UNESCO World Heritage Site

Quebec Oh Quebec!

Quebec, oh Quebec… why did you leave me? After enchanting me with your delightful little cobblestone streets and quaint town squares and charming architecture and pretty little art shops and beautiful parks and delicious food and your charming French-accented English speech and your many many alluring ways, why did you leave me? Yes, yes, you are right, I’m sorry… Yes, it was I who left you! Buckling under the pressure of life’s million little cares, I had to leave you. But this I promise you… I’ll be back. And we will spend many an enjoyable day together… Promise!

Obviously, I enjoyed the trip to the province of Quebec and especially to its capital Quebec City very much. Surrounded on three sides by the waters of St. Lawrence and St. Charles rivers, Ville de Quebec (Quebec City’s French name) is one of the oldest cities of North America.


Quebec City was founded by Samuel de Champlain in 1608, a French explorer and diplomat. It was the first permanent European settlement in the territory of present-day Canada and the capital of New France, the French colony till 1867.

Old Quebec, a historical neighbourhood of Quebec city, is utterly charming. Its cobblestone streets and quaint shops bring forth images of Europe. No wonder Quebec City is sometimes called ‘Petit Paris’! Old Quebec is a UNESCO’s World Heritage Site.


Upper Town in Old Quebec is located on top of Cap Diamant (Cape Diamond) promontory, provides a beautiful view of the St Lawrence river below. A statue of Samuel de Champlain stands prominent on the square.


The Chateau Frontenac, said to be the most photographed hotel in the world, is an imposing structure and dominates the city’s skyline spectacularly.


Built in 1893, the hotel was the site of the Quebec Conference in 1943, where Winston Churchill and Franklin D Roosevelt met to discuss world war 2 strategy. If you would like to check out the rates for a weekend’s stay, here is the link.


Also, located in the Upper Town is La Citadelle, a functioning fortress. Quebec City is the only fortified city north of Mexico. The ramparts of the city stand strong even today, along with the citadel. Work on the citadel was started in 1820, and guess why? To prevent attacks from the United States! Seriously… in 1812, the US had tried to conquer Quebec City and other parts of Canada which were British holdings while fighting a war with Britain over the blockading of the oceans by Britain. Needless to say, the attempt failed and today the citadel is a National Historic Site of Canada.


Century-old great looking houses of the for-generations rich and famous populate the residential areas of Upper Town. Historical sites and beautiful parks add to the uniqueness of the area.
Lower Town, located at the foot of the Cap Diamant, is the commercial center of Old Quebec. This is the location where Samuel de Champlain built his original settlement, remains of which can still be discerned and are marked. I can doubtlessly say Lower Town is my most favourite spot in the entire city.


Place Royale, a public square was named so in 1686 after a bust of King Louis XIV of France was placed in the square. Once, this was the commercial center around where the merchants and businessmen lived, who during the French-British wars moved to the Upper Town for its safer environments.



At one end of the square stands the Fresque des Quebecois (fresco for the people of Quebec), a huge mural on the face of a building. Completed in 1999, this mural encompasses the local history of 400 hundred years in a canvass of 420 sq meters.


In addition to the daily life activities and the four seasons, 16 of the prominent historical figures are also represented. The details of the creation of this mural are very interesting.


On the opposite side of the square is the Eglise Notre Dame des Victoires (Our Lady of Victory church). Built on the site of the Champlain’s first residence, it is one of the oldest stone churches.


And then there is the Rue de Petit Champlain, the most picturesque street ever.


In addition to wonderful arts and crafts shops and restaurants, the narrow stone-paved street has a little area with benches and swings and live music where you can sip your wine and chill out.


The whole Quartier Petit Champlain area is indeed beautiful.
By the way, Rue de Petit Champlain is the oldest street in North America! Yep, I know, I have been repeating the word ‘oldest’ a lot! 🙂
To be continued…


23 Jul 2015

Climbing the Great Wall of China

I have not met many people who have had the opportunity to climb the Great Wall of China twice. So, I consider it no small privilege that I could. After all, it is one of the Seven Wonders of the World and protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I got the opportunity to attempt this feat when I was in Beijing on an official trip.


The Great Wall of China, known as the Long Wall of Ten Thousand Li in Mandarin, was built between the third century BC and the 17th century AD along the northern border of the country, from Shanhaiguan in the Hebei province in the east to Jiayuguan in the Gansu province in the west. The estimated length of the Wall is 21,196 km (13,171 mi). Several rulers from different dynasties governing different parts of China, constructed varied sections of the Wall to fortify their empires against foreign invaders. This ultimately came to be known as the Great Wall of China.


The Great Wall is like a long winding stone trail snaking through the mountains. Two sections of the wall, nearest to Beijing, were open to the public: Badaling and Mutianyu. Located half an hour from Beijing city, the Badaling Great Wall is the most frequented and the time I went there, it was crowded owing to the tourist season, I presumed. It was certainly a stretch, ascending that steep incline with people pushing and shoving you. Yeah, it was that busy! I had taken a conducted tour which also included stopping at a tea house for some indigenous green tea.


Across the wall, watch towers and small fortresses are built, which were used by the army in olden times. Now, they serve as rest areas for the wearied. The highest point is 1,015 metres (3,330 ft) above sea level. If you happen to stop to catch your breath, you will find plenty of street food vendors, perched on railings, ready to quench your appetite. Many hotels and restaurants are also nestled in the foothills.

Our tour guide mentioned that whoever reached the top of the section would be honored as a ‘hero’ as it was a struggle to get there. Unfortunately, I did not make it since I gave up in the middle. The fleeting thought of using the newly-constructed cable car that takes you directly up the hill, did cross my mind. But it seemed like cowardice. I had already vowed to myself that I will complete the climb someday!

Climbing the Mutianyu Great Wall was more comfortable as the slope was easier to walk on. This was again an arranged tour with a guide. With just another visitor in addition to me, we had quite an interesting personal experience.



A private cab picked us up, took us around and dropped us back at our homes. This part of the Wall, being further away from Beijing, there were also not many tourists around. Mutianyu is perceived as the most beautiful part, with scenic landscapes spread across the countryside. It looked more natural than the Badaling Great Wall which seemed like a commercial tourist hotspot. It is also older than Badaling. The wall at this point is made of granite and is 7–8.5 metres high and 4–5 metres wide. Had a fun time walking around at Mutianyu.


13 May 2014