I knew that my wife was planning something for our anniversary, but I had no idea what it was. All I knew was that she told me to take Friday night off from Burger Night, but other than that I had no clues. As the mysterious Friday approached, I did start to get a few hints from her. She told me that wherever we were going, we were going to drive there. Europe was definitely out. She later told me it was within a 5 hour driving radius, so New York City was out (unless my brother was driving) too.
Now, I like surprises, so I wasn’t really trying that hard to guess, but I was getting very excited. She told me that we were going away for the weekend, to someplace with a fairly unique feature, and finally, before we left, that I would need my passport. My first guess was Montreal, but no, we were headed to Quebec City, the only walled city in North America above the Mexican border! This old city is also on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list, and is apparently as close to Europe as you can get around here, without actually going overseas of course.
It took us about four and a half hours to drive there, and when we arrived at the Bed & Breakfast that Simone had booked, we were very excited to find a much more pleasant room than anything I would have found in the U.S. We were somewhat less excited about the very tall, very steep flights of stairs that we had to walk up and down to get to it, but we told ourselves that it only added to the charm.
Our B&B was situated only about a mile from the walls of the old city, so it was an easy walk to the gates and into another world. Quebec City is actually a very large and modern city, with many skyscrapers and highways, but once you hit the walls of the old city everything changes. It really does feel like an entirely different place, with the old buildings, cobblestone streets, and horses pulling people around in wagons. We popped in and out of tourist shops for a while until it was time for dinner, and that is when the adventure truly began.
One of the thrilling(?) things about being in Canada was that we did not have the use of our phones. We certainly could have used our phones, at a rate of something like $15/MB for data and who knows what for calling and texting, but we could not afford to spend $100 uploading a picture to Facebook, or searching for local restaurants as we normally would have done. No, we were on our own, and so we found a place to eat the old fashioned way. We wandered the streets looking at menus posted outside of restaurants that were written in a language that neither of us spoke.
We did finally find some food, although it seemed very expensive to us, and when we were finished we decided to go find the free Cirque du Soleil show that happens every night in the city. That’s right, you read me correctly. A free Cirque du Soleil show. I don’t know who is sponsoring this, or how it all shakes out financially, but they have set up a big stage underneath the highway overpass in an empty space that looks like it probably once held nothing but broken glass and illegal activity. This is urban development at its best. Whoever had this idea is a genius.
The show was about an hour long and was full of everything you might expect from them, including the most amazing trapeze act I have ever seen. I all can say is, two girls: one trapeze. They also had trampolines, bicycles, ropes, poles, and a man in a tutu with a giant bear head (or was it a cat head?) on rollerskates. In short, it was fabulous.
We walked back to our room the long way, through dark side streets and up a lot of hills. This is what happens when you do not have Google Maps at your beck and call. Exhausted but happy, we passed out almost immediately, which was good, because we needed our sleep for the next day. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was going to be walking 8-10 miles the next day, which may not be a lot for some of you walking fanatics or NYC residents, but for someone who normally walks 8-10 yards each day, it was a lot. But I think I will tell you about that part tomorrow.