Monday, 5 October 2015

Charmed by Old Quebec

Quebec flags flying proudly in Old Quebec
I haven't been to Quebec City since I was a teenager and had fond memories of the place, being very European and beautiful. And I'm glad to report it still is very much so, particularly the old part of town.

We're on a cruise on the Queen Mary 2 -- the same ship we were on two years ago -- and it is docked by the old town called Old Quebec.

Time is limited so we took a bus tour to see some of the main sights, but looking back on my notes, they are just a series of factoids that don't seem that interesting! But overall it was a good reminder of how old the area is compared to say Vancouver, and that old and new co-exist well together.

Wandering around the quaint old town
The area was founded by explorer Samuel de Champlain in 1608 and Quebec means the "where the river narrows" on the St Lawrence River. It also naturally has lots of cliffs making the place a great fortress.

The tour guide said that the main employer was the government, with one in 10 jobs are civil servant ones. There's also 9,000 soldiers posted here and lots of research particularly in fibre optics conducted here.

Interesting to note is the train station and Chateau Frontenac have similar architecture and have the copper roofs that have turned green.

In between pointing out the sights and good restaurants to try, the guide also showed us a few churches that have changed in use. Some have converted into condos that he joked would help you "rest in peace", another was just sold to be used to host flea markets, and another had shops on the ground floor. Talked about mixed-use land.

We also saw a statue of Joan of Arc riding on a horse with one leg up. The guide said one leg up meant the person was injured in battle; two meant the person had died. Three? That horse must be performing with Cirque du Soleil...

The majestic Chateau Frontenac run by Fairmont Hotels
Yesterday we had wandered a bit of the old town, and we were charmed by the old-looking streets and the shops, mostly arts and crafts, cafes and such.

There were several musicians on the streets, including a man on a harp, and another playing the violin and singing folk songs as well as playing wooden spoons. In the evening we saw a performance on the ship by a group singing folk songs and dancing to them.

At one point they also demonstrated how to use the wooden spoons (they are attached together), and the leader got several audience members up on stage to learn how to use them!

The leader also joked that the dancing was very Irish (think Riverdance), but the songs were very French.

Passing by Notre Dame Cathedral
Visiting Quebec City again reminded us of why we loved it here the first time, and it's a place that we should come back to again with more time. It's so full of history and culture, the people are friendly and like a good joke or two.

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