Holiday weekend in Quebec City
A writer who was there when Churchill met Roosevelt in Quebec returns for a holiday steeped in history, spiced with Gallic gaiety and haute cuisine, and set off by the romantic skyline of Canada’s most charming city
I suppose most city dwellers prefer their own city to any other; if they didn't, presumably, they would have moved long since to the city of their choice. I know this is true of most Montrealers; talk to them of a trip to Toronto and their lips curl in disgust; to Ottawa and they yawn with boredom; and as for the west, only the prospect of traveling with a potential Grey Cup winner would lure them on an excursion into that hinterland. Yet there is one city for which most Montrealers confess a great weakness, and it is a weakness that 1 suspect is shared by many others who are otherwise parochial home-town boosters; this is Quebec City.
Quebec City! The very mention of the name conjures up visions of the past: of that dashing adventurer, explorer and scientist, Champlain, landing here to found the first city of Canada back in 1608; of Phips and his fleet in 1690 prowling below its battlements and safely out of range as the haughty eagle, Frontenac, replied to his insulting demand for surrender: "I will answer your general only by the mouths of my cannon!''; of that crucial night in 1759 when Wolfe's men scaled its craggy cliffs and slipped past a slack guard to land in Montcalm's rear and force a battle that decided the fate of a continent; of Montgomery's siege of 1775 and the hand-to-hand fighting in Lowertown which ended in Montgomery's death and the withdrawal of the American forces; and. from recent years, memories of the two fateful Quebec Conferences of World War II when the late Prime Minister Mackenzie King played host to Roosevelt and Churchill as the Allies mapped out their strategy for the second front. Surely if Canada can boast a historic city, this is it. Visiting Quebec is like visiting your own birthplace and assuring yourself that, after all, you were
not just a bundle left on the doorstep by wandering gypsies from Europe.
It was with such thoughts that my wife and I recently accepted an assignment from Maclean's to spend a weekend in Quebec City, and it was with a pleasant feeling of anticipation and excitement that we drove along the south shore on Highway 9 (the shortest route between Montreal and Queber City), and topped a rise in the otherwise straight and flat road to get the first glimpse of our destination. Before us appeared the many-girdered arching green frame of the Quebec Bridge, rising from the steep banks of the St. Lawrence and blending with the foliage at either end to form a foreground for the first soft outline of the city, its green-tipped roof tops touched by the last slanting rays of the sun and framed against the lowering and rolling black backdrop of the Laurentians beyond. It seemed truly a city of beauty and mystery and promise, and not quite real.
The last light of day vanished as we crossed the bridge. Beads of twinkling lights in the city and ships' lights in the dark shadows of the river below completed the transformation to night as we drove along the great wide Boulevard Sir Wilfrid Laurier, w'hich changed to gracious Grande Allée,
as w'e entered the city itself. We came at once under the spell of Quebec, its gentle pace and elegant atmosphere. And as we followed the length of Grande Allée, picking our way past an occasional calèche and victoria, we entered the old walled city with its narrow winding streets, grey stone houses with unbroken fronts and its haunting feeling of linking the present with centuries past. And then we came to the Chateau Frontenac, green-roofed and turreted like a medieval castle, and dominating the old city night and day.
Probably most English-speaking tourists go directly to the Chateau, for it dominates the hotel scene as its outline dominates the skyline. Its total of 678 rooms is equal to the total of the next five largest hotels, the Saint Roch, Victoria, Saint Louis. Clarendon and Chateau Champlain. Its prices are higher, too. Double rooms with bath range from fourteen to twenty-one dollars at the Chateau. The Saint Roch runs between seven and nine dollars, Victoria and Saint Louis between ten and twelve, the Clarendon (w'here I stayed during the Quebec Conferences) from eleven to fourteen, and Chateau Champlain from six to eight dollars a day.
We might have stopped at any number
CONTINUED ON NEXT PAGE
“We came at once under the
the river. Top price there was ten dollars with the 110-unit Auberge du Boulevard Laurier, at the north end of the bridge, the biggest of them all.
And then, of course, for people who want to visit Quebec City on a shoestring, there are hundreds of rooms to rent, comfortable and well-furnished, many with parking privileges, with a top price of nine dollars and as little as a dollar to a dollar and a half in the offseason for rooms that are quite clean and comfortable, in the walled city itself.
