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The International Writers Magazine - French Canada

Discover Historic Quebec
Habeeb Salloum

We drove on the Côte de Beaupré following one of the oldest thoroughfares in North America on our way from Quebec City to Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré. Called the Avenue Royale or the Route of Nouvelle-France, it is edged by buildings that cover three centuries of history. Our guide enthusiastically pointed out the characteristics of a number of the 1,500 ancestral homes of various vintages and styles. It was a comprehensive overview of this part of Québec where Canada's history began

In less than an hour we were parked by the famed pilgrimage site of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré - for 350 years a mecca for the faithful, journeying here to seek healing for their ailments or just to pray. Each year more than a million and a half pilgrims and visitors come to experience the calm and peace of this revered basilica.

St Anne The first church, where this magnificent shrine now stands, was erected in 1658. The story goes that during its construction, Luis Guirmont, who was too ill to work in the building of the church, came to just symbolically lay a stone and, while doing so, was healed of his affliction. It was the beginning of an endless parade of the faithful who have claimed they were miraculously healed after praying at this shrine - dedicated to Sainte Anne, the patron saint of Québec.

The church was demolished in 1878 and larger structure re-built then in 1922, it was destroyed by fire. A much larger basilica was built and consecrated in 1976. Today, the church, along with its Cycloramic de Jerusalem, covered with granite and medieval in style, is a combination of carved stone, mosaics and 240 stained glass windows.

After touring the church, with the seven deadly sins portrayed on the floor in mosaic, I went outside to inspect the Way of the Cross, lined with life-size bronze figures. The others in our group prayed in front of the statue of Saint Anne, holding her daughter Mary, then stopped awhile by a major relic, a bone from Saint Anne, before moving on to view a replica of Michelangelo's 'Pieta'.

A short time later, we were on our way back on the Avenue Royale. As our guide was relating stories and historic anecdotes about the homes that we were passing, along with the escapades of their once colourful inhabitants, our bus stopped at the 'Moulin du Petit Pré', the oldest commercial flourmill in North America. Originally built in 1695, the mill was restored a few years ago by a major project, consolidating both the tourist industry and heritage of the Côte de Beaupré.

The mill's General Manager Isabelle Longré, dressed in 17th century costume, and her husband greeted us in the hospitable manner as in the past the settlers of New France would have done. In this aura of living the bygone years, they took us to explore the mill, which besides being able to produce some 400 pounds of flour per hour, is today a major tourist attraction.

To lure even more visitors, the general public are offered a room in the attic, which can accommodate up to 200 people for conferences, meetings, parties and weddings. Also, in a shop customers are introduced to more than a hundred, mostly organic products and are invited to taste wine as well as raspberry liqueur. In 2003, the mill was the grand prizewinner of the Québec Bus Owners Association's '2003 Tourism Innovator' contest. In the words of Isabelle Longré, "We present in our mill the best of what the Côte de Beaupré has to offer."

I was still thinking of the re-creation of the old mill when we stopped at the majestic Montmorency Waterfalls, one of Quebec's most spectacular natural sites to end our day of exploration. We surveyed the Falls from below then took a cable car up to dine at Manior Montmorency, edging the fall. Some 15 minute drive from the heart of Quebec, the Falls are featured on a good number of tours from-the city.

A spectacular and awe-inspiring natural wonder, its water plummets 84 m (275 ft) on its way to the St. Lawrence River - 30 m (98 ft) higher than Niagara Falls. The views from the cable car, the panoramic stairway and the bridge over the Falls are breathtaking. In the winter, the mountains on either side of the falls become sheets of ice - an ice climber's mecca. In the words of one of the waiters, "You should come here in winter when the Falls become a wonderland for ice climbing enthusiasts."
A few hours later, after resting in out hotel, we were at the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac - one of Canada's renowned historic hotels. That evening as we sipped our cocktails we were greeted by a young lady, dressed in the costume of the mid 19th century, who relived with us, the history of the hotel and its many dramatic moments. In a pleasant and historically accurate fashion, she related the story of the Canadian Pacific Railway and its Hotels, such as the Le Château Frontenac, before disappearing from the room back into history.
Facts About Quebec City:
1. When in Quebec City, take a cruise on the Louis Jolliet cruise ship operated by 'AML Cruises' moored alongside the docks under the Chateau Frontenac on the edge of the Old Quebec - contact by toll free number 1-866-856-6668 for this and other cruises by the same company.
2. Two fulfilling tours to take are offered by Viator Tours from Quebec City for; Montmorency Falls and the shrine of Ste-Anne-de-Beaupré - Cost $45.56; City Sightseeing Tour - Cost $32.40. (Prices quoted in CDN dollars.)
3. Where to Eat: Old Québec City and the surrounding area have more restaurants per capita than any other city in North America -some 100 bistros, cafes and gourmet restaurants. Dinners run from about $15. in chain restaurants to some $125.CDN in gourmet dining places. For traditional food like the meat pie, tourtière, Québec style pork and beans and maple syrup pie, Aux Anciens Canadiens is the place - meal of the day $19.00 CDN.

4. Where to Stay: Hotels offer some 12,000 rooms in and around the old city - 2000 of these, international class. Two top hotels are the Hilton Quebec and the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac - the towering symbol of Quebec City.
5. Tip bellboys a dollar a bag and tip 10% to 15% of restaurant bills; and tip hotel maids $1. to $2. per day.

For futher Information Contact:
Ste. Anne de Beaupré - Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, Québec, Canada GOA 3CO. Tel: (418) 827-3781. Fax: (418) 827-8771. Website:
Moulin du Petit Pré - 7007 Avenue Royale, Château-Richer, Québec, GOA 1NO. Tel: (418) 824-7007. Website:
Tourisme Québec: for complete tourist information Québec, call: (514) 873-2015 or toll free:
1-877-363-7777, or visit Website:

© Habeeb Salloum September 2009

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