Again with the autumn leaves. Apparently, we’re very lucky to be seeing them in such glorious colour, because the weather’s been dodgy lately and sometimes the season can be just days long. Certainly, the morning started dull and grey, though not cold, which slightly took the shine off Quebec’s old town as I prowled around before the shops were even open. The lower level looks very newly restored, although it’s not really, and felt a bit artificial, even if quite outrageously pretty, neat and photogenic. It seemed mostly centred on the tourist trade – but apparently the locals get amongst it too, like yesterday for Thanksgiving.
I tramped energetically around the cobbled lanes, up the Breakneck Stairs that weren’t at all, really, and around the Haute Ville, Citadel and Plains of Abraham that I’d always thought were Biblically named, but actually just reference the man who first farmed the land. Somehow I learned at school about Wolfe and the battle here – how that was, I have no idea, since it seems a random sort of thing to teach in New Zealand. I also triumphantly located, finally, a supplier of maple butter in the Marché du Vieux-Port – it’s maple syrup boiled for hours and hours until it’s the consistency of butter, and is apparently sinfully delicious spread on waffles and such.
Sadly, the sun didn’t come out until I’d taken all my photos, and was on a bus in the afternoon doing a tour that included the nearby Montmorency Falls – “higher than Niagara” – which were certainly very impressive; though the guide spoke so vividly of how spectacular and beautiful they are in the winter, frozen over, that she left me hankering to see them then rather than under a golden autumn sun.
I don’t feel that I’ve seen the real Quebec, the part where the locals actually hang out – but there’s no doubt that what lies within the city walls is beautiful and well worth exploring, a very happy mix of French and English architecture and landscaping, gorgeous at this time of year, and well supplied with what I hope this evening will prove to be a wide selection of enticing restaurants. There is also here, incidentally, another of Fairmont’s distinctive Canadian Pacific properties: the Chateau Frontenac where we might have stayed, had the cruise ended here instead of in Montreal. I’m not dwelling on that, at all.