Saturday, November 9, 2013

Canada Summer 2013: Quebec City

August 12-14, 2013 -- After a three hour early morning VIA Rail Canada train ride from Montreal to Quebec City, I exited the train station and walked up to the hostel in Old Quebec. When I checked into Auberge Internationale de Québec, I noticed something familiar about the man in front of me. It turns out we sat next to each other for more than three hours on the train and didn't say a word the entire trip.

We checked in our bags and headed out for some sight-seeing around Old Quebec and French breakfast. The fellow traveler was originally from the UK and was on the last leg of his trip to Argentina and eastern Canada before heading back to Britain. He is in a wedding band and showed me some video of the group performing.

Walking around Old Quebec you begin to understand why the city is generally regarded as the most European in North America. Quebec is one of the oldest European settlements in North America as it was founded by French explorer and diplomat Samuel de Champlain in 1608. Quebec is the only North American fortified city north of Mexico whose walls still exist.

Quebec certainly has a contemporary French flavor as the juggler in front of City Hall demonstrated as well as the street art found in the most unusual of places. And of course as in the rest of the province, all the signs are in French.

The grounds of the Parliament Building are impressive with statues of important historical figures and other monuments as well as the the Fontaine de Tourny east of the Parliament Building. According to Wikipedia, the building was completed in 1886 and "features the Second Empire architectural style that was popular for prestigious buildings both in Europe (especially France where the style originated) and the United States during the latter 19th century."

Next I visited the historic Citadelle of Quebec (French: Citadelle de Québec) -- a military installation and official residence of both the Monarch of Canada and the Governor General of Canada. The Citadelle dates from when construction started in 1673 and has been the home station Royal 22e Régiment of the Canadian Forces since 1920. You can see the Royal 22e Régiment soldiers manning the guard booths in their recognizable black bear skin hats and bright red uniforms.

The next day my new British friend joined me for a guided tour of Old Quebec's upper and lower towns. Our wonderful tour guide from Tours Voir Quebec was Simon Jacobs, who is also a violinist and is writing a book on the history of the Jews of Quebec. He is a real renaissance man. The start was perfect with overcast weather with a few spotty rain drops. That all changed however about 20 minutes into the tour as the rain poured down most of the rest of the tour. The rain didn't dampen the spirits our the people on the tour or Jacobs, as we just had to improvise a bit and take some of the tour indoors.

Sites included the Château Frontenac, Samuel de Champlain statue, Old Quebec Seminary, the murals of lower town, Notre-Dame-des-Victoires, the grave of Louis Joliet and the funicular.

Later in the day I walked along La Promenade des Gouverneurs for spectacular views of the Saint Lawrence River down below and the outer walls of the Citadelle. The pathway winds its way to the Plains of Abraham, which is famous for the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, which was fought between the British and French in 1759. The British were victorious, marking the beginning of the end of New France and the eventual control of Canada by the British, which is why most of Canada is English to this day.

Here are more photos of Quebec City:

Here is video of the Royal 22e Regiment Sentinels being inspected at La Citadelle de Quebec: