Author: Carolyn Boyle
Date of Trip: September 2014
This review describes an 8-day/7-night (6 nights ashore and 1 night onboard a cruise ship) stay in Quebec City and the surrounding area along the St. Lawrence River. It is primarily a journal of how we spent each day, including web links to tourist information web sites and maps.
Although our visit was the prelude to a cruise, we thought that the Quebec City area is a highly interesting destination in its own right. It is also an excellent cruise embarkation city or port call because of the many sights within easy driving distance. We felt sorry for those passengers who boarded the ship shortly before it departed and were unable to experience any of the numerous attractions in this area.
REGION IN QUEBEC AREA: SIGHTS SEEN
Cote de Beaupre: Montmorency Fall, Bridal Veil Fall, Ste Anne de Beaupre Basilica and Shrine, Les Sept Chutes, Mont-Ste-Anne, Jean Larose Waterfall, Canyon Ste Anne, Cap Tourmente Wildlife Refuge
Ile d’Orleans: Vignoble de Ste Petronille, Les Fromages de l’Isle d’Orléans, La Ferme d’OC, Boulangerie Blouin, Domaine Steinbach, Isle de Bacchus
Charlevoix: Mountain Route, River Route, Malbaie, Jean-Noel waterfall, Baie St Paul, Pont Couvert de St Placide
Chaudiere-Appalaches: Terrasse de Levis, Parc des Chutes de la Chaudiere
Quebec City: Lower Town, murals, Place Royale, Eglise Notre Dame des Victoires, Royal Battery, Funiculaire de Vieux Quebec, Parc Montmorency, Upper Town, Place d’Armes, Terrasse Dufferin, Champlain Monument, Parc des Gouverneurs, Chateau Frontenac, City Walls (Porte Prescott, Porte St Louis, Porte Kent, Porte St Jean), Parliament Building, Tourny Fountain, Plains of Abraham, Governor’s Promenade, St Louis Forts and Chateaux, Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, Notre Dame de Quebec Basilica-Cathedral, Artillery Park, Citadel, Pierre Dugua de Mons terrace, Joan of Arc Monument and Garden
John and I (Carolyn) are retired Mississippi State University professors in our mid-sixties, who currently reside in central North Carolina. Both of us are natives of New Orleans and, as such, are interested in good food (and wine!) and good times.
We have traveled extensively worldwide and enjoy both land tours and cruises; often our trips combine the two. On cruises, we prefer DIY port tours, private tours with other CruiseCritic.com roll call members or shared public tours. We favor nature and wildlife tours that involve snorkeling, SCUBA diving or hiking. In particular, we will hike for miles to see waterfalls, volcanoes, caves or other interesting geologic features. We also enjoy lighthouses, forts, castles and anything else we can legally climb up on for a good view.
REVIEW OF THE TRIP
DAY 1: FRI, 09/6/14 RALEIGH/DURHAM (RDU) TO QUEBEC CITY (YQB)
We really lucked out today! The flight we had originally booked left RDU in mid-morning, connected through Newark and arrived in Quebec City in the early afternoon. However, United had canceled that flight and re-booked us on a later flight through Chicago. We objected to the change and made United put us on an earlier flight through Newark that got to Quebec City in the late morning. Although we grumbled about having to get up at 3:00 a. m. to make that flight, we were very happy that we did NOT go through Chicago when we learned that over half the flights through ORD were canceled today because of a fire in a FAA air-traffic-control facility in Aurora, Illinois.
Although we only had a two-hour layover in Newark, we used our United Club coupons (which would expire in October) to have a light breakfast and a quiet, comfortable spot to relax before the second fight. During the flight, we had some nice views of picturesque farmland and lots of colorful fall foliage.
Our small plane arrived at YQB (www.aeroportdequebec.com/en/) just after a large one, so there was a very long line for immigration, which took about 45 minutes. While we were waiting, an announcement was made in French but not repeated in English. Using my high school French from 35+ years ago, I understood maybe 10% and guessed that we were being told that we would go through customs inspection after retrieving our baggage. There was no problem about that because there were only a few other bags left on the carousel besides ours by the time we made it through immigration. Customs were no problem either and we were soon in the small terminal building.
