Our first stop of the day is the Citadelle, the home of Canada’s 22nd Regiment and the fort that the British built to guard against both a feared American attack and a potential Quebecois uprising (neither ever happened).
We’ve timed our arrival for the 10 a.m. Changing of the Guard, a 35-minute ceremony complete with a band, pomp and ceremony, and, oddly, a goat. Yep, there’s a very well-trained billy goat that takes part in the daily ritual. It is explained that Queen Elizabeth gave Batisse, a Kashmir goat, to the regiment during a visit some 50 years ago and ever since then the goat (and his descendants, all named Batisse) has served as the official regiment mascot.
We join a one-hour tour of the Citadelle and I can’t help but marvel at all the huge cannons. The biggest cannon, named “Rachel” for unknown reasons, sits at a high point with gorgeous views overlooking the city and the port.
Our tour comes to a close just as it’s time for the noon ceremonial cannon-firing (not one of the old ones, but still an event I’m happy to witness). There is a young couple setting off the cannon, with guidance from two soldiers. I wonder how one gets to do that? I once hit the button on 500 pounds of explosives set by a contractor I knew who was building a high school track. It was a rush.
We had breakfast at the hotel but it’s now early afternoon and we’re headed for another tour so our next stop is ice cream. Vieux Quebec is crammed with ice cream shops (and souvenir shops, which we avoid) so it’s no problem to indulge. Walt finds us soft-serve and we head off to the Chateau Frontenac.
The chateau is actually a Fairmont Hotel and, despite its glamorous name, was built as a hotel, not a private home. Our guide is dressed in “period costume” – a suit and tophat like those worn in the late 19th century – and introduces himself as the “mayor of Quebec City”.
In addition to learning about the hotel’s origins – built by the railroad to make train travel more palatable – we go into ballrooms and corridors, including the gorgeous Rose Salon with incredible views of the city and port. Our final stop is staircase that is known as the “wishing staircase.” Legend has it that if a woman walks down the right side and makes a wish while a man (preferably her husband) walks down the left making a wish, if they meet and kiss at the bottom, their wishes will come true. We shall see.
Walt has spied a bunch of tall ships in the port, so we walk down a long set of steps to the old part of the city. All of the city is just fascinating. There are beautiful stone buildings with windowboxes full of flowers, interesting paint combinations.
The port is crammed with people and the tall ships are actually modern ships with sails but also with engines, less interesting to us than true sailing ships.
It’s sunny and hot so after a stop for water and a cookie, we head back up the steps and through the city to our hotel for a little break before dinner.
The concierge had recommended a few places for dinner, marking them on a map. We don’t know their names but we hit one that we think he might have recommended, Tournbroche, and have a lovely dinner.