Tag Archives: Lanscape

Anne Interesting Tour

Tuesday 20 September 2022 – The weather forecast for the day was gloomy, and the reality out of our hotel window

didn’t give huge cause for elation.  So, by an accident of fate, our plan to be on a bus for most of the day looked pretty sound.  There was a little uncertainty about precisely where the bus would stop, as a result of which we failed to be first on it and therefore to get the prime seats at the front of the upper deck.  This was a little bit of a shame, as the front windows actually boasted windscreen wipers, and so would have been clear for taking photos.

The driver, Dan, gave an interesting and folksy commentary as we went along and we tried to grab photos of the things he was talking about – never easy on a reasonably swift-moving bus on a rainy day, but one or two are worth sharing.

The route went north-east from Québec City, along the north coast of the St. Lawrence river.  This is the area where original settlers, erm, settled, and it seems that it took a few years for them to find the best area: at first they made homes on the banks of the St. Lawrence, but these got washed away by the unexpectedly high tides; so the next attempt was on top of the cliffs that bordered the river, but these were subject to the  bitterly cold north-easterly winds; finally, the best location turned out to be at the foot of the cliffs, out of the reach of the tides and sheltered from the winds.

By this stage, the settlers had learned about the potentially 12 feet of snow that could be expected during the winter, and so the houses tended to have steps up to the entrances.  We tried to catch some pictures of these houses as we went by.


On thing that we noticed was the colour of the roofs, many of which were (like that church spire I mentioned in my last post) silver in colour.  It turns out that these are tin, chosen because it is reasonably long-lasting and also fire-resistant.  Many have brightly-coloured roofs.

The reason for this is historical, as there’s no real need for the colour now.  But in the days of the original settlers, with houses relatively few and far between and 12 feet of snow on the ground in winter, the coloured roof was perhaps the only landmark a person could see.  The house in the photo immediately above features a “spring kitchen” – a place where folk could gather as the weather broke after winter, to celebrate the arrival of spring.

Houses that were farms tended to a strip of land that stretched back to the banks of the river – that way it was easy to understand land ownership.  Some of the farm houses are very handsome

and some of the older buildings show , from the reduced height of the door, that people weren’t as tall then (late 16h and 17th century) as they are today – perhaps as much as a foot shorter on average.

The tour made its first stop in St-Anne-deBeaupré, a small town of perhaps 3,000 souls, but home to an astonishing Basilica.  The first church was built by sailors, seeking protection against shipwrecks off Ile-Oeuf on their way upriver to Quebec City (Saint Anne, the mother of the Virgin Mary, is the patron saint of sailors).  But the church has grown and grown, and has a reputation similar to that of Lourdes as a place for the sick to come on a pilgrimage and be cured.

It is huge

and ornate, both outside

and inside.

The doors are covered in beautiful copper, both outside

and in.

and there are extraordinary stacks of crutches and other mobility aids

which have been left here by people who have been cured of their illnesses.

There are no fewer than three other religious establishments immediately around the Basilica,

a couple of churches and, above, a commemorative chapel  of the third church.   On the gentle slopes of the hillside behind the chapel and beside the Santa Scala pictured above it are twelve bronze statues of the Stations of the Cross.

All in all, it is clear that Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré is a very significant religious centre.  There’s something excitingly called a Cyclorama

which is not, after all, a wall of death for daredevil motorbikers to whizz round, but actually a 365-ft representation in the round of Christ’s crucifixion – sadly closed since the pandemic and not yet re-opened.

After this stop, we retraced our journey back towards Quebec City. Driver Dan described the next stop as a “Copper Shop” and I wondered why we would visit a police station.  At first, it seemed merely the sort of retail opportunity that is often an unwelcome intrusion into a tour, as we were ushered into the lobby lined with works of art made from copper.  I was wrong to misjudge it, though.  We were at Cuivres d’Art Albert Gilles Boutique et Musée. Our group was given a short demonstration of how sheet copper can be transformed into a work of art.

although what we saw was a mere illustration using thin sheet metal; the real material is five times as thick and takes real skill, dedication and time to make into a final sculpture.

