As we drove into Québec City, I was strangely quiet, since some part of me was worried that the city wouldn't live up to my cherished memory of it. I had only spent one evening there, fifteen years ago, but I spent it with the new friends with whom I had spent two weeks studying whales in the St. Lawrence river. The whole experience had been mind-blowing, and life-defining, for li'l 20-year-old Barbra, so it would not be a surprise if the City had been viewed through rose-colored glasses that evening. Still, I did cherish that rose-colored memory. Would reality get in the way and muck it up?
The uneasy feeling in my stomach disappeared when we walked through the door of our room at L'Auberge Saint-Pierre and I saw that we would be spending three days here:
And this was the view out our windows:
I opened the windows and leaned my head out over the street, looking at the river, at the town of Levis on the other side, and at the buildings on our street, these lovely streets of Lower Town in Old Quebec. Breathing in deeply, I felt a relaxation, and then an energy flow through me. I was feeling so revitalized, so exhilarated!
Hand in hand, my Hubby and I headed out for a walk. Down the stony streets of Rue St-Pierre, turning onto Côte de la Montagne and then across at Rue Notre-Dame, which immediately greeted us with this mural:
I snapped photo after photo as we walked on, through Place Royal, up Rue Sous-Le-Fort, and wound our way through Quartier Petit-Champlain.
I ran down toward the waterfront, Hubby laughing from behind me at my exuberance, and shot more photos looking back toward the old city, gasping at the sight of Upper Town perched atop the hill above Lower Town.
Even the public bathrooms are beautiful.
I needn't have worried; not only was the city as beautiful as I had remembered, it was more beautiful. I love to visit places where I feel transported - to another culture or to another time. Québec City does both! I can imagine what life was like in the 1700's as take in the scenery, and the town has 400 years of culture - descended from the French, but long ago transformed into something unique to this region alone.
That first evening of our arrival in Québec City, we stayed in Lower Town. We ate at Lapin Sauté on Rue du Petit-Champlain, and enjoyed our French fare of white sausage with apples, potatoes, and fennel and perfectly cooked duck confit. For dessert, can you believe this: maple syrup crème brûlée. Unbelievable...I can still taste it if I close my eyes and remember.
After dinner, we explored Place 400e at Vieux Port, the headquarters of the celebration for Québec City's 400th Anniversary (1608-2008), which is taking place all this summer. We talked with one of the young people handing out pins in honor of opening night of "The Image Mill" (Le Moulin à images). It is an enormous projection of images related to the city and its history, projected onto a row of grain silos across the water.
The next day, we walked all over. Up the hill and all over Upper Town, through the city wall at Porte St-Louis, past the Assemblée nationale and down Grande Allée (where we passed the most beautiful McDonald's I've ever seen), by the Armory that burned and collapsed this April, up the hill overlooking the Plains of Abraham, down the Terrasse Dufferin and through the shops of the Château Frontenac.
That afternoon, we were back at Quartier Petit-Champlain sharing a maple cone (maple-vanilla soft serve with maple-caramel swirl and maple sugar candy perched on top!). The evening saw us enjoying another French dinner, this time near our hotel in the Rue St-Paul area, after which we took the Funiculaire up the hill and enjoyed nighttime walks down the Terrasse Dufferin (watching the lightning upriver) and through the Rue de Buade area. There are street performances all over town, and we saw several large and small performances organized by museums and the 400e celebration. We don't know French, but we enjoyed the spirit!
I'll save the details of our next day for next time, but our last evening in Quebec found us on the Funiculaire to Upper Town once again, exploring the Rue St-Jean area, enjoying a street-side drink in a pub, spying on another (large) street performance at Place d'Youville, admiring the theatre (Le Capitole de Québec) where Les Misérables would be opening (shortly after we left - yes again), and saying goodbye to this town again, this place that I now loved even more than I had before! In my eyes, its beauty is unmatched, and this time I got to share it with my Hubby!
In the final chapter, we embark on some road trips (will bickering ensue?), and the old nervous worrying returns. How will Barbra handle it? Will there be bloodshed?