We could see the car rental offices across the street but there is no way to cross there; we had to walk to the end of the terminal building, cross the street and walk almost the same distance in the opposite direction. Once we arrived at the Budget Rental Car counter, we had a much pleasanter experience than our recent disasters with Enterprise and National. Our rental documents were printed out and waiting for us, so we were at the car (a Hundai Elantra) within five minutes. However, the instructions we were given for returning the car to the Hilton in downtown Quebec City on Thursday proved to be mostly fiction.
The Budget desk did not have any local road maps but we had brought our Garmin (Samantha) along, loaded with up-to-date Canadian road maps. Samantha the Garmin pronounces French even worse than we do, which caused a little confusion understanding the street signs when leaving the airport. We also had a little cultural confusion when a street light changed to green and started flashing; we later learned that indicates a protected left turn signal. Also, our phrase book did not include the highway sign “Demi-Tour,” which literally means “half-tower.” By careful observation and brilliant deduction, we realized that this is a way of making a U-turn by exiting to the right and then making two left turns.
By the way, Quebec Province is resolutely French. Anyone who has ever studied French at any level would be well advised to brush up on his/her basic vocabulary; a good phrase book would be useful as well. John and I ran into a number of people who did not admit to speaking any English whatsoever and we needed the phrase “Je ne parle pas francais” several times. Everyone was friendly though and did not seem insulted that we needed to communicate in broken French and sign language. I found that saying, “Bonjour! Good morning/afternoon!” generally returned a response in English without my having to ask “Parlez-vous anglais?” Of course my American accent probably made it abundantly clear that I was not going to be parler-ing much en francais. Fortunately, being from New Orleans, John and I do know a lot of French food words and thus were in no danger of starvation.
Eventually, we made it to our 4-bedroom condo (www.chmsa.com/en/) at the foot of Mont-Ste-Anne in the Cote du Beaupre area (www.cotedebeaupre.com/en/). We checked into the condo and had some time to reconnoiter the area for sights to see over the next few days. There was quite a lot of fall color here and the temperatures were in the low 70s (F), with warmer weather predicted for the weekend. We tried to visit a farm market (www.lescanardises.com) at a duck farm (ferme) but it was closed (ferme’). One little accent mark makes all the difference! We couldn’t buy any fresh-from-the-farm pates but we did get some photos of the ducks and ducklings. We searched for a goose farm that was supposed to be nearby but we never found it.
We ended up going to the IGA grocery (www.iga.net/en/contact/find_a_store/0041_iga_extra_chouinard_fils_inc/) to get some things the condo lacked (like bath soap and paper towels) plus a roast chicken and some deli salads for dinner. We had imported two bottles of wine in our checked luggage and enjoyed one of those. No bottle shock!
DAY 2: SAT, 09/27/14 COTE DE BEAUPRE AND ILE D’ORLEANS, QUEBEC CITY AREA
That early start yesterday really wore us out (two 1-1/2 hour flights don’t allow for much catch-up sleep), so we slept in a little this morning. Today we planned to visit Montmorency Fall and then go over to Ile d’Orleans in search of local pate, wine and cheese.
Montmorency Fall (www.sepaq.com/ct/pcm/) is higher than Niagara Falls but much narrower. We took a cable car ($9.25 CAD pp plus $10 CAD/car for parking, plus taxes) up to the top of the cliff. We stopped at the Manoir Montmorency, where I found a Quebec Province flag in the souvenir shop. Then we walked along the cliff, stopping at several overlooks (called lookoffs in Canada). There is a suspension bridge across the top of the fall; nearby there are some earthen fortifications built by the British during the Siege of Quebec in 1759. Down the other side of the fall is a “Panoramic Walkway” with more overlooks and a footbridge back to the parking lot. All of that gave us some wonderful views of the fall and many colorful trees.
Bridal Veil Fall (AKA Dame Blanche Fall, gowaterfalling.com/waterfalls/dameblanche.shtml) is right outside the park, so of course we had to drive over to it too. John had a hard time getting nice photos of it with all the power lines in the way. When we were up on the walkways at Montmorency Fall, we could see an incredibly long line of cars heading from Quebec City, trying to exit the highway and crossing the bridge to Ile d’Orleans. Fortunately, being at Bridal Veil Fall put us on the main road to the bridge and that huge line had to merge into our lane. It turned out that most of those people were heading for the “pick your own” apple farms, so they turned in the other direction from us once we got over the bridge.
