For our ninth anniversary, my wife husbandnapped me and took me to Quebec City, the only walled city north of the Mexican border. Clearly we were not going to leave without checking out the walls themselves, but first we took a little side trip to La Chute Montmorency.
Montmorency Falls is a waterfall just a few minutes drive outside of the city, and it is 50% taller than Niagara Falls! Now, Niagara is a lot wider, and has a lot more water going over it, but still, height counts for something, right? When we arrived we had the option of either taking the cable car up to the top, or hiking up almost 500 stairs that looked like they were about to slide off of a giant sand pile. As we stepped off of the cable car, we found ourselves in front of a large and beautiful building that looked like it was hosting a wedding, which we reluctantly decided not to crash.
As we wandered over to the falls we discovered a suspension bridge hung over the falls themselves, which was a really cool way to view them, and on the other side we found ourselves standing at the top of all those stairs that we had avoided earlier. You only live once, right? After a quick conference, my wife and I decided to walk down the treacherous staircase, which turned out to be stuck to a mountain of shale, or perhaps slate, and not sand. It was still a bit worrying though.
When we got to the bottom of the stairs we wandered over to a little lookout just beneath the falls themselves, which was by far our favorite viewing place. From the top, you could look down and see that you were really high up and all, but from the bottom, feeling the spray on your face and hearing the roar of the water, you really got a sense of the power and majesty of the waterfall. But enough of all that; time for lunch!
We parked back at the B&B and started walking along the main drag toward the walled part of the city, and as we walked we noticed that a lot of local people were setting up chairs alongside the road. People were sitting on curbs and spreading out blankets, almost as if they were going to watch a parade. We tried eavesdropping on people’s conversations, to figure out what was going on, but sadly we did not speak French. We did hear some words that sounded like “military parade,” and so we decided to find some place with outdoor seating so that we could get a good view ourselves.
We were totally right about the parade, although we had to eat very slowly to ensure that we would still be there when it started. Marching down the streets we saw giant papier-mâché officers and loads of marching bands, playing all sorts of Canadian military classics, such as Y.M.C.A. I think the parade would have been more interesting if we had known who any of the people were, or what any of the non-Village People songs were, but it was fun anyway. Simone and I finished eating and decided to rewind the parade by walking quickly towards the walls again. After a few minutes of hearing military marches, we suddenly heard a marching band arrangement of “Starships” by Nicki Minaj, and it was so exciting that we decided to stalk that band for the rest of the parade. We heard “Don’t Stop Believing,” “Hello Dolly,” and “Y.M.C.A.” again, among many others, as we danced our way along the sidewalk, singing and doing all of the arm motions.
We finally broke off from our new favorite band when we got to the part of the old city walls that you can climb inside of. For the remarkable price of $4 each, we got to go underground and explore the ruins of the old chateau that was built into the wall, and we got to see a little presentation in period costumes that dealt partially with life hundreds of years ago, but mostly with making audience members dress up in embarrassing costumes. When we emerged from our underground bunker, we decided to walk along the tops of the walls themselves, and I guess we picked an eventful weekend to visit, because as we stood over the gates of the city looking down into the streets, we saw the finish line of some sort of race (probably a 5K) with cheering and shouting and general merriment.
At this point we decided to go back to our room where there was internet and research some restaurants that did not cost one billion dollars to eat at. We got a list of places and walked once more into the city, all the way to edge of the back wall, where we took the funicular down to the bottom of the wall where there were even more cute shops and hopefully cheap eats. What we sadly discovered was that all of the places we had found were bars and only served appetizers. Yes, all of the dishes were around $10, as promised by UrbanSpoon, but all of their dishes were also french fries and onion rings. Undeterred, we spent a great deal of time wandering around looking for a place that we felt we could afford to eat. Then, finally, deterred, we ate at Subway. I had a $10 footlong.
Our other reason for being in that part of the city was to see the Image Mill, another awesome free show that the city provided. Billed as the largest projection screen in the world (bigger than 25 IMAX screens!), the images are projected onto the buildings and grain silos along the harbor. Again, because the show was based on the history of Quebec, and I know nothing about the history of Quebec, I might not have gotten the most out of it, but the images were amazing. I particularly enjoyed when they transformed each individual silo into something, like organ pipes, chalk, test tubes, bullets, piano keys, and many other things. The show was about an hour, and it was free! What a great city!
The walk back was hardest part, as we had already hiked a waterfall, chased a parade, wandered the city walls, and trekked back and forth to our room several times that day. All in all we walked 8-10 miles, which is way more than we usually walk, a fact of which our feet and legs were quite happy to remind us. Once again we collapsed into bed, very tired but very happy. We drove home the next morning, and I think I can confidently say that it was the best anniversary present ever!