After a lovely two days in Ottawa, we drove down to Quebec City to take in some old world charm together –with A playing the part of tour guide perfectly.
After checking in at the Hôtel Château Bellevue, Little Man told me to put on my walking shoes. “No tutu shoes, or whatever you call them.” he said. (He meant, of course, my ballet flats. Men.) I fondly call my Clarks ‘Unpoem’ brown walking shoes “My granny shoes”. He had bought them for me because my feet had suffered an injury due to hiking in ballet flats. (In my defense, I had no idea we were going hiking, and I only brought that one pair with me… not to mention the fact that I don’t have running shoes as I wore out my last pair! I think it was rather stupidly heroic of me to attempt it anyway, despite the lack of proper gear.) Funnily enough, my granny shoes made my heels bleed at the end of a day traipsing around the city.
Going back to the main story, we walked up and down streets and alleyways. I noted that they had a propensity for steps in the olden days. Even at our hotel, you had to go up a flight of steps, and then the door would swing out, meaning that for a klutz like me, it was a potential accident waiting to happen. Imagine the door swinging open from an unwary person on the inside, knocking you and all your baggage squarely off the steps and onto the pavement! Luckily, fate was kind to me! Or I developed some coordination…
We took a brief look at the exterior of Fairmont’s Le Château Frontenac –we had wanted to stay there, but it was very pricey for just one night’s stay that we decided to forgo it and have more spending money for shopping and other activities. To the rescue, our hotel assured us that our room came with a ‘spectacular view of the Chateau’… the view wasn’t the best, but you could make out the tip of the ‘castle’ through the masses of green foliage. I still found it enchanting –and pretended it was a fairy castle that lay just out of reach.One of the things I find most charming about Quebec City is of course the horse-drawn buggies and carriages… there is nothing like the clip-clopping of hooves on worn cobblestones to help you visualise an era past. I would have dearly liked to hop into one, but for $80, I figured taking the romance in with my eyes was just as nice.
Walking is definitely a pastime in Quebec City, and this picture of yours truly was taken just before we climbed the steep ascent of steps (also known as the Governor’s Promenade) to the Plains of Abraham. This isn’t my best outfit, but I thought it would be more honest if I shared my misses, too. I tend to forget that I have a short torso, and that pairing a low-necked shirt with a high-waisted skirt is not a good idea. The skirt also wrinkles easily… just know that it was ironed the night before! O, well! One learns!
The plains were breathtaking. Little Man told me to imagine less pavement, more grass… and the men locked in a struggle of life and death on it.
I tried to wish away the hordes of visitors taking cheesy photos with their ‘peace’ signs over each other’s heads. Perhaps it was just the imaginative romantic in me, but somehow the place called for something just a bit more solemn and reverent. I wanted to sit and stay awhile, if only I had the place to myself. (I’m sounding a bit selfish, I know!) In the picture of me on the plains, bugs were landing and crawling all over my legs. I had to shake them off constantly, and yes… a skirt or dress is all very romantically photogenic, but maybe I should’ve worn trousers, or more importantly, brought a pair along… Sadly, this is one lesson I don’t think I’ll ever learn. Or want to.
A few steps away from the Royal 22e Régiment’s base, this private garden caught our eye. It was charmingly rustic, and had all the air of romantic mystery. I only wish I knew who this little haven of paradise belongs to!
We stepped into the Notre-Dame-De-Québec Basilica-Cathedral for a brief moment. There was a Mass about to start, and I was politely coughed out of the building. No tourists or picture taking allowed! –a sign said. Which is too bad, because I wanted to see a bit of the Mass ceremony… perhaps I should have hidden my camera? I only took the one shot!
After that, we went and had some pizza at Mike’s, and our little pizzas were adorably shaped like little suns. I had the ‘Field of Dreams’ sunshine pizza, and A ordered the barbecue chicken one. Delicious!
Our first day had ended.
Inside, you could see how the building used to be a strategic stronghold — thick walls, deep slanted windows and arched ceilings attested to the fact that they were built for defensive purposes.
Outside on the battlements (I think they’re called that) is one working cannon from the olden days… and it fires one blank shot every noon, and can be heard for miles. We didn’t hear anything inside the residence! And I’m sorry we missed it by 15 minutes, too. The guide said that you can’t hear it from inside… I was disappointed! I would have stayed one more day, just to hear the roar of the cannon.
In the private dining room, there was a St. Andrew’s Cross buffet from 1680 –not a reproduction! We pored over every chip and nick in that furniture… it’s quite something to see an object so old! You can well imagine that I will stand with a gaping mouth if ever I travel to the ancient worlds of Rome and Greece and Egypt!
We went to the new wing, and ascended the right-hand staircase (dignitaries take the right, guests take the left) as VIPs for the day, and saw the ballroom –the shiny floor all hidden underneath pull-away carpets. I admit I was hoping for something like the grand ballrooms of the Victorian era, but this was in the new wing built in 1984, and every inch oozed modernity. Still, it was a ballroom!
As we were leaving, we passed by the ballroom again. I implored Little Man to dance with me just once. He spun me ’round, and a guard at the door smiled and nodded, saying: “Yes, dance! It’s a ballroom!” He seemed glad to see us having fun, and I liked him on the spot! It’s funny how you can like someone just like that, even though you only meet them for a brief moment.
And I can now say that I have danced in the Governor General’s ballroom.
We weren’t allowed to take photos inside the residence, so all I can say is that a visit is a must.
After the tour, we visited the gift shop, and I bought a letter opener and a maple candy. And then we drove home.
— Miss Cathie
P.S. I know I’m in love with a place when my imagination runs rampant! I will visit Quebec City again, one day! Pinky promise.