Sunday, June 26, 2011

Quebec City...

As old a city as Montreal is, it's not nearly the oldest in the Province of Quebec. That distinction goes to Quebec City (Ville de Québec), founded in 1608, and about a two and a half hour drive to the east from Montreal.

I woke up early on Tuesday, and I left my hotel in Montreal at about 7:30am. Despite calls for rain, it was remarkably clear, and the sun was shining all day. I was heading to Quebec City to meet my buddy, Grammy winning guitarist Wayne Johnson. We were doing a show that night, and we'd decided to try to get in some "touristy stuff" beforehand.

I've never stayed the night in Quebec City. I always drive out from Montreal, do what I gotta' do, and then drive back to Montreal. Wayne flew from Los Angeles to Quebec City on Monday, so we decided we'd get together early and head out into "Old Quebec", or Vieux Quebec.

Vieux Quebec is an area surrounded by thick ramparts, built when such things were necessary to help fend off invaders. The district of Vieux Quebec was designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1985, so the walls will forever stand:

The ramparts of Old Quebec

The city within the walls has a very distinctive "European" feel. The streets are narrow, many are cobblestone, and shops and restaurants are plentiful. It's easy to forget that you're only about an hour's drive from the United States:

A side street in Vieux Quebec
An "artisan's alley" in Vieux Quebec

Like any North American city, there's plenty of traffic in Quebec City. The traffic, however, isn't confined to just motor vehicles. Like Montreal (as well as other Canadian cities), horse drawn carriage is a pretty popular way to go about seeing the town:

A horse drawn carriage in Vieux Quebec

 The architecture in Quebec City; at least the Vieux Quebec district, is pretty awesome. They did it big and they did it proud, and there are countless building with roofs reaching skyward:

One of the most imposing buildings in all of Quebec City, in or out of the Vieux Quebec district, in the Fairmont le Chateau Frontenac. Originally built in 1893, it sits on a cape overlooking the St. Lawrence River. It's hosted world leaders such as Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt. Although it's not the tallest building in Quebec City, it is arguably the most recognizable, and certainly one of the most photographed:

The Fairmont Le Château Frontenac

Everywhere you look in Vieux Quebec, you're reminded of some "old world" environment. Every street looks like it could've been plucked out of some random European city and dropped into northeastern Canada. There's a charm there, and which which isn't lost on the locals. They know their city is viewed as something from a by-gone era, but they also know that, despite the architecture and decor, that they're very much a 21st century city.

But the cool side streets abound:

After spending the better part of the afternoon wondering around the city, it was, sadly, time for us to go. We decided that, before we did, we would hit one of the local eateries for a late lunch. I opted for the "smoked meat" sandwich. That's it. That's the only way they identify it. They don't call it beef or pork or anything else; just "smoked meat". And it's ridiculous. Wayne opted for some seafood pasta thing, which looked pretty damn good until I saw the mussels.

Mr. Johnson, however, approved...

Wayne Johnson in Vieux Quebec

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