Je me souviens… “I remember.” The motto of Canada’s Quebec Province appears on license plates and welcome centers at the border. Penned in 1883, the lines continue, “I remember/ That born under the lily/I grow under the rose.” It’s so true! Quebec City’s 400+ years of history as a settlement began under the fleur-de-lis of France and grew under the rose of Britain. The French language and culture are strong in Quebec, and crossing the border by car, after a short drive up I-91 from Quechee, it’s easy to feel as if you crossed the ocean.
David and Brenda Barrell, and Chet and Debbie Marcus, drove to Quebec (we Americans call it Quebec City) in July of 2017 during the visit of the Tall Ships to this beautiful port city on the St. Lawrence River. The Vieux-Quebec quarter (Old Quebec) is beautiful and bustling in summer. The streets of this UNESCO World Heritage site are lined with quaint stone houses, shops, and bistros. Every Quebecois wants to be outside in the summertime, and nearly every café and restaurant has charming tables with bright umbrellas and awnings. In the Place Royale and along the riverside boardwalk, street musicians provide splendid entertainment. It’s clear that every Quebecois also has a super green thumb. Window boxes, hanging baskets, and planters all bursting with colorful flowers adorn every building, balcony, wrought iron gate, and public park.
The Chateau Frontenac – our home base for three days – looms over the Place Royale and Vieux Quebec like a castle and is particularly beautiful when lit up at night. This iconic hotel is currently operated by Fairmont Hotels and is a wonderful place to stay. It’s a very short walk to the Funicular tram, which takes passengers from the Haute Ville (Upper Town) down to the Basse Ville (Lower Town) along the waterfront. Winding streets and stairways also provide travelers with myriad options to descend, climb, and explore these neighborhoods. Wearing good shoes is a prerequisite as most streets are paved with 400-year-old cobblestones.
The Tall Ships
We descended by the Funicular to reach the Tall Ships docked along Quebec’s extensive inner harbor as well as riverside quays. Dozens of sailing vessels from all over the world
made this trip, which visited ports all along the eastern coast of North America in 2017. The Quebec port of call coincided with the official 150th Anniversary of the Canadian Confederation. We were able to board several ships and chat with the crew members. The U.S. Coast Guard cadets, all officer candidates, of America’s stunning Tall Ship, Eagle, were very engaging as they described their summer course of sail training. One gal told us her record for climbing the 147-foot main mast was about 8 minutes. Yikes! It’s a long way up on a tiny rope ladder.
The most impressive ship was the nearly 400-foot, four-masted Esmeralda from Chile, which attracted throngs of visitors to touch and feel the magnificent mahogany and brass fittings and chat with the young and beautiful Chilean crew.
Other Sites to Visit and Food to Enjoy
Go to Quebec for the food! There are hundreds of restaurants and cafés. We dined at Chez Muffy in L’Auberge Saint Antoine. Located in what was a quayside maritime stone warehouse, Chez Muffy’s original 18th-century wooden beams and stonewalls provide plenty of atmosphere. “Farm-to-Fork” cuisine is their motto, and the four of us were treated to a dining experience that will be right up there near the top of “best meals we have ever had.” Our breakfasts and lunches at the Frontenac were as memorable for the food as well as the views of the St. Lawrence.
Quebec is steeped in history. Samuel de Champlain is credited with founding the original settlement in 1608 where the St. Lawrence River narrows. A fortress grew on the high bluff on the western shore, and the Citadel there figured prominently in Quebec’s colonial history. Visitors can stroll The Plains of Abraham, site of the great Battle of Quebec in 1759, which spelled the end of French rule over eastern Canada. British influence abounds in The Citadel, which is considered today to be an active Canadian military installation, as well as a museum. If you time your visit just right, you can watch the colorful “Changing of the Guard” ceremony with redcoats aplenty.
Don’t miss the nearby Parc de la Chute-Montmorency. The Montmorency River drops 276 feet over a cliff into the St. Lawrence River – visualize an extra 100 feet to the Quechee Gorge. We viewed this spectacular waterfall from the sturdy suspension bridge over the falls – take a deep breath, and just do it – and from a series of staircases that wind down the side of the falls to a viewing platform at the bottom. We watched as several folks took the death-defying trip across the falls on a zip line. It only cost $20 Canadian to try, but we said, Merci, non!”
We had a great adventure in Quebec. We can’t wait to plan our next visit over the northern border because, like the Quebecois, “we remember.”