The studio, which was started by Albert Gilles who has passed the flame to daughter and grand-daughter, also hosted an exhibition, including Albert’s work to create silver representations of the life of Christ,

a project which took him 15 years, as well as some other lovely items.

The key thing that prevented this from being an unwelcome attempt to sell us stuff came with the knowledge, imparted by Madame, that Albert Gilles had created the copper doors for the Basilica at Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré (along with work at some 60 other churches).  We left with a great, erm, impression of the man, his work and his art.

We next stopped at the Montmorency Falls.   These are 83 metres high, thus higher than Niagara, although not as powerful.

The falls are impressive enough from ground level, but one can reach the top for a different viewpoint.  You have a choice: walk up steps to the right of the falls as you look at them – 487 steps, we’re told, since we didn’t take this option (not enough time) – or a cable car to the left, which is quicker, less work but costs more.

The cable car is unique in my experience in two ways: the cars are clamped to the cable and it’s the cable that moves; and each car is clamped to two cables, which (obviously) both move. From the top of the cable car, you go past Montmorency Pavilion

and can take a couple of viewpoints, the better of which is ruined, in my photography-solipsistic world, by zipwire cables spoiling the view.  There’s a suspension bridge across the falls, which is quite exciting.  On the left from this viewpoint you can see the steps which hardy souls can climb and which would probably give the most satisfying viewpoint.

In the distance, in the upper of these two pictures, you can see a much larger suspension bridge. This leads to – indeed is the only road access to – the Île-d’Orléans, which is where we headed next.

This island is home mainly to farms, as building regulations forbid the creation of any other kind of industrial construction.  It produces mainly fruit and vegetables – strawberries, apricots, potatoes and apples. There’s a 9-hole golf course, a couple of churches and a decent selection of very handsome (and expensive, obvs) homes.  There’s a Nougaterie, and a blackcurrant farm, Cassis Monna & Filles, which Ian Burley recommends for its gin, but rather than go there, we ended up at a chocolate shop, right at the western point of the island, where you can actually see back over to Québec.

If you look carefully, you can even see the central tower of our hotel, just above the left-hand cruise ship.

The chocolate shop is very obviously a popular place for tours

but we resisted the urge to dash in and stuff our faces.  Instead, since this was the last stop of the tour and we were back at the hotel shortly afterwards, we headed to a hotel restaurant called Sam (for reasons we discovered the next day) where, by virtue of force of personality, or perhaps just plain luck, we just managed to squeeze in for a late, and very good, lunch and a couple of cold, and very welcome, drinks.

Was this a “Fabulous Country Tour”?  Well, not really – and of course the dull weather didn’t help – but it was interesting and we learned quite a lot about early settlers; and the Basilica was a truly remarkable place.  We enjoyed the day and could now look forward to our second and final day in Québec.  The weather outlook was rather better, so we could expect to have a good chance to explore this fascinating city in more detail.  Do come back and find out, won’t you?


Day 14 – Trogir; the unexpected bonus

28th September. The bura wind, although it only actually blew strongly on one day, had a considerable impact on the overall itinerary for the week, right from the start:

  • The threat it posed meant we had to leave Dubrovnik as soon as everyone was on board, which is why we had our visit to the Old Town before we boarded. This gained us a day, since the Dubrovnik tour was supposed to take place the following morning, by which time we were already under way.
  • Its threat still loomed over us after a day on Brač, making it too dangerous to move out, thus meaning a second day’s entertainment on Brač. This lost us the day we’d gained, but enabled me to fly my drone for some photos and video.
  • The fact that we were still on Brač meant we were unable to get to the furthest island, Vis, simply because of the distance involved. So the planned visit there was abandoned, which gave us the day back.
  • This enabled Filip to suggest the town of Trogir, near to Split, as a candidate for a visit.

So, Trogir it was. The above goes to show how uncertain things can be when cruising the Adriatic, and I commend Filip and the crew of Perla for thinking ahead, planning accordingly, and being flexible enough still to make the programme for the week interesting, entertaining and varied.

The journey to Trogir was short, so we tied up once again to a handy piece of rock that was in the environs so that those who wished could go for a swim.

