Monday, July 21, 2014

Montreal-Quebec-Nova Scotia Day 12. Around Québec City

I had a grand day playing tourist. To begin with I had to figure out a way of getting from Laval University to downtown without having to pedal upward all the time. It would have been a lot easier if I had a decent map, but with what little I had I cut north, to a small creek, rightly thinking that all small rivers lead to the big river. Good luck was with me, and after zig-zagging a bit I found a bicycle path that took me all the way to the wharves, and from there to the “low city”, which was the original location of the settlement founded by Samuel de Champlain in the 1608. This low part of the city is on a narrow bar formed at the foot of the cliff, and is now occupied by all sorts of quaint shops arranged around the original church and its small plaza. I decided to park my bike in this part of the town, and after wandering through the lively streets I worked my way on foot up the cliff to Vieux Québec.

Vieux Québec is a citadel atop a very steep cliff, surrounded by ramparts where cannons made it impregnable (until the British scaled the cliffs about a mile downstream and defeated the French army in the Battle of the Plains of Abraham on September 13, 1759). The old city is dominated by a castle-like resort that looks very ancient but is probably no more than 80 years old, and by the original buildings of Université Laval, which grew from the Seminar de Québec, established in 1663. The university is the oldest higher education institution in Canada. I wandered happily among the old buildings, window shopping and enjoying the very European feeling of the old city.

Another unique attraction of the old city is the Promenade des Governors, which is a broad walking path that hangs off the cliff and connects the old city with the old fort and the Plains on Abraham to the west. Besides being a favorite path of joggers and tourists, it is probably the best place to admire the St. Lawrence River as it widens downstream from the city.

Thoroughly relaxed after my promenade through the city I took to my bike, and went all around the city and up the southern shore of the river. Hundreds of people were there, happily bicycling along (a few couples and families, but also lots and lots of singles), or roller blading. At the very end of the bicycling path there is a small park with many young trees, which has been taken over by the reading society. Mostly older couples bring their folding chairs, get under the shade of one of the young trees, and read to their hearts’ content, enjoying the view of the river and the gentle breeze. I was energized to do the same thing, pulled out my Kindle, and promptly dozed off.

To get back in the afternoon I had to bike all the way back to the “low city”, and from there followed my original trek back to the university following the biking path. Truly, seeing Québec by bike is a great way to discover dozens of small parks and gardens. It is a lovely city with many attractive suburbs. The only thing is that cursed ridge. I huffed and puffed pushing my bicycle up the slope, but finally made it to the top. I was getting ready to mount on my bike, swinging my right leg over the sit as I pushed with my left leg, when a sharp pain stabbed my left knee. Rats! I am going to have to be very careful with that knee, because I still have 20 days to go! 

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