Walk through Québec’s old city early on a summer’s evening when the sun is nearing the horizon. The west-facing facades of Vieux-Québec are ablaze in a warm summer glow. Add to this spectacle the contrast of a low overcast sky and the effect is mesmerizing; every pediment, every cornice, every corbel jumps toward the eye in high definition. The fine shadows of the masonry edges are crisp and clear and you discover a building you’ve seen a thousand times before, but have never noticed.
In fact, old Québec has new secrets to reveal in every light.
In the early afternoon, when the sun is hot and high in the sky, the narrowest streets in town are corridors of cool shade, with looming buildings creating an intimate other-world isolated from the sunnier landscapes of the city. One such corridor is la rue du Trésor, where artists congregate to show off their works. The light there is chill, yet candescent, throwing a glow on the many canvases on display.
And then there are the tin roofs of the old city. Under any sun, the tin roofs of town will act as mirrors that focus a white, almost blinding, light on the tourist’s eye. Fittingly, in French, we call them white iron roofs. The effect is most remarkable when you find an overlook from which to survey the city. Walk to the top of the citadel hill, for instance, and you will see scores of sparkling white iron stars dotting the urban cosmos.