Friday, July 29, 2005

Quebec City

At the campground this morning, I was up at 5:30. 47° in the tent. Everything outside soaked with heavy dew. After a run to the bathroom a couple hundred yards away, crawled back in my bag until 8:30. By then, kids were playing, families spreading out breakfast on picnic tables. (“maybe they’ll invite us over?”)

Overnight, the campground had added many campers. Waited for the sun to rise above the mountains and dry out our gear; there was no rush in breaking down the site. Anyway, at 11:00, the kennel would be open for visitation.

Learned that the entire province of Quebec goes on vacation the last two weeks of July, (ending this weekend.)

The families at the neighboring sites were from The Netherlands. They asked me to take a group photo of them. When one of the fathers inquired about directions to various locations, we got out the road atlas. The desire to be helpful to other travelers is pretty strong. Jeff, who knows the area fairly well, was able to answer many of his questions.

The wind picked up and things were drying nicely. At 11:00, we joined a couple other folks in walking over to the kennel. "Marcelle" greeted us and took us right in (no liability waivers to sign, no safety gear to put on.)

A tour of the kennel at Domaine la Truite du Parc, near Stoneham, Quebec.

The conditions in the kennel struck me as brutal. The dogs were tethered by a short, heavy chain to wooden posts stuck in the ground. The ground around, in a roughly eight-foot radius, was worn bare. Plastic 55-gallon drums, tipped on end constituted shelters. The was little if any shade (and it was already growing very warm.)

Jeff greeting one of the short-hair huskies.

I wonder what he's thinking?

They howled and barked as we approached, eager for attention. Marcelle called each by name and tried to give each a pat or a little wrestle. His wife, Veronique was following behind us, tending to their water dishes. Jeff's a big dog fan, so he especially had a great time visiting with the huskies and malamutes.

What a ham.

After an hour or so, we left for the city, a storm moving in rapidly. I hoped by moving to a lower elevation we'd miss the brunt of it. We wanted to go FAST, but the traffic heading for Quebec was very heavy.

Fortunately, we were only caught by a few sprinkles, and reaching the outskirts of Quebec, it looked safe.

We needed to find a camping outfitter, and luckily, at the first exit we tried, we found "Atmosphere", an outdoor shop with an impressive selection of gear. They have the largest stock I've seen of MSR camping equipment. Jeff picked up some warmer shirts (after this morning's chill) and nylon straps for better securing his packs.

Jeff has worked in Quebec as part of his D.O.T. job, so he knew his way around. He insisted on a motel for tonight. "I'm paying. It's your birthday present."

He took us to the "Best Western, L'Aristocrate" on the west side of Quebec. It was pretty nice (at $173.69!) and we could park our bikes right outside the patio door to the room.

After settling in and freshening up, we rode through The Sillery district, the streets lined with beautifully-kept old homes. Clearly, an upper class neighborhood, yet the homes are relatively modest; none of the outrageous opulence you might find in Beverly Hills.

After hours, when working up here, Jeff would jog through these neighborhoods. We found the "Bagel Traditional Cafe" in The Sillery's business district. Our waitress was friendly and attractive, and in a chatty mood. The baker was a bit more serious, and seemed to prefer the waitress talk less and work more. But once he found out where we were from, he had stories to share of his travels to both Vermont and California. He had worked as a rock climbing guide in Yosemite for several years. I thoroughly enjoyed the setting, the company and people-watching in this colorful neighborhood. Tried some "Griffon Blonde" beer (made by McAuslan Brewery of Montreal) - very refreshing.

Memorable little bagel shop in the Sillery District of Quebec City.

Late in the afternoon, we rode our bikes downtown, into "Vieux-Quebec", the immensely-popular old city on the hill. A wild mix of cars, buses, trucks and pedestrians made navigation through the narrow streets both energizing and nerve-racking.

Found a parking space right in front a Paris-style open-front restaurant. We were at the heart of the old city. Wandered over to a promenade along the bluffs, which offers wonderful views of Quebec's port and the St. Lawrence River.

The search for a restroom took us into the "Le Château Frontenac", Fairmont's grand historic hotel that dominates this corner of the city. Returned to the bikes as the parking meter was soon to expire. Suiting up, a policeman approached and asked if we needed assistance. Hadn't really thought about it, but Jeff asked him for directions to the Citadel, which he kindly provided.

Quebec's Old City

Then two couples came along. They too were bikers and had noticed our license plates. They seemed eager to assist in any way possible. After talking a while, one of the fellows said motorcycles are not allowed in parts of the old city, this being one of those areas. He was surprised we had not been cited. Their most important piece of advice, "regardless what others say, when you ride "The Cabot Trail" (in Nova Scotia), go clockwise! You won't regret it."

We found "legal" parking closer to the Citadel and walked along the old fortress walls above the city. The sun had just set as we reached a park overlooking the river. It actually felt good to get out and do some hiking about after so much time on the motorcycle.

Future rock climbers in Quebec City. You'd never see American kids being allowed to scale our monuments.

Downtown Quebec City.

Walking back towards the bikes, music could be heard echoing through the city streets. We followed it for perhaps a mile, until we came to a section of wall dividing the old city from the new. In a plaza surrounded by modern high-rises, a band was playing reggae and rock on a small stage. An area around the stage was cordoned off, as admission was apparently being charged. Few people were within the perimeter. Many watched from outside the barrier, including many dreadlocked young people sitting high on the precipice where we stood.

Behind us, one of the old city streets was closed to vehicles. It was now serving as as an arena for jugglers, gymnasts and magicians; people of all ages pressing in to watch the acts. We skirted around the throngs, stepping into an occasional shop, one of which was an excellent gelato shop - just like those in Italy. Jeff's first taste of gelato; now he's hooked.

Looked beyond the old city for a quieter place to have dinner, but by now most restaurants had closed. One of the few options was "Baton Rouge", only a couple blocks from the hotel. For the price, the food was underwhelming. Expensive.

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