In Quebec City, nearly 15% of the population is retired and for those that work, the government is the biggest employer.
Now you might think that this would mean that Quebec City is a little dull – I certainly did before we visited – but as our guide was quick to point out, Quebec City is beautiful.
Not that he needed to point it out – we could see for ourselves.
Quebec City’s architecture is very European and with its people speaking French, as you walk around the city it’s easy to feel as though you’re in Europe, not Canada.
This is apparently why the city gets so many tourists each year – because Americans and Canadians can feel as though they’re getting a taste of European culture without having to fly the long distance.
Certainly, I’ve lived for a year in Paris and have a good sense of what French culture is like and I definitely felt it in Quebec City. When comparing it to Toronto, where we’d been just the week before, Quebec City felt like it was in a different country altogether.
Our guide, François, was excited to show us the best Quebec City had to offer and arrived with Tim Tams in hand.
For those of you who aren’t Australian, Tim Tams a biscuit popular in Australia and Dave and I haven’t had them for a year, so we were very impressed! Turns out François is married to an Australian and she gave him the heads up for what to bring.
We were certainly grateful for this little taste of home.
We began our tour from a viewing platform that overlooked the river.
We had a good vantage point of the Quebec Bridge as François unveiled its tragic past.
Construction on Quebec Bridge begun in the early 1900s but the engineering wasn’t sound and it collapsed halfway through the build, killing 75 people. But the government didn’t give up and continued with the build only to have it collapse again in 1916, killing 13 more workers.
The bridge was finally finished in 1919 at a total cost of $25 million and 89 bridgeworkers’ lives.
What a price to pay for a bridge.
After this story, we needed a little bit of cheering up, so we headed over to Montmorency Falls. A short drive from Quebec City’s centre, I wasn’t really sure of what to expect.
I was blown away. The waterfall is taller than Niagara Falls and to me they were more enjoyable because you could walk over the top of them on a suspension bridge to take in their full power.
We also took the cable car up and down the mountain that runs alongside the falls, to appreciate the view from that side.
Next up, François took us to a more rural side of Quebec City – over to its Île d’Orléans. The island is known for its agriculture and farmers can be seen working in the fields as you drive by. Only 15 minutes from the centre of Quebec City, it really makes Quebec a magical place and a real mish mash of both urban and country life.
By this point we were getting a little hungry so we headed over to Quebec City’s farmer’s market.
If you go to Quebec City and don’t have time to see much, make sure you visit this market.
All the food looks delicious and you can purchase anything from fresh seafood to bread and cheese.
The market has a distinct French flair with its fois gras and baguettes for sale. If you want a closer look at what it’s like, watch our video above.
And don’t worry if it’s raining – the market is all undercover and your first hour of parking is free.
But it wasn’t raining for us. We had glorious sunshine, so we headed up to The Plains of Abraham, a historic area where the French fought the British. Even though they lost, they were still allowed to keep their culture alive, which gives Quebec City the beautiful European culture it has today.
We sat up on the hill and took in the view as we ate our tasty foods purchased from the farmer’s market. A view of the river was on one side, and on the other, a view of the city.
As my belly filled up with cheese and terrine, I sighed with contentment.
Quebec’s motto is “Je me souviens” or “I remember”. And after spending a day like that in Quebec City, I think it was a place I’d struggle to forget.
François works for the Quebec City tourist board, which gave us a complimentary tour of Quebec City. As always, our opinions are our own.
Video Transcript – A day in Quebec City
Carmen VO: We were keen to explore Quebec City and who better to show us than local Francois.
First up, we went over to Montmorency Falls and onto the cable car to take in the view. And what a view it was – as we rode down in the cable car we could appreciate the falls’ power.
Carmen PTC: Here we are at Montmorency Falls, which is just outside of Quebec City. Now the falls behind me are quite impressive – they’re taller than Niagara Falls but quite a bit narrower. And in the winter time the mist forms a large rock which people can use their ice picks to climb all over it.
Dave VO: And we were off to do some climbing of our own. A suspension bridge hangs over the top of Montmorency Falls so you can get a bird’s eye view.
And from the middle of the bridge, the power of the falls was very loud.
Carmen PTC: So here we are at l’Observatoire – one of Quebec City’s tallest buildings. Now let’s go over here and check out the view – come on! Spectacular.
Carmen VO: From l’Observatoire, you can take in a view of Quebec City from every angle
Dave VO: All this site seeing was helping us work up an appetite so we headed over to the Quebec City Farmer’s Market.
Carmen VO: The market has everything… from meat, to seafood, fresh herbs, and of course it wouldn’t be a French market without wine. Or a Canadian one without maple syrup! Strawberries were in season so we grabbed some of those… And of course you can’t forget the bread!
Dave PTC: So Carmen, what have you got so far?
Carmen PTC: Baguette, fraises, or strawberries, smoked meat and paté. Delicious.
Dave PTC: Feels like we’re missing something though?
Carmen PTC: Fromage!
Dave VO: We couldn’t forget the cheese, so we followed our noses to the stall. We got a rundown on Quebec’s most famous cheese…
Carmen VO: …before finishing the day with some history.
Dave PTC: Now for those of you who know me quite well, I’m pretty into my military history. And here in Quebec City, military history has really shaped the entire history of the city. This is Battlefield Park, The Plains of Abraham.
Dave VO: Our guide Francois was on hand to tell us more.
Interview with Tourist Guide, Francois: On September 13th 1759, James Wolfe managed to bring up about 5,000 troops onto the Plains of Abraham. This is the weakest side of Quebec City which is naturally protected by natural cliffs but up here the French were not expecting the British to show up.
There would be a major battle, European style, between the French who quickly rushed to defend the city, and the British who were waiting for them.
Eventually the French retreated away from the city and weren’t able to come back until the next spring.
During the next spring in 1760, another battle took place – a large part of it on the Plains of Abraham as well. This time it was the French who didn’t have enough powder to take the city and both were waiting for reinforcements.
So while the British are surrounding the city and the French are besieging the city, the first boats to show up are British – showing that the French Navy has been decimated.
And six months later New France will surrender all that because of the two battles that took place on the Plains of Abraham.