As I mentioned in my post on the Île d’Orléans, my immune system let me down rather badly on my arrival in Quebec City, but I was determined not to let that get in the way of getting to know this historic city, the oldest continuously inhabited French settlement in the Americas. I’d spent time in Montreal, and I guess I expected it to be fairly similar so the utter “European-ness” (sorry, as soon as I think of a better word I’ll edit that out) of Quebec City came as something of a surprise to me. Wandering the narrow, cobbled lanes in the shadow of turrets and ramparts and with French as the first language, it’s difficult to remember that one is actually in North America .
Quebec City was founded in 1608 by French navigator and explorer Samuel de Champlain, who is considered to be the “Father of New France”, and has multiple streets, monuments and sites dedicated to his name. It is also yet another of the Canadian UNESCO World Heritage sites and the only walled city north of Mexico. The city is very, very French and rich in history with two distinctive and famous landmarks – the Fairmont Chateau Frontenac and La Citadelle, an intact, stone fortress which was built in the early 19th century by the British in an effort to secure the city against the Americans.
The old city is easily explored on foot and that is certainly the best way to get a genuine feeling for this historic place. There are countless interesting little side streets, charming French-influenced buildings and several beautifully detailed trompe-l’oeil murals which serve as a window into the city’s past and culture.
While there is a strong focus on history in Quebec City, there is also a delightfully whimsical side to this town and I smiled when I came across some quite striking artworks which were part of Les Passages Insolites (The Unusual Passages), a project which brought together professional visual artists and collectives of architects from the Quebec City area to deploy intriguing ephemeral installations over six sites.
Actually, if I have to suffer from a horrid URTI (upper respiratory tract infection) then I can’t think of a better place to be distracted from it and my runny nose was soon forgotten as I wandered happily through the charming, narrow streets and in and out of the unique little shops.
It was autumn when I was in Quebec, with perfect mild, sunny days and cool evenings, but I can’t imagine this city being any less than perfect at any time of the year. I envy those North Americans just a bit – fancy being able to visit Europe so very close to home!