It was a lazy friday morning. Owing to the Labor Day weekend, our morning began much later than it usually does on busy weekdays. A well laid out plan had been devised for the long weekend: Pop by the CN tower that beckoned us for a visit, considering it stands tall in our backyard, cram ourselves with Mexican at Milagro’s, devour gelato’s at the Distillery district, cycle along Lake Shore ( an essential at this point, considering the calorie consumption!). At 4:30pm, I looked into the wardrobe, racking my brains, wondering what to wear, when the husband took me by a jolt,
Husband: “Hey, do want to got to Québec City?
Me: Huh??? Hmmm…it’s a long drive, it’s last minute, it’s not planned, it’s…..
Husband: Come on, it’ll be fun, let’s go!!!
Me: Are you sure? It’s a long drive, it’s….
Husband: It’ll be ok!
Me ( his excitement slowly easing into me): OK!! Let’s do it!
That’s how the first weekend of September, 2015 went from being an organised, well thought out four days into an unplanned vacation at Quebec City. I won’t lie, a part of me was fraught with apprehension, taking into account hotel accommodations, car rentals, etcetera. But in vain because I came to realise later, unplanned vacations brim with serendipitous encounters, like meeting new friends…unexpected but full of surprise.
After a previous stint at yet another historic region in Québec, good ol’ Montreal, we were accustomed to the French influence as much as newcomers to Canada should be. Bonjour, Comment Allez Vous & Merci were part of my vocabulary now although anything beyond that would swoop right over my head.
Despite driving long hours ( Québec City is about an 8 hour drive from Toronto. We took a break after a 4 hour drive and then resumed our journey early morning) through the night & catching hardly any sleep, we were battle ready in the early morning….the irony about holidays I suppose. I’m going to try & take you on a little journey through Old Quebec in the hope that it will help you if you do happen to visit sometime…let’s see if I’m any good….
Old Québec is a historic landmark in the city…an age old grey stone arch for a welcome and if you’re keen to experience the past in true flavour, there’s horse carriages too. An entrance through the arch leads to a long,narrow alley lined by tall restaurants with Italian food & Poutine & a million other droolworthy food options, bursting & overflowing clusters of flowers, souvenir stores with walls of magnets & tons of colour….awnings in yellow, window sills in viridian, rooftops in deep crimson & pansies in violet & purple. At the far end is the Chateau Frontenac, sitting proud atop a cliff, also apparently the most photographed hotel. Not surprised though, it can mislead you into thinking it’s a castle. ‘Chateauesque’ architecture, they call it, after the French country houses (Chateau), defined by a multiple, random eruption of structures crowned by spires & pitched roofs.
The open space around aka the edges of the cliff ( not to worry they’re barricaded) are mostly occupied by tourists taking in the calm of the St. Lawrence River and indefatigable street artists.
Step down a little to the left, a little to the right & land at the Place Royale. Stand & stare at the Fresque Des Québécois , a colossal fresco painting depicting life in Old Quebec, replete with paintings of writers & artists(Picture below) .Then put your feet up & relax at La Maison Smith, a cafe, with a coffee, a croissant & a book. Panacea.
Then walk down to the Lower Town. A warm summer afternoon meant a swarming of tourists, so we pushed & shoved and finally made our way down to the entrance of a tiny alley. People were zealously shopping for jewellery, waiting in line at restaurants, overall a noisy albeit a merry affair. I have to say, as much as I yearn for peace & quiet, I like happy crowds, I like happy people being happy, commotion or whatever,…it makes me happy.
That being said, a stark contrast to that , bang in the centre of this hustle bustle, like it landed out of nowhere…a little park, festooned with paper lanterns, a kind musician playing soulful European tunes, swings for kids & adults alike, benches long enough to stretch the legs and catch a wink……Silence.Out.
Now, we take a look at pictures,
The Chateau Frontenac by the day & night
Fresque Des Quebecois
The Lower Town
A piece of heaven amongst chaos
This guy used wooden spoons to play the traditional music of Quebec which is a mash up of Irish & French. Notice the energy & joy on his face..these musicians really do change the aura around the place…
You can’t miss art..
It won’t be fair to end this post without mentioning the Montgomery Falls , which is about a 20 min drive from the city. Reviews compared these falls with the mighty Niagara whose roar & magnanimity is obviously amiss here but I also think it’s unreasonable to compare the two. These falls are like a bridal veil, graceful & poised, and on hot days, a vision like this is undoubtedly a sight for sore eyes. If you’re in a mood for some workout, climb down the wooden steps, like we did, stand close to the water & let the droplets sprinkle on you. Then, climb back up. It’s long but we all need something to burn off those notorious pizzas & pastas….Do check out my other blogs on art & food…my two other loves!
Divya’s Art Room
1 Part Ingredient 9 Parts Love