Around the World... One Journey at a Time. Around the World... One Journey at a Time.

Eastern Canada: Quebec City

by Kathy 6. October 2012 08:55

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Quebec City

Quebec City is known for its beauty, with stone architecture, fortress walls, and narrow winding streets. With the French language swirling all around, we could easily imagine that we had been magically transported across the Atlantic Ocean.

The city’s skyline:

We stayed several nights in the historic district called Old Quebec (Vieux-Québec), a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Entering Old Quebec via a gate in the fortress wall:

Our home base was a charming 1-bedroom apartment on the 3rd floor of a renovated 1840’s building. The location was ideal—steps away from all the great historic sights, yet tucked away on a quiet residential street where the masses of August tourists rarely ventured.

Genevieve and Sebastian at the front door:

The living room still had some of the old stone walls, and the sofa transformed into a comfy bed for the kids at night:

One of the key benefits to an apartment over a hotel room, beside a huge savings, was that Ben and I got our own separate bedroom:

There was even a kitchen primed for cooking:

Although we chose not to cook, the fridge allowed us to stock up on picnic supplies. We even had a “picnic dinner” one evening to side-step the high restaurant costs in town.

We loved being able to step outside our door and be immersed in the historical architecture.

One of the most eye-catching buildings was the Chateau Frontenac, a hotel that opened in 1893 as part of the Canadian Pacific Railway’s plan to entice wealthy travelers to ride the rails.

This year the copper roof on the main tower was being replaced, and the scaffolding was cleverly hidden by safety netting with a printed image of the rooftop.

A 2-block walk from our apartment brought us to the fortress walls, and cannons, that once protected upper Quebec.

From this vantage point, we could see the row of Bunge grain silos down in the harbor:

The curved shape of the silos was echoed in the turrets of the train station peeking above the trees, and the copper-topped government building next door.

In front of the train station was a park fountain in which water ricocheted vigorously off bended sheets of steel.

The park also contained an engaging sculpture by the artist Michel Goulet, whose work we had first seen in Montreal. The artwork here was called “Rȇver le Nouveau Monde” and was created in 2008 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the founding of Quebec City. In this piece, the artist once again used the symbol of a chair, placing 44 stainless steel chairs along a wide pathway:

Forty of the chairs had bits of text from poets, mostly in French:

A few chairs were in different languages:

One chair was in English:

On each end of the path was a separate pair of chairs. The two chairs at one end represented the cities of Montreal and Quebec City connected by the St. Lawrence River:

The opposite end had a set of chairs resting above a globe of the world and a Quebec-style house, respectively symbolizing the polar extremes of public and private space:

The kids and I enjoyed this artwork in our own ways. I wandered among the chairs, reading the text, marveling at the imagery, and contemplating the meaning. The kids ran around in between the chairs, played tag, took a seat now and then, and called out to show me details that grabbed their attention.

Other notable public art in Quebec City included Jules Lasalle’s sculpture “L’Envol” (the Flight), which was a monument to the community of religious brothers that once ran a school nearby:

The whimsical sculpture “Bienvenue” (Welcome) by artist Nicole Taillon was set back in a small alley:

Even the planter boxes were artistic creations:

Old Quebec has both an upper area, the part surrounded by fortress walls, and a lower area, where the city was initially founded in 1608. A fun way to get from the one section to another is via the funicular, originally built in 1879:

The top entrance to the funicular provided a view across the St. Lawrence River:

Down at the bottom were a number of shops, museums, and historical sites—all quite popular with tourists.

The main square in the lower section is Place Royal, a small plaza that is considered the birthplace of French America. On one side of the plaza was the church Notre-Dame-des-Victoires:

The adjacent interpretive center, Centre d’Interpretation de Place-Royal, had exhibits that helped illuminate the historical significance of this spot.

One display case held a small-scale model of the original Quebec settlement:

For perspective, the original settlement was overlaid onto a photo of the modern city:

One of the most interesting features at the center was a 3-D movie called “Facing Champlain,” which presented a creative look at the city’s founder Samuel de Champlain, whose face remains a mystery because there are no known portraits. Despite the excellence of the production, we were the only ones in the theater during our viewing:

The center’s basement had been transformed into a cooper’s house, where we tried our hand at making a barrel using traditional tools—not an easy task, as the wooden slats kept falling out of alignment, but we were persistent:

Sebastian pretended to fetch water and played with traditional toys:

For me, the best part was the dress-up room, which held a wide range of clothes for adults and children:

Genevieve chose to be our photographer, as the old-fashioned clothes had buttons (no zippers), and she still has the same repulsion for buttons that she first articulated as a toddler. Since the old-time photos generally do not have smiling faces, we tried to take a “somber” family portrait, but Sebastian couldn’t help himself:

We ended our visit to the interpretive center with a free guided tour by Philippe, an English major in college:

In the photo above, he’s holding a barrel tap similar to the 13 that were found during an excavation of some of the ruins at Place Royal:

Archeologists also found about 2000 tobacco pipes here. Tobacco was popular because it diminished a person’s hunger or thirst. The army found it cheaper to give soldiers tobacco than to provide them with adequate supplies of food.

