Quebec chronicles: walking through Quebec City

We visited Quebec City at the end of our recent round-trip migration, but I’ll start off here with some urban scenes before going on to the rural and wildlife parts of the trip in the next blogs. A shocker for me as we drove into the City was the billowing air pollution along the entry highway. The previous 8 days had been in pretty pristine environments; even the little villages looked very clean and litter-free.

Four of us took two walks in the provincial capital, whose name stems from an Algonquin word meaning “where the river narrows”. Quebec City is built on the north shore of the St. Lawrence Seaway. Our first walk was during a very rainy afternoon. After taking a bus partway, we walked through the Porte St.-Jean to enter Old Quebec.

The streets and buildings looked quite European to me, including the many gift and tourist shops that one sees nowadays in old neighborhoods that attract tourists. Gas-flame heaters were burning outside some shops. And in one drugstore, we were helped by a young woman who had one of the most beautiful tattoos I have seen. She was surprised I recognized it right away as a fox because she said people had asked if it was a wolf or a bear!!! (Click on it to enlarge, then left arrow click back to blog.)

     

The rain intensified as we walked on; many people were purchasing rain ponchos at a local tourist information shop.

And the stores started beckoning to us as we strolled along, also admiring architecture.

Earlier in the week, we had stopped at a rural village to visit a well-reviewed chocolate shop. The owners had taken a course in Belgium and learned to make Belgian bon bons (very similar to Dutch ones). Since chocolate appeared to be a comfort food for most of our group members, a fair amount of time was spent in that shop!

When we saw a sign for chocolate in Old Quebec, we ducked in out of the rain to examine the wares there. The chocolate on a stick for hot chocolate looked good to me; the chocolate sausages were a surprise.

 

Canned chocolate fondue in various flavors was for sale in the regular grocery stores as well. What really tempted me were the different flavors of chocolate toppings for Dairy Queen-style cones; I resisted, however.

 

The chocolate shops sold maple syrup products, too, and some stores in Old Quebec made references to moose – with antlers above the door, in their names or in the products they sold.

 

When we saw the sign for Les Trois Corbeaux (the three crows), the birders in us had to pop in to see this artisan-run glassblowing shop. A very nice young woman was forming tiny pieces of glass into ducks at the front of the store.

 

At the back, another young woman was rolling blobs of glass in different colored glass pieces, firing them and then stretching the bulbs into brightly-colored starfish. These small pieces were obviously for the tourist trade; larger, more abstract and more expensive elegant pieces were for the art collectors.

 

We walked on and got to the promenade overlooking the river. Along the way, I noted that renters in the city are protesting something (likely high rents). The funiculaire was providing respite to people who didn’t want to climb the multiple flights of stairs (which I did the next day – about 15 in total and not great for my leg which I had re-injured earlier in the week).

We gazed out over the river where I saw my second Dutch boat (the first was from Delfzijl at the Pointe-au-Pic quai).

   

And then we walked home in the rain, stopping so that my friends could pose with a statue honoring women leaders (but I couldn’t keep my point-and-shoot camera dry long enough to get a raindrop-free photo).

The next morning, we again strolled through the local neighborhood, saw the colorful street sign covers, and took the bus to the old city.

Another chocolate shop (!!) didn’t advertise heavily but had lovely painted chairs with potted plants on its lawn. We also noted another branch of a chain restaurant, which had given us a really nice meal the day before (even for vegetarians).

We saw another statue honoring women – in this case, those who dedicated their lives to educating the youth of Quebec after 1639. I found a statue of a jester quite appealing.

As we wandered, we looked at more shop displays – many were colorful, either in hues or their messages.

 

 

 

 

A last exciting sighting of yellow warblers along the stairs (the only birds I recognized there besides song sparrows) stopped us so some photos could be taken. I didn’t have my good camera along, so this reminder of photographers should suffice here.

We then hurried through a park to get to our hotel, which was unusual with a “split horse” in front. And then off to the airport we went, just as it began raining again! (I hope you noticed that I managed to get some animals in this blog, just not live ones. 😊)

 

Goodbye from Quebec City!

           

 

Quebec chronicles: Ste Anne-de-Beaupré

At the end of May/start of June, it was my good fortune to travel to Quebec province with six friends to observe wildlife there, especially the migration of warblers who arrive in their beautiful breeding plumage. There were thousands of birds and I also enjoyed documenting other wildlife – it will take me some time to go through all the photos to select some for sharing. In the meantime, I’m breaking from my usual postings about natural areas and animals to show something of urban and rural Quebec to start off this multi-part series.

On our way to Quebec City, we stopped to see the Shrine of Sainte Anne-de-Beaupré, a church complex devoted to Jesus of Nazareth’s grandmother. The shrine’s brochure claims it is the oldest pilgrimage site in North America, while the website says it is the second oldest. The pilgrims include various Native American groups according to their tourist information. One stained-glass window featured a Byzantine cleric and a female Italian pilgrim.

The bits of info that I read mentioned various Native American groups who visit, but I don’t recall the Inuit being among them. In Quebec shops, we could admire some of the beautiful Inuit and other Native American art for sale (apologies for the reflections in the window that made photographing it difficult).

        

The basilica includes mosaics in the ceiling showing Ste Anne learning to read in a temple; the church houses three relics of the Saint – a forearm, finger bone and other pieces of bones.

In 1658, a man names Louis Guimont was healed at the chapel; now the basilica houses two columns displaying crutches, immobilization masks used during radiation therapy and other symbols of ill health that was said to be cured through divine intervention.

           

A side chapel houses what appears to be a baptismal font; a statue of St. Anthony of Padua is at the back of the basilica.

 

 

As in Catholic churches I have visited, there were stations of the cross.

The shrine appears to be a money-maker as so many church ventures seem to be. A special office with large windows featured a priest wearing a nice straw hat to complement his robes as he blessed people who presumably had paid a fee for this. This was the first time I had seen a facility like this at a church; I would have thought that blessings would be freely given.

 

A large, well-stocked gift shop featured shelves of holy water, religious items and a series of stone and wood scenes created by Normand Simard, ‘a man of nature who uses Charlevoix region stones to create men of stone, ducks and bird houses.’ The ends of the pews in the basilica also featured carvings including animals and birds so even in a man-made structure dedicated to thinking about an afterlife instead of our world, nature managed to have its presence acknowledged.

 

 

Next up: a visit to Quebec City