We chose none of these. Instead, upon the recommendation of a good friend who lives in Quebec City, Roger Lemelin of television Plouffe Family fame, we stopped at the Chateau Laurier, a modest sixty-room hostelry right on Grande Allée near the provincial parliament building. He had said: “All the French-Canadian intellectuals from Montreal stay there. Even if you are neither, they are broadminded, and you will like the atmosphere.”
He was right. The place had a warm and hospitable appearance and we found our twin-bedded room quite modern and up to date with radio and television at eleven dollars a day. It commanded a view of spacious Place Georges V, with the Armouries in the foreground and the Citadel and the old city beyond. And the celebrated Georges V restaurant was attached to the hotel. We hastily unpacked and went down to try it out.
Quebec City restaurants rate among the very best in the land, and of these, I soon discovered, the Georges V was among the leaders. While Elizabeth— that's my wife—and I sipped our apéritifs, we studied the menu. It began with the injunction: “Bon Appétit . . . Large
Soif ... et ne battez, pus votre femme ! ! !”, and it offered a large array of tempting hors d’œuvres, but we skipped them for soup. Elizabeth ordered onion soup served French-style and I settled for sherry consommé. Then Elizabeth went exotic with shrimps flambé, and, not to be outdone, I called for pepper steak flambéed in armagnac. The steak, golden brown and covered with tiny peppercorns, was a good inch and a half thick. Both it and the shrimps gave off tantalizing aromas as they were flambéed at the table in copper saucepans, the maître d’hôtel deftly flipping the liquor over them and stirring the sauce briskly as all that good alcohol went up in blue flames. We skipped vegetables in favor of a crisp chef’s salad with a suspicion of garlic in it, and 1 ordered a ’53 Riesling, a dry Alsatian wine, for the shrimps, and then drank most of it myself. Elizabeth had an impressive French pastry featuring fresh cherries for her dessert, and I had a Rhum Baba that was really soaked in rum. Cognac and a cigar with the coffee began to make me feel like an ancient French seigneur, and I paid the formidable check with a flourish.
By now it was close to midnight, and Elizabeth showed definite signs of weariness. But I still felt wide awake, so I
spell of ancient Quebec — its gentle pace and elegant atmosphere”
told her 1 would have a look around and she went off to bed. 1 drove down Grande Allée, now almost deserted, through the old walled city to a night-spot on St. Jean Street appropriately called A La Porte St. Jean. Quebec City lays no claim to being a city of night clubs; rather it boasts of having more churches per capita than Rome. But a number of restaurants have floor shows and A La Porte St. Jean is the biggest and best of these. Others are Chez Gérard, in Lowertown, under the same management but catering to a more rugged audience; the Chez Emile, with more elevated entertainment; Au Bal Tabarin; Le Baril d'Huitre; and Coronet, all advertising floor shows of varying quality.
The Porte St. Jean featured a lively ice show', Jack Kelly’s Ice Frolics of 1958, and it was just about broken up completely by the zany antics of a typical drunken American tourist, who turned out to be Esco La Rue and part of the show.
His act began with the garrulous table-hopping and jovial drunken applause of a happy inebriate and built up to a sortie on the ice that had the audience in a panic. After the show 1 had a happy inspiration, and a confidential word with Esco La Rue. 1 told him: “Tomorrow night, I’m going to bring my wife to see the show', but I won’t tell her about you.” He grinned. “I'll be looking for you.”
continued on page 74
continued from page 29
“French Canadians will shame you with their familiarity with English”
he promised. When I got back to the hotel, Elizabeth was sleeping as innocently as a Iamb. I had no remorse.
Saturday was a hectic day. It began at a quarter to seven in the morning when the telephone spluttered into action. I groped back to consciousness to hear Montreal photographer Basil Zarov chirping cheerfully in my ear. He had arrived on the overnight train and was eager to start taking the pictures that accompany this story. I mumbled something about having coffee in the room later, and tried to crawl back under the sheets. But I was rooted out of there by a roused wife who had slept well and who was anxious to be on the move. She barked commands into the phone and then vanished into the bathroom in my morning gown, leaving me draped in a sheet to face the waiter who arrived promptly with tomato juice and coffee for three. Then the towering Zarov barged in, and the room began to overflow.