Near the ruins was a magnificent, street-scene mural that covered the entire side of a building:

The Place Royal district has not always looked so charming. During the 1900’s, the area had slid into disrepair and had a seedy character. Recognizing the historical and commercial value in revitalizing the area, the government had invested funds to rebuild or refurbish many of the buildings over the last 50 years. The mission to make Place Royal a major tourist attraction was successful.

Here is a photo showing how the Barbel House (located kitty-corner to the interpretive center) looked in 1970 and in 2009 after being rebuilt:

(Photo Credit:

The kids discovered a nearby playground, complete with an old-fashioned ship’s mast:

While in the lower town, we also watched an artisan make a drinking glass:

Genevieve was feeling the love from this city:

As with any tourist town, there were street performers with impressive talents, such as this man balancing on a ladder and getting ready to juggle fiery batons:

One acrobatic performer landed a somersault over the bodies of four volunteers plus his buddy:

And this woman could toss a diabolo far into the air and catch it:

(A diabolo is an hourglass object that is juggled on a string between two sticks.)

We were in Old Quebec during peak tourist season, and there were crowds of people. We were, after all, tourists ourselves. While the historic district was beautiful, we longed for a neighborhood that had a local flavor—one that was designed to serve the needs of its residents, not to impress or even attract visitors.

We had had such a great experience bicycling through the neighborhoods in Montreal that we decided to rent bicycles here and explore beyond the fortress walls of Quebec City. Luckily, there was a terrific bike shop not too far from our apartment.

Twenty minutes later, we were pedaling away, giddy with the sense of freedom. At first, we stuck to the bike path along the St. Lawrence River, taking a detour to cross a drawbridge and get up close to the grain silos:

At the harbor, we also stopped to check out artist Raoul Hunter’s monument to the merchant seamen from Quebec who lost their lives at sea during WWII:

From here, we had a fantastic view of Chateau Frontenac:

The bike path led us out of the old town, tracking the river next to a busy street:

A long stretch of grass held artist Joe Fafard’s sculpture “Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Si Do” to honor the horse’s contribution to the building of Canada—helping to turn prairies into farmland and forests into timber:

After a couple of miles, we reached a train yard and decided to find a route up to the top of the cliff above us:

A steep road took us upwards, where we found a large park called the Plains of Abraham, with open meadows that were the site of many battles between the French and British for control of this region. Some defensive structures still remained, such as this Martello tower:

Ready for lunch, we scoped out the park’s only concession stand—to find it closed. The kindness of strangers came to the rescue, as often happens during our travels. An older woman who must have noticed our disappointed faces approached and asked if we were looking for a place to eat. She spoke only French and told us about a market nearby with all types of food and some nice places to sit. I didn’t understand everything she said, but we communicated well, with lots of smiles, head nods, and hand gestures.

She had directed us to a wonderful place called Le Petit Quartier, which offered a variety of lunch choices. It was perfect.

And the surrounding area was exactly what we had been looking for—a “real” neighborhood, with not an obvious tourist in sight (other than us!).

Ben spied some people walking by with ice cream cones, so we set off down the street on foot searching for an ice cream shop. Near the corner of Cartier and Aberdeen, we found Le Glacier Aberdeen, which served THE BEST DIPPED CONES EVER.

Luscious ice cream, swirled high, and coated in real chocolate that was so thick it felt like we were eating ice cream covered with a milk chocolate bar. Surely this must have been what dipped cones first tasted like before someone decided they could increase their profits if they just started making the coating a bit thinner . . . and then a bit more thinner . . . and then just a tad more . . . .

On our last night in Quebec City, we attended the free Cirque de Soleil show that takes place every summer, Tuesday through Sunday evenings, at 9pm, under a highway overpass on the edge of Old Quebec.

While walking to the show, we met two characters from another street theater performance, Les Promenades Fantomes:

Even though we arrived an hour early, there were still a few hundred people in line ahead of us:

While waiting, we checked out the amazing murals painted on the overpass support beams:

The detail in this painting of church windows was incredible:

And so was this painting of a stone building with wooden doors:

Graffitti art:

Although we were concerned about whether we would all get in to see the Cirque de Soleil show, the arena was big enough to hold all of us. Genevieve and I stood near the stage; our view:

We were fortunate enough to have a silent greeting, with raised hand presses, from one of the cube-headed men wandering through the audience before the show started. I snapped a photo of the back of his head when he turned to leave:

Ben and Sebastian had a view from the bleachers off to the side:

The performance was spectacular.