Our first stop on Ile d’Orleans (tourisme.iledorleans.com/en/) was Vignoble de Ste Petronille (vs-p.ca). We had a wine tasting and bought a bottle of the reserve white; the tasting fee varies depending on the wines tasted. From there, we continued counterclockwise around the island. There are a lot of strawberry farms, so we stopped to buy a small box and snacked on them as we drove along. The south side of the island does not seem quite as touristy as the north side, although there were a number of farm stands selling strawberries, apples, potatoes and other vegetables. We even saw “pick your own” potatoes!
As we continued around the north side of the island, we began to see more traffic and many more apple farms. We stopped to buy cheese at Les Fromages de l’Isle d’Orléans (www.fromagesdeliledorleans.com), a store that still makes the first type of cheese produced in the New World. We tasted the first stage of the cheese, Faisselle, which is like a cottage cheese, and the second stage, Paillasson; the fully-ripened cheese was not available. Tastings are $1 CAD pp for each cheese tasted; each of us tasted a different cheese and shared the samples. The Paillasson is supposed to be roasted and served hot, sort of like raclette. We got some of that plus a Brie-type cheese from a different part of Quebec Province. Then we stopped at La Ferme d’OC (tourisme.iledorleans.com/en/membre/la-ferme-doc/) and tasted six duck pates; we bought three of those. Next we stopped to buy a baguette and some apple pastries at Boulangerie Blouin (tourisme.iledorleans.com/en/membre/boulangerie-blouin/).
We did a tasting of mustards, chutneys, jams, jellies, pates and hard ciders at Domaine Steinbach (www.domainesteinbach.com/english/index.php) and a wine tasting at Isle de Bacchus (www.isledebacchus.com/vignoble/index.html) before heading back to the condo. Both of those tastings were $4 CAD pp. We ate some of the things we had bought for dinner tonight. We enjoyed the duck pates much more than the cheeses.
DAY 3: SUN, 09/28/14 COTE DE BEAUPRE, QUEBEC CITY AREA
Today we got up a little earlier and had time to tour most of the Ste Anne de Beaupre (or as Samantha the Garmin says, “Sweet Anne de Bohper”) Shrine before attending Mass. There are only a few Masses celebrated in English and the one we participated in was poorly attended. The ones in French did not seem to be any better attended but the televised Mass looked packed.
The Shrine (www.patrimoine-religieux.com/en/our-churches/ste-anne-de-beaupre-basilica/) is a huge Romanesque Revival style church with twin bell towers that are visible for many miles; admission with parking is $2 CAD pp (cash only). In addition to a miraculous statue of Ste Anne (Jesus’ Grandma), there is a replica of Michelangelo’s “Pieta”, a copy of the “Holy Stairs” that Jesus climbed at Pilate’s praetorium and a life-sized “Way of the Cross.” I have to say that I thought the Shrine was a bit hokey, especially the mosaic ceiling with scenes from the completely-unsubstantiated “Life of Ste Anne” (e. g., an angel appears to Ste Anne to tell her she is going to be a Grandma). Nevertheless, this is a major pilgrimage site and the pillars at the entrance are covered with crutches from those who prayed to Ste Anne and were cured. For an additional fee, there is a museum ($5 CAD pp) and a cyclorama of Jerusalem ($9 CAD pp); we did not visit those.
After Mass, we went to see one of our favorite things, a waterfall. And not just one waterfall but seven at “Les Sept Chutes” park (septchutes.com/en/, $10.50 CAD pp plus tax). I’m not sure one of the chutes should actually count because it is a dam and two others are more like cascades, Notwithstanding those flaws this was a lovely canyon with lots of falling water and colorful trees. We had a great time hiking the trails. As a bonus, the gift shop sold pate from the goose farm (www.lafermequebecoies.com) that we could not find on Friday; we bought a jar of the pate and it was definitely worth seeking out. There was a tour of the power plant but it did not start for an hour and takes 45 minutes; we decided that it was not worth waiting for.
Instead, we headed back to the condo for a beer break before making the short walk up to the gondola for a ride ($19.13 CAD pp plus tax) to the top of Mont-Ste-Anne (mont-sainte-anne.com/en/). This morning it was foggy and the mountain was covered in clouds. Now it was still a little hazy but the clouds had lifted and we had great views riding up in the gondola. We hiked the three summit trails (www.chalets-village.com/docs/map_randonnee.pdf) and enjoyed the views of the mountainside and the Laurentian Mountains in the distance. John said the red and orange leaves made the mountainsides look like they were on fire. After we came down on gondola, we took a hike around the resort’s lake.
