One of the great solaces in my life is whenever things aren’t going as I’d like in mine I can always feel a little better thinking this world can’t be a terrible place because it’s still the one that has my favorite places in it. I might be stuck in the middle of an Ohio blizzard or on a misconnection from hell or a myriad of other things no one particularly enjoys experiencing, but at that very moment someone is making a new friend on Ko Sahn Road in Thailand, there is a gorgeous sunset over an ocean, a leopard is enjoying a nice nap in South Africa, and some astronomer on a telescope is making a new discovery. Life might not be the best for me but it clearly is still charming in a lot of other places.
I mention this because it’s impossible for Quebec City to not strike your fancy and I’m fairly certain it will make my “list of places that are pleasant even if my current one isn’t” reverie in the future. Just look at this place!
I mean sure one don’t always get to wear summer dresses thanks to a heat wave in Quebec City- there’s a reason this is one of two places in the world with an ice hotel, the other being in Sweden- but the streets will always pleasantly feel like one is on another continent, the Chateau Frontenac (pictured just above) will always be one of the most impressive hotels I’ve ever seen, and I’m sure the cafes are always stocked with good things to eat and drink amongst a bubbling ambiance. I’m smitten with the architecture even though I’m someone who hardly ever travels somewhere to gawk at buildings (I gawk at great history and culture, which is a slight but important distinction), and spent my days not so much focused on important tourist attractions so much as wandering around the place to soak in the ambiance.
The view is something else as well, and that never hurt. Quebec City is of course one of the oldest cities in North America, founded by the French in 1608 and thus an impressive enough age even by Old World standards. The reason it’s here is this is right where the St. Lawrence River narrows and there are 200 foot cliffs in the bargain, meaning it’s as lovely a spot as any. By this point the city exists both above and below the cliff with steep streets and a funiculare (incline) in between if you’re too lazy to walk up.
A close up of a Canadian Coast Guard ship, one of countless boats that still ply up and down the St. Lawrence today (and included here because if you’re anything like me it’s the most interesting thing in the prior picture!). Now I actually have a distant relative who at one point was a member of the Canadian Navy so I know it exists- I think they have one boat in the Atlantic, another in the Pacific- but these Coast Guard boats left me with a good touch of respect for that particular division of the Armed services for sure. Mainly when I stopped to think about it and realized Canada must have the most shoreline out of any country in the world, most of it rather remote and freezing, so when something goes wrong and you have to call in the Canadian Coast Guard they surely have to be at the top of their game. But anyway…
This is, believe it or not, my favorite specific thing spotted in all of Quebec City, possibly because while the streets are all gorgeous in every direction this was just sitting in a polite and unassuming way on a random stretch of road almost right next to my hostel. Yes, it is a cannonball embedded into a tree!
As I said earlier I rather like running into history when I travel, so mad researching has ensued and it turns out no one quite knows where it came from, but it seems likely that it dates to the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in 1759. (For the Americans who never had that history lesson, it was the battle at the end of the French and Indian War that the French lost and made them give up Quebec to the English.) I am rather in love with the thought that something like a cannonball could just find a resting place and no one would bother to disturb it for several hundred years until it was far too late to do anything about it.
So hey, that’s a sampling of why I loved Quebec City. Someday I may live to a ripe old age and be some successful person off doing important things, but I will never again be a 25 year old wandering around Quebec City in summertime soaking up history and culture in things going from as big as the St. Lawrence River to as small as a tree trunk. It will always make me smile, so there’s certainly something behind that for the days in my future when there might not be much to smile about.