On our way back from the Gaspésie, where we had been on holidays, we decided to stop for a day in the city of Lévis, across the river from Quebec City. While we have been to Quebec City several times, we had not visited Lévis with several older neighbourhoods before. However, Karen discovered Lévis has a really nice multi use pathway, along the St. Lawrence River. It was time to check it out.
Renting bikes at Le Vélo Vert in Levis
We had not brought our own bikes, we didn’t think it was worth it this time because we were mostly hiking in Quebec, so we aimed at renting bikes in Lévis near ferry terminal, in the same building where Lévis Tourism is located. There is a small place that rents bikes as well as e-bikes called Le Vélo Vert. Le Vélo Vert is a non profit enterprise devoted to social intergration. We always like to support such initiatives. However, it was a challenge to get hold of them. The last reviews we found were from a year ago, no one picked up the phone and the voice mailbox was full.
This didn’t look promising.
But there were some updates on Facebook. We gambled it would be open and left for old Lévis from our suburban hotel along the highway, parked our car in one of the older Lévis streets, walked down the cliff and stopped by at the Visitor Centre where a bearded, tatooed young man just left the desk. It turned out he is running Le Vélo Vert shop next door so we were in luck. Karen decided she wanted to rent a e-bike and I went for an old fashioned 100% muscle powered steed.
The Intercolonial Railway in Levis
The Intercolonial Railway, originally built between Halifax and Rivière-du-Loup (1867), extended its main line to end at Lévis in 1879 by the purchase of the Charny/Rivière-du-Loup line constructed by the Grand Trunk Railway between 1854 and 1860. In 1884 the Intercolonial Railway extensively remodelled the Lauzon town hall/market (1864) in Lévis to serve as its station. In the years that followed, the Grand Trunk Railway and the Québec Central Railway also used terminal facilities in the building. Both the Grand Trunk Railway and the Intercolonial were folded into Canadian National Railways (CNR) after 1919, and the building became a CNR station. It was renovated and modernized in 1986 for use as a VIA Rail passenger depot, but was closed in 1993 when service stopped on the railway line on which it stands. (from: Parks Canada Federal Heritage Designations directory)
Heading west from Levis
Today, the tracks are gone and replaced by a multi use pathway. Thoughtfully, the designers left the roof of the platform which gives a nice touch of that Levis je ne sais quoi. We first headed west, through several parks on a beautiful pathway, the Parcours des Anses. This part of the pathway is part of the former Intercolonial Railway track. It runs nicely along the shore, and there were quite a few people out already before 10 am.
Levis’ lovely landscaping along the pathway
In places, the pathway separates cycling and walking with large landscaped medians in between them. In fact we thought, as is often the case in Quebec, that landscaping is an important part of pathways and entrances to smaller towns. Another wonderful addition in Lévis are the four-way stop signs where pathways cross roads (or roads cross pathways).
Eventually, the pathway ends but the route continues through several older areas which now are all part of Lévis. We cycled on very quiet roads such as the Chemin du Fleuve, with historic homes and several cafes, to Parc de la Marina de la Chaudière at the bottom of the iconic Pont de Quebec. In hindsight we could have crossed the river and bike back along the cliffs of Quebec City, but we decided to turn around instead and cycled into some of the neighbourhoods, such as St. Romuald with older and newer houses, quirky and stately.
We had a nice chat with a homeowner with a beautiful garden before we got back on the trail again. Some of the houses are so close to the escarpment that one rock coming off the cliff would burst right through a bedroom window I suspect. Some of the rockfaces are covered with netting.
We didn’t cycle that much as it was going to be a hot and muggy day with temperatures over 30C/90F. The distance between the bike rental place and our turnaround point at Parc de la Marina de la Chaudière is 11.5 km one way, doable for nearly everyone I guess.
Can I do a walking tour in Lévis?
We wondered that too after we walked back to our car. Lévis has quite a history: British General James Wolfe set up base here to attack Quebec City, Desjardins started banking here; you can visit his historic house. There is a lovely park, the Quai Paquet with its fountains spouting out of the pavement as a top attraction on hot days. Don’t forget to climb the Escalier Rouge to enjoy the views of Quebec City across the water. We didn’t do a walking tour but I think it would be really worth it, for example with Tours Accolade. Or print out (or save on your tablet) this route with a French description of historic buildings. The map is not great though.
Next time, stop for a day in Levis, it is worth it. Bonus, the pathway is part of the Trans Canada Trail formerly known as the Great Trail and before that known as the Trans Canada Trail. (Yes, it’s complicated). It is also part of the Route Verte.
If you want to cycle along the Gatineau River in Quebec for a bit, you may want to check out this post.