First Impressions: Quebec City

And thus I have nearly reached the end of my first fling with Canada. I feel I can summarise it well in the following way; it was in Toronto that Canada caught my eye and held my attention, it was in Montreal that we shared our first kiss, and it is now in Quebec City where I fall in love.

The differences between Quebec City and Montreal are vast, as I was advised they would be. Firstly Quebec City is a much smaller, more manageably sized city with an old town that arguably rivals no other in Canada or in North America. Even a quick first glance at the cobbled streets lined with Normandy style terraced houses with shuttered eyes watching out on the passing tourists, and you know that this place is layered in history.Again I can see French and English architecture, language and culture exist side by side, although there is no doubt that the French is dominant but it is without an arrogance that I sometimes wrongly associate with the French. I must also apologise that I still find it strange to see young North American looking kids - wearing hockey shirts and baseball caps - speaking French, but I like it too.

I have learnt that the old buildings I see in many areas are actually reconstructions, purpose-built by the local government over half a century ago as part of a vision to make the city a place for visitors. The vision was costly at the time but has surely paid off many times. Quebec City is one of only three lived-in UNESCO World Heritage Sites in North America and is frequently considered to be one of the most liveable cities in the world. It's a city where they celebrate their culture and climate with museums, events and festivals like the Quebec Winter Carnival.

The people aren't typical city people. They are quiet, understated, friendly, warm - there has been lots of uncomplicated smiles and instant eye contact.

Thanks to arriving at a weekend I have seen the locals at play. Incredibly fit looking people have whizzed past me on bikes, blades or bouncing from one strong leg to another on a Saturday morning run.In the evening I feel like I'm being transported back to the many towns I've visited in France. The smell of cooking, the sound of accordions, the bubbling and tinkling of conversation, which always sounds more distinguished and so passionate e n fran ç ais.

I can't help but want to shake the hands of all those people who fought to keep and then preserve the many old buildings that make Quebec City what it is now. Many other cities had the chance to keep their history but they didn't or couldn't. On more than one occasion I have asked myself what made and makes the people of Quebec City so different? I don't yet have the answer but that's obviously much less important compared to the charm that this difference delivers. As I was being shown around the city yesterday, I learnt that it is actually thanks to the briefly conquering British that the French language and culture has not only prospered but characterised Quebec City. The signing of the Act of Quebec in 1774 by the British government gave the French speaking Canadiens rights to their language, religion and future. How different it all could have been. Though I love my language and my identity, I can't say we would have given Quebec City the same amount of fascination and romance.

Yes, romance. Quebec City feels very romantic, full of space and beautiful backdrops for people to be alone, together or ensemble. I'll just have to come back and stay in a nice hotel once I've been reunited with that man of mine...

Frances M. Thompson

Londoner turned wanderer, Frankie is an author, freelance writer and blogger. Currently based in Amsterdam, Frankie was nomadic for two years before starting a family with her Australian partner. Frankie is the author of three short story collections, and is a freelance writer for travel and creative brands. In 2017, she launched WriteNOW Cards, affirmation cards for writers that help build a productive and positive writing practice. When not writing contemporary fiction, Frankie shops for vintage clothes, dances to 70s disco music and chases her two young sons around Amsterdam.
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