We decided that the best idea was to consult the Quebec government tourist bureau, which was just across the street. There we met Miss Suzanne Lamire who, like everyone else we met in Quebec City, was most courteous and helpful. And by the way, you don’t have to worry if you are not adept in French. French Canadians appreciate the effort if you try a few words; then they will shame you with their easy familiarity with English —those whom you are likely to meet as visitor. Miss Lamire plied us with maps, brochures, timetables, planned walking tours, guidebooks, hotel and motel statistics, and the news that the changing of the guard at the Citadel took place at ten in the morning. It was now nine-thirty.
We had arranged with Roger Lemelin to drop out Saturday morning to his summer cottage at Cap Rouge, eight miles upstream on the north shore of the St. Lawrence. We wanted to try out his fancy new dimming pool, but
Elizabeth had no bathing suit. “A legitimate expense,” claimed Zarov, so we went shopping at Holt Renfrew, where Elizabeth found a bargain bathing suit at $9.75. She offered a flat five dollars but the offer was rejected with hauteur. Zarov loaded up with films, and I bought two rolls for my Polaroid camera.
Then we rushed up the hill to the entrance to the Citadel for the changing of the guard. There we found what seemed to be about a thousand other tourists lined up to purchase admission tickets at fifty cents each. Inside the gate the parade ground was almost completely surrounded by spectators as the soldiers of the Royal 22nd Regiment, in scarlet uniforms and black busbies, went through their drill. It presented a colorful spectacle, and still cameras and cinecameras buzzed all around us like locusts. I operated the Polaroid with startling results. But I missed the high point of the show when the regimental goat, a handsome creature with gilded flaring horns, made its graceful bow to the colors.
Waiting to snap FDR
Inevitably I remembered the last time I had been at the Citadel. It was during the second Quebec Conference, in 1944. Roosevelt and Churchill and their staffs had agreed to pictures near the parapet. The photographers — there must have been twenty of them—were waiting. Then as Roosevelt was wheeled out in his chair for the picture, one of his private bodyguards came over to the photographers and said: “If one of you guys shoots a picture before the president is ready, I'll heave you right over that wall!” The wall was the parapet, with a sheer drop of three hundred feet to the St. Lawrence below. Nobody took a picture prematurely.
Today it was different. Everybody was taking pictures, and nobody minded. The parade ground stretched out
flat and green, and the encircling walls of the Citadel shut off everything from view except the inevitable peak of the Chateau Frontenac which, at that precise time, was belching forth dirty black smoke to pollute the atmosphere. But it could not destroy the holiday mood of the crowd, who enjoyed the show immensely. We left before the general exodus, musing on the sound business sense of the Canadian army, which collects fifty cents a head for something they give away free at Buckingham Palace.
Next stop was Roger Lemelin’s cottage on Cap Rouge, boasting a magnificent view of the St. Lawrence for miles upstream. He wasn’t there, but we changed to swim-suits and I tried out the diving board with near-fatal results as two hundred pounds of well-rounded bone, sinew and muscle repeatedly threatened to splash all the water from the pool. Elizabeth applauded from a safe distance. Then Roger returned from a shopping trip with his family. He served drinks on the terrace by the pool and we went on our way refreshed.
For anyone who has only three days to spend in Quebec City and who loves to eat—a fact which, sadly, my figure cannot deny—there is an embarrassment of riches to choose from. There’s the Fleur de Lys, run by a couple of cheerful and knowledgeable Swiss, where I once had a fabulous meal and drank a half bottle of Napoleon brandy. There’s the Vendôme, considered by many experts as one of the three best eating places in the city. There’s the Auberge de Paris, warmly recommended by gourmet Lemelin; the Continental, where I once had a fabulous buffalo steak; the Georges V, where we dined so well the night before; the Camus, where you eat expensively but—I’m told—sensationally; and then there’s the old reliable Kerhulu, which has been an outstanding restaurant in Quebec City for decades. And since the Kerhulu, on City Hall
Square, was in the shopping district, Elizabeth wanted to cat there.
