We haven't seen as many other long distance cyclists as we expected on this trip. But whenever we do, we pause and stop to chat if they are so inclined. Some just wave and continue cycling right on by. Others are as interested as we are in swapping stories. 960 miles ago, we met Robert and Diane cycling through New Brunswick. Today, they opened up their home to us and personally guided us through Old Quebec City!
Crossing the St. Lawrence River on a short ferry ride, the buildings of the old city quickly came into view, with the imposing Château Frontenac Hotel towering over it all. Soon we felt we were stepping right into a European city. The narrow streets were lined with colorful awnings and blooming flowers. Shop fronts filled with enticing displays beckoned to shoppers. Sidewalk cafés held unhurried patrons, sipping a coffee and watching the world parade by. Fashionable figures passed us on the street. It was a delightful scene.
It soon became apparent how Old Quebec was built on a steep hill, as we mounted numerous flights of stairs to the upper reaches of the city. There we could see the ramparts and citadel as well as the old town walls. More streets filled with restaurants and boutiques angled across the hilltop. We also made the rounds of the imposing government buildings, peeked into churches and admired old convents and schools. We even strolled through the elegant first floor of the Château Frontenac. It was wonderful to have local friends to find the best sights for us and fill us in on the history behind them as well.
We had mid-day dinner in a wonderful small place on a side street, called Le Buffet des Antiquites. The long line waiting outside was a testament to its popularity and reasonable prices. Robert made sure we knew the dishes that were typical of Quebec, and we enjoyed sampling the local fare.
Throughout this trip, Quebec City has stood out as a major milestone for us. It was the gem at the end of the coastal portion of our cycling tour. After miles of pure scenery and only small towns and villages, we knew it would be a cultural delight. We'd never been to Quebec before, and we were excited to explore it. We just didn't know we would have the benefit of having our own personal tour guides.
We spent a delightful evening with Robert and Diane, sharing tales of our respective cycling tours and were treated to a wonderful meal. Who knew that a chance roadside meeting would lead to such warm hospitality? There is something very special about cycle touring. We just experienced it.