Quebec City, North America’s heritage city
By its history, its site, its institutions, its architecture and its cultural environment, Quebec City is undeniably a unique city in North America.
First of all, a tip of the hat to the founder, Samuel de Champlain, a Saintongean of honor, conviction and perseverance who fought for France to take a minimal interest in making New France a colony of immigrants and not just a “Pays de Cocagne” for the insatiable beaver fur traders. While having crossed the Atlantic 25 times for his life’s work, he would carry out his task until his death in Quebec City in 1635.
Quebec City, the capital of the province of Quebec, attracts millions of visitors for many reasons.
The main one? Its unique history as a capital city that spanned three political regimes: the French (1608-1763), the British (1763-1867) and the Canadian regime that made Canada a country of four provincial entities (now 10) and the federal entity. But, in fact, the colonial ties with Great Britain continued for several decades.
More French-speaking, though less populous, than Montreal, it is the quintessence of the cultures it has experienced. Quebecers today call themselves Quebecers first: they are what they are, a little, a lot, because of their French origins, the institutions established by the British conquerors, and their proximity to the First Nations people (that’s how Canada’s Aboriginal peoples are called).
Tour guides in Quebec
Five ideas for guided tours in Quebec City
The must-see Old Quebec
Essentially, but not only, it is inside the ramparts that we discover Old Quebec.
Inside these walls, streets drawn 350 years ago (for us, it’s old…), along which religious institutions (Augustines, Ursulines, Recollets and Jesuits) were established. The first ones arrived from France at the very beginning of the colony to take care of the lost soul of the natives, to save them from their ignorance of only one god…
It is while strolling through these streets that one discovers the architectural wealth acquired during the two political regimes. And the impressive views of the St. Lawrence River from the glacis of the Citadel. Or, stroll on the Dufferin Terrace adjacent to the impressive hotel “Le Château Frontenac” (which is a castle in name only). From there, you will see the narrow part of the river, between Quebec City and Levis, whose Algonquin toponym Kebec, was adopted by the French: “Where the river narrows”.
At the bottom, the lower town: Place Royale and Petit-Champlain street. On the left bank of the St. Lawrence, a neighborhood that was completely revamped 40 years ago to give tourists the impression of being back at the turn of the 17th century. The inhabitants have gradually abandoned the neighborhood but the merchants have kept the authenticity of the period exterior facades.
Quebec City, its streets, are a museum in itself. But some are worth the trip. After all, for those who want to understand the place, the culture, the creative subtleties of a people, the museums are another gateway to the discovery of Quebec and its artists of genius. The “Musée des Beaux-Arts” brings together the ancient and the modern of visual art, the Québécois and the Inuit the essentials of decorative art and a few prestigious exhibitions passing through Quebec City.
In the lower town, the Museum of Civilization for the sociological and playful sides of the society here.
About ten kilometers north of Quebec City, an 82-meter high waterfall attracts attention. Well, it doesn’t have the size of Niagara Falls in terms of flow and beauty, but… it is higher.
From the top, from the bottom, it is still impressive, summer and winter. If you want to do both observatories (upstream and downstream), there is a cable car and for the more fit, the 486 steps staircase…
From Quebec City, you can get there by car, by tour bus (or minibus), or by bike, accompanied (or not) by a guide.
The Island of Orleans
Right in front of the Montmorency Falls, the only bridge that allows you to cross the St. Lawrence River to get to a heritage jewel of Quebec: Île d’Orléans.
65 kilometers on the only road that surrounds the island, 6 villages, many stops required to taste and visit the many production areas, which of cider, cheese, wine from our region, bread and pastries in the Quebec style, maple syrup and local beers. Ouf! The list can be long, so a good day of discovery for you.
Wendake (pronounced : ouennedaké)
Decimated by the diseases coming from Europe and the incessant wars imposed by their enemies the Iroquois, the Wendat took refuge in the region of Quebec in 1649.
They have always tried to keep their culture but the language died out in the middle of the 19th century. Today, the Nation is trying to find its landmarks, the language, preserved in the dictionaries of the Recollets and the Jesuits. Go to the First Nations Hotel to visit the museum and the Long House (their ancestral home) or to the reconstructed village of Onhoua Chetek8e to learn about them, but also to unlearn the Hollywood myths.