We ate well at the Kerhulu: hors d’œuvres, consommé; Elizabeth had calf brain and 1 had sautéed veal in curry, with a white Hag Chauvenet, and then crêpes suzette which, prepared at the table, fascinated Elizabeth. While assistant maître d’hôtel Marc Courrieu, who is celebrated for his crêpes suzette, went through the ritual, Elizabeth jotted down his recipe, which sounded simple but was very tricky in the execution. Afterwards we walked through the shopping district but saw nothing beyond obvious tourist souvenirs that we would not find at home. Elizabeth bought some coasters and we returned to the hotel, where we had coffee in the penthouse and went through all the brochures to map out the rest of our weekend.
Quebec City consists quite simply of the walled old city, Uppertown, which stretches west to end in the suburb of Sillery, and Lowertown, which wraps around the old city below the ramparts and then spreads westward parallel with Uppertown but on the lower level. At one time the elite lived in Lowertown, but today they live in Uppertown on streets like the Avenue des Braves, or in the swank suburb of Sillery. Lowertown is given over to commercial development and the homes of working people, with a fringe of factories. Within the present century Quebec City was an even more important seaport than it is now, and shipping played an important part in its economic life, along with shipbuilding. Today the largest employer of labor is Anglo-Canadian Pulp and Paper, and commerce, trade with the eastern part of Quebec province, plays the most vital role in the city’s economic life. The city proper has a population of some 170,000 people, but services an area with close to 300,000 people. Since it's the provincial capital, inevitably civil servants are important too in the city’s economic life, and the present government of Premier Duplessis exercises an enormous influence culturally as well as economically on the city. At one time Quebec City was the chief centre of shoe manufacturing, if not in all Canada certainly in Quebec province, and there are still twelve major shoe manufacturers in the city. But even this is a waning industry; as labor unions have become better organized, the low wages of the district which attracted industry in the past no longer does so. Perhaps the chief recent achievement industrially was the conversion of a giant government arsenal plant at St. Malo into smaller units for individual entrepreneurs.
Quebec's tremendous proportion of churches, sixty of them in a city of less than a quarter million, reflects the important role the clergy plays in the city. Quebec people are far more religious than Montrealers, for instance. Laval University is operated and staffed by the clergy, as are most French-Canadian universities. The black-robed figures you pass on every street help give the walled city its medieval quality, and church bells are heard at all hours.
A visitor to Quebec City is well-advised to concentrate his attention on the walled city, and this is what we decided to do Saturday afternoon.
On Place d’Armes in front of the Chateau we skirmished with the victoria and calèche drivers. The victoria drivers — theirs are the four-wheelers—wanted six dollars for a tour of Uppertown, eleven dollars for both levels. The two-wheeled calèches charged a straight four dollars an hour, with a running commentary thrown in. We talked to Nicholas Piémont, a medical student, who drove a calèche fronted by a handsome white nag called Romeo. He said that there were fourteen calèches and fifty-five fourwheelers in Quebec City, that it was the only city with authentic calèches operating, and that they were all over eighty years old and came originally from Normandy. Nicholas added that when he took over as calèche driver, he didn’t know the route, but Romeo had been on it for fifteen years and took him around safely.
We left Place d’Armes and headed towards the old Laval University. Soon a multi-million-dollar project will move most of the faculties of Laval to the suburbs in a giant university-town development. That seems a pity, for Laval is surely a great part of the personality of the old city, and the separation is bound to be painful to both sides. The Laval students serve as guides, at $2.50 an hour, and steeped in the tradition of the city and loving it, they make enthusiastic commentators. As a matter of fact, any Laval student and any Laval alumnus will act as a guide free if you give him a chance. We had the good fortune to encounter Dr. Wilfrid Le Blond, pathologist at the Hôpital de L’Enfant Jésu, and he offered to take us through Laval. He pointed out that anyone could walk through it; the doors were always open. In wintertime tramps came in off the streets to warm themselves, and nobody bothered them. The walls of the halls were covered with prints of ancient Quebec. He took us down through the basement corridors with their enormous walls and masonry dating back to
1639, and pointed out how the walls facing the prevailing north-east weather were all wood-covered to protect the stone. He loved the place with a reverence that we found most moving, and his enthusiasm was contagious. And when we met his son. twenty-year-old Jean Le Blond, we found the same affection and enthusiasm toward the old city and its institutions. Young Jean had just graduated from Laval and planned a trip to Europe, traveling on his motor scooter. He told us that during the summer, when a two-week celebration was staged in the old city to commemorate the 350th anniversary of the founding of Quebec, he had organized street dancing, and girl students had sold flowers in the street, all in festive mood. He took us to a little student club on the Champlain Stairs, midway between Uppertown and Lowertown and directly under the Chateau. They called it the club 12-26, for the door was at the twelfth step from the top of the stairs, and twenty-six students had banded together to form it. They planned to have pocket theatre on weekends in the room, which was about sixteen feet square; on other evenings they would have songs and recite verse, and they would serve coffee and cakes. They didn't believe in the existentialism that is fashionable in Paris, nor the Beat Generation and their problems. They were glad to be alive and living in Quebec. Jean said: “Our city is not the biggest or the cleanest in America, but it is the most charming." I found myself wishing with a strange nostalgia that I was twenty again, and living in Quebec City.
