Quebec (pronounced Kei-bek by locals) is an enchanting city and full of surprises. It is the capital of the Canadian province of Quebec with a population of ¾ million people.
We arrived here yesterday afternoon from Montreal – straightforward trip of a little over 200 kilometres. On the w\ay, we stopped at a little tourist spot called the Cabine de Sucre (Sugar Shack) for lunch and to see how they collect and make maple syrup. While it was a real tourist trap, it was still quite interesting. Lunch was good and a fiddle player entertained us with a mixture of bluegrass music and a number of Irish jigs.
There is a lot of history here and Quebec is in the oldest area of Canada. The city was founded in 1608 by Samuel de Champlain. It sits on a high bluff on a narrow part of the St Lawrence River and was originally fortified by a surrounding wall. These ramparts are the only remaining fortified city walls that still exist in the Americas north of Mexico, and were declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1985.
Quebec City was captured from the French by the British in 1759 and held until the end of the Seven Years war in 1763. It was the site of three battles – the Battle of Beauport, a French victory (July 31, 1759); the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, in which British troops under General James Wolfe defeated the French General Louis-Joseph de Montcalm on September 13, 1759 and shortly thereafter took the city; and the final Battle of Sainte-Foy, a French victory (April 28, 1760). France finally ceded this area, known as New France, to Britain in 1763.
The city’s most famous landmark is the Château Frontenac, which is the hotel in which we are staying. It was one of the very grand and palatial hotels across Canada that was originally built by the Canadian Railways. It is now owned by the Fairmont Company and it really dominates the skyline of the city.
Moored at the wharf, were two large cruise ships. It seems bizarre that they should be at this point; over 1100 kilometres from the ocean. The river here is still fresh water, but has tides of 4 to 7 metres. In winter it is frozen to a depth of 1 metre and kept clear of ice by ice-breakers. Quebec gets up to 4 metres of snow each year and the temperature can drop down to -40 degrees C. You are not going to catch me here in winter!
The old town has recently been renovated and is full of interesting shops, galleries and cafes. It certainly has some character. It is a very interesting place to walk around while it is clearly focused on tourism, it is not at all tacky or horrible.
We have had a little rain today, but it is nor too inconvenient and we shall continue our exploration of this very quaint city.