Magnifique Quebec City, Day 1
The U.S. part of the Friday afternoon drive to Quebec City took us through Athens and Moscow (Maine of course) along the Kennebec River to Jackman, Maine. We had our eyes open for any possible moose sightings but, alas, no such luck. We had an uneventful crossing at the border into Canada and drove the remainder of the trip on Hwy 173 to Saint-Georges and Hwy 73 to our motel in Sainte-Marie, QC. We found a relatively reasonable place to stay that was only a 30 minute drive from Quebec City.
After checking in, we proceeded into the city around 4 PM to do an initial reconnaissance for parking our truck near the "old city" and do some sightseeing until sunset. Driving through Quebec City was similar to Montreal, in that most of the streets and major thoroughfares are under a constant state of repair with traffic detours the norm. Once we reached the fortified city, the streets became even narrower and the traffic was a chore to navigate. I dropped off Karen to visit the local tourism office only to find out it was closed. After driving a circuitous route back to pick up Karen we were successful in finding a parking lot near the marinas that would work for our oversized truck.
After parking we walked past the Museum of Civilization to the waterfront to explore the lower section of the old city, including the Royal Battery and the Rue Sous-le-fort. We then hiked up the Escalier Casse-Cou (Breakneck Steps) through the Prescott Gate to Monument Samuel-De Champlain and Place d'Armes, the square opposite the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac.
The Château Frontenac is an excellent example of the grand hotels developed by railway companies in Canada in the late 1800s. Considered the world's most photographed hotel, it was designated a National Historic Site in 1981. The hotel takes its name from Louis de Buade, Count de Palluau et de Frontenac, a key figure in New France history. Frontenac was the governor of the colony from 1672 to 1682, and again from 1689 to 1698, and is recognized for having defended it against British and Iroquois attacks. The Château Frontenac was built near the Citadel on which Frontenac had begun construction in the late 17th century. Situated on a large cape, the hotel overhangs the Saint Lawrence River and runs alongside the celebrated Plains of Abraham historic site where the battle for the conquest of Québec took place in 1759 during the Seven Years’ War between Great Britain and France.
We went to dinner across the Rue Sainte-Anne to Bistro 1640 which overlooks the city and provides a magnificent view of Château Frontenac. The bistro combines a warm ambiance with fresh market cuisine. Karen and I ordered SOUPE À L’OIGNON AU GRATIN DE CANTONNIER (Onion Soup), BOEUF FAÇON CLASSIQUE (Steak Tartare) and a CHARCUTIÈRE pizza.
After dinner we continued our evening tour along Rue Port Dauphin down to the fortifications along Montmorency Park National Historic Site. This fortification battery, above the St. Lawrence River, provided an impressive northeast overview and protection for the city from any potential hostile forces advancing up river. Looking back to the upper city from this location I was able to get a lovely image of the illuminated Château Frontenac.
We continued our way down from the upper city to locate our truck in the parking lot below. Overall, an impressive first, short day before returning back to our motel room in Sainte-Marie for the night. On Day 2, July 1 (Canada Day) we would plan to get an earlier start. We will return to the same parking lot, buy two tickets for the ON/OFF Red Line Tour bus system and get a more comprehensive view of the city, saving our legs and avoiding the crazy traffic.