07.30.2013 - 07.30.2013
With a 9:00am train departure, we were up early for our coerced room service breakfast...but not nearly as early as we would have been if we were flying. First, the train station is ten minutes from the hotel. With business class, there is no need to be at the station until a half hour before departure, which is boarding time. Still, we arrived in plenty of time to have coffee in the business lounge. The train ride to Quebec City was a little over three hours. Shortly after we left, the meal service started and there were several choices for breakfast...our second in a few hours...oh well, we walk it off every day, logging several miles. Margaret opted for some fresh fruit and cereal...their Saran Wrap must be really good here because, when she poured the milk on her cereal, it just bounced off the wrap...oops!! Once again the
ride was quite scenic and the time flew by...we actually arrived about a half hour early.
Our hotel is the Auberge Sainte-Antoine which I booked once again through the Chase Luxury Collection. In addition to the miles, you get a reduced rate, breakfast included, a room upgrade if available (we were upgraded to a luxury king witha river view and a terrace) and a $100 food/beverage credit. According to one publication, the Auberge Saint Antoine integrates three historical buildings from the 18th and 19th century and new construction into an ultra chic boutique hotel. Starting with the acquisition of a derelict warehouse in 1990, the Price family (descendants of the founders of Abitibi-Price pulp and paper empire) undertook a three stage restoration of the property. The hotel opened in 1992 with 31 rooms. In 2003, the hotel was renovated and enlarged to the present 95 rooms and suites. Features include a fitness centre, business centre, a private screening room and six conference rooms. The Panache Restaurant was opened in the former 19th century Hunt maritime warehouse in 2004. The restaurant incoporates the original stone walls of the warehouse and massive wood beams from a wharf originally located on the site. The history of the property began in 1687 with the granting of shoreline lots to two fur traders who erected a wharf in 1699. In 1704 the Battery Dauphine was built on the wharf. By 1725 the battery fell into disuse and Jean Marlous, mason and King's architect built a house which survived until 1759 when it was destroyed during the seige of Quebec. The surviving walls were used in the construction of a large warehouse constructed in 1822, presently home to the Panache Restaurant. By the 1840s, the Hunt warehouse as it came to be known was one of the busiest in Quebec harbour. From the 1880s the warehouse was largely used as a trading centre for merchants of glasswear and tableware. During the restoration of the site over 5,000 archelogical artifacts were uncovered. Over 700 of these artifacts are on display in the hotel. Each floor of the hotel features artifacts telling the story of successive periods of time in the history of the occupation of the site. Every modern convenience has been incorporated into the rooms, and we were quite happy with our room.
As is our wont, we got tickets thru the concierge to the r, hop on/off bus. It was a fairly cold and windy day, so we opted for the lower, enclosed deck...only to find it a little stuffy after about 15 minutes when we moved to the top. Rain and thunderstorms were in the forecast and we had been pretty fortunate to avoid almost any rain since New York.
Quebec City could be almost any fairly large city in France that is on a large river like the St. Lawrence. Because the old town has such narrow streets, the bus cannot traverse them. Quebec City is a natural fortress with walls on three sides and the St. Lawrence river on the other. Our guide was obviously fascinated with the war history of the city, and the tour was largely focused on the places that historical battles took place.
Quebec City is one of the oldest European settlements in North America. While many of the major cities in Mexico date from the sixteenth century, among cities in Canada and the U.S.A., few were created earlier than Quebec City (St. John's, Harbour Grace, Port Royal, St. Augustine, Santa Fe, Jamestown, and Tadoussac). Also, Quebec's Old Town (Vieux-Québec) is the only North American fortified city north of Mexico whose walls still
French explorer Jacques Cartier built a fort at the site in 1535, where he stayed for the winter before going back to France in spring 1536. He came back in 1541 with the goal of building a permanent settlement. This first settlement was abandoned less than one year after its foundation, in the summer 1542, due in large part to the hostility of the natives combined with the harsh living conditions during winter.
Quebec was founded by Samuel de Champlain, a French explorer and diplomat on July 3, 1608,mand at the site of a long abandoned St. Lawrence Iroquoian settlement called Stadacona. Champlain, also called "The Father of New France", served as its administrator for the rest of his life. The name "Canada" refers to this settlement. Although called the cradle of the Francophone population in North America, the Acadian settlement at Port-Royal was established three years earlier. The place seemed favourable to the establishment of a permanent colony.
In 1665, there were 550 people in 70 houses living in the city. One-quarter of the people were members of religious orders: secular priests, Jesuits, Ursulines nuns and the order running the local hospital, Hotel-Dieu. Quebec city was the headquarters of many raids against New England during the four French and Indian Wars. In the last war, the French and Indian War (Seven Years War), Quebec City was captured by the British in 1759 and held until the end of the war in 1763. It was the site of three battles during Seven Years War - the Battle of Beauport, a French victory (July 31, 1759); the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, in which British troops under General James Wolfe defeated the French General Louis-Joseph de Montcalm on September 13, 1759 and shortly thereafter took the city; and the final Battle of Sainte-Foy, a French victory (April 28, 1760). France ceded New France, including the city, to Britain in 1763.
At the end of French rule in 1763, forests, villages, fields and pastures surrounded the town of 8,000 inhabitants. The town distinguished itself by its monumental architecture, fortifications, affluent homes of masonry and shacks in the suburbs St-Jean and St-Roch. Despite its urbanity and its status as capital, Quebec City remained a small colonial city with close ties to its rural surroundings. Nearby inhabitants traded their farm surpluses and firewood for imported goods from France at the two city markets.
Our hotel is in old town Quebec City and, after the bus tour, we set off to discover the parts of the old city that the bus could not visit. Quebec is very hilly and the old city is divided into the upper and the lower cities. There is a funicular a couple streets above our hotel that takes you about 1000 feet to where the Fairmont Chateau Frontenac Hotel sits. This is an amazing architectural structure that sits high above the entire city. We noted the funicular and put it on tomorrow's agenda, just after my therapy session for acrophobia. So we walked and walked along the cobblestone streets of the lower city. Margaret and I have distinctly different ideas of sightseeing. She is much more into what I call "shopseeing"!! She will spend hours looking at cute toys for the grand kids or all varieties of maple syrup goods...while I am "suggesting" the museums that we will not likely get another chance to see.
On the bus tour we did pass by the area near the Plains of Abraham where Celine Dion had a concert last night for 40,000 of her closest friends. It was entirely in an outdoor setting that had to be set up and the only concert she will do this year outside of Las Vegas. We saw several hundred workers on Sunday who were taking everything down. We also learned that the unemployment rate is 4.6% (considered full employment) and that Quebec City is the 2nd safest city in all of Canada...next to Guelph.
The weather was quite cool and windy so we decided to eat at the hotel bar...L'Artefact...this is not the fine dining restaurant but a very comfortable lounge with very comfortable chairs and pillows where we quickly used up the $100 food and beverage credit. I had my first burger of the trip. We ended the evening with only our second game of dominoes on the trip...I'm 2-0. Returned to our room and found the A's vs. Angels game on TV...thank goodness they have not televised any Giants games on this trip.