Feuilles rouges

When the leaves are at their peak in the first days of October, Québec City tour guides head toward the water. There, parked along the wharves of the Lower Town, are the cruise ships that converge on the St. Lawrence River Valley to give their clients a front-row seat for the autumn show. Boatloads of paying customers disembark every morning to tour the Old City and to take in the spectacular vistas of the region that are now vibrantly lit by the fall foliage.

It is by far the busiest period of the year for tour guides. Dawn to dusk, we scramble, rush, and relay to meet the demand of the tens of thousands who step off the ships. It is a relentless and harried succession of guided tours: Lower Town, Upper Town, back to the ship on time… Lower Town, Upper Town, back to the ship on time… Sometimes, we do as many as four tours in a day, working hard to bring the same energy and enthusiasm to the last tour of the day that we did to the first. And though at times it is high-stress work, every guide will tell you that it is a satisfying source of adrenaline and accomplishment. What a rush!

Not this fall, though; not in the COVID fall of 2020. With the borders closed and travel restrictions the order of the day, tourists are few and far between. And the ships are not here at all. This October, the wharves of Old Québec are desolate, and the streets empty. Radio Canada recently aired an excellent report to document this year’s cruise ship season. You do not need to understand French to pick out the word ‘catastrophe’.

It is disorienting, to say the least, to be at home at this time of year, raking leaves, taking out the garbage, watching football. There is usually no time for any of that. And that is the way Québec City tour guides like it.

This year, the vibrant red leaves of Québec City fall, appreciated only by locals. But they will be back in full force next year. And so will we.

28 thoughts on “Feuilles rouges”

  1. Neil. As we speak we were suppose to be on one of those cruise ships stopping overnight in Quebec. Was so looking forward to it and seeing the beauty of Fall in your wonderful city. Sad too that events changed everything!

  2. It is a sad time indeed, my FB account reminds me with memory photos each day of our wonderful cruise to Canada and your great city. With the grace of god and if the rivers don’t rise it will return tenfold.

    Thank you

  3. Thanks so much Neil for the post. It makes me so very sad that Quebec is ‘closed’ for the season. There is so much to see and I do hope to get back soon. We will miss you and your dad this hunting season.

  4. We were in Quebec in October 2015 having arrived on a cruise ship and it was amazing.You were our guide and we learnt so much from you. We would love to return and hopefully one day in the future.

  5. Karen Edwards Cron

    We do not get to see the colorful leaves here in Texas so thank you for the photo reminder of a bit of God’s beauty in this time when we don’t get to see friends nor travel as we would like. Thank you for the reminder of a wonderful trip and our day in Quebec and the fun we had with a great guide.

  6. I cant forget our stop off in Quebec on our cruise.
    Husband had a fall onboard so it was up to me to push him around in a wheel chair.
    The cabin lady told me the streets had cobbles and the hill into town was steep.
    Well I still decided it was a good idea to venture out get a bit of fresh air see the town before your tour in the afternoon.
    Big mistake hill into town was hard walking let alone pushing a wheel chair. And the cobbles gave my husband the colly wobbles lol.
    The afternion tour was brilliant your talk was very informative and you helped with my husband on and off the coach.
    Thank you
    Stay safe love to you and your family
    From Heather and Ken Edwards Surrey England

  7. Neil, thank you once again for an awesome article! I too, hope borders will be able to open and we will once again be able to visit Québec.

  8. I’m in France right now and surprise to discover their tourist season has end a fews weeks ago (september), even in the south of France. Yes there is the covid, but they tell me it’s normally over by now.
    So in the colder Quebec city, the tourist season ending mid-october (meanly because over 100 000 tourist from cruise boat come for the beautiful changing redness of the Maple trees) is a gift.

  9. So often I think of the wonderful tour you treated us to and all of the great sights and sites you allowed us to experience. It is so sad to think of not being able to share those during this very sad and unusual season of our lives. Thank you for sharing.

  10. Monika & Randy Bollinger

    Monika and I remember fondly the time we spent with you in Quebec. The colors of Fall have not yet come to North Carolina. Thank you, Neil, for the red leaves and the great memories! We hope it will not be too much longer until we can return to beautiful Quebec City. In the meantime, be safe and be well, Randy

  11. We pray every day that this Covid19 will go away soon, that those who are healthy remain healthy and those who are not get well soon and we get a vaccine soon that everyone can have. How something microscopic can cause so much damage physically and emotionally…
    We love/loved your historic Quebec City, UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was like stepping into back in time; the fort area with seemingly countless cannons and high walls about the city were impressive.
    John and I appreciate so much that you continue sending these updates and we pray all of you guides get back to frenzied work days soon.

  12. Hi Neil,

    Thanks for this text. And what is the most difficult for many guides in 2020, is that we know that, especially during this splendid period of time, Québec City is one of the most beautiful city in the world. Like you,I really look forward to seeing our tourists coming back next year…I sincerely miss them.

    Thanks again

    1. Oups, sorry for my mistake… Actually, I should have written “one of the most beautiful CITIES in the world”

  13. I do enjoy your posts, Neil. You are as true a wordsmith on a screen as you are on a tour in Old Quebec. We WILL get through this and I look forward to working with you again!

  14. Stephanie Hurst

    Neil, so good to hear from you again! We have such wonderful memories of our visit there in the fall of 2014 and of your wonderful tour. Last January, in anticipation of a river cruise we were supposed to take in France last spring, we started studying French. We are still at it and, maybe, in the not too distant future, we can come back and try out some of our new skills in your lovely city!

  15. Thanks so much for the wonderful memories Neil. We will never forget Quebec…..one of the Jewels of Canada and the world.
    Helen and Paul (Australia)

  16. We were on Quebec in October 2015 (from Brisbane Australia), we loved the tour you gave us (full day country drive). Would love to come back one day. In the meantime, best wishes for your future. Helen and David Kerr

  17. To our Canadian friends in the north, we love you, miss you and pray we can cross the borders soon to embrace and help our economies. For those of you in the USA, let us show the world the media can not tell us what to think, how to feel and what is reality through their fear mongering broadcasts. We are better than this. We need to remember United is our first name.

  18. You provided us with an amazing tour of Quebec on a cold and rainy Sunday morning a few years back. Absolutely the most memorable tour we ever had. Hoping next year we are all free to travel again and share all of our adventures!

  19. Hi Neil,
    Thank you for keeping in touch…we so enjoyed your tour a few yrs back and loved Quebec City!
    John and Deborah (N. Van)

  20. We well remember our visit three years ago when you showed us your city and surrounding country ~ a real pleasure ~ and one we hope to repeat one day.

    Keep safe, meantime, and pay no attention to those fools who pontificate that COVID-19 is not a serious illness ~ IT IS.

    And, somehow, I’m thinking again of someone a few thousand miles south of you …

    All the best from Scotland

  21. Hi every one,

    I’m one of the luckiest who live in the Old Quebec, just on the Dufferin Terrace. And yes, it’s sad to be almost alone, without tourists. I used to practice my English by asking them “Do you need help”… I hope you’ll be back next year.

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