At long last, after three years of Covid delays and a bout with Omicron in July, we finally traveled abroad on vacation. This time, we went to Canada, spending a meaningful weekend with family in Toronto and a lovely week in Québec City, which feels like going to Europe without flying across the ocean. I’ve been intrigued by the capital of Québec for years, and it was well worth the wait.
We stayed in the charming Old City and walked and walked up and down the hilly streets, using the funicular only a couple of times at the end of our visit because my feet were giving out. Over a week’s course, we learned a lot about the city’s military history and First Nations. Québec City was built on a high cliff as a fortress and played a major role in the Seven Years War between France and Britain for control of Canada. In a decisive battle in 1759 on the Plains of Abraham, the British won, a turning point that soon led to British control of the territory. This, after the French laid claim to lands that had belonged to First Nation peoples for thousands of years prior. Stories unique to place and time, but all too familiar.
The Old City’s architecture features stone buildings with dormers and metal roofs that are curved at the bottom so snow falls away from the foundation. Churches abound, though we learned that here, as elsewhere, the number of church goers in this predominantly Catholic province are declining. So some churches are being repurposed, including a tasteful renovation of a church into a public library.
We saw wonderful and moving art as well, including a powerful outdoor installation near the port by Ai Weiwei of hundreds of life jackets worn by Syrian refugees, which he collected from the Greek island of Lesbos. Talented street performers juggled and balanced on unicycles in the plaza next to the posh Chateau Frontenac, a landmark hotel. Beyond the Old City’s gates, we toured the Parliament building, which is modeled after the Louvre in Paris and home of Québec’s National Assembly, and the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, where we saw an exquisite special exhibit of carvings by Inuit artist Manasie Akpaliapik.
And we traveled up the St. Lawrence by bus to explore the Chute Montmorency, a thundering waterfall that is slightly higher than Niagara Falls, and from there by train to Baie-Saint-Paul, a pastoral town that is home to many artists. Other highlights included a guided tour of the Musée Huron-Wendat and a relaxing cruise on the St. Lawrence. A good thing we walked so much, even as I was exhausted by day’s end, because the food is excellent and the deserts magnifique.
Everywhere we went, we were surrounded by the lyrical sound of spoken French. While I was able to understand about 80 percent of what I read in museum texts, signs, and other materials, the spoken language is very fast and also a dialect, so we had to converse in English. Nonetheless, we were both grateful to our high school French teachers so long ago, that we were able to keep up as well as we did. And, yes, people really do say “ooh la la” instead of “oh wow!” Much sweeter to my ear.
So, here are some of my favorite images from the trip. Profitez-en bien!