And as a fitting end to our time in Quebec City, we were treated to a dazzling fireworks show on our walk back to the apartment.


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Comments (2) -

10/6/2012 10:29:05 AM #


STOP ADDING TO MY ALREADY TOO LONG LIST OF PLACE I NOW HAVE TO VISIT!  just kidding, but's getting to long.  Smile

becky United States | Reply

10/6/2012 12:33:23 PM #

Kathy Hensley

Becky, my list keeps growing too . . . the world has so many amazing and diverse sites!

Kathy Hensley United States | Reply

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Map of Our Journeys

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Our travel map

Places We’ve Been, w/Quick Links

   Bumthang Valley
   Gom Kora
   Paro Valley
   Punakha Dzong
   Sangdrup Jongkhar
   Wangdi Phrodrang

   Janko Marca
   La Paz
   Laguna Colorada
   Laguna Verde
   Salar de Coipasa
   Salar de Uyuni
   San Pablo
   Santa Rosa
   Sud Lipez
   World’s Most Dangerous Road

   Banff National Park
   Battle Hill Nat'l Hist. Site
   Boya Lake Prov. Park, BC
   Burns Lake Bike Park
   Canyon Sainte-Anne
   Dawson Creek
   Eastern Townships
   Fort Nelson
   Jasper National Park
   Kluane Lake, YK
   'Ksan Historical Village
   Lake Louise
   Liard Hot Springs
   Niagara Falls
   Quebec City
   Thousand Islands
   Vancouver Island
   Watson Lake

   Forbidden City
   Great Wall at Mutianyu
   Hong Kong
   Summer Palace
   Terracotta Warriors
   Tiananmen Square
   Yungang Caves

Costa Rica
   Arenal Volcano
   Finca Corsicana
   Hanging Bridges
   Manuel Antonio
   Poas Volcano
   Proyecto Asis
   Sky Trek Zip Lining
   Venado Caves


   Amazon Rainforest
   Chaquiñan Bicycle Trail
   La Mitad del Mundo
   Napo Wildlife Center
   Papallacta Hot Springs
   Proyecto DCR
   Yasuní National Park


   Baja California
   Frida Kahlo Museum
   Hierve el Agua
   Marietas Islands
   Mexico City
   Monte Alban
   Oaxaca City
   Puerto Angel
   Puerto Escondido
   Puerto Vallarta
   San Agustin
   San Martin Tilcajete
   Santa Fe de la Laguna
   Santa María el Tule
   Studio of Jacobo Angeles
   Teotitlán del Valle

   Dead Vlei
   Elondo Village
   Etosha Nat'l Park
   Hippo Pools Camp
   Hoba Meteorite
   Khowarib Camp
   Moose McGregor's Bakery
   Mowani Camp
   Ngepi Camp
   Nkasa Lupala
   n'Kwzi Camp
   River Dance Lodge
   Seisriem Camp
   Treesleeper Camp

   Cañón del Pato
   Cerro de Pasco
   La Oroya
   Machu Picchu
   Nuevo Jaén
   Tingo Maria
   Yungay Memorial


South Africa

   Rock of Gibraltar
   Santillana del Mar

United States National Parks
   Arches National Park, UT
   Badlands National Park, SD
   Bandelier National Monument, NM
   Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
   Cahokia Mounds (UNESCO site), IL
   Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM
   Canyon de Chelly Nat'l Monument, AZ
   Cape Hatteras National Shoreline, NC
   Capitol Reef National Park, UT
   Civil Rights Memorial, AL
   Death Valley National Park, CA
   Denali National Park, AK
   Devil’s Tower National Monument, WY
   El Morro National Monument, NM
   Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C.
   Glacier National Park, MT
   Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
   Grand Tetons National Park, WY
   Great Basin National Park, NV
   Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, HI
   Joshua Tree National Park, CA
   Kaloko-Honokohau Nat'l Hist. Park, HI
   Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks, NM
   King's Canyon National Park, CA
   Martin Luther King Jr. Nat'l Hist. Site, GA
   Mesa Verde National Park, CO
   Montezuma's Castle Nat'l Monument, AZ
   Monticello, VA
   Mount Rushmore National Memorial, SD
   Mt. Rainier National Park, WA
   Olympic National Park, WA
   Petrified Wood National Park, AZ
   Pinnacles National Monument, CA
   Pu'uhonua o Honaunau Nat'l Hist Pk, HI
   Pu'ukohola Heiau Nat'l Historic Site, HI
   San Antonio Missions Nat'l Hist. Park, TX
   Tuzigoot National Monument, AZ
   Walnut Canyon National Monument, AZ
   Washington Monument
   White Sands National Monument, NM
   Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, AK
   Wright Brothers National Memorial in NC
   Yellowstone National Park, WY
   Yosemite National Park, CA

