Week five into our trip we visit Quebec City, Quebec Province Canada.
09.10.2011 - 17.10.2011 6 °C
We flew Air Canada to Quebec city, from Halifax via Montreal - just days before an air hostie strike, and stay overnight at a cheapie motel near the Jean Lesage International Airport. If you think Canberra airport is a bit light on, this place gives it competition. A bit of a down-time day until our Air Bnb apartment is ready the next day. We indulge in marathon episodes of “Hoarders: Buried Alive” and also discover “Sister Wives” - another reality tv show about a family of Latter Day Saints originally from Utah, who move to Vegas (you think you have problems, this guy has four wives and sixteen kids).
This stay left us both wishing we’d studied French at high school. Neither the Motel staff nor the McDonalds staff across the road spoke English, but we can now order a burger with cheese in French-Canadian. A French-speaking taxi driver listening to heavy metal races us into Quebec city in a tiny Corolla.
We’re in a one-bedroom apartment near the apparently trendy St. Jean Baptiste area, just ten minutes walk to old Quebec city (commonly termed ‘Disneyland’ during peak season by the locals). It’s fantastic having some living space again. Whilst the ‘oldest grocery store in North America’ along Rue Saint-Jean is very cute, it’s also very expensive and we seek out an Inter-marche store where the locals shop, and rejoice in being able to cook our own meals. Our tv has two channels – one in French and the other showing constant ice hockey programs, so during our stay here we begin to learn the Canadian fascination with this sport.
Seven days in Quebec was probably a bit long and in hindsight I’d do about four. We walked 5klms around the top of the walls and through the old city, which is Canada’s version of Europe – old stone buildings and cobbled laneways throughout, and hundreds of restaurants and tourist traps (I mean shops), including the hotel Chateau Frontenac – with the claim of the world’s most photographed hotel (how are these things known? does someone keep stats on Foursquare?). The old town is a little too ‘manufactured’ in quaintness for me, but the history is nonetheless interesting. Travel is certainly a great way to increase your knowledge about the past. There are gorgeous autumn views out across the St Lawrence River, and we ferry it across to the tiny town of Levi for an uninspired quick walk around, including lots of stairs.
I’m convinced that Quebec is the French word for stairs – Quebec city has some thirty staircases (escaliers), that connect the various (and many), parts of the old city with the new. Each escalier has it’s own history and ‘personality’. We have a set of 115 steps next to our apartment, complete with (much needed) resting seats half-way. There are so many stairs that each year in June, Quebec holds the Defi des Escaliers – an approx. 16 klm race taking across all the staircases connecting the upper and lower parts of the city, and alternating up and down those for more than 3,000 stairs, culminating in the final escalier of 398 steps. Just writing about it makes me tired!
We walk the Plains of Abraham, a massive, historic battle site (one of the many) in the ongoing historical French/English arguments. It’s a beautiful park and we check out one of the historic Martello towers (round, military fortifications), and an interesting display of Halloween stories at the Joan of Arc park. A quick trip up the Observatoire de Capital for city-wide views.
Weps has discovered Canada’s ‘national dish’ of Poutine, originating from Quebec. It’s a staple student food of hand-cut potato chips, cheese curds and yummy turkey gravy. Thanks to all the stairs, we’ve hopefully burnt off all our Poutine calories!
Next stop, Montreal.