Sitting in a quiet little street-side bistro sipping cappuccino and noshing on a buttery croissant, as the tourists stroll by. Paris in the summer? Not quite, but Quebec City is especially close. There is a distinct European feel to the city. John and I were very fortunate to have a couple of local tour guides for a walk-about around Vieux-Quebec. Our new friends – Kathy and Brian live in Old Quebec and they gave us a personal tour with a detailed account of the history of the city while pointing out some of the more interesting landmarks.
Quebec City is one of the oldest settlements in Canada and is the only fortified city in North America. Samuel de Champlain founded the settlement in 1608. The location on the St. Lawrence was felt optimal for shipping routes as well as defensive tactics. In 1665, there were just under 600 people living in the city. Total the population of the city is 516,000 based on the 2011 census. French is the primary language of 95% of the population of Quebec City but more than 30% of the people are fluently bilingual. We had no language impediments during our visit – except our own. Everyone was quite willing to converse with us in English.
As a city, Quebec has an unmatched abundance of history, culture and architecture. The impressive Chateau Frontenac was originally built for the Canadian Pacific Railway. It has become key tourist attraction, along with Notre Dame des Victories Cathedral, the Citadel, Quebec Parliament Buildings and the Plains of Abraham.
I imagine that Old Quebec radiates the charm of France. Narrow, winding cobbled streets lined with shops, cafes and quaint offerings of rooms to let. Artists and scholars alike are drawn here by the city’s history and unpretentious beauty.
Kathy’s story says it all: She had planned to come to Quebec City for 4 months to improve her conversational French. That was over 20 years ago.
Quebec City captivates a person. I am already planning our next visit back.
Au Revoir for now.