October 15, 2009
We Are Cunard
Posted in: Queen Victoria
As Queen Victoria heads down to the sun in the Canary Islands, today’s Blog is about the stunning port of Quebec where the ship visited last week. What a stunning port it was and one I would thoroughly recommend to anyone. Before we get to that – this week has marked yet another major milestone as Queen Elizabeth is now less than one year away from her maiden voyage, so the official countdown enters the next phase with just 362 days to go. I’ll hopefully have some more news from the shipyard soon, along with some more announcements in due course which will answer many of your questions. Thank you again for all your comments and it’s been great to meet so many of you on board, around the ship and at the Bloggers get-togethers.
Now for this week in Cunard’s history for the week of 16th to the 22nd of October: –
QE2 makes her final Transatlantic Crossing from New York to Southampton
Hibernia comes in to service
The Olympic is launched for White Star Line at Harland & Wolf in Belfast. She becomes part of Cunard Line on the 1st of January 1934
QE2 makes her last Transatlantic voyage under steam power
Franconia II is launched at John Brown’s Yard, Clydebank
QE2 makes her maiden Call Port Delgada, Azores
A fantastic part of life at sea is to have the opportunity to visit favourite ports and to discover new ones. That’s the same for guests and crew, and I believe I have just added another favourite to my list. Last week Queen Victoria visited Quebec for the first time and it really is a beautiful city. Walking off the ship everyone was greeted by this magnificent view.
The city of Quebec has always been important as a strategic port, lying where the St Charles River meets the St Lawrence River, and Queen Victoria was able to dock right by the centre of the old town. The walled city is the only one remaining in the United States and Canada, and as you walk through the streets you feel a real sense of history with a truly European style. Dominating the city on the top of Cap Diamant is the iconic Chateau Frontenac, whose first wing was constructed in December 1893. This is known as the River Wing and is the one in the foreground of the picture. Expansion was swift and soon other wings were built over the years, bringing the hotel to its current capacity of 605 rooms. The hotel has played host to numerous stars, world leaders and even aristocracy with King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visiting the hotel in 1939.
Much of the city’s past is still visible and its many churches, old stone houses and narrow streets make it an architectural gem. As the oldest city in North America, it boasts many of Canada’s best museums making Québec City a year-round tourist mecca, welcoming some four million visitors each year. The hills are quite steep, (although you can cheat a bit by using the funicular), but being quite compact the old streets are well worth walking.
In this one you can see Queen Victoria in between the autumn colours. There are so many stunning buildings that you find yourself taking another photo every few minutes. This is the beautiful “Hotel De Ville” or Town Hall.
Also worth a look is the very impressive Citadel, a fort and famous landmark, which overlooks the city from its lofty perch on the highest point of Cap Diamant. These fortifications, dating back to the inauguration of the city, were once a key to protecting Quebec, but since 1920 it has been the home of the Royal 22nd Regiment of the Canadian Armed Forces.
There are so many reminders of the city’s French heritage and not just in the style of the buildings but also the names such as the “Notre Dame” cathedral in the middle of the old city.
With all that walking you certainly work up an appetite and the food in Quebec is wonderful and there are so many interesting and picturesque restaurants to choose from. We found what claims to be the oldest in the city, and is called “Aux Ancient Canadiens” named after the book by Philippe-Aubert de Gaspe who lived there from 1815 to 1824.
It was full of locals as well as tourists so I think we were lucky to get in, but I was glad we did. With the main part of the building dating back to 1677, it has a great atmosphere with staff dressed in traditional Quebecois period clothes serving local specialties. Whenever I see local specialty advertised I am drawn to it like a magnet (just like the lobster ice cream last week!), so I had to order some Poutine. Speaking some French I had an idea what I was in for and it wasn’t too shocking.
Although it’s not exactly gourmet food, it was apparently first seen in Quebec in the 1950’s and is now a firm favourite. It’s basically chips with brown gravy and fresh cheese curds on top, which is a bit odd unless you are really in to soggy chips! Nevermind the Toutiere, (a mixed meat pie) was great, athough I still haven’t worked out exactly which meat was in it!
We were very lucky to spend a night in Quebec as well, and it has quite a night life – apparently! But while many of our guests, and even more of our crew, were enjoying the Quebecois hospitality our Chief Photographer on board, Marius Botha, took a ferry ride across the river to the town of Lévis (pronounced not like the jeans but as ‘lev-ee’) to take this superb photo.
Great job Marius – thanks. We had a fantastic two days and I look forward to going back there; hopefully soon. Queen Victoria is now heading for the sun on a ten day voyage to the Canary Islands while Queen Mary 2 is about to embark on her round Britain voyage with many celebrations planned along the way. Our President and Managing Director, Peter Shanks, is on board and has promised me some news and pictures of the voyage over the next week, so keep logging on to find out more. I’ve also got some other special Blogs on the way as well including (in case you thought I had forgotten), the video Blog of my interview with Sir Terry Wogan. We are really looking forward to welcoming Sir Terry and his TOGS on board next May, and I’m sure he’ll be looking forward to it too as Great Britain prepares for the BBC charity event of the year, “Children In Need”, in a few weeks time. That’s all to come so I’ll be back soon. Cheers for now, Alastair