02.01.2012 - 02.01.2012 2 °C
Monday 2 Jan 2012
Again a sleep-in would have been nice however noises above carry directly down to us. People knocking the snow off their shoes sounds like someone doing a tap dance. The chairs scraping on the dining room sound like a badly tuned trumpet. However the breakfast was good and we wound up swapping stories with an Aussie couple from Sydney who had arrived late the day before.
It was a very mild day, just above freezing and snowing a bit, which made it very slushy for walking but not uncomfortable to be outside. We went down towards the boardwalk along the edge of the cliff and found a toboggan run (rather like the luge in the Olympics) had been cleaned of snow and was getting plenty of use. You hire the toboggan, drag it up to the top, settle yourself, and launch, and there’s a bed of gravel at the end to stop you if you haven’t slowed down by then. There were three channels so minimal wait to have a turn. Robyn and I thought we didn’t have time to try that one because we were booked on another tour for the afternoon.
A ‘Fabulous Country Tour’ took us outside the city and into the fertile de Beaupré coast area first settled by Europeans (French) in the 1600s. We crossed the mighty St Laurence river to the picturesque Île d’Orléans, another heritage listed area. Our first stop was a chocolaterie, which Robyn and I were both looking forward to; however, it was closed – quel dommage. The houses on the island are lovely examples of early architecture.
Next stop was the Montmorency Falls – narrower than Niagara but a longer drop. We were in two minds about taking the cable car to the top but decided it couldn’t be any worse than the ride up Sulphur Mountain. The falls are quite spectacular, and I was impressed by the fact that the pool at the bottom is almost entirely frozen. Some amazing icicles lined the path along the hillside to the viewing platform.
From there we continued through the rural area to ‘Albert Gilles’ – a copper art museum and gallery. What a dazzling display! The workmanship in some of the pieces is just stunning. It’s a family business and Albert’s descendants carry on the work he started. The boutique sells decorative pieces (plaques, trays, jewellery and more) to suit all tastes and budgets. In the museum, through a pair of doors covered with decorated copper, are a series of plaques telling the story of Jesus Christ – amazing artistry.
Next stop was a farmhouse called ‘Chez Marie’ where we could purchase slices of homemade bread and maple butter for $1.50 – yummy. All sorts of maple products were on sale plus handicrafts such as thick knitted socks and slippers.
Our final stop was the Basilica of St Anne de Beaupré. The original building burnt down in 1922 and construction of its replacement began in 1923 and took 30 years to complete. It is the most beautiful religious house I have even seen (and I have seen Notre Dame in Paris and the cathedral of St Nektarios in Greece). The mosaic work on the ceiling at the main entry is so detailed and in the main chapel the ceiling has bible scenes painted in gold. The floor also has colourful mosaic tiles. One shrine is faced with slabs of dark green marble. The main doors are covered with sheets of copper decorated by Albert Gilles –truly awesome.
By the time we were heading back to the city, the sky had cleared and the temperature was dropping. We decided to look for a restaurant before getting comfortable at our hotel again. D’Orsay – a ‘European pub restaurant’ – looked busy and inviting and displayed a reasonably priced menu. It was so cold when we came out – but we stopped for a few minutes, admiring the light show on one of the nearby historic buildings. It was the tragic story of the little match girl – a voice broadcast complemented the pictures.