We continue Mike's walking tour of Canada with a visit to Quebec City...
Our walking tour of Canada started in the historic city of Quebec which shares its name with the Province of Quebec, the largest in Canada and the second most densely populated.
Whilst Canada is a dual language nation, the province of Quebec is the only one in Canada to have French as its sole official language. However this only adds to the unique character of the place and is not a problem for the many visitors that come to see this lovely city. As with all the other places in Canada we visited, the locals were happy to see us, welcoming and always ready to help.
After our flight from London to Montreal we boarded a little 40-seater plane for the 35 minute hop into Quebec’s small and friendly airport. Despite the brief flight the sole hostess managed to serve drinks and pretzels to all the passengers, and the plane flew low enough for us to get a first glimpse of the spectacular show that nature puts on in Autumn as the leaves change from green to red and gold.
The rest of our party had already spent four days in and around Montreal before driving up to Quebec. We met up with them at dinner but they were not surprised when, shortly after, we decided it was time for bed.
The next morning we boarded our coach for the short drive to the Jacques-Cartier National Park, 260 square miles of mountains, lakes, rivers and walking trails. Blessed with almost cloudless blue skies, warm sunshine and the glorious spectacle of trees of varying hues, we chatted to our new-found friends as we walked the steep inclines through the forest. However, this first walk proved to be the toughest of our trip, especially as walking holidays were new to us.
As the going got tougher and trails became staircases, conversation ceased and it became a struggle for us two beginners to keep up the pace. Thankfully our guide, Jean-Francois, made regular stops to admire the view and allow us to catch up. Those views were fantastic and well worth the climb, and as the trail started to descend we felt we had already achieved something special.
We stopped at the Visitors Centre and Jean-Francois produced picnic lunches for us all at a spectacular location, right on the water’s edge. It couldn’t have been better.
We had free time to explore the old town of Quebec, a UNESCO Heritage Site. Not only is it easy to explore on foot it is also the best way to see all it has to offer.
Old Quebec has a strong European feel and is the only fortified city in North America north of Mexico. It is divided into the higher and lower towns, the latter being right at the water’s edge of the St Lawrence Seaway and offering moorings to an increasing number of cruise ships. We enjoyed walking along part of the fortification walls and gates that stretch nearly 5.0 km around the edge of the old city. The streets are lined with buildings of great character, none more imposing than the Chateau Frontenac. It claims to be the most photographed hotel in the world and we could see why.
We walked along the boardwalk past the hotel to the Citadel and the Plains of Abraham where, in 1759, the English and French armies, under Generals Wolf and Montcalm, battled it out. The Plains are now a spacious urban park and being right in the City are easily accessible to locals and tourists alike.
Dominating the old town from the heights of Parliament Hill is the impressive Parliament Building where Quebec’s National Assembly meets, its graceful entrance marked by the Fountaine de Tourny, winner of a gold medal at the 1855 World’s Fair in Paris and now celebrating Quebec’s 400th anniversary.
The top of Parliament Hill marks the start of Grande Allee where we enjoyed an evening meal. Not an alley in any sense of the word, this lively street is the place to go for restaurants, bars and night clubs. It has an elegant and buzzy Parisian-style feel to it, there are places to suit all budgets and in true Parisian style, diners eat outside on warm evenings.
We were sorry to leave Quebec, it had a easy style and so much to offer. Most definitely somewhere to go back to.
For more information on this and other walking holidays contact HF Holidays on 0345 470 8558 or visit www.hfholidays.co.uk
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