Monday, June 4, 2012

The Lower Ville And the St. Lawrence

The old port and the Lower Town (Basse-Ville) below the Hotel Frontenac in Quebec.

With the rain blown away, the old city of Quebec brightened up quite a bit. The high was a pleasant 64° F. The winds, however, were brisk--and though the Weather Channel put them at 14 mph, there were gusts near the St. Lawrence River that could just about knock you down. 

I braved it all and sampled several forms of Quebec-style transportation in my efforts to explore this delightful, historic city.

Look at that lady hanging on to her hoodie! It was beaucoup de vent today in Quebec.

First, I walked. Down the hill I went to the Hotel de Frontenac. It is the most photographed building in all of Canada and it certainly is one of the most beautiful buildings across the North. It was built by the Canadian Pacific Railway in the nineteenth century and it dominates the Quebec skyline. It is also still in use today and with 600 rooms is one of the largest hotels in these parts. 

With the wind such as it is there on the Cap Diamant, it is a wonder the old place hasn't blown over before now.

The United Nations flags were out at horizontal in front of the Quebec City Hall.

Then, I strolled down the slopes below the old hotel and the city hall, in search of the quai from which the tour boat runs. Down there by the St. Lawrence River, you find the oldest part of the city, something they call the Quartier Petit-Champlain--I think because the quarter is petit, not because old Champlain was. 

The Quartier Petit-Champlain.

It was all cobblestones and cafes in this little area settled as New France by Samuel de Champlain. He located his port here because it is here that the river narrows a bit--a narrowness the native Americans called Kebek--a feature, along with the heights above the river, that made this spot more easily defended.

I wanted to see the city from the river, as he had done, so I located the Quai Chouinard and bought a ticket for the tour bateau.

 In Canada it appears they don't discard things when they get old. This tour boat, the Louis Jolliet, was built in the 1930s and still plies the Saint Lawrence River.

As long as I can get out of the wind, I love being on a boat or ship. The Louis Jolliet, named after a famed Quebec cartographer, rested easy in the water and its gentle rock just about put me to sleep--I know I was tired from all the walking I had done. But after a snack and some juice, I braved the wind to catch a glimpse of Chute Montmorency, or Montmorency Falls where the British once fought the French. It is 275 feet high, higher indeed than Niagara Falls, though not quite so large across.


Before I boarded the boat, I bought a hat to keep my hair out of my face. On board I asked a friend to photograph me in my new beret and he captured the falls appearing to pour right down on top of my tĂȘte.

I wanted a French beret, but the one I bought in this color (since they didn't have black) reminds me a little of my old Girl Scout cap.

Finally, as the boat returned to the quai, I faced the prospect of that long hike back up the steep hills to my hotel on Rue Saint Louis. 

"Take the Funicular," suggested one of the staffers on the boat. I thought, aw heck, there will be a line, and it will cost a bunch of money ... and neither was the case. There was no waiting, and it cost $2.00. Went straight up the cliff in less than a minute. Voila!

As soon as you climb out of the Funicular, it heads back down the cliff. Just like an automatic elevator, which I guess is pretty much what it is. Only with a much better view.

That's the Funicular headed back down the hill.

Climbing the Cap Diamant in the Funicular really capped my day. It was at least as much fun as my new Girl Scout cap. Bravo Quebec! (Oh wait: "bravo" is, I believe, Italian! Scusa!) In any language, Quebec, you are full of inexpensive fun.

 Je me souviens.
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