Then, because we couldn’t tie up near to Trogir’s old town island, we made our way to Trogir marina, which is (at least to my inexperienced eyes) absolutely vast and really emphasises the importance of yachting, sailing and cruising as an activity in the Adriatic – more on this later.

From the marina, we took a water taxi towards the old town. I was hoping to get a great photo of it from the water, but it’s not easy; the most striking feature is a fortress at the edge of the town

and you’ll be able to see the view from the top if you just control your impatience and read on. You do get a sense of the character of the old town from the water

and, if you look to the left, a small idea of the sheer number of visiting (small) cruisers – again, more on this later.

Our guide for the day was Igor (supplemented, as ever, by the energy, enthusiasm and knowledge of Filip) and he conducted us into the old town, taking us past charming alleyways

to the central square. Like most space in the old town, it was full of cafes and umbrellas, so difficult to capture as a photo. It features a loggia which was being used to showcase another group of Klapa singers (I got a very short snippet of a similar group in Split). So, here’s a longer video of this lovely a capella style of singing.

As well as the general charm of the place, there are some interesting things to occupy the historically-interested tourist. There’s a museum which has a lovely courtyard

and which enabled Filip to wax lyrical about some of the archaeological and historical aspects of the town. Frankly, it was a level of detail that was too much for my limited attention span, so I took the opportunity to have a short kip when I found a nearby chair. From a photographic point of view, the only item that I found really interesting was the ceiling in the library they have there, the Garagnin – Fanfogna library.

It’s a lovely example of trompe l’oeuil painting.

After the museum, Igor and Filip took us to the Benedictine convent of St. Nicholas, which has in it something whose historical and archaeological pith and moment had Filip at his most rapturous. It is a bas-relief which dates right back to the beginning of the 3rd century BC. It depicts Kairos, son of Zeus, and God of the Fleeting Moment.

This bas-relief was almost certainly modelled on a bronze statue of Kairos made by the (apparently) famous Greek sculptor Lysippos from Sikyon.

Kairos is permanently running or flying, and hence the favourable opportunity (his tuft of hair) must be grasped swiftly, otherwise he has passed you by, and all you can see is the bald back of his head.

After all of this culture, the only thing for it was to take coffee in the cathedral square, after which we visited the cathedral itself. It’s not particularly large or impressive in and of itself, but it has a couple of items of note. The carving of the choir stalls is very detailed and intricate.

And a chapel off to the side has a really intriguing ceiling

which shows God actually poking his head through the sky to keep an eye on proceedings. The cathedral also has other intricate carving, for example in the baptistry ceiling

and in the door itself, which depicts many scenes from the bible around it.

Since the cathedral has a bell tower, it seemed only reasonable to climb up it. Getting to the top gives you a fine view over the town

and also makes you glad not to be up there on the hour as there are two enormous bells there

which are active, as you can see from the electric striking mechanism.

We had a little free time, and Filip recommended another good viewpoint, the tower of the Kamerlengo fort which is such a striking sight as you arrive to Trogir. So we paid our 25 Kuna each to climb the tower and were indeed rewarded with a fine panorama.

The old town is to the left of this picture, with its waterfront in the centre. It is notable that the boats on the waterfront are triple-parked, so visitors on these sort of cruise boats might have to walk through two other boats to get to land. You can also see the number of smaller yachts that are moored here – further evidence of how important yachting is in the Adriatic.

As we walked to catch our taxi back to Perla, I took a couple of shots of the handsome waterfront buildings

to try to capture a bit more of the vibe of this very pleasant town. It was our last destination as tourists, and an agreeable place to spend time, all the more so because it was unexpected – I believe that we were the only tour group organised by Peter Sommer actually to visit Trogir, which makes up for missing out on seeing Vis.

Back on the boat it was time for packing and the Last Supper on board. Boško, our chef, had prepared us a lavish meal and we took the opportunity to try to drink the boat dry. We failed, of course, but it was fun trying and made for an agreeable Last Night feeling to the whole proceedings.

This is the last blog entry to describe the fortnight’s relentless tourism. Assuming we get home safely, I might be moved to some philosophical musings about the holiday in general, in which case there might be another blog entry. You’ll just have to keep an eye out to see, won’t you?