The pleasures of being a tourist in your home town!

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Photo: Shirley Nadeau

Did you know there are Russian cannons on Dufferin Terrace in front of the Château Frontenac? Just one of many amazing facts gleaned on our walking tour of Old Quebec. 

Many Quebec City locals, including yours truly and my partner in life, took advantage of the offer of the Association des Guides touristiques de Québec (AGTQ, Québec City Professional Tour Guides Association) to go on a guided walking tour and explore our city. 

The AGTQ offered the tour free of charge for a maximum of 15 groups of 15 people on Saturday, September 10, but the response was so great that the Association expanded the offer to 20 groups of 20. 

Armed with water bottles and sunglasses, our group departed from the Plains of Abraham Museum on Avenue Laurier at 9:30 a.m. and spent two delightful hours in the company of our knowledgeable guide, Benoît Poulin. At the nearby National Assembly we learned about the plans for the new visitors’ pavilion. Construction of the new entrance under the central exterior stairway is underway at the moment and may not be finished until spring 2019. Meanwhile, a beautifully decorated wall and beds of edible plants maintained by the Urbainculteurs de Québec camouflage the work area. 

We strolled around the Tourny Fountain (filled with bubbles this particular day…see page 8) and through a winding passageway in the ramparts to the Esplanade, where British soldiers used to parade regularly. On Rue Saint-Louis, we learned about the design of houses built during the French Regime (small windows and rough-hewn stone), compared with houses built after 1759 (larger windows, smoother stone), and the story behind the world’s most photographed cannonball in the roots of the elm tree at the corner of Rue du Corps-du-Guard. 

Onward we went to visit the Chapel of the Ursuline Convent and the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, with a stop to wave to Aldo (the donkey) over the wall of the Bishop’s residence. Our guide whipped out his iPhone to demonstrate how the members of the Quebec City Guild of Change Ringers ring the bells in the Cathedral tower and, coincidentally, there I was, pulling on a rope! (Those who know me know I was a bellringer there for almost 20 years, but recently gave it up because of an unrelated shoulder injury.) 

In the courtyard of the Séminaire de Québec we learned that the inscription SME over the entrance means Séminaire des Missionaires Étrangères. You can take a virtual tour of the Séminaire de Québec at www.seminairedequebec.org/visite-guidee and learn about how it developed over the centuries. 

Passing Notre Dame Basilica we stopped at the corner of Rue du Trésor and Rue Buade to admire the historical plaque installed on the former QCT office building two years ago when this newspaper celebrated its 250th anniversary. Sorry, I digress….  

A visit to Dufferin Terrace in front of the Château Frontenac was a must, of course. We stopped to see the stately monument to Samuel de Champlain, then took in the view from the Terrace. It may be clichéed but we should never take it for granted … the view of Lévis, the St. Lawrence River and the mountains beyond is awesome

Hearing about Wolfe’s invasion almost exactly 257 years ago, we learned how and exactly where the British troops had scaled the heights to the battleground. Then it was up the stairs to Governors’ Park, to see the Wolfe-Montcalm monument and check out the array of cannons aimed squarely at incoming cruise ships below. 

We then headed down Côte de la Montagne to Lower Town. Some of us (who don’t like walking down hills – too hard on the knees) instead took a shortcut down the Passage du Roi stairway to Place Royale, the beautifully-restored heart of Old Quebec. Here Samuel de Champlain founded Quebec in 1608, and built the Habitation that housed New France’s second successful colony (the first was Port Royal, Nova Scotia). Notre-Dame-des-Victoires Church, one of North America’s oldest churches, was built upon the settlement’s ruins in 1687. 

After visiting the Royal Battery, armed with more cannons pointed towards the St. Lawrence River, our excellent tour ended on Rue du Petit-Champlain at the foot of the Funicular (inclined elevator). 

Some refreshments were in order after all that walking, and the cool interior of the Bistro Le Pape Georges on Rue du Cul-de-Sac was a perfect way to end the day. 

To learn more about the Quebec City Professional Tour Guides Association, visit their website at www.agtq.org/home. I highly recommend one of their tours, for locals and tourists alike.