We began the day at 9 AM and 62 degrees, we left Levis and took the short drive to Quebec. With the help of the GPS we had little difficulty finding the old city, and what a marvelous city it is. I am going to struggle to try and describe it, but this will be a challenge.
Old Quebec is located on the banks of the St. Laurence River. And it is hillier than I remember San Francisco to be. The elevation changes from one block to another are enormous. The land rises sharply from the river to the height of a small high-rise, then slopes back down on the other side into the city. What an incredible piece of land on which to build a hotel and a fort.
My goal was to visit the Chateau Frontenac, an old hotel that is grander than grand and located just down the street from the Citadelle. (More about that later). So we drove around looking for a place to park. There are no parking areas for tourists. The streets are narrow and most have no parking signs along the way. But eventually we found a space near the bottom of the hill and we grabbed it. When I looked up at where we were going, I told Steve there was just no way. The first short leg was level with the 7th story of a nearby building, and that was just the beginning. It was a steep climb on a sidewalk that has not been repaired since the beginning of time (smile). But he urged me on. When we reached the top of that level, there was a flight of stairs that probably scaled another 6 or 7 stories. And once we made it to the top of that, there was another steep sidewalk…well you get the message. It was way up there. And I made it all the way on my own. And I will admit that going back down was probably more difficult than going up. I guess my recent visits to the gym paid off.
Anyway, we reached the hotel. I am including a photo that I found on the internet that shows the expanse of this hotel. There is no way that I could have backed up far enough to get that shot without crossing the river. This place is HUGE!!!! The internet says it has well over 600 rooms. We walked around the boardwalk in front of the hotel and enjoyed the views of the river and roofs of houses below. And I had a sudden urge to call my parents and tell them I had returned, but of course that is now impossible.
We walked around a bit, Beamer in tow, and saw beautiful old stone houses of different sizes and shapes, all nestled along these crooked, narrow streets, some too narrow for any motor traffic at all, and I took photos. Such a charming city. They even have horse drawn carriages and when we were driving out of the area, we had to stop while a handler, on foot, assisted his horse to parallel park his carriage, backing in with more precision than even we could.
Next we drove over to the Citadelle, a military facility up on that high river bank. What a site for a fort. It is a configuration of granite walls with canons and holes through which the militia could shoot their arms. We drove inside through a very narrow stone passageway, barely wide enough for one car, found a perfect place to park and walked up to the gate where two soldiers in full dress uniforms, with red jackets and tall black fur hats stood motionless, guarding the entry. Inside, a troupe of soldiers was marching around on the parade grounds and at one point they shot off all their guns at one time…what a blast. On the way out we visited the restrooms which appear to me to be old jail cells from a couple of hundred years ago. Only slightly larger than a typical bathroom stall, totally encased in stone, with doors 4 inches thick and no windows, it would have proven to be a hell hole for anyone locked inside.
After lunch in the park, we headed toward Montreal. We drove through miles and miles of farmland with fields growing healthy crops of corn and other things, right on the banks of the St. Laurence River. On the way we decided to make a stop in Trois Rivieres, (Three Rivers) which reminded me of my hometown, down by the river, near the textile mills. There were many old homes and apartment houses sitting one on top of another on narrow streets, sided with clapboard in various colors. And we knew immediately it was an industrial town and it had been there for generations. We visited the waterfront and saw container ships moving up and down the river, and a pulp mill which, incidentally, we identified by that familiar aroma. It was clearly a working river and a working town.
We arrived in Brossard around 4 PM, but did not get settled until probably 5:30. The speed bump for today was checking into a rather tired hotel and being told that our reservation for a smoke-free room was not going to be honored because we had a dog. Now, I would venture a guess that fewer dog owners are smokers than non-dog owners, but there was no reasoning with these people. Then after relenting, we were placed in a room where the A/C did not work and it took several trips to our room before they would relent and move us. As for me, I am concentrating on our visit to Quebec, channeling my experience to my parents, and forgetting all of this nonsense.