After all that, we went back to the IGA to get some more provisions. There was a lot of traffic with all the people who had spent this beautiful day out in the countryside and were now trying to get back to Quebec City.
DAY 4: MON, 09/29/14 COTE DE BEAUPRE, QUEBEC CITY AREA
The weather forecast for today was for rain and a high temperature in the 50s (F). The morning brought a light mist and a lot of wind, so we decided to take a chance and hike to a waterfall. The resort’s lake was formed by damming the Jean Larose River; the trail head is right across the highway from the lake. This trail is called the “Chemin des Chutes” and passes the 3-level Jean Larose Waterfall (gowaterfalling.com/waterfalls/jeanlarose.shtml). The trail down the canyon is pretty steep and the section near the falls is a staircase with over 400 steps. The falls are quite beautiful and the canyon had some nice fall color but not as much as we saw yesterday.
The trail (www.chalets-village.com/docs/map_randonnee.pdf) is a loop, so we continued down to the point where the Jean Larose River meets the Ste Anne River. Even though the trail back up had a few short sections of stairs, the ascent was more gradual than the descent along the river. While we had been down in the canyon, the wind had been blocked off. When we emerged at the trail head, it was very windy and the rain had picked up. We made it back to the condo without getting too soaked. Hot chocolate warmed us up!
We decided to consider this a “sea day” and not try to go out again in the bad weather (except to venture out to a boulangerie for a baguette). I did some laundry and John reviewed a paper for BAMBED. Then we just relaxed and read for the rest of the day.
DAY 5: TUE, 09/30/14 COTE DE BEAUPRE, QUEBEC CITY AREA
This morning the weather was a little better: cool and overcast but less windy. We spent about an hour at Canyon Ste Anne (www.canyonsa.qc.ca/canyon-waterfall-attraction-quebec.html) or as Samantha the Garmin says, “Canyon Street Anne”. There is a beautiful waterfall here. Boardwalks with viewing platforms line the rim of the canyon and two bridges cross the canyon at that level. There is a staircase down into the canyon and another bridge that lets you view the fall from the bottom. Of course, we walked all the trails along and into the canyon as well as the nature trail, which is really designed more for kids. This is a major tourist attraction and there were three tour buses here when we arrived. Nevertheless, this is obviously the slow season and the park was not crowded.
After the canyon, we drove to Cap Tourmente wildlife refuge (www.ec.gc.ca/ap-pa/default.asp?lang=En&n=0533BC0A-1). The refuge is in the low area between the St. Lawrence River and the high bluffs that line the river; the bluffs had some good fall color. Snow geese spend the summer in the arctic, then gather and rest up here before flying to North Carolina for the winter. The rangers estimated that there were 50,000 geese in the refuge right now. It didn’t seem like that many because they were spread out over such a large area but it was an impressive sight. This park is nicely developed with boardwalks through the marshes to observation huts and stands. A ranger was giving a talk at the observation point but it was in French, so we read the posters instead of waiting to ask questions in English. There are many other well-marked trails (www.ec.gc.ca/Publications/BC1F5E50-BB9B-4B15-A961-9288DBCBA8E6/COM1544_eng.PDF) in the refuge and we took one up the bluffs to an overlook that had a great view of the entire area. We took a couple of other trails along the base of the bluffs, out to the river and to an observation tower. At a couple of spots we encountered apple trees growing in the wild and covered with beautiful apples.
Although the air temperature was not too bad (about 50 F), the wind was very strong along the river. We decided to head back to the IGA (we hoped for the last time) to get more hot chocolate mix and some brownies. We also got some French onion soup to have with dinner tonight. This grocery is clearly set up to accommodate people staying in the condos and resorts in the area. There are many prepared foods, both ready-to-eat and ready-to-heat-and-eat. The deli also has a fair selection of local cheeses and other products but the wine selection is not great. The best things we ate during our stay were the duck and goose pates that we bought on Ile d’Orleans and at Les Sept Chutes; those were outstanding!
DAY 6: WED, 10/01/14 CHARLEVOIX REGION
Our original plan for today was to hike part of the Mestachibo Trail (www.mestachibo.com/index_en.htm) from the St Ferreol les Neiges church end; this trail is 12.5-km (7.8 miles) one way. However, we decided that we had had enough hiking for awhile. Instead, we took a scenic drive to the Charlevoix region of Quebec Province (www.tourisme-charlevoix.com/en/), which is about an hour or so east of Beaupre. It was a beautiful sunny day although a bit on the cool side.
