Bienvenue au Quebec! (Welcome to Quebec)
Leaving Prince Edward Island we had a long backtrack through New Brunswick before making it to the last province on this portion of our trip. The 10-hour drive took us back past Moncton and the capital of New Brunswick, Fredericton. The highway took us right to the Maine border then due north as it swung around the northern part of Maine. On the way we did encounter two great town signs; New Maryland – Site of the last fatal duel in New Brunswick and Florenceville – French Fry Capital of the World. When you’re driving for 10 hours its little things like this that keep you entertained.
Heading into far northern New Brunswick we spotted a Walmart in Edmunston and stopped, as we needed propane for the next few days to grill with. During the drive I had warned Julie that the eastern part of Quebec and Quebec City were nothing like Montreal in that there is very little to no English spoken. It is almost like being in actual France. Julie though didn’t quite believe me until we entered the store and the duel English-French signage that was prevalent in the rest of the provinces that we had been in was gone. In its place was signage in only French with English not spoken at all. Julie’s mind was blown by all of this and she had to quickly remember her high school French. (I took Spanish so will be able to use that in the southwest later on in the trip). After paying we hopped back into Bubbles and within a few minutes entered into Quebec. Julie was still in awe as all road signage was just in French and even while stopping at a small town Tim Horton’s (Coffee Shop) we had trouble communicating with the barista. A few hours later we were finally at our destination for this portion of our trip, the capital of Quebec, Quebec City.
After the night in a city campground we were ready to hit the town. Luckily Uber was available in Quebec City as the roads in the old part of town are much too small for Bubbles to travel through. After a short 20-minute Uber ride we were in old town Quebec. Being there is almost like being transported to another world. The old town in Quebec City is the only city in North America other than Mexico City to be walled. The initial wall was built in the 1600’s by the French as a method to help defend against the British. Once the British captured Quebec in the 1800’s they fortified the wall to protect against the newly independent Americans. While the wall did see its fair share of battles it is still standing and is a beautiful reminder of the history that happened here.
As Quebec City was the largest city that we had visited as of yet there was quite a lot of shopping to do. We were a little overwhelmed coming from a small island community to this comparatively huge French city. It didn’t take us too long to reacclimatize ourselves to being around people and soon enough we were walking in and out of clothing and tourist gift shops picking out a few things for ourselves as well as family and friends. First up for us was picking out a great spot for lunch. As we normally don’t eat out we wanted to find the best lunch spot that we could. Also as Quebec is known for their smoked meats and cheese we wanted to find something that incorporated both. We ventured down the main drag of old town before heading down a side street and stumbling into a bistro called “be club bistro bar”. This turned out to be a great choice as I had a smoked meat club sandwich and Julie had smoked salmon risotto. Our choice to eat at be club was confirmed not only because we thought that the food was amazing but half way though our lunch a food tour group came in and had ordered the same meals that we had picked. It was pretty cool.
Next up for the day was a walking tour of the old city. As it turned out we were the only ones that had signed up and had the tour guide to ourselves. The tour started next to Quebec City’s grandest hotel, The Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac. The Fairmont looks like it had been in the city for centuries but in reality was built to be a hotel for the Canadian Pacific Railway with construction starting in 1893. The hotel is said to be the most photographed hotel in the world. The hotel as well as all of old town Quebec is located on a bluff overlooking the St. Lawrence River, which had amazing views. We learned from our tour guide how Samuel Champlain discovered the city; how the British defeated the French and took over the city and province and the how the people have fought to keep their French identity for centuries. The tour also covered architecture and how a few movies have been filmed there because of it (Catch Me if you Can….great movie!). The tour ended in the lower old town which to Julie and I looked the most French of anywhere in the city. It was a great tour and well worth every penny. If you are in Quebec City and it is a nice day check out Tours Voir Quebec. The company can be found online as well as in the tourist info center in the heart of Quebec City. From here we took an Uber back to our campsite and called it a night.
The next day after breakfast we booked and Uber and off we went. First destination for the day was the Plains of Abraham. Today this is a huge park but a few hundred years ago this was an animal pasture where the main battle between the French and British took place to decide who would rule Quebec as well as the majority of Canada. It was huge and a lot of fun to walk around in. As it was close to Canada Day (basically Canada’s July 4th) and it was the 150th anniversary of the country huge music stages were being erected for the event. We had seen preparation for this as we made our way through the Maritime Provinces but as Quebec City was the biggest city that we had been in the biggest acts were going to perform here. Next up for the day was a tour of the Quebec Parliament building. This was a beautiful building in the middle of the city built atop Parliament Hill. The legislative rooms were the highlight of the tour with their grand paintings painted in blue and red. The oddity though of the whole experience is that as French as Quebec is and how they tend to follow the French they use the British governing system. I guess that was the one thing they thought that the British did a little bit better.
After lunch we returned to the campground to prepare to return to the USA the next day. It was a strange feeling knowing that we were leaving Canada as we had been there for a little over a month. We had gotten used to using loonies & toonies ($1 and $2 coins) and stopping in at Tim Horton’s every afternoon as a lot of Canadians do. We had seen a lot in our Canadian adventure; everything from the highest tides in the world to bays full of icebergs and potato fields as far as you could see. We crossed the border the next day in a flash and before we knew it we were turning into Adirondack Park going towards my families cabin for our annual 4th of July party as well as some needed rest and relaxation. We would stay there for a week before returning to Rochester for a few days to have Bubbles serviced and pick up a few much needed supplies.
Next up…….We start the 2nd part of our cruising journey where we will go to Cleveland, Michigan, Wisconsin and beyond.