Chris and I both fell in love with this European style city. Its cobblestone streets are filled with character(s) and little restaurants and shops filled with amazing food await you at every turn. As the oldest city in Canada it is also home to much of the country’s history.
The old Fort Wall wraps it’s way around the central part of the city to help defend against the various invasions the city experienced as North America forged its identity and borders. We made our way through the gateways into the central town each day from our accommodation at Laval University.
Our first day in any new place normally consists of a general reconnaissance mission to see what possibilities the city holds and start the sightseeing. In Quebec we did this by bike riding next to the wall down to the lower part of town and then struggling to get up the steep incline again. The views are amazing and the vibe electric.
One of the highlights of our trip was our first Cirque du Soleil experience. The owner has been putting on free shows in the city for the past few summers and we were lucky enough to be amongst the crowd that gathers to see the spectacle. Performed under an overpass, the performers tightrope walk, execute acrobatics off the sides of shipping containers and bounce ecstatically off three stories onto the trampolines below. We were both hypnotised by the experience and fantastic music performed by a skeleton in kilt playing piano and guitar. We are now Cirque converts.
Chris has had an iconic Australian beer hat in his luggage and being in the middle of French Canada he felt it was safe to wear the VB fashion label to help fend off the very hot summer sun. Two footsteps into our favourite cafe in the city and the barista recognised us for the aussies we were. It turned out he had lived in Melbourne for three years, as had the waitress. The up side was that we found someone who knew how to make a cracking flat white.
Chris decided that the hat needed to go into hiding for a little while. A few days later he was courageous and donned to hat again for a walking food tour of the city. As we sat on the bench with the other tourists waiting to start the girl next to us turned round, “Nice hat!’ Yep, another Australian. The hat didn’t make another appearance for the rest of Quebec.
The food tour was lovely. In a group of six we headed across the road from the tourist centre to the SAQ, the local grog shop. Here we had a taste of ice cider, a Quebec twist on the country’s ice wine. Our favourite was the maple whisky. Sadly worries about our baggage weight allowance stopped us from stocking up so if anyone else is travelling in that direction, pick some up for us. We also headed into one of the oldest delicatessens in town for a taste some local cheese. Next was a chocolate shop and then a maple store where we tasted three different grades of maple syrup. Another place took us into their beautiful wine cellar for a small sampling. One of the fancy restaurants had prepared a little terrine for us. At another restaurant specialising in cuisine from Brittany we enjoyed a cheese and ham crepe and sipped on a glass of absolutely glorious cider.
Historically Quebec City is central to Canada’s past. Being the history buffs we are we tried to explore as much of it as possible. One of the main areas is the the Plains of Abraham, named after the farmer who once owned the land. The battle held here was pivotal in the Seven Years War. You can easily spend hours walking through the now picturesque parkland looking at the areas where various stands took place.
A stairway now leads up a steep hillside where the English were able to draw up their boats and climb the hill during the night. The French had believed the area was an unlikely entry point and had left it largely unguarded. The bulk of the French troops were miles away leaving the English to gather on the plain giving them a massive advantage. The stairway is now a training climb for local runners and tourists who are prepared to expel a little extra energy.
The ramparts that surround the old city make it the only remaining walled city in the Americas north of Mexico. Within the walls is The Citadel where you can watch the changing of the guard. Definitely worth it as the chance to see the regiments mascot is too good to pass up. The 22nd regiment is still active with many of its troops currently serving overseas. It is also the only Francophone regiment in the Canadian Regular Force. Batisse the Royal Goat is paraded around the quadrangle each day in his silky blue cape and gilded gold horns (pretty sure they were just covered in gold horn covers when we saw him). Whilst the marching band plays and the rest of the regiment is inspected, Batisse and his handler, who is also in full uniform, stand to attention and perform the odd manoeuvre as required. The surrounding audience can’t help but let out a giggle as the woolly white angora goat enters his stage. Chris was particularly thrilled as he does enjoy the odd goat both as a meal and I fear, as a pet one day.
Looking forward to getting back here. It is a really beautiful and tasty city.