Saturday, July 30, 2022

Québec et la visite du Pape

We are under way downbound on the St. Lawrence, whizzing along at over ten knots as I begin typing. we're past halfway through today's cruise; I've spent the morning editing, organizing, and uploading the myriad photos I snapped in Quebec City. I expect that means I will not finish and will, instead, wrap up the post underway tomorrow. It is a two-day trip from Quebec City to the mouth of the Saguenay River, our next stop.

Quebec City at night from our slip. Just the top of Chateau Frontenac is visible above the Seminary.

Shortly after my last post we rounded the tip of Pointe-Platon and pulled over to the sand deposit on the inside of the bend downriver of the point to drop the hook (map). By this time the wind had picked up above 20 knots and the river was a frothy mess. We were concerned we might have a rough night, with no backup options available, but after we bounced around all through dinner, the wind started to lay down, and by the time we hit the hay it was flat calm.

Sunset from our anchorage off Pointe-Platon.

We've passed a lot of bulkers, but this was the first carrying yachts. This looks like a trio of new Carvers being delivered.

In the morning we weighed anchor with the tide and went through two sets of "rapids" in succession, where the channel narrows down and the current increases. In the Rapides Richelieu, the stronger of the pair, we had close to six knots behind us. Otto can't handle that much following current and I steered by hand, but with the river wide and deep and with no other traffic, it was a no-drama event. By 1pm we were pulling into the lock that separates the Port Of Quebec Marina basin from the deepwater tugboat basin.

Approaching the two bridges, nearly superimposed, just upriver of Quebec City.

In a first for us, the interior of the lock chamber comprises two floating docks to which boats are tied for the ride up or down. We tied off and shut the engine, per the rules for the minuscule lock. By 1:30 we were tied up in our slip at the Marina Viex-Port de Quebec (map), which is in, I kid you not, Bassin Louise. There was a brief moment of confusion, as the actual dock arrangement did not match the marina map that was on the web site, and also posted prominently in the lock.

In the lock, tied to a floating dock that will rise with us. We walked across the gate ahead of us to get to town.

I marched over to the office to sign in and get gate keys. The facilities are very nice, with a lounge, Internet center, snack room with vending, laundry, showers, and even a heated outdoor pool, none of which we used. The downside is that the docks and office are all on the opposite side of the basin from the actual city, and you basically walk around and then over the top of the lock gates to get to town.

In addition to enormous bollards, our basin is surrounded by these enormous rings from a previous life; I could barely lift the end. Louise's feet for scale.

In a theme that would repeat itself yet again, one of the restaurants in easy walking distance in the Vieux-Port is Taverne Louise, and of course we just had to eat there. We crossed the lock a bit early and strolled around the old port district a little before dinner; we found a half dozen or so nice eateries with outside tables in the span of just a few blocks. These are all in the flats, about the same elevation as the wharves, whereas most of the city is something of a climb from here.

Louise checking her menu.

Oddly, all the servers were Louise too.

After dinner, with the lay of the land somewhat in hand, I set out to plan our two-day stay. With all the hills making the city mostly unwalkable for us, I figured a motor coach tour similar to the one we took in Montreal would be a good choice, or even Le Hop-on Hop-off tour. The booking sites, however, showed no availability until after our visit, which seemed odd. I soon learned that the city suspended all the tour operators for the duration of the Pope's visit.

Approaching the city, with the iconic Chateau Frontenac looking down on us.

The transit web site showed that the city buses would still be running and mostly on their normal schedules and routes, so in the morning we walked over to the Gare du Palais just a half mile from the dock and bought day passes for $9cdn apiece. We jumped on the #800 MetroBus and headed to the end of the line at Montmorency Falls, where another $17 got us into the park. These are the second-largest falls in Canada, taller than Niagara, and were quite impressive from the little suspension foot bridge perched over the top.

Looking down on Montmorency Falls from the suspension bridge. The yellow tint is from iron in the water.

After buying our bus passes we downloaded the transit app, to help us sort out where to transfer for the #11 on our way back, that would take us up the hill into the old city. That's when we learned that all of the stops inside the walled city were bypassed during the papal visit. We had hoped to get off right at the Chateau Frontenac for lunch, but with the stop off-limits it made no sense to even change busses. We stayed on the 800 to Place D'Youville, as far up the hill as we could get, and had lunch in a casual joint right off the bus stop.

Louise approaching the St. John Gate to the walled city.

