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By Jane Cassie
(For Travel Writers’ Tales)

We discover during this visit to Old Quebec that all you need is a good pair of walking shoes and a yearning to discover this city's colourful past. Come along on our self-guided tour and enjoy some of the historical icons, tasty eateries and charming landmarks.

(Photo 1: Tour of citadel)

We tighten our laces and head to the high point on our walk, the Citadelle, a star-shaped fortress atop Cap Diamant that was built to fight off Americans after they attacked British Quebec in 1775. "As well as a National Historic site, this is still an active military base, " we're told by Kala, our enthusiastic tour gide. "And it's coined the Gibraltar of the America's due to its strategic cliff-side location."

(Photo 2: Grassy plains of Abraham)

Hugging up to the west side of this fortification are the grassy Plains of Abraham where, on September 13, 1759, British General Wolfe led his men up the nearby steep banks for a blood-shedding battle against the unprepared French. Today, this killing field has been transformed into pastoral-like green space, laced with walking and biking trails.

En route to Old Quebec, we stroll the tree-lined Grand Allee where sidewalk cafes hug up to high end shops, partake in the forty-five minute tour of the Renaissance-style Parliament Building, then take time at Parc de l'esplanade, a now flourishing garden that was used for military exercises in the eighteenth century. Porte St-Louis is the impressive stone entranceway (circa 1693) that leads to Old Upper Town and beyond is a maze of crooked streets that all possess European-like charm.

(Photo 3: Parc de l'esplanade)

"It's strange," my husband says, as we mosey past chichi galleries and a string of yummy-smelling restaurants. " I keep thinking we're in France, not Canada." Although this may be because everyone is speaking French, it's more likely due to the fusion of Nouvelle France architecture with this city's wonderful food!

(Photo 4:Line up of gift shops, galleries and restaurants)

So far during our stay, we've feasted on crepes at L'omelette, patisseries at popular Paillard and tried the Table d' Hote at Le Louis-Hébert, a menu option which include hors d'oeuvre, entrée and dessert for one low price. Très bon! Clearly, it's easy to get sidetracked with all the delicious options. Speaking of which, let's get back to that guided walk! From the main street of St. Louis, we veer left onto Rue des Jardins and discover the Ursuline Convent. Founded in 1693 it's the oldest girls' school on the continent. Today, the monastery still houses fifty-or-so nuns and serves as the General Motherhouse of the Ursuline Sisters.

(Photo 5: Impressive Basilica-Cathedral Notre-Dame de Québec)

Bear right onto Ste Anne and you'll discover the Cathedral of Holy Trinity, erected in 1800. A block further is the impressive Basilica-Cathedral Notre-Dame de Québec, a structure that rose to the rank in 1844. And in 1989, it was deemed a National Historical site.

(Photo 6: Chateau Frontenac)

The next must-see icon is Chateau Frontenac. Turrets and spires soar from the roof of this grand dame and dominate Old Quebec's skyline. Completed in 1893, this beauty was the brainchild of William Van Horne, President of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Over the years she has hosted a line-up of renowned guests; Winston Churchill, Alfred Hitchcock and Paul McCartney, to name a few.

(Photo 7:Terrase Dufferin)

For a pretty panorama of the adjacent St Lawrence River, we head to nearby Terrase Dufferin, a 425 meter-long boardwalk that divides the Upper from Lower Town. In summer this hot spot is home to street buskers, in winter the Toboggan Run, and year-round to the statue of Samuel de Champlain, a French explorer who created the first settlement back in 1608. There are two ways to descend to Lower Town. Take the easy way via the Funicular, an elevator-type ride that quickly scales the stiff cliff-side. Or stretch your hamstrings and trek the many stairs. Yes, we opt for the latter.

(Photo 8: Bird's eye view of Lower Town)

The perch on Cotes de la Montagne, provides us with a bird's eye view of Quartier Petit-Champlain, North America’s oldest commercial district that touts 17th and 18th century buildings. We browse through bistros and boutiques that spill onto cobblestone streets, peek into Eglise Notre-Dam-des-Victories, North America's oldest stone church built in 1688 and pose with Jacques Cartier and other historians in front of 420-square-meter Trompe-l'oeil mural.

(Photo 9 Lower Town with Funicular)

Before we hoof back up the hill, we give our feet a rest and rent a bike. The view from the cycling path that borders the St Lawrence is spectacular and with just a little pedal power, we enjoy an entirely different perspective of quaint Old Quebec.

(Photo 10 Cycling provides an entirely new perspective)



PHOTOS by Jane & Brent Cassie

#1 Tour of citadel

#2 Grassy plains of Abraham

#3 Parc de l'esplanade

#4 Line up of gift shops, galleries and restaurants

#5 Impressive Basilica-Cathedral Notre-Dame de Québec

#6 Chateau Frontenac

#7Terrase Dufferin

#8 Bird's eye view of Lower Town

#9 Lower Town with Funicular

#10 Cycling provides an entirely new perspective

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