Wednesday, August 30, 2017

La Belle Quebec, Day Two, Matin

It is never fun to wake up to a rainy day while on vacation. But when fortified by the first of Guitta's magnificent breakfasts and her complimentary umbrellas for use while walking around, we set out on our first day of adventure, inching down the big hill on our street.

Rick wanted to find the cobblestone street he rode up on his bicycle when looking for our B&B. But first we encountered this lovely church.

We didn't venture in but learned that the woman honored in the statue on the lawn was Catherine de Longpre, who was born in Normandy, France and entered an Augustinian monastery at the age of  12. Two years later she volunteered to help settle New France.

This was in 1648 and she continued the work started nine years earlier. As Marie-Catherine de Saint-Augustin, she dedicated her life to helping the poor and is considered one of the foundresses of the Church of Canada.

Then we found Rick's road. Let's just say walking down this was not a picnic and I can't imagine riding up it with 30 pounds of tent, sleeping bag and stove on your bike!

I have to add that it is even more steep that the photo because it winds! Good job, Rick!

We ended up in the Basse Ville or lower town of Quebec City. There are pluses and minuses to this area. It is charming, the buildings are old and it is filled with history. There are wonderful art galleries and antique shops. Some were closed when we passed by and we window shopped.

Good thing. I would have bought these plates in a heartbeat.

We did venture into one, which included some folk art as well.

The downside? Tourists!

I know, I'm a tourist too. But I come one or two at a time. When the cruise ship dumps off a whole ship of tourists, it gets a little more crowded.

Never mind! It was a rainy day, there were loads of art galleries and we sought shelter in all of them, I think! And they were remarkable.

Some allowed us to take photos of things we liked or the overall area. We were very fond of the work in one gallery with beautiful sailboat paintings and wonderful countryside views.

Rick and I both loved these paintings.


And these, too. This guy knew how to work the palette knife, and in fact, that was the tool he used. No brushes.


But the first gallery we visited, the gallery of Pierre Boudard, was one to which I knew we would return. (I'll show you my birthday present from Rick later!)

You are always reminded that you are in a city that was centuries old. One gallery made fine use of their cellar as a beautiful display area.

Many of the artists were from Quebec or Canada but there was also a large contingent of artists from other countries as well. Most of the prices exceeded $1,000 (Canadian) and most of those were well into the $2,000 to $6,000 range. Many will include shipping or offer a very good rate on it, along with generous interest-free payments for the first ten months. It's very tempting!

Of course we had to walk and shop and the first spot we saw was a bicycle shop!

But no matter who you are and how high or low your shopping level is, you have to admit, it's easy duty when there is so much eye candy! Beautiful buildings...

...plenty of spots for an ice cream or glass of wine or lemonade!

And if the going gets tough, one may be able to find a spot to rest while the other half is still shopping!

Our rain stopped not long after we started and while it was still rather drizzly with occasional showers, it was still a pleasant time. People were all very polite and all were enjoying their time in Quebec. And why not? It's gorgeous!

Rick made a new friend, too!

Here's a good photo tip -- always look behind you and look up! In Quebec City, you are likely to find new views of Chateau Frontenac everywhere you look!

And if you have easy-peasy camera settings, try some of those too. They may or may not work but sometimes you end up with something really pretty!

We had a little more time in Basse Ville, before lunch, but that's for another post! About this time we were hungry. It was mid-afternoon and Guitta's breakfast held us well, but we could use a little lunch and didn't want to fight the tourists. There's an afternoon to come! So Rick took the high road and I took the funiculaire!

More to come!

Miss anything -- here are links to Day One (Arrival) / Our terrific B&B

Monday, August 28, 2017

La Belle Quebec - Maison Historique James Thompson

Rick and I have somewhat different feelings about where we stay on vacation. He'd be just as happy with a hostel and has had many wonderful experiences there. But I wasn't about to spend a romantic holiday -- especially with someone I hadn't seen for two weeks -- in a room of six! So I took care of the hotel and I did well! We landed at Maison Historique James Thompson.

You really appreciate a good B&B after a day of walking about, when nothing is better than a good night's sleep on a wonderfully comfy bed. If you happen to have your own bath attached and enough room for your bags, you're happy.

Well, not necessarily happy. Happy also requires a fabulous location. And when you can walk within a short time to just about anything, the location was a real plus! Getting happier!

Not to mention there were lovely restaurants on the street too, and it was awfully pretty!

And a great breakfast! James Thompson did not disappoint. (Unfortunately, I never brought my camera to breakfast. I'm sure everyone else was glad of this fact!) Yes, we're really happy now!

When you walk in, you see the drawing room straight ahead of you.

And the curved stairway, with its beautiful wooden bannister, was magnificent.

The public area was wonderfully cozy with a piano, fireplaces and comfortable furniture.

It was a perfect spot for Rick and I to enjoy the wine, cheese and baguette we brought home with us the first night!

James Thompson was not the name of our host (who did not want to be pictured, so the cute photo will remain in our memories!). But Guitta was a delightful host who was gracious, welcoming and a mighty fine cook!

The B&B is named after and first lived in by James Thompson, who built the structure in 1793. Walk through the front door and you will note some heavy stone walls. (How they got all the stones for this, the walls, the churches and everything else up the hill before moving vehicles must be a story in itself!) He lived in the home with his wife Mary and their nine children. (There are five guest rooms, along with the living quarters.)

