Monday, July 18, 2016

Chapter 27 - Hawkshaw to Quebec City, Quebec

July 17th, Day 51: It was a long drive from Hawkshaw in New Brunswick to Quebec City, Quebec. The longest drive so far of this trip, around 6-1/2 hours. Fortunately almost the entire drive was on the 4-lane Trans-Canada Highway and the scenery was absolutely beautiful. Until we arrived at the St Lawrence River about one hour northeast of Quebec City, the terrain was quite hilly covered in some cases by dense evergreen forests and in other cases covered with vast acres of farm crops such as corn, wheat, and even potatoes. The first part of the trip followed the St. John River north where we were offered occasional views of the river. By far the best scenery however, was our later views along the mighty St. Lawrence River as seen in the photo above.  Unfortunately the quality of this photo is lacking (through a dirty car window), but never our memory of this view.

Our campground, the KOA Quebec, was actually in St-Nicolas, Levis across the St Lawrence River from Quebec City, but the distance was close and of course we were in a far less crowded area. We did notice once we entered the Province of Quebec that all of the road signs were now only in French whereas previously they had been in both English and French. Perhaps we should not have been surprised when we entered the reception office at the campground and the woman at the front desk addressed us first in French. She quickly changed to English when she saw that I had no clue as to what she had just said. Anyway, everything is satisfactory here at our new campsite as we have a pull-thru site, and the Wi-Fi works fine and the TV gets five channels (with everyone speaking French.) Perhaps over the next few days we can learn to speak French so that when we arrive in French speaking Montreal, language will not be an issue. On the other hand, I always assumed that most of the French speaking people in Quebec would also understand and be able to speak English. This either may not be the case or the locals pretend that they do not speak English for when we went to a local food store, Kathy had an awful time finding anyone in the whole store including the checkout clerk who could speak English and help her find things in the store. Considering that the vast majority of Canadians speak English, we found this highly unusual. But then, as tourists, we will go with the flow.  Tomorrow we will explore Quebec City.

July 18th, Day 52: Today we wanted to get into the old historical part of Quebec City fairly early for two reasons. The first was that rain was expected around noon. More importantly however, was that we wanted to avoid the crowds that would surely start arriving via the tour buses by mid morning. While the rain was delayed until shortly after 1 pm, as expected the crowds were soon everywhere. Fortunately and without any question, Old Quebec is a marvel of beautiful old buildings and a tribute to the historians who over the years insisted that the older city be preserved as much as possible.
Kathy and I parked downtown and walked up and down the narrow streets for almost four hours until we were both exhausted (and my knees were ready to give out) but neither one of us was in any way bored.  This was so much more than anything we had expected. While many of the stores were just junk souvenir stores, the store fronts like the one shown in this photograph made up for the lower quality of the goods within the store.

There were also dozens and dozens of small restaurants many with their menus posted on the exterior. Unlike the souvenir stores, most of the restaurants looked pretty high quality and had we been hungry if it were later in the morning, it looked possible that Cabo might have been accepted on the exterior porches.

One of the highlights of todays walk was undoubtedly the beautiful churches many of which were opened to visitors. One of the most famous of these churches here in Quebec is undoubtedly La Basilique-Cathedrale de Notre-Dame-de-Quebec. A Catholic church has stood on this site in Quebec City since 1647. While the church structure has been replaced and renovated a number of times, the current fa├žade dates back to 1843. This church is very attractive on the outside.

The inside however, is breathtaking and even Cabo agreed that it would be wonderful if we could have attended a Sunday service.

What makes the area of Old Quebec really interesting is that the oldest part of this city is still mostly surrounded by the original old stone fortress walls. Even the roads leading into the old city area must pass through the old gates, although the openings were probably modified sometime in the more recent past to accommodate the wider paved roads.

Kathy, Cabo, and I did wander along the top of part of the old stone wall for a short distance hoping to see some long ranges views of the old city or the St Lawrence River but the city has grown tall around the old walls since they were built.

Quebec City was built in an excellent location back in the early 1600s because of its location on a high plateau overlooking a narrower section of the St. Lawrence River. This made the city both defensible against attackers and in a great position to destroy enemy ships advancing up the St. Lawrence.  The Americans learned this lesson the hard way when they attached Quebec in 1775 early during the American Revolution and were soundly defeated.  This photo of me was taken at the northeastern edge of the old city walls looking down at the St. Lawrence River. I was wondering what it might have been like to watch enemy forces approaching the city.

The park near the edge of the wall where I was standing contains a statue of the original explorer to have landed in the Quebec area.  He arrived in the year 1608 bringing settlers to what is now Quebec City and his name was Samuel De Champlain.  This was pretty remarkable considering that Plymouth Colony was not founded until twelve years later in 1620. I believe that in North America only St. Augustine was founded early than Quebec City.

This photo of Kathy and Cabo on the bench was taken looking out into the park containing the statue of Champlain. We have to hand it to the people of Quebec City for having realized early that the history of their city is what makes the city such a wonderful place to visit and spend money. Kathy got so enthusiastic at one point that she wondered how much it would cost to rent an apartment in the old part of the city. We walked by one apartment where the rental rate was posted as $2,200 Canadian dollars per month. So much for that idea.

Anyway, tomorrow we have another day to check out this old city. One thing that we have planned is to try and view the city from a vantage point across the St. Lawrence River. This should give us a good idea of just what the city might have looked like back in the 1600s at least from an elevation standpoint. We spent the better part of the afternoon in our travel trailer watching the rain fall.  We understand however, that the weather tomorrow is suppose to be good. Until then.

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