Tale of Two Quebec Cities

Our trek across Quebec, Canada, has begun.  Yesterday afternoon, we landed amidst rain showers in Montreal, which sits in the scenic St. Lawrence Valley, a landscape of lakes, meandering streams, floodplain farmlands and wooded hills.  Montreal, itself, is not unlike many large river cities in the U.S. and, despite its beautiful setting, has the usual mix of shining skyscrapers, artsy neighborhoods and industrial corridors.  We stayed in an old hotel along Rue Saint Dennis where a three-day street festival was underway, an annual celebration of the new school year.

This morning, we headed east on Route 20, destined for Quebec City.  The highway curves south from the St. Lawrence Valley, crossing farmland and moose habitat and offering views of the Adirondacks and Northern Appalachians to the south and southeast.  Quebec City, first established as a protected seaport in 1608, sits atop granite bluffs, north of the River.  Old stone buildings and narrow, cobblestone streets remain along the waterfront, now a mix of restaurants, pubs and shops.  An incline leads up to La Citadelle and Old Town Quebec, which are rimmed by a boardwalk that hugs the cliffs, offering spectacular views of the St. Lawrence Valley and of the Laurentians and northernmost Appalachians to the east.

Quebec City, though crowded with tourists on this mild, late summer weekend, is one of the most scenic urban areas that I have yet to encounter.  Clean and inviting, it is close to the fabulous natural ecosystems of both the St. Lawrence estuary and the Laurentian Mountains, not to mention the natural wonders of the Gaspe Peninsula that we plan to explore over the next ten days.