In the Buffet
At breakfast about 20 minutes ago the mood in the buffet restaurant was sombre and as it filled up with people, rumours had spread about where we were (dead in the water at anchor in the St. Lawrence River) and what was wrong with the ship, a few moments ago the anchor was drawn up and the main engines were fired up as the ship slowly started to turn round and make headway downriver, the Captain has just finished telling us that everything is all right now, I liked the way he described a defect of the ship that left us dead in the water unable to move in a shipping lane at anchor for 4 hours as a minor problem, they had to fly in a Radar Specialist and bring him aboard on a pilot boat, it must have cost them a fortune. Anyway listen, I’m penning this in the ships lounge and as I look up and out of the windows to my left I can see the shoreline only about quarter of a mile away, thick lush vegetation tall trees with the sun picking out the white houses built in the tree-lined banks of the river, the waters, calm here as we pass slowly by; I believe there is a speed limit of 10 miles per hour for ships on the St Lawrence to help preserve the whale population that use this river a lot apparently the whales only swim at about 10 miles per hour and if ships are doing 15 mph they over take the beast and rip it to pieces with the propellers as they pass by, this limit make everything go at the same speed and the Whales get a sporting chance of getting out of the way, I’m going to sign off now as I have just heard that we will be docking at noon today so see you later.
Don on the doomed ship
Landing in Quebec.
I suspected things were not going as people had expected when a tug approached us before we could even see Quebec, our ship was turned in the river and the tug pushed us towards the dock, when I went over and looked where we were going to be berthed; it was a commercial dock with dustbin lorries driving about on it and tied up there already was a rusting hulk of an old ferry and we were to be tied up next to it, but there were no buildings or places to shelter just flat concrete. We secured alongside and then the long wait started; disembarkation sounded good in theory over the public address but in practice it was entirely different, we were called to leave the ship by tours and then by decks, so Florie and I waited patiently in the lounge until called then we joined a very, very long queue on the dock; it transpired that at 6am the Dock Manager was stood with a line of coaches waiting for our ship to arrive, but as time passed they vanished like a raindrop in the dessert. When our ship eventually turned up at 12.45pm, the other larger cruise ships in the port had taken all the busses so now we are left with two coaches to shuttle in all the people, who are not on tours, into town and a certain amount of frustration and anger was coming to the surface in the remarks of those around us, a few people wanted to walk across the dock then the 1½ miles into town, but being a commercial dock it wasn’t allowed because it wasn’t safe and there were two Aussies behind us in the queue and they were telling us how they could not stand still for more than a few minutes and they should be allowed to walk to the gate all the while they were running on the spot, bobbing up and down like two noisy pistons, carping all the time, the Aussies call us Brits., Whinging Pom’s, but they could certainly give us a run for our money.
However once in town we took the funicular to the Frontenac Hotel at the top of the hill and walked round the old town admiring its well preserved three and four story high stone buildings lined up in a terraced fashion, it is truly a beautiful place to walk round, if a little hilly, a lot of the buildings have window boxes and any other small area of soil filled with flowers in bloom they were a riot of colours reds, yellows, orange and blues in every street we saw, the shops are a lot different than the European shops so it was nice to browse and see different thing, but if went into a shop and you were the only customer in there, the assistant would pounce on you and follow round like a prison guard. Eventually we found ourselves outside a lovely little restaurant where we had genuine Poutine and a cheese cake desert – Yummy – that set us up for more walking in the cold afternoon air fighting our way through the crowded streets full of tourists from every part of the world, Asia, Europe, Middle East, USA, too many people too few pavements, fighting to stay off the narrow roads, originally designed for horse and carriage, away from the cars and coaches. As we walked back to the bus to take us to our ship we suppressed our disappointment that the sun had been hidden all day by the grey clouds, but at least it didn’t rain.
Still in Quebec – Friday morning.
Early morning and we are still tied up next to the rusting hulk behind us, on our left is the Arcadia a large P&O ship slowly coming into dock in front of our ship; today we are off on a ships tour of the city and Montmorency Falls. The weather has deteriorated to strong winds and driving rain so we had to dash to our waiting coach on the dock we got good seats near the front so we could see out of the front window, always a plus; our French Canadian Tour Guide was called Roger, a tall well built chap who didn’t know the meaning of modesty, he was fiercely proud of being a Frenchman born in Quebec, he had been a coach driver all his working life and when he retired he became the best tour guide in Quebec, and yes he was good, he tied up explanations of historical facts to statues buildings or geographical features in an interesting manner, he brought the city’s history to life as we drove slowly round it, stopping at different sights on interest from time to time. We went inside the old Gare Du Palais (railway station), that was built in the same chateau style as the hotel that dominates the old town’s skyline, the city has restored both the hotel and station and both are beautiful inside and out and are used extensively now,
the station has a fantastic exclusive steak house with plush red leather banquette seats, (I could have gladly spent the rest of the tour there) but after marvelling at the interior of the station we had to continue our tour of the rainy city, we were dropped off at the Frontenac Hotel for 45 minutes so we could explore the city ourselves,
Florie and I had done that yesterday so we made straight for a warm dry a coffee shop with Wi-Fi and supped coffee while we caught up on emails and the like until we ran out to the warn dry coach once again. All aboard we made our way round the city listening intently to Roger’s graphic explanations for names or why buildings were built the way they were, eventually we made our way out of town to the 83 meter high Montmorency Falls named after Duc de Montmorency the once Viceroy of New France and Admiral of France and Brittany,
however the rain was still coming down hard, so it was dash outside with a brolly, take some quick photo’s, then dash back again; the falls were quite impressive, but we were soon on our bus going back to the ship where dry clothes and hot coffee soon restored our spirits, I am sorry I haven’t related to you all the stories that Roger told us but he did talk for 3 hours, we thought it was a good trip , it would have been a fantastic trip if it the sun had been shining.
TAGS – Frontenac-Hotel history Aussies Poutine Montmorency-Falls rusting-hulk Gare-Du-Palais flowers-in-bloom brolly