Quebec : Il Pleut

A few lifts to Montreal, lots of people heading in that direction, I am in a busier part of the country. Following advice I wisely take the metro across Montreal so I never get any understanding of the place, never mind see it. Another reason for using the underground was the rain, which had begun earlier and was now settling in for the long term. As I was shortly to discover rain is no friend to the hitchhiker. I jump out at the end of the line at Station Honoré-Beaugrand, which is close by the Trans-Canada Highway heading west.

Get a really good lift from a lecturer who tells me all about the background to French unrest and independence movements in that part of Canada. Later that year Quebec Province was to vote for the Parti Québécois who wanted national sovereignty for Quebec and for French to be the de facto language. At this time the language of government and management in Quebec Province was English, despite 85% of the population being Francophones. Sensitivities were currently running high and memories of the FLQ (Front de libération du Québec), a terrorist organisation which had bombed, killed and kidnapped in the 60s, were ever-present. This had led to a form of martial law being imposed in 1970 under the War Measures Act. I was relieved I spoke French. I had not realised the seriousness of the schism, which reminded me of the deadly troubles in Northern Ireland. Despite being sympathetic, I was not a supporter of independence and would have to tread carefully. As it turned out just finding a Brit speaking French was good enough for most of the locals. Since that time some of the language problems have been alleviated, Canada is now a bilingual country and the Parti Québécois independence referendums in 1980 and 1995 were defeated.

Despite the subject under discussion, this conversation was carried out in English, for reasons I would discover later. I was making good time along the Trans-Canada Highway, but unbeknownst to me it did not actually go to Quebec City, but to a place called Levis on the other side of the St. Lawrence River. Well I had not foreseen that issue, but my helpful driver explained there was a ferry, it would all be part of the experience. I thanked him and on this grey watery day saw a giant chateau above some cliffs on the others side of a wide and fast flowing river. It was straight out of some Boy’s Own adventure along the Rhine, and I could already imagine the British General Wolfe scaling the cliffs to “liberate” the city from the French in 1759, that being my only fragment of relevant historical knowledge.

We arrived on a boat in a 19th century regional French town, there were no skyscrapers, just the chateau on the hill (which is a luxury hotel), while Vieux-Québec itself has been a UNESCO world heritage site since 1985. Even better, to get from the harbour to the boardwalk at Dufferin Terrace in the Haute-Ville there is a funicular travelling 65 metres up the cliff at a 45º angle, which is a great way to arrive in any town.

The Terrasse Dufferin Boardwalk the following day, while the rain held off.

It was downhill from there, the rain poured, I walked about soaked and there was no room at the inn, the hostel was full. I walked and I walked, there was nowhere else, no bus station or railway station, it got dark and I got dispirited. I curled up on some church steps; everything, my sleeping bag, my clothes, my diary, me, was soaked. It was Friday the 13th.