I had a magical late afternoon in Quebec City. We arrived by car at around 5pm and checked in to the Chateau Frontenac, which is a Fairmont property. It is huge, and spectacularly placed on the edge of the bluff overlooking the mighty St Lawrence.
Although it was cold and a bit blustery, John and I put on shorts and went for a run. First we headed down to the promenade and happened to see the Queen Mary 2. It is the hugest ocean lner on the planet, and awesome even from some distance. The people swarming on the dock and decks were like ants.
We headed along the promenade, not knowing we had to climb several hundred steps to get up by the Citadel. We huffed our way up, and then headed through the park, past battlements and cannons set in nicely manicured lawns. After a mile or two we turned around, and went back on the road, through the arch and into the old town.
John had to get back, so I left him and headed up and along the wall through the old city. After a few more sights, I came back up along cobblestone streets lined with old apartment buildings and tiny alleyways. It reminded me of an old European city, where people drive small cars because big ones don’t fit down most of the roads.
As I came back to the promenade, I saw more people gathered to look at the QM2. My high school French was just enough for me to get the gist that it was preparing to embark. I cooled off quickly in the cold – it was about 7 degrees (that’s centigrade – about 45 fahrenheit), but I stood and watched. I could see activity on the ship, and even some turbulence in the water, but it didn’t seem to be moving. Finally, glacially, it separated from the dock. Over 15 minutes – which is a long time in shorts in 7 degrees – it seemed to move about 100 yards. Finally it picked up a little speed, but still seemed hardly to be moving.
I was surprised that I didn’t see any tugs. There were police boats at 4 corners, keeping back a few pleasure boats, but she seemed to go under entirely her own power. There was a wake up near the bow when she pushed away from the dock, so there must be a screw or something for maneuverability. Just before I froze and had to go in for a hot shower, I saw a small boat pull up to the bow for a few minutes, presumably picking up the pilot to bring him home.
I was surprisingly excited by the whole event. It reminded me of the beginning of Titanic, where everyone is so excited to be taking the trip of a lifetime to the new world. There was a mixture of anticipation, excitement, and finality in the whole thing – once the ship has sailed, you can’t go back.