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A Pilgrimage to the Walled City of Quebec - A Traveller's Tale

Farther on, in the rolling Plains of
Abraham studded with defence towers, I replayed in my imagination the great battle that
once raged for the control of Quebec City. Seeking shelter, I walked towards the Citadel
and up a grassy slope to find myself high on a wall above an old moat. The Citadel was as
inaccessible as it had been in the days of its glory. As I walked along the embankment,
the Citadel blended in with the plains and there was no indication that a fortress was
hidden within the thick, grass-topped walls.

Finally, finding a small access road I walked in, hoping for a view of this famous
fortification. I was rewarded with a tour ($5) of this still-operating military base. The
grounds within the walls were fairly extensive and the buildings a mix of pre-Citadel
defences and newer, more modern buildings. The tour took us through a number of the old
buildings, two of which were set up as museums and filled with various military
paraphernalia. Many of the buildings were made from local quarried stone and the interior
arches were formed from the brick ballast of European sailing ships. The guide was
extremely helpful with the history of the Citadel, the most important fortification the
British built in North America.

alt="Quebec City is more of a French-European town than a Canadian city. It is so unique that it made the UNESCO World Heritage list and has thus become a major tourist destination. Copyright Victoria Brooks."
border="0" width="250" height="210" align="left" hspace="5" vspace="5"> face="Times New Roman" size="3">Although the British were the last to help build and
defend Quebec City against the Americans and the French, don't expect your usual British
traditions and ceremony. In fact, there is little trace of the British remaining. The
French seem to have quietly ousted any Anglophiles and their culture. The only visible
hint that you are in Canada is the queen's head on the back of coins. Quebec City is more
of a French-European town than a Canadian city. It is so unique that it made the UNESCO
World Heritage list and has thus become a major tourist destination. Despite the flock of
tourists, crime remains very low and the people are some of the friendliest you could ever
hope to meet. However, you must follow one simple rule: Do not take sides if you are
confronted with a separatist debate; just nod politely and listen to what they have to


After my tour of the Citadel, I
headed back within the city walls for a bus tour of the city and surrounding countryside.
A bus seemed to be the perfect refuge from the rain and miserable cold. I decided to go
with Grey Line for an afternoon tour of the countryside and follow it up with a morning
city tour the next day. The country tour was not well organised and seemed more of a mass
tourism enterprise then a personal tour. I recommend a self-guided walking tour if weather
permits, but to see the country without a car you may have to suffer through an excursion
on a tour bus.

alt="After my tour of the Citadel, I headed back within the city walls for a bus tour of the city and surrounding countryside. Copyright Victoria Brooks."
border="0" width="250" height="375" align="right" hspace="5" vspace="5"> face="Times New Roman" size="3">First stop was Orleans Island, a scenic, historical
farming area that was absolutely exquisite with the colour of the autumn leaves when I
visited. Farther along we stopped at Montmorency Falls, which is fifty percent higher then
Niagara but nowhere near as wide. The cable car up the side is a joke -- too far from the
falls and too noisy to permit an enjoyable ride. However, a set of wooden stairs winds up
a black cliff on the other side of the falls, a most enjoyable walk starting close enough
to the base of the falls to be thoroughly saturated in mist. A suspension bridge crosses
above the falls and links the stairs and cable car, making it an enjoyable roundtrip. The
falls are indeed magnificent and viewpoints abound.

Farther on we stopped at Saint Anne's Basilica, a place that draws pilgrims from as far
away as Mexico. Within the main church are two chapels, one on top of each other. The
chapel upstairs is the most magnificent. The church proudly displays crutches and other
aids discarded by those who came and were cured. Within one of the stairwells, I found a
construction area where the new, unpainted walls were covered in graffiti. On close
inspection, the graffiti turned out to be prayers scribbled by pilgrims asking for help
from the good Saint Anne.

Also included in the bus tour is a stop at Chez Marie, a famous bread maker. At Chez
Marie, tourists receive a complimentary slice of bread (paid by the tour company) covered
in maple butter. They are then invited to buy the overpriced maple products offered for
sale. Steer clear unless forced to stop there on a tour.

Once back in town, tired and hungry, I went for dinner at Casse-Crepe Breton, a reasonably
priced crepe house filled with atmosphere and cheer. Hot chocolate is served in a bowl and
the whipping cream (if ordered) is generous enough to give you a heart attack. The food is
superb and there is usually a line up to get in.

alt="Several days can be spent here exploring the streets and shops, and watching the entertainment. Copyright Victoria Brooks."
border="0" width="250" height="362" align="left" hspace="5" vspace="5"> face="Times New Roman" size="3">The next morning after the city tour, the clouds began to
lift and the sun chased the cold into the shadows. It was only then that the true Quebec
City emerged. The street entertainers began to appear and the atmosphere, freed from the
weight of the clouds, grew more light-hearted. Several days can be spent here exploring
the streets and shops, and watching the entertainment. Everything is in perfect shape. The
buildings are either unravaged by the toils of time or have been rebuilt to historical
accuracy. The town truly does seem European. The best place to start a visit to old Quebec
City is by the tourist office near the Chateau Frontenac. The Chateau is easily the most
visible building in town and is the pride of the city. Take the funicular ($1.25) down to
a little cobblestone street known as Quartier Petit?Champlain that is lined with
interesting shops. In the middle of the quarter is a little park filled with
entertainment. At the end of the street is an ice cream shop specialising in maple
sundaes, the perfect thing to satisfy a sweet tooth that craves maple. They start with
soft ice cream, add maple butter, maple syrup, and maple-granulated sugar and top it off
with a maple sugar maple leaf. Those who love maple will be in ecstasy. Also in the lower
town is the antique district and the Museum of Civilisation. This museum is unique in its
modern, artistic presentation of its exhibits.

Back in the upper portion, the walk around the city walls is pleasant. I especially
enjoyed the artists' ally, rue du Trésor. Many a print can be found, from a cheap
four-dollar picture to ones that will cost you a couple hundred. Serious inspection may
yield a few originals. For further city orientation and history, visit the Quebec
Experience, a short (30-minute) 3D-multimedia presentation combining futuristic techniques
to illustrate the past. This experience has to be seen to be believed. There is so much to
discover within the city walls, I could not possible experience it all over a weekend. Go
see for yourself, I promise you won't be disappointed.

The Official Quebec Tourism website is at href="http://www.otc.cuq.qc.ca" data-cke-saved-href="http://www.otc.cuq.qc.ca">www.otc.cuq.qc.ca

For information phone 1-800-363-7777 (toll free in North America). Elsewhere, call 0 (514)

Photos and information about rue du Trésor can be found at href="http://www.ruedutresor.qc.ca/anglais/main.html" data-cke-saved-href="http://www.ruedutresor.qc.ca/anglais/main.html">www.ruedutresor.qc.ca/anglais/main.html