One of the tough things about being a tourist is that you tend to stick to the accessible cities, and had it not been for Hélène and Richard, we would not have been able to get outside Montréal, without going on a tour bus – quelle horreur! Not really, but it is lovely to have locals take one about.
Apart from taking us to the Eastern Townships, Hélène and Richard showed us the beautiful and breathtaking Québec City, which is one of the oldest European settlements in North America, with monumental architecture and glorious parks.
Québec was founded by a French explorer, Samuel de Champlain, and the name “Canada” refers to this settlement. It appears that the city is the centre of the Francophone settlement of North America and this is reflected in the architecture, which is gorgeously French. We started in Old Québec which is the lower part of the city, with cobbled streets and lovely buildings.
Somehow the rooftops say it all, with the dormer windows and zinc, copper and shingled roofs.
The streets wend their way through the city, and without a gazillion tourists it is easy to spot their charms.
Although it is clear that this is a city that survives very much on the tourist dollar
Designated a World Heritage treasure by UNESCO, Old Québec is the only walled city north of Mexico, and is certainly well worth a visit if you can get there.
The city is divided into two parts, with the upper town lying on top of the Cap-Diamant promontory. The city is protected by fortifications, which seem to separate the upper from the lower town. Big gateways, which have obviously been widened to accommodate horse drawn traffic (and now motor driven traffic), are set into these fortifications.
Although there is a funicular railway that runs between the top and the bottom of the city, we chose to walk up the hill to the upper town, through one of these gateways.
The Parliament sits right at the top of the upper part, but it was impossible to get a photo as it is currently undergoing renovations to improve its security. This fountain, however, was a gift from the French people and is a copy of fountains that are in France.
We then walked through the Plains of Abraham, which is now a large park, but which was the site of a battlefield, complete with these Martello towers and canon. Note the canon is pointing at an oil refinery on the other side of the river!
Off in the distance the original citadel can be seen.
We took a magnificent boardwalk which runs round the edge of the park, bordering the harbour. This walk culminates at the Fairmont hotel, another beautiful chateau built by the Canadian Pacific Railways.
La Maison Simons (known as “Simons”) was founded by the Simons family in 1840 in Québec City where the headquarters remain. We saw a few branches of this store in our travels, but this is the only one I visited. It is a beautiful store, with quality goods.
These shops show a typical scene in the city.
Once we left the city, we headed for an island called Île d’Orléans, which has quaint houses, breathtaking scenery and is the home of the Chocolaterie de l’Île d’Orleans, which has splendid homemade chocolates and ice-cream. I did not indulge!!
A drive round the island (or even a small part of it) is a delight, and from the bridge a large waterfall can be espied.
This waterfall is higher than Niagara Falls, but not as wide. Up close and personal and the power of the water roaring over the edge is evident.
And I loved the view back to the Île d’Orléans bisected by the rainbow.
We drove through some pretty hamlets on the way back to Montréal, where I did lots of sighing over houses, and I managed a dodgy photograph of this rather beautiful Victorian house at L’Ange-Gardien.
I’ve been asked a few times about the flooding, and to be honest, I hardly gave it a thought until we passed through Louiseville and came across miles and miles of flooded fields. Many of them had farmhouses just out of the water and my heart went out to those farmers and landowners who doubtless had to face heartbreaking damage and days and weeks of cleaning up.
This is now my last post on Montréal and surrounds. I know that I’ve said it before, but I can’t thank Hélène and Richard enough for their hospitality and generosity. Not only did they transport us around, catering to our every whim, they shared their knowledge and insight into the country and countryside.
Hélène et Richard, vous êtes deux merveilleux, nous ne pouvons pas vous remercier assez!