Notes on Quebec City. The name Quebec comes from and Native American work, Kebec, which means “Where the River Narrows”. French explorer Jacques Cartier came upon an Iroquois village on the shores of the Gulf of St. Lawrence in 1535. In 1608, Samuel De Champlain established the first settlement in New France. Old Quebec stands on the site of Champlain’s original settlement. It is the only city in North America to have a defensive city wall and gates. The Citadelle has been in continuous operation as a fortification since 1673. Notre Dame des Victoires is the oldest standing stone church in North America. About 97 percent of the people are Catholic and speak French. The population of Quebec City is about 800,000.
A cold and blustery day in Quebec City…
Our plan today is to take the free guided walking tour of Old Quebec – a brochure is our hotel told us only a tip was required for the guide. The tour started at 10:30 AM just a few blocks from the hotel so we had to set up an 8:00 AM breakfast so we would be ready in time.
Breakfast at the hotel was in a very nice dining room with tablecloths and table service. There were few choices – fruit, dry cereal with milk, cheese, yoghurt, breads (including bagels), and muffins. It was just enough along with some good coffee. The table service was good and the coffee kept coming.
After breakfast, we walked East about three blocks and then a couple of blocks South to meet our guide. About 20 other people were also there for the tour. Our guide, David, explained that he is a nurse who also started conducting tours. He does them every day of the week and hopes to get back to nursing in the Winter. He has a wonderful French accent but he is understandable. He also supplied headsets that are better than the ones we usually get on ship tours.
Our tour started on the Parc des Champs de Bataille (Battlefield Park) also called the Plains of Abraham – today this is a park designed by the same person who designed Central Park in New York. It is Canada’s first urban park and covers 267 acres. But back in the 1600s, this was a battlefield where French and English armies fought for control of Quebec. There are several turrets that remind you of the battlefield history of this area. But today, there are decorated for Halloween, complete with lots of spiders.
Turret and Field Complete with Spiders
Across the street is a park – Jeanne D’Arc Park – also decked out in Halloween regalia (and under closed circuit surveillance).
Jeanne D’Arc Statue
We next headed for the Grand Allee and walked East toward the Old City.
The Provincial Parliament Building was our next stop. Alongside the building is a monument to the Suffragette movement in Canada (women got the vote here in 1940).
The group went around to the front of the Parliament Building. The building has statues in its facade depicting important people in the founding and development of Quebec.
It may look nice with the blue sky but it is very cold as you can see by Ellen’s gear.
Baby, It’s Cold Outside
The Grand Allee ends at the St. Louis Gate (Porte St. Louis) to the Old City. The street is now Rue St. Louis and is replete with shops and restaurants.
Me at Porte St. Louis
Looking Down Rue St. Louis
One interesting site along Rue St. Louis is a tree trunk with a cannon ball stuck in its base. It’s surprising that no one has absconded with the ball as a souvenir.
At the end of the street in the photo below is the oldest school in North America.
The building with the red roof in the picture below is the oldest building in North America dating back to the late 1600s. Today, it is a popular restaurant.
The Oldest Building In North America
Near the end of Rue St. Louis is a castle like building – this is not a castle but the ritzy Chateau Frontenac Hotel (hundreds of bucks per night for the cheapest room). The building dates back to the late 19th Century. You know it’s fancy because there is a Cafe Starbucks located on the ground floor.
Chateau Frontenac Hotel
Entrance to the Hotel
In Spanish Cities there is always a Plaza de Armes and here is Quebec City, we have the Place D’Armes. There is a fountain (all of the fountains have been turned off for the season) and a Monument De La Foi located in the center of the Place. The monument commemorates the 300th anniversary of the arrival of missionaries in 1615.
The area flattens out to become the Terrasse Dufferin. On the terrace can be found a statue of Samuel de Champlain – the founder of Quebec City in 1608.
At the edge of the terrace, there is a great view of the port. Today, the Aida Diva is docked.
The Atlantic Ocean is that-away
Old Quebec is a UNESCO World Heritage Site complete with UN Flags and a neat monument. David also told us that McDonalds cannot display is golden arches so you will need to look carefully to find the Mickey D’s (we never did). Even Subway has a fancy sign for its store.
Our next stop is the Church of Notre Dame. What is significant about this church is that it has a door Sainted by the Pope.
The Chateau Frontenac is still so prominent that it visible from everywhere including the Terrace.
From the terrace, we walked down the hill to the level of the St. Lawrence River. If you are the lookout for artisan produced items, the Rue Petit Champlain is the place to go.
Rue Petit Champlain
David pointed out that there are three ways to get back up on the Terrace – Bus 21, walking up three sets of stairs, or taking the Funicular ($2.25 per person). The Funicular Building is also one of the home of Louis Jolliet. Jolliet was born near Quebec City and is generally credited with the discovery of the upper Mississippi River and exploring he Great Lakes.
The oldest part of Quebec City is the Place Royal. Excavations have uncovered homes built in the early 1600s. One of the home’s footprint is laid out in the surface of the square.
Ellen and the Footprint of the Second House in Quebec City
As we turned the corner on one of the taller building in Old Quebec, we came upon a magnificent mural, “The Mural of Quebecers”. This mural – complete with amazing 3D effects – depicts 400 years of Quebec History. Especially impressive is the balcony on the right side – looks like it actually protrudes out from the surface of the building.
Mural of Quebecers
Cruise Port and Aida Diva
Monument to Louis Jolliet
This concluded the tour and we thanked David and started our trip back.
The road to the Funicular
The funicular did not take charge cards so we paid in US $ (losing 25% on the exchange). I got a good spot so I could get some nice shots of our trip up to the terrace.
On our way back to Rue St. Louis and the Grand Allee, we ran across some interesting objects, one being the jester below. I think he reminds me of Loki.
There are scores of restaurants on Rue St. Louis but we settled on Le Grand Cafe on the Grand Allee.
The place was empty but we had a great waitress and a nice table.
Ellen ordered the Asian Salmon and I had the Vegetarian Pizza. They both came with a huge salad. The food was great and since it was almost 3:00 PM, we were hungry. No food left on the table and no need for dinner later.
Lunch at Le Grand Cafe
Our walking tour of Quebec had taken about three hours or more and more than 10,000 steps. It was worth it. We were told that there are similar free walking tours in Boston so we might check that out.
We stayed in the rest of the evening – it was still very cold outside.
We are going to rest up and do some more walking tomorrow.