5/25/22: Exploring Quebec City, A Walker’s Paradise!

Family and friends,

What a joy it was for Steven and me to stroll around Quebec City for hours on end this past May as it was our first trip back in umpteen years. NO city in Canada or even the US can possibly come close in my mind to the exquisite Quebec City – it’s the personification of charm and elegance found on the other side of the Atlantic but not in North America. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to lose yourself in the car-free streets of Quebec City’s Upper Town and Lower Town and imagine also walking in 17th-century New France.

All the best to you and your loved ones, Annie

After a 250-mile-long drive from Ottawa the day before, Steven and I were so happy to find a Costco with a gas station on our way into Quebec City. Steven hates waiting in lines and had to be persuaded that it was worth staying put with about 40 other cars to save .40 a liter. With no rush to get anywhere quickly, CAD$204.9 a liter was a darn good price.

We were so lucky to find a fabulous parking space on the street right across from Montmorency Park in the Upper Town part of the city.

The park was a national historic site and home to a handful of canons, statues, and monuments. One celebrated Jacques Cartier, a French maritime explorer who was the first European to navigate the St. Lawrence River. His explorations on three voyages from 1534 to 1542 of the river and Canada’s Atlantic coast later laid the basis for French claims to North America.

We had glorious views of the river and the city’s Lower Town from the park’s ramparts.

As I’ve become a huge fan of murals pretty recently, this mammoth one caught my eye. P.S. Remember it for later!

Also from the park, we had our first glimpse of the city’s iconic sight, the famous Chateau Frontenac, billed as one of the most photographed hotels in the world.

Across from the park was a statue of Monsignor Francois de Laval, the first Roman Catholic bishop of the province of Quebec and the namesake for one of the city’s universities.

It must have been a case of selective memory as I’d forgotten how Quebec City was inescapably hilly with slopes, hills, and steps galore!

Standing proud on Terrasse Dufferin atop the steps was a monument of Samuel de Champlain, Quebec’s founder.

The Dufferin boardwalk paralleled the river for several hundred meters.

One of the most stunning buildings in Quebec, the Chateau’s location on a bluff overlooking the St. Lawrence gave it an especially majestic feel. When it was built in 1893, it was part of a chain of ‘chateau-style’ hotels across Canada by the Canadian Pacific Railway. Since Quebec City was one of the continent’s ports before the long trip across the Atlantic, it was designed to compete with any European counterpart and lure travelers’ attention. The architect drew on the bastion towers of French chateaus and turrets found on Scottish castles. 

The hotel was named after Louis de Buade de Frontenac who was governor of New France twice between 1672 and 1698. Its illustrious guests have included Queen Elizabeth and Charles Lindbergh, and it was the setting for I Confess by Alfred Hitchcock.

At the end of the terrasse were 310 steps that led to the Governors’ Walkway built by thefederal government in 1958 to commemorate the city’s 350th anniversary. Beginning in the 17th century, the French crown appointed governors (a term later changed to governors general) of the colony of Canada and they lived near the site of the promenade. Following the British conquest of the colony, the British monarch appointed governors of the province of Quebec from 1763 onward. The walkway honored the governors general who were the Canadian representatives of the monarchy as well as the role they played in the country’s development.  Until the 1950s, the monarchy’s representatives were all European except for one. 

When the walkway was inaugurated in 1960 by Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, he stated the promenade’s spectacular view was among the most beautiful in the world, and a visit to Quebec City was “like a pilgrimage to the cradle of our nation.”

The end of the walkway brought us to an overview of La Citadelle, a 300-year-old star-shaped fortification that was still a military base and the largest British fortress in North America. We could have taken a guided tour of the citadel but we preferred to enjoy the beautiful weather and stay outside. 

We felt like kids making sure we avoided the cracks on the sidewalk in case the ‘sleeping cracks’ might gobble up our feet! What a creative way to keep kids interested when touring a city.

The cracks we saw all seemed to be manufactured so we were ‘safe’!

A little bit later, the painted footprints led to a very unusual hopscotch game. We’ve traveled the world over but never had we seen anything like this!

We followed the sidewalk a brief distance to the Plains of Abraham, the site of a historic battle between the French and British in 1979.

At the bottom of the Plains, the Cross of Sacrifice originally honored the memory of the more than 66,000 Canadian soldiers who died in the Great War when it was unveiled in 1924. As more global conflicts took place, inscriptions were added to also commemorate those losses. 

It was a delight seeing a horse-drawn carriage or caleche coming through Saint-Louis Gate, one of the original gates in the almost three-mile-long fortifications that completely encircled Upper Town. Quebec City became the only fortified city in North America in the mid-1700s when its defense system was inadequate and a stretch of fortifications permanently closed the city from the open countryside.

