Québéc City is a two hour drive from Montreal. Since we have our car, we opt to skip the bus tour and instead drive in and about Québéc City. Using the free wifi and stationary provided by our hotel, we scour the internet and itineraries listed by various tour operators to plan our day trip painstakingly. We had made sure we had a GPS loaded with Canada maps, before we entered Canada this time, so finding our way around would be quite simple and hassle free.
Our first stop is the Plains of Abraham. As we pull over, by the snow to park, we finally comprehended what the hotel manager meant when he said, “There is street parking, but you need to be able to read the signs and understand them correctly.” The signs are in French. The big red P with a line across it and my rusty French tells me that it’s a no parking from Monday to … I can’t tell what day. All I can recall is, Ven is not Wednesday. Logic tells me it ought to be Friday, but hey its French! It could be Thursday. Wednesday is Mercredi. There’s a Juedi (which I think is Friday) and a Merdi (Tuesday, I think) Which day is Ven? I catch hold of some passing tourists, and after confirming they know some rudimentary French, get their help in interpreting the sign. ‘No Parking from Monday to Friday’. Yes! It all comes flooding back .. Lundi, Merdi, Mercredi, Juedi, Vendredi. Ha! I still can’t recall Saturday and Sunday, but a few signs later I know it’s Samedi and Dimanche. If you are visiting the Québéc province, brush up on your French. Almost everyone knows some English, but French is the first language.
The Seven Years’ War, between the British and the French in Quebec ended with the defeat of the French General Montcalm in the Battle of the Plains of Abraham on September 13, 1759. It must have looked quite different then, but today the rolling plains were covered in snow. Inside my tall boots and woolen socks, I can feel my toes freezing, but outside there are people running for fitness. Mankind is truly unbelievable. We hurry back into the car and drive past the Parliament building. My toes begin to thaw and the burning sensation is excruciating. We step out of the car at the Citadel, but scramble back in when we hear that the guided tour would be mostly outdoors and is usually an hour or so long. This fortress is located within the ‘Historic District of Old Québec’, which has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985.
Narrow streets lined with stone houses no more than 2 stories tall, lovely old church – Old Québéc is as pretty as a picture. Some may call it touristy, we decide it is – *charmant! Almost all the remaining attractions on our list – Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac, Notre Dame des Victoires, Place Royale, Quartier Petit Champlain and the Old Port, are in Old Québéc. We parked at Old Port and walked through this unmistakably quaint town. In the plaza bordered by the church of Notre Dame des Victoires and Place Royale (museum) there is a boy selling maple taffy. It’s a rip off at $2 a piece, but we just have to try it.
The people at the front desk of the Place Royale Museum are very sweet. When we tell them we would like to go to Wendake to experience the life and culture of the First Nations, they advise us on where to go to for an authentic experience. They even look up the details for us. We drive down to the Huron Traditional Site, but unfortunately we reach just as they closed. If we ever go to Quebec again, this is one I would like to do.
*charmant! – charming!
**Vieux-Québec – Très Charmant! – Old Quebec City – Very Charming!
Lundi, Merdi, Mercredi, Juedi, Vendredi – Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday
Samedi and Dimanche – Saturday and Sunday