We left the young students and their club, wishing them luck and promising to drop in for a performance whenever we came back to Quebec City, and went on down to Lowertown. There we discovered Rue Sous le Cap, said to be the narrowest street in North America, and youngsters swarmed around us, singing and performing acrobatics for pennies. The ten-year-old leader of the band companionably offered me a Matinée cigarette from a nearly full pack, but I told him 1 never smoked filters. I was willing to admit that the street was just about the narrowest and crookedest and most cockeyed I had ever seen.
We wandered on through Lowertown, toward the river and the ferry for Levis. Elizabeth found an antique shop where she rummaged, and we saw Quebec's oldest church, Notre Dame des Victoires, which was built in 1688 and given its present name after a storm dispersed the fleet of Admiral Walker in 1711, forcing him to lift the siege of Quebec.
We regained Uppertown and Dufferin Terrace in front of the Chateau Fron-
Who is it?
There’s a trout named for
his home town and some
confusion about his name,
too. Turn to page 78 to find
out who he grew up to be.
tenue by means of a rather rickety elevator, and near the Chateau we stopped for a drink at a place called Jardin du Gouverneur, an outdoor café at 16 Mont Carmel. This is one part of the old city where residents still live, resisting the steady encroachment of tourist rooms. Here we met a lawyer, André Dechene, and he was kind enough to take us to his home on Ste. Genevieve Street, where we met his wife and went through his ancient house to come out the back and find ourselves facing an enormous but secluded garden. He didn't bubble over with the
same kind of enthusiasm we had found in Dr. Le Blond: he told us that the political regime was stilling intellectual life in ihe city and that most talented people went to Montreal where they found a market for their talents, but he said he wouldn't live anywhere else than in the old walled city of Quebec. “Where can you get a view like this?” he demanded. “And where else can you shoot ducks, swim in the skin, ski and fish trout, all within minutes of your home?”
We talked about the political scene in Quebec, and the ritual and elegance that
once characterized it. Quebec is the only province that still retains an Upper House, but Dechene pointed out that the old order was passing fast. At one time ministers appeared at functions in striped trousers and cutaways; now only a big funeral brings out morning coats. “Important people don’t enter provincial politics any more,” he said, “and all the old formality has disappeared.” He agreed that the parliamentary dining room serves some of the best meals to be had in the country, and the Garrison Club, where women are barred and dominoes is the
favorite pastime, is still pretty aristocratic. "A last stronghold,” he summed it up.
Leaving the Dechenes in their own private last stronghold, we decided to visit the Plains of Abraham. Called locally the Parc des Champs de Batailles, the park is maintained by the federal government, and a good job they have made of it. The park stretches the full length of the city, separating it from and overlooking the St. Lawrence, right from the Citadel in the east to Sillery in the west. No hot-dog stands, no Coca-Cola signs, nothing but flower beds and grass, with benches scattered plentifully around and couples picnicking on the grass.