First we drove the Mountain Route (www.tourisme-charlevoix.com/public/files/guide_route_des_montagnes_2014-2015.pdf) with great views of the Laurentian Mountain ranges. There was a lot of good fall color throughout the area. From that drive, we swung down to Malbaie and took the River Route (www.tourisme-charlevoix.com/public/files/guide_route_du_fleuve_2014-2015_en.pdf) west along the St. Lawrence River. We stopped in Ste Irenee for a short walk to a nice waterfall on the Jean-Noel River.
We continued on to Baie St Paul (www.baiesaintpaul.com/media/docs/carte2013.pdf); there is a scenic overlook as you approach from the east that gives a panoramic view of the whole area. The downtown part of Baie St Paul is sort of an artists’ colony, with a lot of boutiques, galleries and restaurants. Everything was decorated for fall with pumpkins, squash and other seasonal paraphernalia. We noticed that the shop we parked in front of was closed until 2:30 p. m. but we did not realize anything was wrong until we stopped at the Boutique de la Cidrerie Des Vergers Pedneault, where we thought we could have a tasting. Quelle suprise! The electricity was off all over town! No wonder many of the shops were closed and the restaurants were empty! We were able to buy a baguette at Boulangerie Charlevoix (www.boulangeriecharlevoix.com) only because I had exact change—no one could take credit or debit cards.
After walking around Baie St Paul a little more, we drove to a nearby covered bridge. The Pont Couvert de St Placide, built in 1926, is the only one in the old style still in use in Quebec (fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pont_de_Saint-Placide-de-Charlevoix). While we were taking pictures, an older lady came out from a nearby farm and told us that her father, Joseph Normandeau, had built the bridge. Her English was about as bad as our French (on which she complimented us) but we had a nice, short conversation that probably did not do too much damage to US-Canada relations.
By the time we made it back to the condo, we decided to call it a day. I had another load of laundry to do and we needed to repack the suitcases for boarding the ship tomorrow. We ate the baguette with the last of the cheeses and the duck and goose pates for supper.
DAY 7: THU, 10/02/14 CHAUDIERE-APPALACHES REGION AND QUEBEC CITY
We checked out of the condo as soon as the office opened at 8:00 a. m., forgetting our bottles of water in the refrigerator. Oh well, if that’s the only thing we would forget on this trip, we would be ahead of the game.
We had more fun with Samantha the Garmin as we tried to drive to Terrasse de Levis, directly across the St. Lawrence River from the cruise ship terminal. I thought Samantha would take us north of the city, then to the bridge across the river. However, she sent us downtown to the docks and then across the river with no bridge to help. Uh-oh, I didn’t turn off the option to use ferries and Samantha was trying to take us on one. At least we got to check out the area around the cruise ship terminal. As we drove upriver and passed Pier 107, we could see the HAL Veendam, which was stranded in Quebec City because of mechanical problems. The Hapag-Lloyd Europa and the RCI Legend of the Seas were also in port today.
We finally got over the bridge and on the correct side of the river. The terrace (www.tourismelevis.com/en/activity/history/historical-sites/levis-terrace/) is a small park with picture-postcard views of the Quebec City skyline with the iconic Chateau Frontenac in the middle and the Ruby Princess docked in front. This is the general area from which the British bombarded the city during the Battle of Quebec in 1759, destroying much of the Old City.
We could not miss the opportunity to see another waterfall, so we went to the Parc des Chutes de la Chaudiere (www.chaudiereappalaches.com/fichiersUpload/fichiers/20140711133304-parc-des-chutes-de-la-chaudiere-pamphlet-eng.pdf). The Chaudiere River was dammed above the falls for a hydroelectric plant but the area around the falls is still quite scenic. The park has paths on both sides of the river with many viewpoints. We walked to most of the viewpoints and down to the river bed. The geology there is canted beds of alternating brown and gray rock. The brown rock apparently eroded faster than the gray, so there are interesting fins of the gray rock running across the riverbed.
We gassed up the rental car and drove back along the river to the cruise ship terminal. John left me and our baggage there while he dropped the car off at the Hilton. When he got back to the terminal, we went rapidly through the check-in process and were soon in our cabin. We dropped off our hand luggage there and then were off to explore Quebec City (www.quebecregion.com/en/what-to-do/activities-attractions/tours/?f=1#circuitsList).
