International Writers Magazine - French Canada
We drove on the Côte de Beaupré following one of the
oldest thoroughfares in North America on our way from Quebec City
to Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré. Called the Avenue Royale or the
Route of Nouvelle-France, it is edged by buildings that cover three
centuries of history. Our guide enthusiastically pointed out the
characteristics of a number of the 1,500 ancestral homes of various
vintages and styles. It was a comprehensive overview of this part
of Québec where Canada's history began
In less than an
hour we were parked by the famed pilgrimage site of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré
- for 350 years a mecca for the faithful, journeying here to seek healing
for their ailments or just to pray. Each year more than a million and
a half pilgrims and visitors come to experience the calm and peace of
this revered basilica.
first church, where this magnificent shrine now stands, was erected
in 1658. The story goes that during its construction, Luis Guirmont,
who was too ill to work in the building of the church, came to just
symbolically lay a stone and, while doing so, was healed of his
affliction. It was the beginning of an endless parade of the faithful
who have claimed they were miraculously healed after praying at
this shrine - dedicated to Sainte Anne, the patron saint of Québec.
The church was demolished
in 1878 and larger structure re-built then in 1922, it was destroyed
by fire. A much larger basilica was built and consecrated in 1976. Today,
the church, along with its Cycloramic de Jerusalem, covered with granite
and medieval in style, is a combination of carved stone, mosaics and
240 stained glass windows.
After touring the church, with the seven deadly sins portrayed on the
floor in mosaic, I went outside to inspect the Way of the Cross, lined
with life-size bronze figures. The others in our group prayed in front
of the statue of Saint Anne, holding her daughter Mary, then stopped
awhile by a major relic, a bone from Saint Anne, before moving on to
view a replica of Michelangelo's 'Pieta'.
A short time later, we were on our way back on the Avenue Royale. As
our guide was relating stories and historic anecdotes about the homes
that we were passing, along with the escapades of their once colourful
inhabitants, our bus stopped at the 'Moulin du Petit Pré', the
oldest commercial flourmill in North America. Originally built in 1695,
the mill was restored a few years ago by a major project, consolidating
both the tourist industry and heritage of the Côte de Beaupré.
mill's General Manager Isabelle Longré, dressed in 17th century
costume, and her husband greeted us in the hospitable manner as
in the past the settlers of New France would have done. In this
aura of living the bygone years, they took us to explore the mill,
which besides being able to produce some 400 pounds of flour per
hour, is today a major tourist attraction.
To lure even more
visitors, the general public are offered a room in the attic, which
can accommodate up to 200 people for conferences, meetings, parties
and weddings. Also, in a shop customers are introduced to more than
a hundred, mostly organic products and are invited to taste wine as
well as raspberry liqueur. In 2003, the mill was the grand prizewinner
of the Québec Bus Owners Association's '2003 Tourism Innovator'
contest. In the words of Isabelle Longré, "We present in
our mill the best of what the Côte de Beaupré has to offer."
I was still thinking of the re-creation of the old mill when we stopped
at the majestic Montmorency Waterfalls, one of Quebec's most spectacular
natural sites to end our day of exploration. We surveyed the Falls from
below then took a cable car up to dine at Manior Montmorency, edging
the fall. Some 15 minute drive from the heart of Quebec, the Falls are
featured on a good number of tours from-the city.
spectacular and awe-inspiring natural wonder, its water plummets
84 m (275 ft) on its way to the St. Lawrence River - 30 m (98 ft)
higher than Niagara Falls. The views from the cable car, the panoramic
stairway and the bridge over the Falls are breathtaking. In the
winter, the mountains on either side of the falls become sheets
of ice - an ice climber's mecca. In the words of one of the waiters,
"You should come here in winter when the Falls become a wonderland
for ice climbing enthusiasts."
few hours later, after resting in out hotel, we were at the Fairmont
Le Château Frontenac - one of Canada's renowned historic hotels.
That evening as we sipped our cocktails we were greeted by a young
lady, dressed in the costume of the mid 19th century, who relived
with us, the history of the hotel and its many dramatic moments.
In a pleasant and historically accurate fashion, she related the
story of the Canadian Pacific Railway and its Hotels, such as the
Le Château Frontenac, before disappearing from the room back
Facts About Quebec City:
1. When in Quebec City, take a cruise on the Louis Jolliet cruise
ship operated by 'AML Cruises' moored alongside the docks under
the Chateau Frontenac on the edge of the Old Quebec - contact by
toll free number 1-866-856-6668 for this and other cruises by the
2. Two fulfilling tours to take are offered by Viator Tours from
Quebec City for; Montmorency Falls and the shrine of Ste-Anne-de-Beaupré
- Cost $45.56; City Sightseeing Tour - Cost $32.40. (Prices quoted
in CDN dollars.)
3. Where to Eat: Old Québec City and the surrounding area
have more restaurants per capita than any other city in North America
-some 100 bistros, cafes and gourmet restaurants. Dinners run from
about $15. in chain restaurants to some $125.CDN in gourmet dining
places. For traditional food like the meat pie, tourtière,
Québec style pork and beans and maple syrup pie, Aux Anciens
Canadiens is the place - meal of the day $19.00 CDN.
4. Where to Stay:
Hotels offer some 12,000 rooms in and around the old city - 2000 of
these, international class. Two top hotels are the Hilton Quebec and
the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac - the towering symbol of Quebec
5. Tip bellboys a dollar a bag and tip 10% to 15% of restaurant bills;
and tip hotel maids $1. to $2. per day.
Ste. Anne de Beaupré - Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, Québec,
Canada GOA 3CO. Tel: (418) 827-3781. Fax: (418) 827-8771. Website:
Moulin du Petit Pré - 7007 Avenue Royale, Château-Richer,
Québec, GOA 1NO. Tel: (418) 824-7007. Website:
Tourisme Québec: for complete tourist information Québec,
call: (514) 873-2015 or toll free:
1-877-363-7777, or visit Website:
© Habeeb Salloum September 2009
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