Colonialism’s footprint runs along the walls of Quebec. The streets look like Paris, yet the shops sell dream catchers, moccasins and hats made of beaver skin. The people speak French, yet vestiges of Inuit and Algonquin words linger; the city’s name “kebec” means in Algonquin “where the river narrows,” referring to where the icy serpentine that is the Saint Lawrence River narrows at a cliff where our hotel, Chateau Frontenac, stands watch and waits for guests to arrive. Designed by American architect Bruce Price, Chateau Frontenac was built to entice luxury travelers riding the Canadian Pacific Railway. More than 100 years later, it’s filled with families enjoying a break from the routine, not to mention a lovely sixth floor swimming pool that offers great views of the city skyline and of the Laurentian Mountains.
I have visited Vancouver and Toronto several times each, but never Quebec City, where this week I am enjoying maple fondue, waipiti, and poutine. I’m managing to still fit into my jeans by swimming every morning, biking along the St. Lawrence, and walking all over old Quebec, including around Quartier Petit Champlain. This neighborhood is very close to Chateau Frontenac and offers the contrasts of the Old and New Worlds. Several artists keep their shops here, but I’ll blog more Quebec’s amazing art scene later.
During our stay, we’re sampling Quebecois cuisine, and have learned “le petit dejeuner” is not at all petit: beans, toast, eggs, sausage, and pork pie. You won’t feel hungry for lunch until about 3 pm. The dinners aren’t petit either. Our menu last night at Aux Anciens Canadiens looked more like a guide to a zoo, but it was actually quite helpful since I thought “waipiti” sounded more like a colorful, tropical bird than a large, hairy cousin to the elk and moose. Since 1675, Aux Anciens Canadiens has been serving gourmet game and spirits to travelers seeking to escape the chill off the river. Come hungry and eat slowly by the fireplace.
Time to digest, from all that I’ve eaten to all that I’ve seen these last few days. More to come from this rich and fascinating city…bonsoir et a demain!