Being a Québec City tour guide might be the best job on the planet: I am paid to – among other things – point out the picturesque here in North America’s most beautiful city. And when a dozen tourists pull out their cameras in unison, I know that I have done my job. I also know that anything I might have to say about the scene is secondary to the scene itself. That is just as it should be. In my business, it is often true that a picture is worth a thousand words.
There is no lack of thousand-word images in Québec City.
Stand at the top of the Breakneck Steps and look down at Little Champlain Street: The view is mesmerizing. Brightly colored parasols sprout from each landing of the wooden staircase, drawing your eye down the hill. At the bottom, the narrow cobbled street stretches into the distance, decorated in the theme of the season and full of flâneurs. When I take my tourists here, they don’t hear a word I say. They are in thrall to the picture before them.
Or, walk down Notre-Dame Street toward the site of the old Champlain market. When you do, look up to the right as you are approaching la Maison Chevalier: The Chateau Frontenac is framed perfectly there by the vintage buildings of Cul-de-Sac Street. Passers-by cannot resist capturing the scene in their digital memory. Their cameras record, in one click of the shutter, the refined elegance of the Upper Town and the merchant moxie of the Lower Town.
And sometimes Mother Nature does all the work. Recently, on a cold May evening, I strolled Battlefields Park with 61 of my favorite Edmontonians. As the huge flock of teenagers flitted and flirted on the Plains of Abraham, their professors and I were treated to a spectacular twilight. The sun had just dipped below the horizon, turning the western sky into a palette of pink and orange pastels. In the foreground, a Martello Tower stood guard in the cool green grass. This time, the tour guide himself couldn’t resist the impulse to pull out his camera.