Quebec City is a way cool city, which shocked the one of us who didn’t expect to find such amazing culture and history outside of East Tennessee. It originally was an outpost founded by Jacques Cartier but later made into something more by Samuel de Champlain, a Frenchman who either was a great explorer or a native-killer, depending on who you ask. There are statutes and paintings and logos galore depicting Old Sammy, most of which have faces that resemble Guy Fawkes.
Here’s the interesting part. There aren’t paintings—and certainly no photographs—that actually show what he looked like. It’s kind of like pictures of Jesus or Santa Claus. Nobody really knows. Anyway, he saw the high bluff on the Saint Lawrence River—after somehow sailing up it against the current that Misty Pearl almost surfed to plane—and figured it would make a good fort.
Plus after the long trip from France he probably wanted to stop at some of the great shops and restaurants we found over the past few days.
Quebec City—the old part at least—remains mostly walled. It’s the only fortified city remaining in North America. There’re roads and doors and stairways, of course, so it probably isn’t very secure, but it’s damn picturesque.
At the top of the hill—which we know from extrapolation would be quite hard to climb without stairs while carrying 17th-century battle implements—is La Citadelle de Québec. The Citadel is an old fort, but unlike the other old forts we’ve visited on our trip this one remains active. It’s still home to the Royal 22e Régiment, whose storied past is detailed in the fort museum. For example, there’s a huge iron emblem they took off the Nazis.
Normally it costs $16 Canadian per person to enter the fort and the museum, but we lucked into an Open House. Everything was free, which saved us something between $2 and $80 U.S. We’re still unsure about this whole exchange rate thing.
The official motto of the Royal 22e—as well as all of Quebec—is “Je me souviens,” which means “I remember.” Our French-Canadian friends from Trois-Rivières take this motto very seriously, as sort of a rallying cry for those dedicated to preserving the French culture of the province. We thought the flowers were pretty.
The Citadel also contains a house, which serves as the official secondary residence of the Governor General of Canada and the Canadian monarch. Who is Queen Elizabeth. Which is really, really weird, since (1) Queen Elizabeth probably doesn’t give a hoot about Canada, (2) she’s got plenty of houses in her own country, and (3) the people here all speak French. Go figure. Maybe she just loves maple syrup. But hey, the Open House included the actual house, so we went on in. In addition to her house having fine china with a view, Her Majesty also gets credit for hanging up some of that third-grade art little Charlie brought home and everyone pretended was really good.
She’s probably got some pinch-pots from Harry’s kindergarten pottery class packed away as well.
Although most everything around here is French, right next to the fort are the Plains of Abraham, which doesn’t sound French at all. The place got its name because some poor slob named Abraham Martin had the bad luck of seeing a large and important battle between the French and the English take place on his farm. The English won a decisive victory, which may in part explain why Queen Elizabeth has a house inside the fort. Now mostly the Plains of Abraham serve as a concert venue. Battle of the Bands and all that.
Did we mention that the town is full of narrow paths and streets?
Our food tour took us past the famous cannonball tree, although we looked it up and this is not a cannonball at all. It’s a firebomb. It’s been there a long time, however, so nobody seems concerned about it going off.
Did we mention the food? Paillard’s is a famous bakery. We actually bought croissants there every day. Yum. We don’t know if puns are a thing in French, but we ate at one of those as well.
We also discovered the Fromagerie des Grondines, which simultaneously was awesome and sad. It was awesome because we picked up some delicious fresh local cheeses. It was sad because in our post about Campbellford, Ontario, we wasted a reference to the Cheese Shop sketch.
Back to Guy Fawkes and the logical progression to Anonymous and then to Scientology. We found the Quebec City “church.” How do you say “ridiculous cult” in French anyway? Also, up here are their absurd thetan-finding tester thingys called E-meters or E-metres?
Until today, we were docked in the marina with the Old City off our port side. Easy walking to stuff, except for the insane hills.
We also got to witness the famed aurora borealis. Not the real one, of course, but the one they showed every night on the silos along the waterfront. Mostly it looked like Las Vegas, but without people trying to lure us into strip clubs.
Our first day or two we were the only U.S. flagged boat in the marina. Then Dana came back and announced that another one had just pulled in. That wasn’t the odd part though. The odd part was the flag on the bow. What the hell? The boat is No Drama, and that’s the first Arizona flag we’ve seen in two years. Let’s go knock on their hull.
Turns out Jeff was a Phoenix attorney of some renown, although our paths hadn’t directly crossed professionally. Now we consider them friends. Jeff and Ann make our decision to chuck everything to cruise around the east coast look like kindergarten play. When they chucked everything to cruise around, they went around the world. For 5 years. In a sailboat.
Later Laughter and then Drift Away came in, bringing the Yankee Doodle contingent to four boats.
Tomorrow high tide is at 7:45. To get to Cap-à-l’Aigle efficiently we have to leave two hours before that. Wait, that’s 5:45, which isn’t quite as bad as the last travel day but it still sucks. And the lock guarding the marina doesn’t open until 7. So today was our shortest travel day ever. We cleverly timed our lock-through to avoid the crowd and then stopped just on the other side to tee up the early departure.