After the magnificent whirlwind of the joint AIC, CAC-ACCR meeting, over twenty conference-goers and guests set out on an early bus towards Quebec City. As the Montreal skyline receded behind us, we caught glimpses of two groundbreaking works of architecture from the 1967 World’s Fair: Moshe Safdie’s Habitat 67 erupting as a brutalist landscape in the distance and Buckminster Fuller’s Montreal Biosphere, a futuristic pavilion encapsulated in a striking geodesic dome framework. The landscape quickly dissolved into forests and farmland, and we travelers began to get to know each other and share our conference experiences. One of the many pleasures of attending the post-trip was hearing fresh, first-hand accounts of the tips, breakout sessions, and lessons gathered by others at the meeting.
Our conversations on the bus revealed the great variety of experiences among the group: from emerging conservators to spouses and seasoned conservation professionals, we came from diverse backgrounds and represented Australia, Canada, Portugal, and US locations from the east coast to California and Hawaii. The dynamic mix would be a great asset as we explored the history, culture, and collections of Quebec City together.
As we approached the city over the St. Lawrence River, our bus driver pointed out the storied Quebec Bridge and informed us that the name of the city derived from an Algonquin word that means “where the river narrows.” This etymology is a point of pride for Quebec City inhabitants and was affectionately recounted by several others over the following days.
Upon arrival, we had a few moments to settle into our regal accommodations at the Chateau Frotenac before gathering for lunch and a lesson in Quebec City’s history led by David Mendel. David is a walking encyclopedia of the region, and his enthusiasm for the history, architecture, and culture of Quebec City was infectious. He shared the origins of the city, outlined military and trade history, and explained the national and international role that the city has played across time. David is such a talented raconteur that he makes Quebec City appear to be the center of all North American history, if not the whole world.
After our lesson, David led us on a brief bus trip across the Plains of Abraham, site of an historic battle during the French and Indian War during which British soldiers took control of the city from the French. The battlefields are also home to the Quebec Citadelle, the strategic architectural forefront of the city’s ramparts. This series of defensive structures make Quebec City the only fortified city in the US or Canada, a fact that helped the city gain UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 1985. After our bus tour, David led the group by foot across the charming, winding streets of Old Quebec. We stopped in several magnificently gilded churches, learned about historic building methods, and saw an especially breathtaking collection of tapestries at the Museum of the Ursulines of Quebec.
After some restful free time, we indulged in a spectacular feast at Le Saint-Amour. A well-decorated restaurant, Le Saint-Amour prides itself on highlighting local products in traditional, regional dishes updated with innovative and contemporary culinary techniques. The company was as delightful as the food, and it was an ideal way to wrap up our first day in Quebec City.