United States, Cities and Places
   The Alamo, TX
   Alaska Wildlife Conservation Cntr.
   Alpine Loop in CO
   Anchorage, AK
   Antares Junction, AZ
   Arctic Circle, AK
   Barrel Oak Winery in VA
   Biloxi, MS
   Bottle Tree Farm in CA
   Calico Ghost Town, CA
   Canfield Mountain Trail System, ID
   Cape St. Vincent, NY
   Carson City, NV
   Carter Caves State Park in KY
   Chappie-Shasta OHV Area, CA
   Child's Glacier, AK
   Circle B Chuckwagon Show in SD
   City Museum in MO
   Cody, WY
   Corn Palace in SD
   Crazy Horse Memorial in SD
   Custer State Park, SD
   Dalton Highway, AK
   Dinosaur Tracks in AZ
   Discovery Place in Charlotte, NC
   Dry Falls (Sun Lakes-Dry Falls), WA
   Fairbanks, AK
   Front Royal, VA
   Gallup, NM
   Goffs, CA
   Grand Canyon Caves, AZ
   Grand Canyon Skywalk, AZ
   Grave Digger Monster Truck in NC
   Great Salt Lake, UT
   Hackberry General Store in AZ
   Hannibal, MO
   Hatteras Island, NC
   Hawaii (Big Island)
   Hickison Petroglyphs, NV
   Holbrook, AZ
   Hole in the Rock, UT
   Homer, AK
   Honey Island Swamp Tour in LA
   Hoover Dam, NV
   Hyder, AK
   Jim Gray’s Petrified Wood Co. in AZ
   John’s Peak OHV Area, OR
   Kailua-Kona, HI
   Keepers of the Wild Nature Park in AZ
   Kennecott, AK
   Kennecott Copper Mine in UT
   Kingman, AZ
   Lake Havasu, AZ
   Lake Tahoe, NV
   Las Vegas, NV (winter 2010)
   Little Brown Church in IA
   London Bridge in AZ
   Loneliest Road in America, Hwy. 50, NV
   Los Angeles, CA
   Lost Colony Show on Roanoke Isl., NC
   Lowe’s Speedway in NC
   Mardi Gras World in LA
   Mark Twain Museum in MO
   Meteor Crater, AZ
   Million Dollar Highway, CO
   Minnesota Zoo
   Mitchell, SD
   Moab, UT
   Moab, UT (dirt biking)
   Montgomery, AL
   Montpelier, ID
   Navajo Nation, AZ
   Needles, CA
   Nevada Beach, NV
   Newberry Springs, CA
   New River Gorge, WV
   New Orleans, LA
   Niagara Falls 
   North Pole, AK
   Oatman, AZ
   Old Faithful Geyser in WY
   Omak Stampede, WA
   Painted Desert, AZ
   Park City, UT (summer)
   Plymouth, NC
   Portage Valley, AK
   Portland, OR
   Prospect OHV Trail System, OR
   Resaca, GA
   Riverside State Park, WA
   Rock City in TN
   Rosa Parks Library and Museum in AL
   Roswell, NM
   Russian River, AK
   Salt Lake City, UT
   San Antonio, TX
   San Diego, CA
   San Juan Islands, WA
   San Francisco, CA
   Santa Catalina Island, CA
   Seattle, WA
   Sedona, AZ
   Shoe Tree in CA
   Shoe Tree in NV
   Silverton, CO
   Sonora, TX
   St. Louis, MO
   St. Paul, MN
   Talkeetna, AK
   Telluride, CO
   Route 66
   Twin Knobs Recreation Area in KY
   Virginia Beach, VA
   Washington D.C.
   Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park in IL
   Williamsburg, VA
   Winom Frazier OHV Area, OR
   Winslow, AZ
   Zion National Park, UT

Planning Our Adventures

For us, each journey begins with the initial heart pangs to venture to a certain part of the world. Then the ideas start coming together . . . ahh, the possibilities . . . and the dream evolves gradually into an actual plan. But, oh, the joy of the dream!  Click here to learn more about how we plan and prepare for our journeys.

Where Are We Now?

Click here to discover where we are now, as well as our uncoming travel plans.

Words for the Heart

“. . . and then the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

Anais Nin