Saturday, June 13, 2009

Orleans Express (May 18, 2009)

I am on my way back to Montreal from Quebec City, and the best explanation I can give you about Quebec City is ‘Sweet…It’s a pretty city’.

The explanation is as below:
I landed at around 6.30 or so in the evening and stepped out of the station. If Montreal felt foreign for me, Quebec was even more foreign-er. I was wondering where to go. I had printed out walking directions on Google maps from the station to the Auberge De La Paix (Peace Hostel), but they seemed to be pointing me to some random roads which seemed not to exist. Luckily the lady at the visitor centre had given me the Quebec map and it was easier to find my bearings.

Once I reached the hostel I paid the 25CAD and got a room. This is a pretty big hostel and as always my luck in hostels seemed to be going really well. The moment I entered my room I met this lady from the previous hostel again. Both of us were surprised. I learnt that they had not booked the previous hostel, and so came to this one. Sadly she would be leaving the next day early morning at around 5am, and so she wanted to sleep early that night. I was repenting my lack of luck.

As there were a few rays of sunlight left, I walked up St Jean, and then to Porte St-Jean. This is a path with shops and eateries on both sides and as you move to the end of the road the walls appear.

Quebec City is the only remaining walled city, north of Mexico in North America. This is quite an impressive structure too, and at one end is Le Citadelle (The Citadel). I was aiming to reach the ‘Plains of Abraham’ from where you can see the sunset. The sun had already set by then, but I did get an impressive view of the St Lawrence River, and also the Citadel with lots of canons surrounding them.

As I was walking back I realized that you could actually walk on the wall. So I jumped on the wall and began to walk. Here is where you will realize how even more pretty Quebec City is. You can see the top of ‘Chateau Frontenac’ from this wall, and it is a different experience.

I walked back to St Jean on this wall, and back to the hostel. I had planned of finding some disco club to go to, but nothing was showing up on yelp while I was sitting in the common room. Then the best part of this trip happened!

While surfing I saw this guy and girl chatting. So I too joined in the conversation. She was Martina from Austria, and he was a very complicated name from France, which I have forgotten. She was studying in the University of Maine, and we immediately hit it off. I was feeling hungry as I had not eaten since Montreal, but we chatted till like 10.30pm for maybe a couple of hours.

Also, the French dude and his pals were going to a club at midnight. We decided to go with them.

Finally, at around 10.30 I and Martina left to get some grub and a couple of drinks. Everything was closed for dinner except for this Italian place (with a Ferrari flag on it). Initially he said he only had pizza, and as Martina had already eaten I was wondering how in god’s name I could complete an entire plate of pizza.

When we sat down though the guy said that everything was on, and so I ordered a ham-melon dish, which was good. We made it back just in time for our midnight outing.

The group was me, Martina, 4 French guys and a cute French lady. A 20 minute walk got us to this club. The line though was long, and they stayed behind while I and Martina called it a night.

The next day after I had breakfast me and her headed off to the visitor center which is right opposite the Chateau. As she was staying for longer in Quebec she headed off by herself on a leisurely pace, while I headed off on my usual breakneck speed.

I hope to see her again sometime soon, as she is headed back to Salzburg pretty soon. I will be there next year (I must have mentioned about this trip previously too), and I now have someone in Austria to look forward to.

Also during breakfast I met an interesting chap from France called Florian, who was taking a 42 day trip around Canada. He was in waste management, and he was studying some process which the Canadians were using for better disposal of waste (I told him this too: It sounds like a very interesting field, especially as better methods of waste disposal are going to be needed very soon). He had been to Bangalore, and had made a tour from Kochi to Agra, and he was very nice. He too gave me his email id and told me to let him know when I make it to France. Although he stayed in the north of France and I am largely planning on touring the south, he still was kind enough to offer me any assistance if possible.

Getting back to my trip, I clicked a photo next to the Chateau, which is an imposing building, rode down the Funicular from the upper town to the lower town, walked the old city to the old port, and then walked back up the breakneck steps to the Chateau again. Try to do this as this walk is very picturesque, and will surely remind you of days gone by. The only change which you might consider is walking down the steps and taking the elevator up the Funicular!

From here I went to Rue de Tresor where paintings are displayed, and then to the Citadel. Along the way there is the Basilica Notre-Dame of Quebec which is half not as impressive as the one in Montreal.

The Citadel is an active military base – so you cannot roam about, but there are guided tours in both French and English which occur regularly, and last for an hour. The cost is 10 CAD, and you should take this. Our guide was really good, and he even conversed with me in what he called an ‘Indian’ language. He said ‘Suprabhata’. Is this Sanskrit? I have no clue!

After this was done I walked back up the wall to St Jean and to a restaurant called Mike’s. I had the Le Salmon something and some tea. This was one of the few restaurants where I could at least point at the picture on the menu and order. Most of the remaining have their menus in French, so it will be fun understanding what you are ordering.

Then I sat on a bench right there at Porte St-Jean. There were 4 dudes playing with their feet and a small ball. I will do some research on this sport, but to put it in words, they were sort of balancing and dribbling the ball with their feet, and throwing it at each other using their feet. No hands were used and the ball never touched the ground.

I was fascinated as they had very good control using both their right and left legs – WOW!

Finally I walked to the Plains of Abraham, taking some time to sit on the wall and just stare at life go by in Quebec City.

On my way to the station I saw this white poodle running on the road. I had seen it on the plains too and there was a collar but no owner. It was running wildly on the road and looking forlorn. I tried to call the poodle and so did many others, but it was running wild. I saw an ambulance nearby, and not knowing who to talk to – informed them. I hope the poodle does find its master. Losing a pet is hard, very hard.

Martina was the one who kept on saying – Sweet, and she called Quebec a Pretty City. She was right – Quebec is a pretty sweet place. It is unlike anything I have ever seen. America has some really good cities, but nothing beats the beauty of Quebec. It has to be seen to be believed. Martina also showed me a photo of Salzburg, and it was even prettier.

Believe me – Europe will be something unbelievable. I can feel it already!

Martina, Florian, the girl from Toulouse, Cathy- who I met twice in both the hostels, the guys and girl from France who I went out with – so many wonderful people. I am also glad that I could sit and talk with them – I could tell them so much about India, which many of them had heard of, but were not familiar with. I hope they go and tell more people about an Indian guy they met on the road while backpacking and they associate nice thoughts with us.

To end this huge post – when I was staying at the first hostel, a family was checking the rooms and she asked me – ‘Is this how you backpackers stay?’ This simple question made me realize that I am now an official backpacker, a hippie!!! I can’t be happier :D

1 comment:

Leo said...

Was it hacky sack, perhaps?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hacky_Sack