A noise distant in my mind’s memory woke me this morning at 4:45 am. I rose from my bed and tip-toed quietly to the window and looked out and all I could see was a thick, wet fog that had evidently wrapped itself around our ship during the night.
I listened quietly and heard it again; the long mournful sound of the ship’s fog horn alerting all who could hear that we were slowly cruising up the Saint Lawrence River.
I returned to bed only to lay awake in the dark so I returned to the balcony and could see a few lights twinkling along a strip of land, a small lighthouse and when I shifted my eyes downward a hint of the green-gray waters below.
Now fully awake, I bundled up and stepped out onto the balcony and watched as the fog lifted just a little so I could see just a hint of the shoreline. The fog lifted and I could see the city’s shoreline and another cruise ship already in port. As I sat there, I found myself thinking about the day that lay ahead of us.
What is it about the word castle that stirs daydreaming of crystal chandeliers, ball gowns and beautiful gardens? I found myself reminiscing about our tour of Europe several years ago and the many castles we visited. I remember marveling over the beauty and opulence of these wonderful places and wondered what life was like for those who inhabited these beautiful places.
When it came time to choose a tour for our visit to Old Town Quebec, of course, I chose the one called, “Legendary Quebec: Old Town Walking Tour and Tea at the Chateau Frontenac Castle”. I love castles and I absolutely love tea!
We actually visited Old Town Quebec while on a motorcycle trip with friends back in 1996. We walked all over the lower and upper portions of this beautiful walled city and loved it so we were excited to be back.
As I mentioned a day or two ago, the ship was cruising very slowly because of the right whale migration consequently, we arrived in port later than scheduled. Because of the late arrival we were docked at the old port instead of the port at the center of town.
After lunch, we met our tour guide on the pier and started our journey towards the city. Our guide was very nice and made our rather long walk from the pier interesting sharing a great deal of information about the city.
We finally arrived at the city and it was just as I remember; beautiful. I love the cobblestone streets, lovely stone buildings, the flower boxes hanging from the windows, the narrow streets lined with shops and restaurants. We continued our walk and came upon the most amazing building. If you looked straight at the building you would have thought it was three dimensional and yet the walls were as flat as any building. But the paintings on this wall gave you the illusion that you were looking down a street you could walk through the archway and continue on. Amazing!
We then entered the Place Royale square credited with being the birthplace of French civilization in North America. According to history, “In 1608, Samuel de Champlain chose this site for his fortified ‘habitation,” New France’s first permanent settlement. As we stood listening to our guide, characters in period costume walked around the square stopping to talk to visitors.
The focal points of the square included a bust of Louis XIV and the beautiful stone church Notre-Dame-des-Victories. Construction of the church started in 1687 on the site Champlain’s residence and was completed in 1723.
We left this lovely square and continued our walk along several wonderful and very busy streets and made our way to the funicular to go up to upper Old Town Quebec.
While waiting in line to board the funiculaire I stepped into a small shop to purchase a magnet for Kristine.
The first thing we saw as we exited the station was a large bronze statue of Champlain. But that is not what caught our attention. There was a large crowded gather around a man who was preparing to do some ‘magical feat’ while they watched. We could not as we had to move on.
We walked along the boardwalk taking in the sights and sounds that surrounded us. There were several ships in port today so it was the town was very busy and very noisy. We took a moment to look from our vantage point to see the St. Lawrence River below.
I love to look at sculptures and statues whenever I visit a new city but I must say what caught my eye as we started our walk down the boardwalk was a statue of a 7 meter tall bronze elephant by Salvador Dali called Lˋéléphant Spatial (Space Elephant). I found this piece to be very different, interesting and yet beautiful.
We walked along and saw the cannons that Randy and I had straddled when last we were here and, on the hill behind, the obelisk commemorating the gallantry of generals Wolfe and Montcalm who fought in the battle of the Plains of Abraham.
To the right of the obelisk was an entrance to the chateau. We were off to have tea at the Frontenac. I was so excited. We entered the chateau and were the first tour group to arrive. Unfortunately, there was a bit of a mix-up and we had to wait as two other groups went ahead.
We were finally escorted to a small room with tables preset with delicious looking treats. We took our seats and shortly a very handsomely dressed server came around and poured tea for everyone. All the treats and tea were delicious.
Our guide then escorted us down to a square in lower Old Town to wait for our shuttle back to the ship.
Randy and I had a wonderful time but were happy to be heading back to the ship to prepare for the evening. Tonight we would be saying our goodbyes to our tablemates who will be leaving the ship in the morning.
Today we overnight in Quebec as tomorrow is the last day of this leg of our cruise and the beginning of our third leg that will take us back down the coast and back to Cape Liberty, New Jersey and home.