Sunday, October 29, 2023

An Anniversary Cruise, Part I

We like the Holland America Cruise line due it's size and have sailed three times with them. Our first was in 2000 to Alaska and we loved that voyage so much we made it again in 2009 with some friends. That part of our country is a site to behold. In 2003, we cruised to the Mexican Riviera with my husband’s brothers and sister. This is our fourth. 

My husband and I celebrated a 30 year anniversary earlier this year and his idea of a special event was to take a cruise and enjoy the beautiful colors of the fall leaves in the New England area. Reported was that peak or near peak fall color would be by October 11. The Zuiderdam was selected as it would be sailing from Quebec City in Canada to New England and back to Ft Lauderdale.

Since we did the formal thing years ago, we decided to forgo any fancy kind of dining. My husband had given his tux to our son-in-law years ago and my formal attire is long gone. If needed, a simple sports coat for him and one reasonable dress would suit us perfectly and it would all fit into our individual light weight pull along luggage.  

September 29: We drove to Ft Lauderdale and took a morning flight to Montreal. Never have I seen so many people in one place. We’ve been photographed twice, passports were scanned four times and between getting off the flight in Montreal and getting to our gate for the flight to Quebec, were stopped SIX times to verify our identity. Perhaps full employment is the goal, but it appeared to be a bit overkill. Our favorite saying: We’ve done this twice: first and last.

 Finally, 7:30 pm and we arrived at Quebec City, hailed a taxi and en route to the hotel asked the driver if he knew of a wine shop. Indeed, and we purchased four bottles and were surprised as the cost was fairly comparable to the U.S., and they carried quite a variety of well-known wines. The cruise line only allowed 2 bottles to be taken onboard, one for each passenger, but this evening it would be nice to have a glass to celebrate the beginning of our adventure.

While riding to our hotel, the full Harvest moon shown high above the city. Despite the darkness, we could still see the stunning old architecture.

 A charming 19th century building in the heart of the old Port of Québec City stands Hôtel Le Saint-Paul.

At first glance, a quaint hotel, small rooms but very adequate, and atop the desk were real wine glasses, and for our early morning coffee, a Keurig and real porcelain cups. Bathrooms had been updated but I must ask: who decides on a toilet that is 12 inches high?

 After a long day and finally being there, why not get drunk? Kidding! just kidding. A glass of wine, a toast to old city Quebec, an anniversary, autumn leaves that we would soon see, discovery of places yet unseen, and relaxation to follow. With the curtains open, our view of the city lights, people walking, a few playing in the square… an absolute delightful experience so far. And in the distance the lights from a large cruise ship.

We were a bit hungry and fortunately there was a small café attached to the hotel. Let’s split a hamburger. Medium rare please. No, no… it’s against the law! You can only have it well done. We chose chicken.



Saturday, September 30:  board the ship. Departure: 5 pm 

Early morning we walked to a small Café for breakfast, Le Buffet de l'Antiquaire on Rue Saint-Paul, an experience in itself. An older couple (ha) came in behind us, so we told them to go ahead. Of course it happened to be the only two seats left downstairs, but we climbed the stairs to the loft which proved to be one of the best seats in the house, next to the railing and overlooking the entirety below. How entertaining to watch one gentleman work the grill and cook all the orders. We both ordered omelets, had their famous homemade toast (simply grilled), coffee of course and grilled potatoes came with it.

The loft tables are for two (or four), but only several inches apart was another table for two and we did not listen to the couple's conversation. Incidentally, I didn't recognize the language. 

The line of hungry patrons was forming as we walked back to the hotel, retrieved a city map and began plotting our morning trek: lower town was as quaint and beautiful as any European town I’ve visited with its narrow and zig-zag cobblestone streets and tiny shops filled with antiques and art work. Layer upon layer of interesting and stunning old architecture and charming sites lay before us.

We walked and walked. Then decided it was time to discover what the locals call The Castle, better known as Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, a grand hotel that was built by the Canadian Pacific Railway and completed in 1893. The climb to the top of the hill, the upper town, was extreme, but with a few five second stops, we made it. Disappointing was not having the time to explore more, but viewing the historic sites, other structures, hotels, the park and the stunning panoramic view of the city below and the St. Lawrence River was clearly worth the trip. Now we had yet to do the climb down


Begin the climb  



Part II to follow