There is a provincial museum in the park, and two intertwining roads run its entire length, but the great rolling plain is otherwise untouched, and it is not hard to visualize that epic morning of September 13, 1759, when Wolfe evaded Bougainville to land in the tiny cove below the heights, push his way up a badly guarded path and catch Montcalm from the rear, with most of the French deployed toward Montmorency, expecting a landing from that direction. I launched into what I flattered myself was a faithful rendition of Parkman’s stirring account of the battle when Elizabeth brought me up short with: “How many soldiers were involved?” I paused, and pointed out the inspiring view of the St. Lawrence, with Quebec Bridge in the distance, cargo vessels bound upstream for Montreal passing those ocean-bound, and the busy Levis ferry bustling across on its ceaseless round. Then 1 suggested that we go back to the hotel and change for dinner. Nothing more was said about the Battle of the Plains of Abraham. (Later 1 looked up Parkman and found he was almost as vague as 1 was; he estimated forces on each side to be about roughly the same, between three and four thousand men.)
That night we went to the Porte St. Jean for dinner, and my little plan was a complete success. Esco La Rue leered and smirked at Elizabeth, finally seized her hand in drunken gallantry and kissed it while she tried to carry off the situation with aplomb. After the club I suggested a walk on Dufferin Terrace, that wide boardwalk overlooking the river where many a Quebec swain has found himself tied to a life contract after a casual flirtation.
We had heard that there was a band and sometimes dancing on the boardwalk, but learned that the music was finished for the season. There were still couples walking to and fro and sitting on benches together, the view across the river to the lights of Levis was roman-
Who iS it? on page 77
Justice Minister Davie Fulton, who sits for Kamloops, B.C., and whose given name isn’t a contracted nickname.
tic and we sat on a bench and chatted and felt very young again suddenly.
But it didn't last. My feet began to ache. We went into the Chateau Frontenac to the newsstand, where I bought a thriller, and we were in bed by midnight.
Seven o’clock brought our usual Spartan breakfast of tomato juice and coffee. Then we set out to do the environs of Quebec City, first taking the precaution to check out so that we would not be caught with the bill for another night's lodging. My funds were running low and 1 knew that economy had to be the watchword today.
The area around Quebec City can compete with the city itself for interest to the visitor. First of all there is Ste. Anne de Beaupré, with its celebrated shrine and record for miraculous cures. Then there is the Ile d’Orléans, strangely cut off from the rest of the world in its atmosphere, despite the web-like and beautiful bridge that now binds it to the north shore mainland. There is the Quebec Zoo, prominently featured in the tourist literature, and lovely Lake Beauport with its encircling posh resorts. First stop was Ste. Anne de Beaupré.
Although we set out around nine o’clock Sunday morning for Ste. Anne, the road along the northern shore line going east was already thick with cars of pilgrims. We passed dozens of motels prominently displaying signs: $2.50 and even $2.00. It looked like a tough season for the motels. Yet the route was busy. Several motels offered swimming in adjacent pools, and we passed a huge round building sporting the label, Christorama, in obvious competition with the gaudy Cyclorama of Jerusalem that greeted us in Ste. Anne de Beaupré.
When we got to Ste. Anne, we found the sides of the main highway lined with parked cars, and huge parking lots already overflowing. There was a curious air. half carnival and half reverent about the place. Natives of the province outnumbered American and other tourists at least twenty to one; the tourists, like myself, were conspicuous for their informal clothes among a crowd where men wore dark suits, stiff collars and dull ties, and the women, all with children, wore head coverings, and the little girls wore charming flower-bedecked bonnets. And everybody ate patates frites and drank orange and grape drinks. The basilica, an enormous affair housing the shrine of Ste. Anne, dominates the village, and services there seemed to be continuous, both in the basilica itself and the crypt below. A voice over an outside loudspeaker kept up a running commentary on developments inside, now and then interspersing greetings to people like "Mr. and Mrs. Joe Bastien and party from St. Hyacinthe" or “Georges Gagnon and party from Petite Rivière.” We went into the basilica. It was jam-packed. We wormed our way to the shrine of Ste. Anne, with its collection of crutches and surrounding circles of humanity, and then we went back out the great vaulted entrance. There seemed to be a steady procession of people like ourselves, making their way to the shrine and out again. Then we ascended the hill to the Grotto of the Agony and the Holy Stairs, all filled with kneeling and praying people. We went up a winding asphalt path that led past lifelike figures in bronze depicting the Fourteen Stations of the Cross in Christ’s passage to Calvary. Everywhere we noted this curious air of pious festivity. We bought a Tricentenary program of Ste. Anne de Beaupré and found it to consist of quaint photos of a bygone day, a history of the village and its religious offices. and pages of advertisements. The
program of events celebrating the Tricentenial began in April and ends in December.
