August 9, 2017
It has been our good fortune to visit many great cities around the world. In terms of pure beauty non compare to Paris. San Francisco and Quebec lead the North American pack in my opinion. I know the folks in Victoria-Vancouver might squawk but this is how I feel. Quebec out does the city by the bay in terms of history and drama. The settings of both are a glorious toss up.
We were smart enough to to not only schedule a Hop -on tour but we also arranged for a hotel pick up and drop off at the end of the day. Pure genius if I might so brag. We first did the complete circuit of the city. We then had a plan of action. We started out front of the amazing hotel Fontenac. Despite a sarcastic post, we didn’t stay there. We did enjoy the same view. We started our walk by descending into the archeological dig in front of the hotel. We were able to stand in Samuel de Champlain’s front room back in the early 1600s. He had the eye for valuable real estate.
Quebec became the key to controlling both Canada and the inland of the North American continent. Without Quebec, English Colonists would be perpetually bottled up on the Eastern seaboard. Everyone knew it. The French sought to make the fortress impregnable. They almost succeeded but the strained finances of mid-18th Century France doomed Quebec. In 1759, the British found a weak point and Quebec and Canada were theirs. We drove by the battlefield on the Plains of Abraham (named for a farmer named Abraham) that today watches battles on soccer Saturday.
We enjoyed a morning walk through the colorful and charming old lower town where the settlement started back in the early 1600’s. The place really take off until the middle of that century. Louis XIV started a program to send young orphan girls and girls of very modest means (think of poor Anne Hathaway in Les Miserable) to New France as Canada was known. He gave them each a modest dowry and they became know as the King’s daughters. They had no trouble finding a mate amongst the lonely fishermen and farmers. A population boom soon occurred. Anyway, some of the historic structures have survived and were enchanting.
We toured the Farmer’s Market and succumbed to the charms of Cassis. Hopefully, some of it will make it home. We grabbed some farm fresh cheese curds and a baguette and enjoyed a picnic next to the harbor. We could have found almost anything imaginable to eat but we are limited when traveling. Too bad. We spotted our old Pilgrimage buddy St. Roch atop his own church. There he was with his faithful dog and the loaf of bread just like at numerous sanctuaries on the Chemin de St. Jacque in France.
We wandered the Citadel, or at least what the soldiers would,show us. It was OK since by this time we have climbed enough barricades and moats. The fortifications are still amazing despite their historical non-use. No one every thought about attacking the place after the Napoleonic Wars. Instead the French speaking population extracted enough concessions from a nervous George III at the time of the American Revolution. They were quarantined their right to practice their Catholicism and speak French.
The compromise with the French seems to be typical of the Canadians. The land issue and the general attitude seems to be accepting of folks from all over. They seem to find room for any immigrant who wants to make a better life for his or her family. I know I am simplifying things but I have not heard or seen any immigrant hostility like I witness in the United States.
We ended the day with a meal of mostly local products served on a platter at a place that has been in business since 1640. Given the quality of presentation and the food, they will be in business for a few more centuries. There was a huge festival underway celebrating the town’s colorful past. We were too pooped but do no more than listen to the fireworks from the room.
In summary, this was our one big city experience this trip. It was memorable and should be on everyone’s list.