07.30.2013 - 07.30.2013 78 °F
We decided to take a 5 hour guided bus tour which would take us to Montmorency Falls, I'le d'Orleans, St. Anne de Beaupre Basilica and other assorted throw ins where I am sure the bus tour gets a kickback for dropping such a captive audience off at the Chocolate factory, the copper shop and the bakery where you can buy a slice of bread with maple butter for only a buck and a half CAD.
The first stop was Montmorency Falls which is a large waterfall on the Montmorency River. The falls are located on the boundary between the borough of Beauport, Quebec City, and Boischatel, about 7 miles from the heart of old Quebec City. The falls, at 275 ft high and 150 feet wide, are the highest in the province of Quebec and 98 ft higher than Niagara Falls. The basin at the foot of the falls is 56 feet deep. The falls are at the mouth of the Montmorency River where it drops over the cliff shore into the Saint Lawrence River, opposite the western end of the Île d'Orleans. The falls were given this name in 1613 by Samuel de Champlain. He named them in honor of Henri II, duc de Montmorency, who served as viceroy of New France from 1620 until 1625. There are staircases that allow visitors to view the falls from several different perspectives. A suspension bridge over the crest of the falls provides access to both sides of the park as well as a spectacular view. There is also an aerial tram that carries passengers between the base and the top of the falls.
We opted for the tram...when you see the photographs of the stairs you will see why...there are more than 450 of them. There is a lesser falls called the Bridal Veil Falls which are a couple hundred feet from the main group. The Montmorency Falls are pretty awesome to view and presented a definite challenge to my acrophobia. They are not nearly as majestic or powerful as the Niagara Falls. Next stop on the tour was I'le d'Orleans. Île d'Orléans is located in the Saint Lawrence River about 3 miles east of downtown Quebec City. The island was one of the first parts of the province to be colonized by the French, and a large percentage of French Canadians can trace ancestry to early residents of the island. The island has been described as the "microcosm of traditional Quebec and as the birthplace of francophones in North America." Settlement of the island dates to the early 1600s. There are some very old homes and many beautiful new ones that are waterfront properties. Much of the produce that is sold in Quebec City comes From farms on the island.
After a stop at a bakery and a copper factory, we proceeded to the Saint Anne de Beaupre basilica...a church that was totally unexpected, being really out in the boonies amidst tiny 350 year old homes which used to house tiny people by comparison to today's giants. This church is huge and majestic and magnificent and yet further evidence of the Catholic Church flexing its muscles with all of the excess. It has been credited by the Catholic Church with many miracles of curing the sick and disabled. Check out the pictures of the canes and crutches that are strapped to one othe church's pillars...presumably testament to the disabled folks who were miracleized! It is an important Catholic sanctuary which receives about a half-million pilgrims each year. The peak period of pilgrimage is around July 26, the feast of Saint Anne, the patron saint of Quebec. We were 4 days late for any possible miracle. The basilica dates to 1876 and there are many other religious structures in the area, including life size versions of the stations of the cross. Just in case, I lit a few candles...you never know.
On the way back to Quebec City we encountered a rain storm. Cirque du Soleil has been putting on a free performance at the Old Port...it is an outside show...and we were concerned about the weather and the lack of umbrellas and ponchos which were still in the missing backpack. Although the show is free, I purchased tickets for $20 a few months ago and was not quite sure why. We stopped into the hotel to pick up one of its umbrellas and then walked to Cafe St. Malo where we had 6:30 dinner reservations. We were about 10 minutes late to this charming little cafe whose outside tables had been vacated because of the earlier rain. It was still warm outside. The seating at the Cirque show was first come first served which is why we were eating so early. The food at this little cafe was outstanding, as was the service. Margaret had "one of the best salads ever" and duck...I was locked into wonderful onion soup and the steak frites which was also wonderful but more than I could eat. We finished dinner shortly before 8 and then walked the few blocks to the venue. The weather was beautiful with clearing skies colored by the reds, oranges and yellows of the setting sun. I picked up the tickets I had purchased at will call and we still were not certain what they got us. There were thousands of people already in long lines for a 9:15 show, with doors opening at 8:45. We kept circling the venue looking for section D and there were no signs. Margaret went to inquire and we were directed to a much shorter line. When the doors opened we were led into an area that had long tables and padded stools. Now I knew what the $20 bought...a shorter line, a guaranteed seat and some comfort. Others who sat were sitting on bleachers. There was another large contingent of people that were actually allowed to stand in the pit area where the performance took place. The show was only an hour, but it was typically beautiful Cirque with a live band and a crane that lifted acrobats 30 feet off the ground. The setting could not have been more beautiful. We were treated to our first night time view of the Fairmont Frontenac Hotel high up on the hill overseeing Quebec, beautifully lit up. It was a perfect evening...they say "perfect" a lot up here.