Thompson was a fortifications expert with the British Army and the last surviving member of the battalion that fought at the famous Battle of the Plains of Abraham between Generals Wolfe and Montcalm.

Photo Credit: A Bard of Wolfe's Army: James Thompson Gentleman Volunteer, Cover.
When the city was attacked by Benedict Arnold and Richard Montgomery fifteen years later in 1775, he was said to be instrumental in helping defend the city. (And no, I didn't know this little part of American-Canadian history before my visit. I didn't know a lot about this area! An education!)

Thompson was said to be a good man, intelligent and a master builder and archivist/journal writer. He supervised the fortification of the city of Quebec for sixty-eight years and the home remained in his family until 1957.  Guitta purchased it in 1995 and restored it (but the bathrooms are converted -- and I wish I'd taken a photo of that!) The house is classified as a historic monument by the Government of Quebec. You can find an interesting article about him here.

Guitta is an artist and some of her work is displayed in the house. I particularly loved this montage of images of her to daughters.

Our room was very comfortable, the only guest room located on the main floor. That made it easy to get to the delicious breakfast. Trays of muffins, croissants and an apple tart to die for, fruit salad and a selection of cereals started things off. Then we enjoyed a delicious breakfast to order. I had crepes the first day, then an omelette and then French toast with bacon each day, while Rick had crepes, omelette and blueberry pancakes with sausage. It was beautifully served by Guitta's daughter, Briget.

We were within minutes of walking anyplace in Vieux Quebec (Haute Ville or upper town) and getting below only took a little longer because these are hills you do not run down!

The exchange rate is wonderful right now and if you have considered a trip to Quebec City, now is a great time to go. But if you aren't a snow bunny, go soon or wait till spring -- they have 12 feet of snow on average!

Photos of the rooms and more info is available here.

Friday, August 25, 2017

La Belle Quebec, Day One

Let me tell you, it was tough crossing the border back into Michigan this week after several days in Quebec City. Tougher still when I turned on the news to the deranged Phoenix speech Tuesday night. I wanted to turn right around and head back to Canada. And when they say at the border "How long are you staying?" I would say "as long as you'll have me."

Yes, we've been through turmoil before but after the grim events of Charlottesville it seems different. It was so very good to get away.

Rick rode his bike from Michigan to Quebec City and left August 5. I took off on the 16th to spend the night with my friend Suzanne and then fly onto Quebec the next day. I wasn't at my peak. I sounded like a broken squeaky toy with laryngitis that was on Day Seven. If I could count on it always being that way, I could make a fortune voicing cartoons. But let it stop me? No way!

Perhaps the happiest sight I saw when I arrived (apart from the fabulous old buildings, French written everywhere and the exhilaration of being someplace new) was seeing Rick at our B&B, having arrived after 900 miles of pedaling! A sight for sore eyes.

Our B&B was great, a historic house built in 1793 in an outstanding location. I'll do another post about that later, but I would certainly recommend the B&B experience. Especially if the breakfasts were as good as ours!

As soon as I decompressed from the plane, Rick and I headed out to explore Vieux (Old) Quebec. Our B&B was in Haute Ville (the upper town). Basically, this means that anywhere you walk, you will probably be walking down. Like the photo below -- this was the street we were on. The ground floor of the buildings at the top of the street are a good story or two above those at the bottom!

We arrived on a night called Festival Celtique. I had hoped that would be Celtic or Cape Breton music but all we heard from the DJ was pop stuff. Nonetheless, it was entertaining. As best I can figure, staff from various bars were competing in a race to see who could run in kilts with one member (or maybe it was a relay) carrying a full pitcher of beer.

They had stops and tasks along the way, like jumping rope or walking on narrow boards propped on cinder blocks while holding the tray and pitcher of beer. Pretty fun!

I was a little worried about dressing right -- it is a large city. But we quickly learned anything goes. One street musician managed to incorporate his dog into the act, at least costume-wise! (I do have to admit, the dog was better dressed than I was.)

We found a cute bistro recommended by our host and the food was very good. I loved my quiche and salad.

But it wasn't enough for a guy who had been riding his bike for days!

So, we picked up a bottle of wine and a baguette on the way home! Good move!

Along the way we enjoyed some of the charming shops, including the appropriately named "Eclipse"...

...Yummy looking boulangeries or patisseries...

...beautiful window boxes...

...hilly streets...

...and fabulous views.

That little spot behind me is the Chateau Frontenac. Their rates would imply that the breakfast is great but somehow I suspect it's extra! But we'll go there a little later.

Here's a better view. It's enormous! And so very beautiful. You'll see it from many vantage points in Quebec and it's a wonderful marker. I can see why it is so identified with the city and appears on every magnet and every postcard.

Behind me in this one you can see the view across the St. Lawrence River.

This area -- where there is a stage for street performers with risers -- is called Place Dufferin. There are street performers everywhere in Quebec and many of them apply the same stock in trade... juggling, acrobatics, unicycles and fire.

This team did fire better than anyone! (Yes, he jumps through the flaming hoop and does a sommersault/handstand.)

Looking down, the area called Basse Ville or lower Quebec. We'll check that out next time!

We walked home, enjoying the sights and sounds, such as the artists closing up their booths in Rue Tresor. We would be back.

Day one impressions -- it's a beautiful spot, French is the primary language but just about everyone speaks English. It's fun to try if you can, but don't be intimidated if you can't. And yes, the hills are very steep!

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