Date: Sep 26, 2009
This was the beginning of our Big Maritimes Road Trip. We (my best friend Polina, Vitaly, and me) took 2 weeks off work and packed into my good old Honda Civic with big plans to explore the Maritime Provinces of Canada. Technically, Quebec is not considered to be a part of Maritimes. However, passing by that area and missing on the capital of Quebec was not an option, so our first day was dedicated to visiting Quebec City and its surroundings.
The first thing that everybody notices upon arrival to Quebec City is the driving situation. Driving in Quebec City is very difficult (dare I say, European-like?) The street are very narrow; they intersect at weird confusing angles and go steeply up and down the city’s hills. Having quickly learned this lesson, we happily ditched the car at the first available parking garage and continued our journey on foot.
Our first destination was the famous Chateau Frontenac, a large luxury hotel which also happens to be a National Historic Site of Canada and a popular photo target. The reason: fancy castle-like architecture, including many pretty turrets and the imposing main tower.
After taking mandatory photos of the building exterior, we decided to sneak in and see the hotel from the inside. I am not sure that we looked like legitimate guests at a luxury hotel, but fortunately nobody asked any questions. The interior turned out to be surprisingly dialed down, almost rustic. There were some old-looking paintings on the walls and antique furniture in the lobby, but nothing was screaming “royal palace” like the grandiose building itself.
Outside of the Chateau, there was a large open terrace with great views of the Quebec City Port and St Lawrence River.
The famous “Escalier casse-cou” (means “neck-breaking” stairs) took us down into the Quebec’s Lower Town, which is a tiny and very pretty shopping district, with quaint craft shops and pedestrian-only cobblestone streets.
Slowly making our way back up the hill and towards the Upper Town, we discovered an unusual residential neighborhood. The 1st and 2nd floors of the houses had separate entrances, the one for the 2nd floor on the opposite side of the street, making its way across in an overhead passage:
Eventually we made our way back to the thick stone walls of the Upper Town. According to Wikipedia, these fortifications are the only remaining fortified city walls that still exist in the Americas north of Mexico. Large cannons still point at the St Lawrence River, waiting for an attack that hopefully never comes.
We could spend several more days in Quebec City, enjoying its fabulous architecture and quaint little streets. However, we had grand plans to see the Montmorency Falls and drive all the way to New Brunswick all on the same day, so we didn’t tarry. Come back and read about the rest of the day’s story soon!