From London to Quebec via Montreal

Wednesday 7th May 2014

Our flight from Heathrow was scheduled for 3pm, so we didn't have to rush around with an early start. Our cab came punctually at 10.30am and by 12.15pm we were at Heathrow, checked in, through security and sitting comfortably in the lounge that we'd booked. There's no doubt about it – British airports seem to have got their act together nowadays.

Two leisurely hours later we strolled to the gate and found that Premium Economy passengers were already boarding - that was us! We had nice large seats with plenty of leg room and very attentive service, so we might be doing this again!

The flight to Montreal took only seven hours which, after our last two long distance trips, seemed like a short hop. Gill buried herself in a guide to Canada and I watched 'Amelie' again.

Montreal airport didn't stand close comparison with Heathrow or Gatwick. We had two hours between arrival and then departure for Quebec, and we spent three quarters of that in long queues at Immigration, collecting our cases, checking them in again and going through security yet again.

Our plane to Quebec was full and yet carried only 36 passngers – I don't think we've ever been on such a small aircraft. The flight took only 35 minutes. Our cases came through fairly quickly, we picked up a cab straight away and were checking into our hotel at 8.30pm local time. That's 1.30am according to our body clocks. We made our own tea, ordered a club sandwich from room service and pretty much went straight to bed.

Tomorrow will be our only full day in Quebec, so we're planning to take a leisurely stroll around the old town.

Thursday 8th May 2014
Quebec City

Having turned in last night at 10pm local time we were awake at 6am today. So, we had breakfast at 7am as soon as the restaurant opened and were walking into the city before 8.30am. It was a bright, sunny morning with clear blue skies, but there was a chill in the air, especially in the shade.

What was striking is that the city seemed to be almost deserted, with shops open or opening and absolutely no customers to serve. By midday more locals were appearing on the streets, but even then the place wasn't all that busy.

The first impression as we approached one of the three gates into the walled city was that it was very French indeed. Signs on the streets and in shops were all in French, and when the locals speak to you they always assume that you're French-speaking. I found at breakfast that it's a mistake to start off in French because you very soon have to apologise for not understanding what they then said to you!

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Boulevard René Levesque
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Quebec Parliament
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Porte St. Louis
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Rue St. Louis
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Monument commemorating the wartime meeting in Quebec City of Roosevelt and Churchill
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Hotel Frontenac
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Rue du Petit Champlain
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Funicular
The Old City is on a high hill surrounded by cliffs, so we took the funicular railway the short distance down to the level of the river below. There were some lovely craft shops in the narrow streets. We found that there are plenty of beautifully clean public toilets that are a credit to the city.
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Place Royale
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Mural in Rue Notre Dame
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Notre Dame de Quebec

Earlier in the morning Gill had spotted a restaurant that had Chocolate Fondue on the menu, so we made our way back there for a late morning 'pit-stop'. It was also a great way of warming up a little after the biting wind.

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Rue Sainte Anne
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Chocolate Fondue!
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Rue St. Louis
We then made our way up to the Citadel at the highest point of the city and Gill booked us on to a one hour walking tour that we enjoyed very much. The Canadian military still has a presence there and troops were being drilled for their ceremonial duties in this the centenary year of their unit, the 22nd French Canadian Regiment. It seems to have had a glorious history, and their museum has on display two Victoria Crosses won by its soldiers.
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Citadel
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Citadel
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Citadel

The north-eastern region of the USA and Canada has had a very hard winter. Even now there are no leaves on the trees and, believe it or not, there are still piles of snow lying around, melting only very slowly.

After the Citadel we walked the short distance to the Plains of Abraham where James Wolfe won his famous battle in 1759 and died in doing so. Having lived for nearly all my life in Greenwich, where Wolfe's statue stands in Greenwich Parke and where there's a school named after him, it was really interesting to visit the scene where he died in battle.

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Quebec City from the
Citadel
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Motto of Quebec
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Re-enacting Wolfe's victory

By now we were worn out with all the walking so headed back to our hotel and a decent cup of tea. On the way we took a look at a restaurant that had been recommended to us by a Canadian friend who we're visiting next week. It looked so good that we booked a table for 7pm, thinking that maybe this would be unnecessary. In the event the place was quite busy when we arrived and just kept filling up. We had a lovely meal and some superb wine.

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Restaurant Le Louis-Hébert
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Restaurant Le Louis-Hébert

We're getting used to the deceptive declaration of prices that seems universal in Canada and the USA. Unlike in Europe, the menu price doesn't include taxes, and this also applies in shops. You just have to see the declared price as an opening position. You also see restaurants quoting on their bill what they think your tip ought to be – they seems to have forgotten what the purpose of a tip is, i.e. recognition of service over and above what could reasonably have been expected. Still, minor quibbles!

Tomorrow, we catch a train to Montreal at 12.30pm, which means that we can do some exploration in the evening.

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