The Ruby Princess was docked at Pier 22, which is right next to the Lower Town (Basse-ville). This area was formerly run-down but is now full of shops, galleries, restaurants, museums and historical buildings. Two of the buildings in this section of town sport large, trompe l’oeil murals that depict the history of Quebec. The entire district is reminiscent of the Vieux Carre in New Orleans, complete with the cobblestone-paved streets. Of course, there are no wrought iron balconies and the roofs are a French provincial style. Nevertheless, the ambiance, street performers and artists displaying their works gave the area a very familiar feel to us.
The hub of the Lower Town is the Place Royale, where Samuel de Champlain established the first permanent settlement in New France in 1608. We visited the Eglise Notre Dame des Victoires (www.patrimoine-religieux.com/en/our-churches/notre-dame-des-victoires-church/), which was built on the ruins of that first outpost. Nearby is the Royal Battery, whose cannons responded to the British fire from across the river at Levis.
Naturally, where there is a Lower Town, there is an Upper Town and ways to connect the two. Besides the steep streets and stairways, there is also a funicular. The building housing the Funiculaire de Vieux Quebec was once the home of Louis Jolliet, the fur trader who (with Pere Marquette) explored and mapped the upper Mississippi River. We considered riding the Funiculaire for fun but the short ride did not seem worth the cost ($2.25 CAD pp), so we just trekked up and down the streets and stairs. Partway between the Lower and Upper Towns is the rebuilt Porte Prescott (one of the four remaining gates in the city wall) and Parc Montmorency (a nice viewpoint with more cannons).
Once in the Upper Town (Haut-ville), we walked past the Place d’Armes (with an ornate Gothic-style fountain) over to the Terrasse Dufferin for more fine views of the river and the Lower Town. Near this end of the terrace is a monument to Champlain. Behind the terrace and in front of the Chateau Frontenac is a large park (Parc des Gouverneurs) with a monument to the opposing generals in the Battle of Quebec, Wolfe and Montcalm, who both died as a result of the battle. The Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac is reputedly the most-photographed hotel in the world and is definitely an impressive building. We walked under the arch into the courtyard where the main entrance is located. The lobby is elegant but not ostentatious; there are many upscale shops and boutiques there.
From the Chateau, we walked along Rue St Louis to Porte St Louis, another gate. There are stairs up to the top of the gate but not to the top of the walls; you can scramble up to walk on top of the walls at your own risk (like we did) or walk a path alongside them. Parcs Canada offers guided walking tours of the walls but we walked clockwise on part of them on our own for free (www.pc.gc.ca/eng/lhn-nhs/qc/fortifications/activ/interpretation-animation.aspx). If you choose to walk on top, there are occasional spots where it is necessary to hop down and walk to another section. From the walls, we could see other landmarks such as the Parliament Building and the Tourny Fountain.
We continued past the Porte Kent to Porte St Jean, where we left the walls and walked through the Artillery Park. We wandered over to the Notre Dame Cathedral but a Mass was going on, so we decided to return there tomorrow.
We walked back to the Lower City and wandered around for a little more before returning to the ship to freshen up for dinner. After this full day, we turned in a little early. Tonight we would overnight in Quebec City but the Ruby Princess would reposition to another pier during the early morning hours.
DAY 8: FRI, 10/03/14 QUEBEC CITY
This morning, we awoke to find the Ruby Princess docked at Pier 103, which is about 1.5 miles further upriver than Pier 22. The Regent Seven Seas Navigator was docked next to us; the Europa and Veendam were slightly further upriver. The Legend of the Seas was still in port by the Lower Town; she was joined there by the Norwegian Dream and the HAL Maasdam.
Surprisingly, there was a free shuttle running between the ship and the Place Royale. However, John and I planned to take the Escalier du Cap Blanc stairs up the bluff to the Plains of Abraham (www.ccbn-nbc.gc.ca/en/contact-us/map-the-plains-abraham/), site of the Battle of Quebec. Although the stairs are steep and almost 400 steps, they were no worse than anything we climbed on our trip to Italy in the spring. Once on top of the bluff, we followed the Cap aux Diamants road to a cannon marking the remains of a blockhouse. Tour buses we also going this way and stopping briefly to view the cannon before proceeding to the kiosk at the beginning of the Governor’s Promenade; the kiosk was our destination too.
