It was 409 years ago that Samuel de Champlain founded what is now known as Vieux-Quebec, one of the oldest cities in North America. Kebec is an Algonquin word that translates to, “where the river narrows” and refers to the St. Lawrence. Ramparts still exist from both the old fortified city walls and at La Citadelle, an intact fortress.
The city’s hilly terrain can be challenging and during summer and winter festivals, there is heavy traffic. Taxis don’t roam the streets looking for their next fare as they do in New York City but one can be summoned and there is good public transportation. A unique feature is the Funiculaire, a 210 foot-long, 45 degree funicular railway that whisks a dozen people at a time up and down a 190 ft. elevation. Rebuilt three times since the original was erected 138 years ago, the view from the top gives definition to how Quebec City is situated along the St. Lawrence. At the bottom, quaint shops and wonderful restaurants line the cobblestone streets.
The Musee des beaux-arts du Quebec offers a look into the past and the future. Smack in front of the entrance are half-arced metal tubes each of which supports an inviting hammock. This is not your typical museum! The roof deck is eco-friendly and is planted with succulents. An outstanding and memorable exhibit was the sculptural art of the Inuit, the native peoples of the North. In particular, their depictions of the wild animals, polar bears, eagles, fish, whales, seals, walrus and more seem to capture the soul of each subject. The Inuit’s reverence for nature and the living things around them leaves the viewer with haunting memories and deep respect of a culture that honors the universe around them. Their reverence is deeply humbling to the rest of use who barely notice the natural world.
Several events and festivals were being held simultaneously. A French-inspired 3-day saturation paid homage to the historic cultural contributions from the French and featured food, costumed players, historical re-enactments and music. The massive crafts and food fair covered a tented football field of handmade artisans’ work in every conceivable medium and eatables from bison jerky to 20+ maple syrup products to berries in every conceivable form. Some vendors came from France to sell their jewelry and hand-made goods. There were even art installations nearby that contributed to the feeling of “total immersion” in an event.