It can be a challenge to reach Québec from the US, and the lack of American tourists adds to the European flavor of this French-speaking city. There is an airport, but flights from California are few. Most Canadians get there by motorcoach or rail (Québec has three railway stations) and many British and European visitors arrive on cruise ships. The QE2 docked on our final day in Québec, filling the Chateau Frontenac to the utmost. The slides above are from BonjourQuebec.com, the official tourist website. Because living in California requires an effort to see fall foliage, next time I will use this scheduler.
The Château barely squeezed us in for the one night of the boat-train package because Québec was filling up for a bicycle race from Québec to Montreal. The cyclists had been arriving for days to train on the slippery Québec cobblestones and the competition spectators were filling the Château. We got a curved, turret room (pointed out by Anet) that had antique furniture and a grand view of the river. Howard loved it, we got a good night's sleep and we enjoyed investigating the many staircases and elevators and eavesdropping on the official tours.
It was raining the next morning so we took a bus tour before the bicycle race closed many roads. Québec is the capitol of the province and the Parliament buildings are impressive and all proceedings take place in French. The decision by the province to make French the first language had a tremendous impact on business, especially on the insurance industry which dominated the area and refused to submit to two languages on every form. Major insurance headquarters were moved out of the province as a result of the French language initiative.
We learned that from the arrival of the French Jesuits in the 1600s, all free public schooling in Québec was run by the Catholic church. We were told that Jews, Muslims, Hindus and all other non-catholics were educated by the Quakers in so-called confessional schools. You can see the vestiges of resentment today in Quebec French profanity which is mostly slurs against Catholicism and its liturgy. The Church's grip on the schools was not broken until 1998, and the undercurrent of oppositional behavior pervasive in the Catholic schools I attended was evident in Montreal and Quebec.
For example, when there was almost enough room for me and my wheeled luggage, I would ask the person to step out of the way by saying "excusez-moi, svp." In France, people would move as requested, but in Québec no one budged. But the sense of style is very French. The people dress beautifully, including fabulous shoes, even though the weather is typically very changeable. The food is delightful and the beer is good enough to bring on an attack of gout.
Howard's first words of French were spoken on our first night here as we searched for a pharmacy around 7 p.m. as most shops were closing. "Avez-vous Aleve," he asked the pharmacist, who had it behind the counter. We found a busy pub in the tourist section surrounding the hotel, but the bus tour showed us that Avenue Saint-Jean is the place we should have stayed on the second night.
Instead we stayed at red-red-red
Sept. 29 Fall Foliage from BonjourQuebec.com
Canada: Catholic Order Settles Sexual Abuse Suit for $17 Million (Oct 2011)
The settlement covers incidents from 1950 to 2001 at three Quebec schools.
NYTimes.com 36 Hours in Quebec City