September 22, 2008
We simply could not have picked a better time to visit Quebec. 2008 marks the year of the 400th birthday of the city (founded in 1608), and today the old city (vieux Quebec) had a no-car-day, which meant that the streets were swarming with tourists and vendors which demonstrated bicycles and electric cars/segways. Also the weather was perfect, with a spotless sky and temperatures around 20 degrees. For it’s 400th birthday the city administration had built a few pavillons and other exhibitions at the piers and all the streets were decorated, as were the stores.
At about 9am we arrived at the public-parking area to take the bus-line ($2 all day long, created as part of the 400th-celebrations) into town, only to discover that indeed Quebec is somewhat french, and therefore relaxed, which is why the bus-line starts to operate at 10am. We grabbed a coffee and waited with a lot of very chatty old ladies until we got into town. Initially we followed the same route we quickly did yesterday evening. We climbed up to the Citadelle (yes, it is quite steep) but decided against taking the tour for monetary reasons. We went down again and then basically all around town (a few times, the distances are not that big, but still we walked about 5 hours straight). Quebec certainly has many nice qualities and almost no negative aspects. The streets are small and lined with restaurants, art-galleries and antique/tourist-shops, but there is no place that feels cheap or overly touristic.
The sidewalks are abuzz with friendly people and still everything is clean and in good shape. We observed that, with all the food and the wine and the many buses, people here look healthy, happy and are well-dressed (in harsh contrast to american cities of similar size). Bus drivers stop in the middle of a highway-exit in order to talk to colleagues and no-one complains (although the driving here sometimes feels french ;). The only thing you _could_ hold against them is that a lot of them don’t speak english one could call understandable (and that they don’t slow down one bit after discovering that you’re not a native french speaker).
After the city we stopped at a supermarket (yes, it felt very french too) and were shocked when we saw the prices of dairy products. Now we’re back at our motel and planning the trip for tomorrow, as we’ll be heading for Montreal, where, given good lodging, we may stay 2 full days (meaning 3 nights).