Breakfast at 6:30 and we are on the bus to the train station in Montreal. Wilma is missing, we realize, as Doug doles out the passes. Our driver turned the bus around the block, back to the hotel. Doug hurries off to find Wilma who meanwhile has gotten a cab and beats us to the station. We proceed to the station and are reunited. VIA Rail Canada people have us form a queue of 36.
The train arrived a bit late but soon we are aboard Train 22, Car 3, Seats 8a and 8b.
The train traveled alongside the St.Lawrence River past fertile fields of corn, beans and hay. Another bus met us at Quebec City's beautiful old station. I was so in awe, staring around, I almost forgot to take a snapshot.
Lunch was first--at the Musee de Beaux Arts Cafe. The cafe was a lovely space with tall windows overlooking the river. The meal was tasty. I had pork loin, spring veggie soup and a cream puff with berries efficiently served. And good strong coffee which I appreciated although they don't seem to make decaf coffee in Canada. Someone of our group asked for it along the way and was told it would be an extra charge.
While waiting to get on our way, Dave and I had a nice visit with Surprise AZ neighbors Charlie and Mary Slivinsky who live in Sun City Grand. Mary plays golf and has played the nine hole Sun Village course.
Back on the bus! Our lodgings, Hotel Manoir Victoria was conveniently located in the Upper Town on Côte du Palais street. We checked in and found our recently updated room to be very pleasant.
Warm duvets seem to be all the rage but too warm for us even with the A/C cranked down. We just moved them aside and all was well.
Dave and I took a walk before dinner at the hotel. Hilly here, reminding us of San Francisco in miniature and without the cable cars. There are lots of shops and "Restos." Tourists everywhere, and lots of activity.
Narrow streets, flowers in planters and baskets. Beautiful.
Returning to the hotel, time to unpack and go down to the dining room. Chef Jean-Luc Boulay has a bistro in this hotel and a resturant nearby. He may have been responsible for our meals here which were excellent. Haddock or chicken entrees this evening, leek and potato soup, chocolate mousse with raspberries. Yum. Doug gave us instructions for tomorrow's activities. Off to bed.
Thursday, August 4th, Quebec City
Manoir Victoria had a wonderful breakfast buffet with crepes and good sausages and egg dishes so different from those we've been having. After a lecture on Quebec history we are off on a guided tour of the Upper Town. Up the hill from the hotel to City Hall square (Place de l'Hotel-de-Ville).
Onward and upward to the Seminary du Quebec founded by Father Laval, the first bishop of New France. It has housed students since 1663. It is now a university and has moved to a larger campus in Ste-Foy. Priests continue to live here and an architecture school is in part of this space.
On to the ramparts of the walled city and we walked on the Terrasse Dufferin, a wide Boardwalk. It has a wrought iron guardrail and has a splendid view of the St. Lawrence River, the Laurentian mountains to the north and a bit of the Appalachians to the south. Under the Boardwalk are the remains of another chateau that burned down. The remains of this chateau can be seen by paying a fee and climbing down a stairway. Windows built into the boardwalk give us a hint as to what is below.
A view of the boardwalk Dufferin looking north. The building in the rear is a post office. Doug Arrand, our host, is the man with the name tag.
Our tour guide took us along the boardwalk and to the Garden of the Governors. It was a vegetable garden at one time. Influential people had their houses around this square just south of the Chateau. In this park now stands a monument to British General Montcalm and French general Wolfe. It is dedicated to remembering the 1759 battle on the Plains of Abraham which ended French rule here.
We are scheduled for lunch in one of the older houses in the area, now a resturant.
We had coffee at the Chateau, rode the Funicular to the lower town (Basse-Ville). The narro, cobblestone streets were packed with tourists. Every old house now sports a botique or a cafe or has been made into an inn or art gallery.
We climbed back up to the Upper Town (Haute-Ville) by the metal stairway, L'Escalier Casse-Cou, or "Breakneck Stairs." Fifty-nine steps seem quite a bit more on a hot day. On our way back to the hotel we stopped at Place d'Armes and watched a busker do his act. These buskers are auditioned and licensed by the city.
Time to shower and to get dressed for dinner. Dave has made reservations at a Jean-Luc Boulay restaurant, Le Saint-Amour on rue Ste-Ursule. Fodor's Travel calls it one of the most romantic restaurants in the city.
Table by the window
We had an early reservation. The restaurant was full when we left.
On the walk downhill to the hotel we encountered a lively street scene with people in costume for a local celebration and musicians playing for tips. This street was closed to car traffic but had pedestrian and bicycles aplenty.
Our bags had to be packed and at the door for pick up by nine. They would be checked through to Moncton NB so we had to plan a carry on for the overnight train ride.
Friday, August 5th Quebec City Lower Town, Montmorency Falls, Train to Moncton
Another full day ahead of us so a great breakfast was appreciated. The tour group was ready to discover the Ursuline Convent. We walked the short distance from the hotel. An Italian laywoman with money built a house and helped found this cloistered convent, now a museum. The Ursuline nuns provided education to young women of all walks of life during the 19th and 20th century. Their education of women was unusual in those days. Special instruction was given to each according to their skills and master educators were brought in to teach music, math and science. The Ursulines also produced fine lace and embroidery work especially on altar cloths, labs and frontal cloths for altars using gold and silver threads and semiprecious stones. We were unable to photograph inside the museum.
Free until afternoon, Dave and I walked around the city, ate at an outdoor cafe and enjoyed the ambience of the upper town.
Back at the hotel, we claimed our carry-ons, identified our other luggage and boarded for a tour of the Lower City concentrating and contrasting the architecture of the French vs. the English here. The lower town was decimated by British shelling in the 1700's so much renovation had to be done.
Just outside the city is the Plains of Abraham where in 1759 the British battled the French and extinguished their dreams of an empire in North America. The plains are now a city park where many events take place in the summer and skiing and ice skating happen in winter.
On to the Ile d'Orleans and a quick circuit of this quiet island of farmers where much of Quebec City's fresh produce is grown. Here are some pictures of summer homes and quaint cottages with sloping roofs.
Montmorency falls cascades over a cliff into the Saint Lawrence River. It is 27 stories high. We got to the top by cable car and walked across the falls on a bridge.
Back across the bridge we are going to Manoir Montmorency for dinner. It is a recreation of a house built in 1780 as a summer home for the governor of Canada. Wonderful views can be seen from the wrap-around terrace.We enjoyed another tasty meal of duckling leg, red cabbage, asparagus, carrot and potato with good brown gravy accompanied by a red wine. Coffee and Brest cake with whipped cream and berries for dessert.
Back to Quebec City and the train station. Our train is scheduled for 10:49 PM. We got on the train in the rain and found our tiny cabin with bunk beds made up for the night. Dave and I did an intricate ballet getting in and out of the tiny bathroom and ready for bed. We hoped the motion of the train would lull us to sleep, but I don't think either of us slept well.