The Governor’s Promenade is a walkway along the cliff face that passes under the walls of the Citadel down to the Dufferin Terrace; there are several nice viewpoints along the way. We descended to the terrace, walked past a ramp (which we later learned operates as a sled ride during Quebec City’s winter carnival) and headed to the Parcs Canada kiosk at the other end of the terrace. At the kiosk, we purchased tickets for a guided tour of the excavations of the St Louis Forts and Chateaux and for the museum at the Artillery Park.
The Dufferin Terrace was built over the ruins of Fort St Louis and the chateau of Quebec’s governors (www.pc.gc.ca/eng/lhn-nhs/qc/saintlouisforts/index.aspx). When the terrace was renovated in 2005, the opportunity arose to excavate this historic area. Archaeologists uncovered the foundations of various buildings associated with the fort (built by Champlain and the city’s first fortification) and the chateau (which underwent many changes over the course of different governorships). The tour guide explained the ruins and their significance; there are also many artifacts on display that were found during the excavations. Although work is continuing, part of the site is under the Funiclaire and thus inaccessible.
After our tour, we visited the city’s two cathedrals. The first was the Anglican Cathedral of the Holy Trinity (www.patrimoine-religieux.com/en/our-churches/cathedral-of-the-holy-trinity-/). This is an austere church on the outside and the inside is fairly plain; it does have some lovely stained glass windows though. The Catholic Notre Dame de Quebec Basilica-Cathedral (www.patrimoine-religieux.com/en/our-churches/notre-dame-de-quebec-basilica-cathedral-/) is naturally much more lavish, with an ornate canopy over the main altar, both of which are gilded. Although many bishops and some of the French governors are buried in the crypt, the only conspicuous tomb in the main part of the church is that of St. Francois de Laval (first Bishop of New France and founder of the nearby Seminary of Quebec, now Laval University).
Now we returned to the Artillery Park (www.pc.gc.ca/eng/lhn-nhs/qc/fortifications/natcul/natcul2.aspx). The museum here is in two buildings; at each building, the ranger on duty gave us a good explanation of the exhibits before we started our self-guided tour. The first building was an ammunition factory; it houses the remains of a gunpowder magazine and a scale model of Quebec City in the early 19th century. The other is the Dauphine Redoubt, which was used for officers’ quarters. There are a number of other buildings in the park but they can only be viewed from the outside. Because there were so few visitors (only one other person) the ranger let us enter the Officer’s Mess for better photos. As we were leaving, he pointed out holes in the side of the building into which posts could be inserted to form scaffolding for painting or repairs. If the redoubt was under threat of attack, the holes would have to be camouflaged to prevent the enemy from using them to scale the walls. The ranger also said that there were three remaining redoubts from the city defenses; one of the others is part of the Morrin Centre and the third is in the Citadel.
The last site we planned to visit today was the Citadel (www.lacitadelle.qc.ca/en/), which is still an active military base and can only be toured with a guide. Unfortunately, the next guided tour in English was not for another 40 minutes and the tour itself is an hour long; we thought that was cutting it too close to the time we needed to be back on the ship. However, we were able to view part of the Citadel from a terrace inside and we could walk the walls outside. First we walked the west walls, which gave us a nice view of the Plains of Abraham. The east walls give a nice view of the city and there is a path down to the Pierre Dugua de Mons terrace with an overlook of the river.
From the terrace, we walked back to the Porte St Louis and along the edge of Battleground Park to the Joan of Arc monument. Quebec City’s “Joanie on a Pony” is surrounded by a small garden, which at this time of year is turned into a “Haunted Garden.” The various displays relate to characters and legends from Quebec’s history. One was “The White Lady of Cap Diamant,” who would only consent to marry a man who could ride his horse up the steep cliff to claim her; two brothers perished in the attempt. Then a third young man came to woo her but it was foggy for several days and he could not attempt the ride. During that time, she fell madly in love with him and did not want him to attempt the ride. However, he made the ride successfully and she was overjoyed. At that point he revealed that he was a brother to the two who had perished and he had come from France to avenge their deaths. He spurned her and sailed back to France; she went mad and fell of the cliff. Today she is said to haunt the cliff, dressed in her white wedding gown. After touring the garden, we took the Cap Blanc stairs down to the riverfront and walked back to the ship.
At dinner this evening, we were seated at a table by the window and enjoyed views of Quebec City, Montmorency Fall and Ile d’Orleans as we sailed away. We were very glad that we had chosen to spend a week in the Quebec City area before our cruise!