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May 31, 2015

I started the morning with a walk to Marché du Vieux-Port, the farmer’s market in Quebec City. It’s reminiscent of the Essex Market in NYC – compact but with plenty of interesting vendors. As it’s located at a port, there were several seafood stands, including two tanks full of lobsters. My favorite was an Italian food stand that was selling balls of homemade pasta wrapped like skeins of delicious yarn. If you visit, I’d recommend visiting the market on your first day and stocking up on groceries to sustain you during your visit. With all of the FAA rules, the chances of getting to bring anything home are slim to none.

A stop at Boutique Gourmand in Place Royale in La Petit Champlain proved to be a nice window perch for people watching. One last chocolate chaud and a few macarons to accompany the entertainment. I witnessed a previously unknown phenomenon of tourists sitting at empty cafe tables just to take a photo pretending like they are actually “at” the establishment …and then leaving. Maybe it’s just the Midwesterner in me but this seemed a bit strange.

From the exterior Notre Dame des Victoires (1688) looks like most other churches in the city, walking through the doors revealed a refreshing simplicity. Open and airy the sanctuary glowed from sunlight and the warm wood of pews, carved in shapes that echoed carriages and sleighs of a bygone era. White walls hung with white oval frames of the stations of the cross. The altar flanked with fluted Corinthian columns, is accented with golden Grecian molding. Suspended from the ceiling are six simple chandeliers, that once held candles and now channel electricity, and a large model of the Brézé, a wooden ship that arrived in Québec City in 1664 transporting the Carignan Regiment and the Marquis de Tracy. Two local musicians provided vocals with pipe organ accompaniment, ending the mass with their own jazz rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”

From there I headed back “up the hill” to the Museum of French America (Musee de l’Amerique Francaise). It’s a bit of an oddity as you enter off of St. Anne’s Street and then walk through a small chapel which is used for music and theatre performances in addition to services. I shared a few discoveries in my photo album – let’s just say a good rule of thumb when visiting any Catholic church is “You really don’t want a closer look.” From the Chapel it’s through an underground tunnel to the main entrance to the actual museum. Following a recent renovation the museum is incredibly interactive, luckily they have headsets with English translations for practically everything. The collection placed emphasis on early settlement and also on exploring the role of missionaries in the history of Quebec and the disbursement of French-speaking people across North America.

One final stroll down Terrasse Dufferin in front of Chateau Frontenac, overlooking the St. Lawrence River ..a mixture of historic and contemporary buildings and ships in the harbor, with the old paper mill and the Laurentian Mountains in the distance. A little bear of a man was busking, singing “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay” with a jagged Quebecois English accent. Coupled with small picnic of rillette, cheese, and wine, it was a fitting send-off before my journey back to Madison.

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