t think there’s any reason to deface one of the most historic places in North America. But enough about that.

Our walking tour covered all of the main sites in the city. We started in Upper Town, near the Citadel, and we did indeed get to walk on top of a piece of the wall. Unfortunately, our view from the top of the fortress was of a parking lot below. I guess there’s no stopping progress, even in Old Québec. Just to the west of the walls are the Plains of Abraham, where the French fell to the British in 1759, giving the British control of Québec and ultimately paving the way for a united Canada. Of course, it’s more complicated than that, but I’ll need to do quite a bit more research before I can offer a full history on the matter.

From the Plains, we turned onto the Governor’s Promenade, a wooden boardwalk along the walls that overlooks the water. The Promenade leads directly to the Terrasse Dufferin, another boardwalk in front of the Chateau Frontenac, possibly the most impressive of the grand Canadian railway hotels. Built in 1893, the hotel is one of Québec’s most recognizable buildings and actually holds the Guinness World Record for “most photographed hotel.” At least, according to Wikipedia, it does.

Jules and I wandered around Upper Town for a little while, photographing fountains and churches and monuments, then headed down the stairs to Petit-Champlain, a little street in the Lower Town full of shops and restaurants. The picturesque street was charming, but we had one goal: Beaver Tails. I’d just had one in Ottawa, but Jules hadn’t had one in years, and we’d seen an ad for a Beaver Tail store in the guidebook. At the end of the street, we found a candy and ice cream shop with a Beaver Tail poster out front, so we went inside, just as a torrential downpour began.

And then the shop with the Beaver Tail poster didn’t actually sell Beaver Tails. The owners also owned the Beaver Tail store, which was just around the corner. So Jules and I tried to dash between raindrops (quite unsuccessfully) and by the time we arrived at the Beaver Tail store, we were completely drenched. It was closed, of course.

I was more worried about my camera than myself in the rain, so we ran back up to Petit-Champlain, where I bought a rain poncho in a souvenir shop. The men working in the shop watched me while I carefully lined my camera bag with the plastic and wrapped my camera and lenses in it. I felt a little silly, but anything to ensure the safety of my camera!

The shower ended up being fierce, but fairly short-lived, so as we headed back to the car in a light drizzle, we ducked into some shops that were still open. It turned out that the hotel girl had, indeed, made a fantastic recommendation for clothes shopping, but unfortunately, gas and food are taking priority over new clothes in my trip budget, so I couldn’t buy anything. I did, however, allow myself a gelato treat (coconut again, this time with pineapple!) as our final stop in Old Québec.

Overall, even despite the rain and the graffiti, I found Québec to be one of the most charming cities on my trip. Perhaps it’s only because it’s been three years since my last European trip and I’m missing it, perhaps because I’m attracted to old buildings. Either way, I really enjoyed my time in the city and am glad that after wanting to go there for seven years, it didn’t disappoint.

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Entry filed under: Québec, Québec City.

Mville The Suggestion Box: Nova Scotia

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. To the Moon and Back « Mel's Canadian Adventure  |  January 7, 2011 at 7:59 pm

    […] If you have a keen memory, you might remember that just a few days earlier, Jules and I had been on a disappointing quest for Beaver Tails in Québec City that ended in a monsoon. So when we saw the ad for Beaver Tails in the PEI guidebook, we knew we […]

    Reply

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A serial road tripper chronicles her adventures.

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