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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Big Ride - Day7 part1

Quebec city must be the eighth-grade school trip capital of the world...

Since we arrived, we’ve literally been wading through large groups of kids, all of them seemingly in a narrow age group between 8th and 9th grade. The groups seemed evenly split between French speaking and English speaking kids, and were usually led by a pair or trio of adults, with the kids often in color-matched t-shirts. There would be the red group, or the yellow group, or the blue group. In the evenings, however, the kids were in slightly more formal attire, with the boys in slacks and shirts, and the young girls in dresses that to us seemed too adult, and too revealing in style. But then again, we’re all Dads with daughters, and seemingly growing too old-fashioned for today’s styles for young women. It was more a problem of age-appropriateness than the actual styles that worried us, as I think they would have looked fine of they were in their mid-twenties going out to party.
However, as daunting as it was surfing the throngs of young people in Quebec’s old city, we were impressed that they were all polite, considerate and well behaved, if a bit goofy and awkward. Unlike when Bro and I were kids on large school trips, no one was destroying anything or acting up, and their presence didn’t really disrupt us very much, even though there were thousands and thousands of these young people crawling everywhere.
I’m sad I didn’t specifically set out to photograph these school groups, since I was usually trying to make photographs around Quebec that didn’t have them in it. Their colorful shirts and sheer numbers would have probably made some interesting photos. Being a reformed misanthrope, its often difficult for me to think to photograph people rather than avoid photographing them.
Our hotel, the Hotel Sainte-Anne, is right in the midst of the Old City, on a pedestrian-only cobbled street adjacent to both the Terrasse Dufferin (boardwalk) and the Chateau Frontenac, so foot traffic is high and people watching is at its best. I could have spent the whole visit right there, shooting street photography of all the various people who had come to tour Quebec.
I did my best to blend in with the tourists, in my green shorts, orange shirt, brown and black shoes, and camera bag, just in case anyone should mistake me as a local.
At any rate, after a nice breakfast at the Hotel Sainte-Anne (poached eggs and wheat toast for me), we headed out for a walk around the city, heading specifically toward the defensive walls of the city and La Citadelle. Quebec City has the distinction of being the only walled city in all of North America, and that is a large part of what gives it its European flavor.
The gate at Grand Alyee

The Citadelle is a four-point star fort (the sheer cliffs serving as the fifth point), and home to the Royal 22e Regiment, and still an active barracks. So while access isn’t restricted per se, you can only enter the Fort proper under the auspices of a guide, supposedly for security reasons. Indeed, cadets were training everywhere around the fort, and regular uniformed military were going about their business amid the tour groups.
Gillian, with a fort occupation timeline (French/British/Canadian)

Our guide, Gillian, was a native English speaker, but spoke fluent French as well, as French is not only the official language of Quebec, but the only language of the Regiment stationed at the Citadelle, and by law the Regiment’s name must be pronounced in French whenever referred to officially.
One of the many interesting stories told by our guide was about this really big gun at the fort, set at its highest point on Cap Diamond, that could fire shrapnel charges up to 5 kms away. In the winter, when the St. Lawrence is frozen, the gun (which took 11 men to operate) would be fired onto the river so you could check your range and distance by the easily seen holes left in the ice. One time in the 1920’s, the shell ricocheted off the ice into an elderly lady’s home across the river, virtually destroying the home, but leaving her with only a slight bruise. The frozen river was never used for target practice after that.
The large gun atop Cap Diamond

Another fun tidbit is that the regimental mascot is a goat, always named Baptiste, and awarded to the regiment by Queen Elizabeth, as the goat signifies loyalty, honor and persistence. The 22nd is one of the most decorated regiments, with dozens of battle honours and three recipients of the Victoria Cross. They are perhaps most famous for the Battle at Vimy France during WWI, when the Canadian victory at Vimy, after 3 years of British attempts and losses, cemented Canada’s place in western history and launched the fierce patriotism Canadians share today.
Bro in the honourable role of baptiste

After touring the Citadelle, we headed down to the Lower Town (where we visited via Funicular last night). Having taken the funicular both down and up last night, we opted to take the “breakneck” stairs going down, knowing full well we were going to take the funicular back up. One place we had missed last night, and were eager to see, was the Place Royale (Royal Plaza) that in photos looked most like the plaza’s I had seen when in Rome.
Bottom segment of breakneck stairs, entering Lower Town

It did not disappoint, being full of lively people and great places to grab an espresso. At its center was the Catherdral of Notre Dame des Victoires.
When I was a boy, we lived across the street from the Basilica of Our Lady Of Victory, in western New York, where I was an altar boy, and Bro and I attended the church school there. So it was nice to see another “Our Lady of Victory” church. Makes me wish we in the USA would pronounce it correctly though, “Notra Dahm” instead of “Noe-ter Dayme”. But then we also do “byoo-fert” instead of “bow-fort”, and “sel-tiks” instead of “kel-tiks”. Again, we just lookin’ for the cement pond….
Place Royale

Notre Dame des Victoires, in Place Royale

The Place was getting full of schoolkids again, so we headed out to the edge of the Old Town, looking for a local diner I had heard of, “Le Buffet de L’Antiquaire”, on Rue St Paul in the antiques district, and to try our hand at a French menu.
We must be from Byoofert, ‘cause we thought Le Buffet might actually be a buffet-style restaurant, but it just translates locally to something like “Lunchean Diner”. It was an opportunity to try some typical Quebecois fare, and Bro gets the gold star for trying the local favorite; “Le Cipaille” – a meat pot pie made with three types of meat with an actual French name. I ordered the “Le Fish ‘n Chips Maison”, even though I had no idea what it was, and I think Dad got the “Le Lobstehr Roll with Le Fries”. We were surprised when fish and chips and a lobster roll arrived, but were most pleased, anyway, with our mastery of French so far.
No english here, well, kinda...
Sidewalk eating at Le Buffet de L'Antiquaire
The three-meat Le Cipaille. Bro gets points for both ordering it, and being able to eat it all.

Diggin' in

The tour at the Citadelle had been hot, and the walk to the far side of town was even hotter, so it was a very nice respite to sit out on the sidewalk, on a shady side street, and enjoy our fancy vittles and local brew, and watch the neighborhood folks go by. Next, we head back to Upper Town and the Terrasse Dufferin for an ice cream...

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