I never kept an exact count of all the cities I’ve been to but my best guess is around (at least?) 150. Every city is special in its own way and I think more often than not, our judgments or views of certain places reveal more about our own biases and character than about the towns or areas themselves. I frequently get asked the question, “what’s your favorite city and/or country?” and I admit that rarely answer directly. I believe that my experiences are usually so subjective that my response would not be the kind that my inquirers are looking for anyway.
Quebec City, however, has to be one of the most charming cities that I have ventured to. It is certainly one of the most beautifully-built cities in North America. My heart had surrendered to the white serenity beneath me the moment that I glanced out of my window seat on the busy-buzzing Bombardier Q400 that I embarked from Toronto.
It was a Friday afternoon, late-March, and the temperature was still below freezing. I could feel my bones tremble and my hairs shiver but somehow I felt strangely refreshed—blithe and carefree. Although I hadn’t set foot in this city since I was 2 years old, it felt familiar, welcoming and homey. A local couple generously offered me and my dad a free ride from the airport (I was baffled at first but I came to realize that Canadians are just incredibly kind) and even a mini-tour of downtown Quebec City.
During my two and half days there, the wind blew incessantly and the temperature continued to wither (it dropped to -10 degrees Celsius or 14 degrees Fahrenheit at one point), but something in the air of the city warmed me from the inside. Nearly everybody I met, from the concierge of the apartment I was staying at to random elderly woman at the local boulangerie, smiled and reached out to help me even before I thought about asking for assistance. Perhaps for the first time ever, my mind joined my heart in the idea that it letting my guards down in a foreign city would be alright; I can consciously and freely lose myself at peace. A chosen, mindful surrender to the unknown.
One of the oldest cities in North America, Québec City has a remarkable history and is the only town in the continent outside of Mexico and the Caribbean that still has its original city walls, ramparts, gates and bastions. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone told me that the city is secretly covered in magic dust. The first recognized European settlers arrived in 1608, headed by a French explorer man by the name of Samuel de Champlain. The area quickly developed and became the capital of New France. Although the city was turned over to British rule in 1759, a lot of the French heritage remained.
Rue du Petit-Champlain, located in the Basse-Ville or “Lower Town,” of the Old City, is the oldest commercial street in North America. Picturesque and exquisite, the architecture style and buildings are reminiscent of 17th and 18th century Normandy and Northern France; the streets, now lined with colorful boutique shops and bistros, seem to be unaffected by time.
Since apparently pictures are worth a thousand words, I’m going to let my photos speak. in all honestly, I would say none of my pictures is able to capture even a bit of the city’s ineffable charm.
P.S. I will be detailing some of my marvelous meals here in subsequent posts.