In front of the Hotel du Parlement or Parliament Building was the Fontaine de Tourny which was a gift by the province’s largest department store, La Maison Simons, to the city for its 400th anniversary. After the fountain was created in France in 1854, it was installed in the Alles de Tourny in the heart of Bordeaux until 1960 when the city wanted nothing more of it because of its state of disrepair. It landed up in a flea market in Paris where it was found by the department store’s president in 2003 who had it shipped to Quebec City for restoration!

Located on one of the highest spots in the city and just outside the city walls was the Parliament Building which housed the National Assembly of Quebec. Built between 1877 and 1886, it was inspired by the Louvre in Paris. 

We circled back to Saint-Louis Gate where we read a soldier’s family once lived in the gate or guardhouse before they were moved so the space could be used as a girls’ school.

Is there any wonder when seeing photos like these that visiting Quebec City is the closest anyone could get to being in a charming European city but on this side of the Atlantic?

Walking down the narrow Ruelle des Ursulines and admiring its Old Quebec architecture felt like walking back in time and imagining ourselves back in the era of the town’s founding.

I wish that we could have gotten into St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, built in 1810, as not only was it the site of the oldest English-speaking congregation in Canada but I’d read it had an impressive organ and 19th-century stained-glass windows. Its original congregants were military men, most of whom served at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham.

The Big Welcome – don’t ask me why!

Your smiles for the day as pictured on t-shirts in a souvenir shop!

The Basilique-Cathedrale Notre-Dame-de Quebec featured a number of build dates, 1679, 1759, and 1922, as it was bombarded and torched in 1759 during the city’s British siege and burned down again in 1921. Again, we’d have loved to visit the seat of the Catholic church in Canada but it was also closed.

Our walking tour took us back to a different view of the Laval monument.

Passing Montmorency Park on our left, we walked under Porte Prescott, another of the city’s gates.

Not for nothing was L’Escalier Casse-Crou aptly named the Breakneck Stairs to gain access to the Quartier du Petit Champlain, one of the city’s most picturesque neighborhoods! The unusual name is rumored to have come from American soldiers during their attempted invasion.

The Quebec provincial flag:

We were serenaded by this harpist playing Bridge Over Troubled Waters.

We detoured to get a better look at La Fresque des Quebecois or Mural of Quebecers that we’d first seen from the park above when we arrived in the city. Reaching nearly three stories tall, the city’s largest and most historical trompe l’oeil was completed by a dozen artists from Quebec and France in 1999 over a period of nine weeks.

It cleverly depicted the city’s four-century history and its important figures including explorers Jacques Cartier and Samuel de Champlain.

I didn’t know my Quebec history well enough to know who these men were.

The women peering out the window were Marie Guyart, the cofounder of the city’s Ursuline community, who worked tirelessly to further education in New France, and Catherine de Longpré who devoted her life to the sick at the hospital founded by the Augustines. 

The site was perfectly chosen, as there was no adjoining building to hide the colorful work. We could easily have spent an hour just capturing all the details in the riveting mural.

It was only fitting that a statue of Samuel de Champlain was in the center of Place Royale as the explorer founded l’Abitation de Quebec, the first European settlement in Quebechere in the place or square in 1608. It served as a fort and as dwellings for the new colony in New France.

At one end of the square was the quaint Eglise Notre-Dame-des-Victoires that was constructed between 1687 and 1723.

Place Royale got its name in 1686 when a bust of King Louis XIV was erected in the center of the square as it was customary to have a square dedicated to royalty in all French towns. The bust was moved, though, when merchants complained it took up too much valuable space. By the 19th century, the square was part of an urban complex that included warehouses, markets, and a number of businesses. Following an economic downturn in the 1960s, the square was rebuilt to closely resemble what the buildings would have looked like during the French regime in the early 17th century.

We didn’t climb the stairs called L’Escalier du Cul-de-Sac having had enough of a workout on the hilly geography already that day!

Quebec City is like no other in North America with car-free cobblestoned street after street of cafes and shops where one can stroll to your heart’s content.

Too bad this fence partially blocked our view of what looked like another fabulous mural.

There was no end of lovely boutiques to separate people from their money!

Parc Felix Leclerc was named for the French-Canadian singer-songwriter, poet, writer, and actor who was also a strong voice for Quebec nationalism. One of the figures in the Quebecois mural was of Leclerc by the way but I couldn’t pick him out!

Another of the things I’ve always loved about Quebec City is the many musicians entertaining passersby.

Though the wood-encased, steam-powered Funiculaire du Vieux-Quebec only operated six months of the year in 1879, it offered a convenient alternative to the horse and buggy to transport passengers and merchandise between the city’s Upper and Lower Towns. When it converted to electrical power in 1907, the funicular became a year-round operation.

