Round The World and other travels

A frequent flyer's collection of trip diaries

This is: Canada & Mexico 2011

Vive la différence!

Wanting to make the most of my much-reduced time in Quebec City, I'd set the alarm for 0730. I took breakfast in the Executive Lounge, which was already quite busy. The lounge had a superb 32nd floor location, more or less above my room and offering similar views. It offered a much nicer spread than in Toronto, including cold meats, a selection of cheeses and boiled eggs. I didn't linger too long, however; I was keen to get on with my woefully behind-schedule sightseeing programme.

I began by walking from the hotel to the Place d'Armes, the busy main square of Old Quebec situated in front of the Château Frontenac. I have to admit that this was unintentional: my plan had been to visit the citadel and the Plains of Abraham first, but I missed the turn! It was, however, probably the best way to remind myself of the overall character of the place, which nobody should be surprised to hear is overwhelmingly French.

I then back-tracked a little and found my way to the start of the Plains of Abraham, a huge area formerly used as grazing land, but made famous as the site of a decisive battle between the British and French in 1759. The victory won here allowed the British to take control of Quebec City and ultimately the whole of Canada. My real objective was the Citadelle de Québec, as I thought that there would be a Changing of the Guards ceremony at 10am; sadly this was not due to start until the last week of June. I eventually found a route to the citadel, which would actually have been very easy to reach direct from the Hilton!

Slightly disappointed that there was no ceremony taking place, I instead joined a guided tour. It overran a little at 1hr 15mins, but that could easily be forgiven as it was a most interesting and enjoyable way to learn something about this, the home of the famous Royal 22e Regiment (nicknamed by English speakers "The Van Doos").

ABOVE: Keeping the flag
flying at the citadel

Next, I made my way back to the Place d'Armes and rode the little funicular down to one of the lower parts of the city - the Quartier Petit-Champlain. This had a slightly different atmosphere, the streets being even narrower than up above.

Back on the upper level, I took a quick look inside the Château Frontenac, one of the great railway hotels now run by Fairmont. Part of the grounds were undergoing improvement work, making access to the terrace a little awkward. The weather was clearing up nicely now; in fact it was sunny and warm. I had lunch at an outside table at the '1640' restaurant of the Auberge du Trésor, in a prime location on the Place d'Armes. The service was quick and friendly and the food was beautiful: I had a sensible, European-sized portion of ravioli and a glass of French Sauvignon Blanc.

I decided that, regrettably, I needed to begin the process of heading back to base, but I did so via the Notre-Dame basilica and City Hall. Unfortunately, this meant a steep climb for the final part of the walk. I returned to my room and rested for ten minutes before re-packing my case. I checked out and put my suitcase into storage to allow a final, short walk - it was too early to head straight to the airport.

I left for the airport at 3pm and arrived just twenty minutes later - ten minutes prior to the check-in desk opening time. Time passed quickly, however, and I was soon in the main departure concourse, which looked spacious, quiet and reasonably attractive. However my eagle eyes managed to spot a lounge displaying the Priority Pass logo, so it looked as though this was what I really wanted! It turned out to be a most attractive facility, and I helped my self to water and red wine, potato chips, cream of cauliflower soup and - best of all, once I'd spotted it - Moët et Chandon Champagne!

My electronic displays showed a revised departure time of 1755, but the aircraft didn't even arrive until 1730. The revised departure time came and went, and I was tempted to think: Oh no, here we go again!

(Link to flight log in side panel)

I paused to admire the view of the Toronto skyline as I took the little ferry from City Airport for the last time. I caught a cab to the Hilton at Pearson International and as I opened the door of my room, I just managed to miss another phone call from James, who was keen to hear how I'd got on in Quebec. I ordered some light room service of two starters (soup and crabcakes) and was able to take the phone call at James's second attempt while I waited for the food to arrive. Not for the first time on this trip, I made sure that I was ready for an early start the next morning, when the trip would enter a whole new phase.  
RIGHT: Toronto skyline - why couldn't it have been like this during my stay?