It started off as a very rainy day in Québec. I woke up just in time to get ready to meet the walking tour at 10:00 am. I was surprised to see Will, whom I met in Montréal for all of five minutes, among the people signed up for the tour.
Despite a deluge of rain and a bit of thunder, our guide, Claude, brought us around for a tour of Vieux Québec. He showed us the Québecois Parliament, the entrance to the citadel, and the Plains of Abraham, as well as some of the reconstructed gates of the city’s fortification — only one original gates remains, since most had to be expanded to accommodate cars.
After covering the basics of the fortifications and the city’s history, Claude took us to the Ursuline Convent and their nearby school, one of if not the first educational institutions for girls in North America. He told us all about two historic figures from the history of Québec — Marie de L’Incarnation and François de Laval— who were recently canonized by Pope Francis.
From the Ursuline area, Claude brought us to Château Frontenac, one of the hotels built by the Canadian Pacific Railway company, who also built Château Lake Louise. We went inside the hotel for a bit to look at an art gallery and get out of the rain, before going on to see the seminary of Québec, the oldest existing building in Québec (now home to an amazing Québecois restaurant), and the newly-opened Maison de la littérature, a beautiful library and art showcasing space that the city built within a wonderfully renovated church. Claude also took us inside Basilique-Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Québec by way of a Holy Door, which was cool experience to have. We also saw a clock outside city hall that was a gift to the city from Switzerland before looping back to the hostel.
While on the tour, I asked Claude about something I’d started to notice once I got to Ottawa: silver-roofed buildings. I’d first noticed them on a Catholic cathedral, then again on quite a few historic buildings in Vieux Montréal. Claude’s answer brings us to:
Weird Things I Learned from Other Travelers (or Volunteer Tour Guides) Today:
The silver roofing seen on many older buildings in eastern Canada is a specific kind of tin plate roofing famous in the area. It is known for its artisanal qualities, as well as its durability and the general lack of maintenance it requires.
Will and I were both signed up for the ferry to Lévis, but it didn’t leave for an hour after the first tour ended, so we went for a quick walk to Rue St-Jean to get food. We stopped in to a spot called Snack Bar for burgers before going back to the hostel to meet up with our next guide, Danielle.
Danielle walked us down L’Escalier Casse-Cou to the ferry terminal. After a short ride across the St. Lawrence, we hiked up to a lookout, grateful for the cool breeze we found at the top. Then Danielle took us to Chocolat Favoris, a great chocolate and ice cream shop. The rain had done nothing to cool off the air or cut through the humidity, so ice cream — or mango sorbet for me — was exactly what the doctor ordered. Shortly after, we took the ferry back to Québec, and I enjoyed the view that was so similar to the opening shots of Alfred Hitchcock’s I Confess, a movie I studied last year.
I did a quick bit of shopping then rested for a while. Danielle had invited me to come out with some people from the hostel to celebrate her birthday, and I thought it sounded fun, even if I have to be on the train tomorrow at 7:45 am.
Before joining the pub crawl, Will and I went to check out the Carrefour International de Québec’s exhibition in town. At night, certain parts of the city fill with somewhat avant-garde performance troupes, with each one presenting a different scene in their area. Will and I saw Fêter Quoi, which was set up like a kind of mini-parade featuring Carnival-style samba floats, a North Korean military parade, a Chinese dragon, and a Pride march. We also saw Le Désordre, which was made to look like a societal collapse that also featured a bonfire and ball pit, and Machineries, which honestly reminded me a a haunted house with its eery lighting and roaming cast. We also walked by an installation that looked like a drive-in theatre; the insides of the cars facing the screen actually lit up with colors complimentary to the ones showing on the screen.
Around 10:30 pm, Will and I went to join the pub crawl. Our first stop was Ninkasi, where I tried what I learned was a traditional Québecois shot: whisky and maple syrup. Not bad at all. There I met Karan, from Boston, and we bonded as the only non-francophones at the table. At Ninkasi we were joined by Justin and Danny, whom I’d met earlier at the hostel. Not long after they got there, we moved on Nelligan’s Irish Pub. We shared a pitcher of La Fin du Monde, then made our way to Snack Bar to grab a late night meal. I ordered my first poutine ever, and I can say that it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Maybe not something I’d seek out again, but when in Québec!
Back at the hostel, we ate our snacks. Akim, one of the guys who works at the hotel, offered us some maple sugar bacon pie, which was actually totally awesome and something I would seek out again. With our snacks finished, all of us headed off to bed.
I stayed out later than intended, but I think I’ll be in okay shape come morning. At least all I have to do tomorrow is sleep on the trains. I catch my first at 7:45 am to Montréal, then go straight from there to Toronto, where I’ll hang out until 10:00 pm waiting for the final train to Winnipeg.
It’s hard to believe that today was my last real experiential day of this adventure. After this, it’s just two days on the train then convocation!