Canada in 2013 page 6 -- Quebec City and Baie-st-Paul, PQ 26-28 June 2013
All pictures, unless otherwise noted, are copyright 2013 by John A. and Elizabeth B. Lucas. All rights reserved.

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26-June (morning departure) Montreal PQ to Quebec City on VIA Corridor Train

No surprises for the second segment on the VIA Corridor trains. We arrived in late afternoon in the most European of North American cities. Quebec City is perhaps 7 or hours by car from our home. Of the eastern Canadian cities John had visited before, this was the one that John remembered vividly, due in no small part to visiting in his early teens (about 1961 at a guess).

Accommodation: 71 Hotel
Transfers: Service de Limousine Guy Sampson
Tour: Old Québec Tours

71 Hotel is another small hotel in the Lower Town of Quebec, this built in a hundred-year old bank building but very modern on the inside. Our room looked over the roof of the Museum of Civilisation across the street to catch a glimpse of the St. Lawrence River beyond. "Ample fenestration" (a quote from the marketing hype) gave us a clear view of flags blowing straight out in rain blowing sideways. It didn't rain all the time here, but we saw little sun at all.

27 June was devoted to, wait for it..., another train ride, this time a daytime round trip on "The Train of Le Massif de Charlevoix", a ride along the north shore of the St. Lawrence River. The specific tour was "Baie-Saint-Paul Discovery". At times the scenery was dramatic as the mountains reached down to the shoreline producing a rock-bound coastal view. At others times the scenery was flat and marshy with the river well away from the tracks. We didn't see a single other train either going out or returning so this line may only be used for these excursions though that is hard to believe.

The train leaves from the Montmorency Falls, one of the places that John accurately retained in his memory.

The train also passes through the town of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, passing alongside the basilica, a site of pilgrimage and a Lourdes-like reputation for miraculous cures.

Our train halted in Baie-Saint-Paul, a town of 7000 or so in mainly agricultural surroundings, though there are summer and winter outdoor sports and tourism activities. To our surprise after our return, this isolated town is apparently the place of origin for Cirque du Soleil. There was a helicopter tour on offer during the stay, but the high wind and low ceiling made that an unlikely choice on this particular day. So we just walked around the town seeing what could be seen before catching the train back to Quebec City. Here is a track maintenance crew working before the other half of our train continues on down the St. Lawrence to La Malbaie.

Back to Quebec and another the day, 28 June. The schedule included a city tour, a free afternoon and early evening, then a transfer to Charny (a suburb of Levis PQ across the St. Lawrence from Quebec City) for our train to Halifax.

Quebec City is a two-level city, separated by steep bluffs. The two levels are accessible by steep twisting roads and by a funicular railway. We stayed in the Lower City. The Upper City is the portion with the city walls. The tour was given in both English and French by the driver, who was driving with one hand while he held the microphone with the other! (Thanks to him for halting the wipers briefly for a shot or two through the windshield.)

After the tour, we tried walking about with plans to take the funiculaire to Upper Town for further exploration. We got soaked and took refuge in the
Musée de la civilisation which despite its inclusive aims turned out to mostly about French Civilization with the temporary exhibitions featuring aspects of Parisian history and culture.

We gave up and went back to the hotel (across the street, remember). We had already checked out but went into the attached restaurant and had pizzas (French interpretation of course) and local beer while we dried ourselves. Then, just before it got dark it also stopped raining and we could at least wander a few of the streets of the Lower Town before it got too dark and our chauffeur was due.

Quebec is a city that begs to be explored on foot if the weather allows.

And so we left French-speaking Canada, Beth's high school French with only some of the rust removed, and John's vocabulary recalled from dim recesses of memory (John's mother taught high school French which is exactly why he did not take French. He absorbed some of it anyway). Canada has been officially bilingual for years so in theory, everyone everywhere "knows" both English and French, though seldom equally well. That was not the case fifty years ago when Province Quebec spoke far less English than now, even as a second language. One has to wonder whether fifty years from now, the US might be approaching English-Spanish bilingualism even without the equivalent of French Separatism to force the issue.
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