Thus fortified we walked through the Porte Saint-Jean (St. John Gate) into the walled city of Quebec and made the rest of the climb on foot, passing City Hall and the shops and restaurants of Rue Sainte-Anne. Police, security, and barricades were everywhere, with many streets blocked off, in preparation for the motorcade arrival of Pope Francis later in the afternoon. We walked around the Terrasse Dufferin, with sweeping views out over the river and the city below, and walked through the iconic Chateau Frontenac, now a Fairmont hotel.

Chateau Frontenac from the landward side, as seen over the fountain at the Place d'Armes.

Impressive flower sculpture on the Dufferin Terrace.

Walking downhill is much harder for Louise than uphill, and with the buses not available, we instead took the funicular back down the hill. This is now a cheesy tourist attraction costing $4 apiece (cash only), but for us it was basically an elevator and allowed us to do a little more walking at the bottom, where we took in the Petit Champlain district, another touristy area of shops and restaurants.

The royal wave from La Princesse.

One thing we found there, after a bit of circling around, was the plaque identifying what was once the home of our friend Dave's great (times some number larger than one) grandfather, Jean Demers. We sent Dave a photo. Then we made our way across Dalhousie Street to the Gare Fluvial (river terminal) where we hopped on the #11 for the short trip back to the marina. That was pretty much it for Louise's feet, so at dinner time we again stayed close to hand, going just across the lock to Pizzéria NO.900 - St-Paul for a casual dinner of pizza and draft beer.

This one's for you, Dave.

Yesterday morning the Pope was whisked out to Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré to say mass at the enormous Basilica there, and I took advantage of the absence to finish exploring the Old City on foot. The buses were still not stopping there, so I parked my e-bike at the Gare Fluvial and hopped on the #11 just before my 24-hour pass expired, taking it again as far as Place D'Youville to save me at least part of the climb. From there I ascended to the ramparts of the Citadelle de Québec, which afforded an impressive view of the city.

Ornate lobby of the Chateau Frontenac.

Even the fire hose cabinet is adorned with stained glass.

I had hoped to tour the Citadelle, which is still an active-duty military installation with a Canadian regiment in full regalia, similar to what you might find at the royal palaces in England (US ceremonial uniforms are more modern, but we do the same thing at the White House and Arlington Cemetery). I was unwilling to wait a half hour and then spend a full hour on a guided tour, the only way to enter the fortress, and so I contented myself with continuing around the fort on the outside ramparts.

View from in front of the Citadelle over the city and harbor. Vector is just in front of the grain silos center frame.

As I came around to the south side I had a view out over the Plains of Abraham, which is a park roughly analogous to New York's Central Park or Boston's Common. Named for Abraham Martin, who figured prominently in the history of Quebec, and not his biblical namesake (and I can't read or hear "Abraham Martin" without my brain adding "and John" ... those my age will understand), it was the site of a decisive battle between the British and French. As a modern-day park it hosts many outdoor events, and on this occasion it was the site of Pope Francis' apology to indigenous peoples on Wednesday, and a Jumbotron simulcast of Thursday's mass in Beaupre.

Looking down at the simulcast venue, mid-service. Not the crowd that had been planned.

I had a bird's-eye view of the event venue (and could hear and see the screens, without having an entry ticket), which had been predicted to have a crowd of 140,000 -- this in addition to the 10,000 expected on the grounds at Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré. I passed about mid-service, and the crowd looked to me to be far smaller, down in the four digits. They sure had porta-potties for more, though. This explained why almost nothing else in town had been crowded -- restaurants, tourist venues, the Funicular, the hotel lobby, and pretty much everywhere else.

This art installation comprising myriad life jackets adorns the Royal Battery, near the river.

From there I descended along the river frontage of the Citadelle on the Governor's Walk, a boardwalk perched on stilts from the steeply sloping cliff face, which brought me back to the Terrasse Dufferin. At this elevation I walked over to try to get a look at the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Québec, but the Pope was slated to say vespers there at 6pm, and the entire area was fenced off. Having no need of the funicular, this time I chose to descend via staircases, one of which was the Escalier Casse-Cou (Breakneck Steps), which has a pair of businesses on each landing.

The Basilica of Notre Dame as it is seldom seen -- devoid of visitors.

Terrasse Dufferin and the Chateau Frontenac.