In this public square, Place d’Armes, safely behind the city’s defenses, the military performed their parades and inspections before the Citadelle was constructed in 1820. Though the square lost its military importance, it still was a popular meeting place. The monument was erected in 1915 to honor the Recollets, the first religious community to live in New France.

Just off Place d’Armes was the short Rue du Tresor, a street we both fondly remembered from previous visits and wanted to see again. In years gone by, local artists exhibited and sold their watercolors, engravings, and paintings there so it resembled an open-air art gallery. 

When we were there in late May, it was rather sad to see only a couple of artists or possibly their representatives in attendance. Whether the street has lost its cachet or we were there on a slow day, I don’t know. I still did find something for old time’s sake, though.

After we retrieved our car, we drove along La Grande Allee which was dubbed the Champs d’Elysees of Quebec City as it was lined with grand Victorian mansions now converted into cafes, restaurants, and nightclubs. The architecture of the street’s buildings was still stunning with much of the stonework dating to the late 19th century.

What fun lights on Rue Cartier – they looked like paper lanterns!

Described as one of the most beautiful churches in the city, Eglise Saint-Jean-Baptiste was situated outside of the city walls in the neighborhood of the same name. When the church was built in 1882, it was home to blue-collar workers of both French-Canadian and Irish origin. It was now surrounded by shops, restaurants, and residential homes.

Since moving to the much warmer Denver 40 years ago, I admit to being a wimp when it comes to the winters I grew up with in Canada that started in late November, and snow and ice didn’t melt for months on end! As pretty as the Saint-Jean-Baptiste neighborhood looked, I shuddered thinking how tough it would be to get around on these hilly streets in the wintertime.

The location of Parc de l’Artillerie overlooking the St. Charles River has made it a strategic military site since the late 17th century. Built between 1712 and 1748, it was an army barracks before and after the British conquest. It later was home to Canada’s first munitions factory.

The port section of the city:

Thank goodness the vast majority of Quebec City is a walkers’ paradise (as long as you don’t mind lots of stairs, that is!), as Steven found driving in the city pretty much of a nightmare with so many one-way streets, lots of construction, and blocked streets galore. That would have been quite manageable as long as you didn’t have to factor in drivers seemingly not knowing their cars had turn signals! 

Our day in Quebec City reminded us of what a gorgeous, gorgeous city it was years ago and still is today – full of history, charm, and  elegance that is like no other in Canada and I’d also say in the US as well.

Next post: Onto my father’s hometown of Saint John, New Brunswick, about 450 miles away on what is euphemistically called the Trans Canada Highway!

Posted on July 19th, 2022, from the cabin we’ve rented for two weeks in Grayton Beach State Park on Florida’s Panhandle. We’re already hoping we’ll be lucky enough to reserve a cabin here next year when spots open up in a week or so.


  1. Your commentary and photos truly capture the beauty, history and charm that define the city of Québec. I loved the many summers I spent in the city, the winters on their fabulous ski hills, and the refined elegance of Quebecers. Thanks for the memories !
  2. Happy that my text and photos resonated with you. Impossible not to do justice with the incomparable city of Quebec.

8 thoughts on “5/25/22: Exploring Quebec City, A Walker’s Paradise!

  1. Quebec City – car-free and care-free. 🙂 It’s one of my favorite cities in the world as well. Your photos look very familiar, except for the hopscotch and the paper lanterns. I’m sure your feet were tired after exploring the city in so much “detail.” Enjoy Florida!


    1. Glad that the post on Quebec City also reminded you of one of the world’s great cities AND that I was able to show you some new fun features we found. Our tired feet were well worth it at the end of the day.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve never visited Quebec City and I really appreciated this thorough tour of what looks like a beautiful and fascinating old city 🙂 I love that huge mural of course, and the river walks – the hopscotch and ‘crack avoiding’ games are such fun! The old city looks very European, I agree, and would be a delight to wander around.


    1. I heartily recommend a visit to Quebec City if you get across to this side of the pond in the future. Add it in as part of a trip to Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton and a couple of weeks discovering Newfoundland by car and you’ll count yourselves extremely fortunate, believe me!


  3. What a wonderful city it does look to be and your photographs show it to its advantage. I loved the La Fresque des Quebecois. What a fabulous time you’re having on your travels. I shall try and keep up with you but whether I’ll manage a daily read or not, I’m not sure.


    1. Welcome to the blog/travelogue, Maris! I also think that fresco was also one of my favorite sights in Quebec City – I loved how the artists celebrated the province’s history through it’s entire history.


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