Rising at our quiet lodging at the whistle-clean Hotel Sepia in Quebec City, with the LaPorte Bridge spanning the St. Lawrence visible from our window, Jane and I prepared ourselves for our second day in “New France.” Of course, we enjoyed our provided breakfast and then awaited the shuttle that would take us across town to the districts of Upper and Lower Quebec City.
The previous day we felt — via the Hop on-Hop off Bus — we’d covered Upper City pretty well, with our time spent at such favorite sites at the Le Chateau Frontenac, the Citadel, the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Quebec and the Governor’s Promenade, which provided us such great views of the St. Lawrence.
So, our concentration on our second day would be on Lower Quebec City, connected to Upper both by a long set of 200 steps, ones that have been there since 1698, and also by the Funiculaire du Vieux-Quebec, a funicular cable car railway that descends from the Dufferin Terrace near the Frontenac down into the settlement’s original site.
For those of you who’ve been to Pittsburgh, you’re familiar with the Duquesne Incline, another funicular railway that connects Pittsburgh’s south side to Mt. Washington, the community that overlooks the Golden Triangle. This is a beautiful area highlighted by the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers, forming the Ohio River.
The pace of Lower City, I found, was a bit less frenetic than what I saw the day before above me. Also, I thought the souvenir shops had more variety. I’m a sucker whenever I travel for a T-shirt or sweatshirt with the area emblazoned, so that itch needed to be scratched, even though my drawers and closet shelves at home are literally crammed with that type of apparel. I simply can’t help myself. I also needed some items for my loved ones who remain in my heart even when I’m far away traveling my roads.
To picture in your mind Lower City, imagine narrow streets and tightly packed stone buildings in a low-lying area at the base of a cliff with Upper City about 300 feet above you with the St. Lawrence forming the other natural boundary in the narrow district.
There is a considerable art presence in Lower. Jane and I delighted in watching several street musicians that day. Also, if you go, in the area at the foot of the aforementioned Breakneck Stairs, in the neighborhood the French refer to as the Quartier Petit-Champlain, located just below the Frontenac, there is a very large mural that provides a nice artistic glimpse of Old Quebec.
Nearby is the ferry service that connects Quebec City and Leuis, the city that occupies the shore south of the St. Lawrence. The ferry not only is a conveyance to Leuis but also provides a relatively inexpensive way to view Quebec City’s skyline, especially after dark when lights are ablaze, especially the well-illuminated Frontenac.
Jane and I also enjoyed the Place Royale, which is the epicenter of where Quebec City originated in 1608 when Samuel deChamplain erected a storage shed that became the city’s first structure. This site is named to pay homage to Louis XIV, and, for those who love architecture when traveling, this area boasts the largest collection of 17th and 18th century buildings in North America.
Another must-see is Notre-Dame des Victoires (Our Lady of Victories), which faces the square and is, indeed, the prettiest stone church I’ve ever seen. The church dates back to 1688. Largely destroyed by British bombardment prior to the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in 1759, it was restored and completed by 1816.
Of course, dining and a bit of guilty-pleasure day drinking are always items which need addressed when I travel, and there were certainly no shortage of pubs and restaurants in Old City to enjoy some French-inspired cuisine like a baguette sandwich, which I paired with a nice Maudite dark, one of the hearty eight percent brews found in so many European cafes. Our cafe was called the Theatre Petit Champlain. With a shower of colorful leaves falling from the trees that overlooked the patio where we sat and a street musician playing a mean piano less than 10 feet away on a sun-dappled French Canadian day, and absolutely no time clocks anywhere to punch, my life at that particular moment was just about perfect.
After our day was completed in Old City, we re-boarded our shuttle provided by our hotel and returned across town for a final night’s repose at the Sepia. Then it would be back across the LaPorte Bridge over the St. Lawrence in the morning while bidding a fond adieu to Quebec City.