By noon we were ready to leave Ste. Anne de Beaupré, and we untangled our car from the parking maze and headed back for the He d’Orléans.
The bridge crossing to the He d’Orléans leaves the mainland just at Montmorency Falls which. Quebecers proudly point out. is twice the height of Niagara. How'ever, newlyweds from Quebec still go to Niagara Falls on their honeymoons, and I don’t blame them. Whoever is re-
sponsible for presenting Montmorency Falls to the public must be working for the opposition. A long and strong wire fence effectively prevents anything closer than a long-range view, and this is obtained through the laced wires of the fence. It seemed a bit like looking through the wires of a concentration camp, and we did not linger.
But the Ile d’Orléans w>as another story. It seemed that almost as soon as we crossed the bridge we felt we w'ere in another, gentler land, where nothing changes and life goes on at a quiet pace.
The placid countryside, melting down in green fields to the St. Lawrence, is dotted with old-style French-Canadian houses with their sweeping roofs and box-like dormers, and even new buildings are in the same style. The road meanders westwards toward Quebec City in the distance and then, following the shore line, sweeps around in a gentle curve, undulating, and threads through somnolent villages to the eastern end of the island, and then completes its circle at the bridge again. It is a good three-hour drive, for it is one you will not want to hurry. We even stop-
peel and romped around in a field of clover, and Elizabeth—not I—paddled in a little brook that ran down past one of those lovely old stone houses. You wondered what all the hurry was about. We stopped at St. Jean and for an anti-climax had a bad lunch, washed down with several bottles of beer. We learned later that there is only one good restaurant on the island, at St. PetroniIle, and we had passed that at the beginning of our tour. But the lunch failed to spoil the trip; Elizabeth even rallied long enough to deal a death blow to my capital with the purchase of a beautiful hand-woven rug for seven dollars at the handicraft shop outside St. Jean. Only the stricken look in my eye stopped her from buying a fifteen-dollar skirt.
We had toyed with the idea of stopping at the Bastogne, a superior hostelry on the road to Lake Beauport, but the financial situation now called for resourcefulness. There was another fine cuisine at the Manoir St. Castin. l ake Beauport, and the manager was the friend of a friend of mine. So we set out for Lake Beauport and the zoo, which is on the way. One look at the traffic jam near the zoo sent us promptly on to Lake Beauport. There St. Castin’s manager, Frank Grantham, offered us a warm welcome and the freedom of the place. Elizabeth and I decided to risk our necks on a pontoon-like contraption on the waters of the lake. Operated by a twin set of pedals, it was like riding a lawn chair on wheels, and I got pretty good at it until Elizabeth claimed she was getting seasick with my manoeuvres. So we went ashore and fed the ducks.
We had an excellent dinner of hors
d’œuvres, cream of chicken soup, Coq au Vin made with burgundy wine, and Cherries Jubilee. Great black cherries were flambéed in sugar and kirsch by maître d'hôtel Jean Hallé and then served over vanilla ice cream with a raspberry confiture. They were sensational.
We were having coffee and cognac in the lounge, watching television, when a heavy thunderstorm struck, and Ed Sullivan fought a losing battle with the weather, which suddenly cleared up as the program ended. So we set off home, back through Quebec City, now shiny and fresh-smelling after the rain, with the street lights glistening on the pavements and statues, and little traffic to slow us up. We wound our way through Lowertown, up past city hall, and skirted the parliament buildings, black in silhouette as we reached Grande Allée. We passed the comfortable little hotel which had sheltered us during our stay, and then joined the line of scattered traffic heading for Quebec Bridge and Highway 9.
But even as we traveled, our memories kept pace with us; the white goat with golden horns at the Citadel, the urchins on Rue Sous le Cap, the peaceful Plains of Abraham with picnickers overlooking oceam steamers, the vaulted corridors of Laval, the rolling fields of Orléans, the reverent holidayers at Ste. Anne, the cloistered garden on Ste. Geneviève Street, the bustling Levis ferry, and then the longest-lasting memory of all, the eager young students in their tiny brave club on Champlain Stairs. “We really must go back and see how they are doing one day,” Elizabeth said. “1 really loved those kids.” I agreed, and then we drove in silence for a while. ★