Monday, June 15, 2009

Montreal to Quebec City, QC: The Achilles Express Part 2

On our list of places we wish to bike someday are locations such as New Zealand, France, and Chile. And also La Route Verte between Montreal and Quebec City. We thought we would check that one off the list on this journey, but we it was not to be. We traveled in three and a half hours by train what would have been four days by bike. All in an effort to allow my sore Achilles tendon to heal. But those ViaRail seats are way more comfortable than a bike seat, anyway.

We disembarked in the fading light of late evening, and pedaled from the train station to Laval University in the magical light of dusk. The bike trail skirted the narrow space between the St Lawrence River and steep cliffs with the Old Town portion of Quebec City looming above us. With no inexpensive camping nearby, we decided try something different and stay in the residence hall at Laval University for $60 a night. Upon arrival we got our room key and pointed to the building we were to stay in -- on the third floor. We pushed our loaded bikes through the hallways at ground level until a kind student pointed us to the elevator, an antiquated manual thing with a sliding accordion-style grated door, and buttons that need to be held down continuously to call the elevator or to lift it to the desired level. Having never lived in the dormitories in college, and in fact, never visited one, I did not know what to expect. Our room was impeccably clean and well maintained, with a sink in the room and just steps away from a shared bathroom. But I would describe it as spartan at best. An nice English gentleman we met who was also staying on our floor for a brief stay was a bit harsher -- he said he stayed in a hotel in Russia in 1972 that was only slightly worse than this.

The materials we read about Quebec City in preparation for this trip were almost gushing in their descriptions of the city. It is the only walled city in North America, and claimed to be the most European on this as well. We took the bus into the Old Town of our first morning and headed to the highest floor attainable by non-guests of the Chateau Frontenac. The hotel is a landmark, perched on a high point with sweeping views of the river and the Old town below. If I could only remember to buy those lottery tickets, we might be able to afford a room there. But the view out a 14th floor window was free.

We walked the town as morning went into afternoon. The city was teeming with tourists. Although the setting and the buildings were most impressive, we were turned off by the multitude of souvenir shops and restaurants all trying to get a bit of that tourist revenue. Our feeling was that this the Old Town is a place that exists for tourists, and not where locals go about their daily business. We walked the streets and and the perimeter on the old wall, but one day was enough.

We tootled around on our bikes on short excursions for the next two days. We had a most enjoyable afternoon in the Musée national des beaux-arts duQuébec . The collection of art from all periods of Canadian history is well presented. The museum is housed in two buildings, one of which is a former prison. Special exhibits are presented on the walls of small cells (not unlike our dorm room). Some would say viewing modern art is like being incarcerated. The tulips outside were so beautiful, I just had to share a picture of them.

After eight days of rest, and another intense physical therapy session, I feel ready to start cycling again. But we are changing our style -- short days of 50 kilometers and long afternoons to rest, stretch and ice. All part of this Save the Tendon Campaign -- ongoing for another three months...
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