I had lunch stag under the awning at one of the many sidewalk cafes before returning to my waiting e-bike for a spin around the port district. Afterward I rode out along the St. Charles River to the Dorchester bridge, and across the river to the IGA supermarket in the Limoilou neighborhood. By sheer luck I showed up on opening day after the market had been closed for renovations; it was fully stocked and had everything we needed, and I even scored a much-needed reusable grocery bag (disposable ones are outlawed here) for free.

I passed this well-used splash pool and waterfall steps in front of Cafe du Monde near the cruise terminal.

While we would have liked to go out for one final dinner in town, thundershowers moved in, as forecast, mid-afternoon, and we enjoyed a nice meal aboard. I'm sure the rain put a damper on the festivities over on the Plains of Abraham as well as those along the waterfront for Les Grands Feux Loto-Québec, the weekly fireworks extravaganza over the river. The rain had stopped entirely by showtime, though, and we had a great view of the fireworks from our flybridge. The nightly aurora-themed light show on the enormous G3 grain silos along the marina basin, a sort of moving blue-green-violet curtain of light, was replaced by mostly red with a splash of white for the evening.

Fireworks from the comfort of our flybridge. It was an impressive and lengthy show. Structure at left is the drawbridge over the lock, seldom lowered.

We had an early departure from the marina to catch the start of the ebb. At high tide, the lockmaster just opens both gates, and we drove right through, turning downriver as we cleared the outer basin. The very extensive and complex current-prediction web site I am using admits to an hour of imprecision, and we ended up pushing against a flood tide for the first half hour or so of our trip.

Opposite the marina in the Bassin Louise is this public swimming area, complete with lanes, right in the basin. Vector is center-frame.

The current became favorable shortly after we entered the Chenal de l'Île d'Orléans, which took us around the more scenic north side of Île d'Orléans instead of the ship channel across the island. As we approached the suspension bridge that is the sole access to this large island, we could also see the Montmorency Falls, which are quite spectacular from ground level, even more so than our earlier up-close view from the top.

Montmorency Falls as seen from the river. We had a nice view with binoculars, though it's a bit distant for my camera.

An hour further along the channel we passed the Sanctuaire Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, where the Pope had said mass just the day before, and shortly afterward the Mont Sainte-Anne ski area. We are passing along the Laurentian Mountains, and as a youth I learned to ski here, at a similar resort near Montreal known as Mont Tremblant. I have very fond memories of those yearly ski trips with my family.

Sanctuaire Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, where the Pope said mass. The jet boat, which is bigger than it looks, is a tour boat that left from Bassin Louise, blew past us downriver, stopped here for a tour, and is now headed back.

As we approached the eastern end of the island we were doing 11.5 knots making turns for just over six, and the little tourist train that goes out to Charlevoix along the river seemed to pass us in slow motion. But as we came to the junction where we returned to the main ship channel we encountered rather rough seas, a combination of the hydraulics of the river and the wind, which had been building steadily all morning.

Mont Sainte-Anne ski resort.

I'm now on my second day preparing this post. After an increasingly agitated ride in the ever-escalating wind, we arrived at our planned anchorage in a small embayment north of L'Isle-aux-Coudres, where silt is captured by a rocky point marked by a light. We pulled as close to shore as depth and tide would allow and dropped the hook (map), setting in 40mph winds and an increasing upriver current. We had arrived, thankfully, just at the turn of the tide and only had to push the last half mile. We put out 150' of chain for the conditions and the 16' tide swing.

I snapped this photo of our weather station just after we anchored, while it still showed a max of 40mph.

Just as it had been when we anchored on our way to Quebec, the wind and current made for a very bouncy afternoon and evening, but after dinner the wind started to lay down, and once again it was nearly flat calm by bed time. We did contend with a handful of ship wakes, and a weird swell when the tide changed. It was far too rough to launch the tender to explore the island, which anyway would have involved a 200' climb over a half mile from the harbor to the town.

Sunset over the Laurentians from our anchorage.

This morning we again weighed anchor just at the turn of the tide, a little before 8am, for another long run to the mouth of the Saguenay. I'm keeping the revs up because we want to arrive before the tide turns at the other end, or we'll have no choice but to push hard against it. As we exit the more narrow riverine section and into the wider Gulf of Saint Lawrence, both the water and air temperature are dropping rapidly, and by tonight I will trade my shorts and linen shirts for long pants and knits. As I wrap up typing we are in depths of 500', a first for us on a river.

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