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Quebec City, Canada: French at heart
by Prakash Bang, Editor in Chief
The City sits on the Saint Lawrence River in Canada's mostly French-speaking Quebec province. Dating to 1608, it has a fortified colonial core, Vieux-Quebec and Place Royale, with stone buildings and narrow streets. This area is the site of the towering Chateau Frontenac Hotel and imposing Citadelle of Quebec. The Petit Champlain district’s cobblestone streets are lined with bistros and boutiques... indeed a living museum!
Quebec City is an hour's flight from Toronto - our boarding airport. Just under $20 an Uber car got us to the gates of historic Chateau Frontenac Hotel - our home for the next 2 nights.
The Chateau Frontenac is one of Canada's grand railway hotels built by the Canadian Pacific Railway. The railway company sought to encourage luxury tourism and bring wealthy travelers to its trains. The Chateauesque architectural style used throughout the hotel would later serve as a template for other Canadian grand railway hotels erected in the late-19th to early-20th century. The central fortress-like tower design is derived from medieval chateaus found throughout France's Loire Valley. Chateauesque elements include the hotel's asymmetrical profile, with steeply pitched roofs, massive circular and polygonal towers and turrets, ornate gables and dormers, and tall chimneys.
The hotel has made its mark in history. During World War II, two conferences were held in Quebec City. The First Quebec Conference was held in 1943 with Franklin D. Roosevelt (President of the United States), Winston Churchill (Prime Minister of the United Kingdom), William Lyon Mackenzie King (Prime Minister of Canada's) and T.V.Soong (minister of foreign affairs of China). The Second Quebec Conference was held in 1944, and was attended by Churchill and Roosevelt. They took place in the buildings of the Citadelle and at the Chateau Frontenac. A large part of the D-Day landing plans were made during those meetings.
We had on hand one and a half days to explore Quebec City; actually doing the whole thing was not possible but definitely on plan was to walk Vieux-Quebec (Old Quebec). The weather was kind, encouraging us to freshen up quickly and set out.
Much of the city's notable traditional architecture is located in Vieux-Quebec (Old Quebec), within and below the fortifications. This area has a distinct European feel with its stone buildings and winding streets lined with shops and restaurants. Porte St-Louis and Porte St-Jean are the main gates through the walls from the modern section of downtown; the Kent Gate was a gift to the province from Queen Victoria and the foundation stone was laid by the Queen's daughter, Princess Louise, Marchioness of Lorne, on 11 June 1879. West of the walls are the Parliament Hill area, and to the south the Plains of Abraham. The upper and lower town are linked by numerous stairs and the Old Quebec Funicular on the historic Petit Champlain street.
Quebec City is one of the oldest European settlements in North America and the only fortified city north of Mexico whose walls still exist. Quebec was founded by Samuel de Champlain, a French explorer and diplomat, on 3 July 1608, and at the site of a long abandoned St. Lawrence Iroquoian settlement called Stadacona. Champlain, also called "The Father of New France", served as its administrator for the rest of his life.
Quebec was the headquarters of many raids against New England during the four French and Indian Wars. In 1690 the city was attacked by the English, but was successfully defended. In the last of the conflicts, the French and Indian War (Seven Years' War), Quebec was captured by the British in 1759 and held until the end of the war in 1763. It was the site of three battles during the Seven Years' War: the Battle of Beauport, a French victory (31 July 1759); the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, in which British troops under General James Wolfe defeated the French General Louis-Joseph de Montcalm on 13 September 1759 and shortly thereafter took the city; and the final Battle of Sainte-Foy, a French victory (28 April 1760). France ceded New France, including the city, to Britain in 1763.
During the American Revolution, revolutionary troops from the southern colonies assaulted the British garrison in an attempt to 'liberate' Quebec City, in a conflict now known as the Battle of Quebec (1775). The defeat of the revolutionaries from the south put an end to the hopes that the peoples of Quebec would rise and join the American Revolution so that Canada would join the Continental Congress and become part of the original United States of America along with the other British colonies of continental North America. In effect, the battle's outcome was the split of British North America into two distinct political entities.
The city itself was not attacked during the War of 1812, when the United States again attempted to annex Canadian lands. Amid fears of another American attack on Quebec City, construction of the Citadelle of Quebec began in 1820. The Americans did not attack Canada after the War of 1812, but the Citadelle continued to house a large British garrison until 1871. It is still in use by the military and is also a tourist attraction.
Stepping out from the majestic hotel gate is Rue Saint Louis (St Louis Street), which has been around since the 17th century. It's one of the oldest streets of Quebec taking the east-west route and stretches from Dufferin Terrace to the Porte Saint-Louis.
The Porte Saint Louis, one of three still-standing city gates, was originally built in 1693, overlooking the Plains of Abraham. In 1745 it was replaced by another gate located a little farther west. This gate, in turn, was demolished and rebuilt in its present form in 1878.
Located at the intersection of the rue Saint-Louis and the entrance to the Citadel, the Quebec Conferences Monument (le monument aux Conferences de Quebec) was constructed to honor to the Quebec Conferences of 1943 and 1944, which were secret high-level military talks between the British and the Americans at the height of World War II. The monument includes the busts of Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt.
Fontaine de Tourny spent over a century in France before becoming a Quebec City landmark. It was originally created by French sculptor Mathurin Moreau and received a gold medal at the 1855 Paris World's Fair. From 1857 to 1960, it adorned a broad avenue known as the Allees de Tourny in downtown Bordeaux (which happens to be one of Quebec's twin cities). In 1960, the City of Bordeaux removed it, citing maintenance costs. It was safely stored away until the turn of the 21st century when it was purchased by a Paris antiques dealer.
Peter Simons discovered the fountain during a visit to the Saint-Ouen flea market in the spring of 2003. At the time, he was nursing the idea of a major gift to the people of Quebec City in recognition of their support for his retail fashion business (first established in the Old City in 1840). He had the work moved to Quebec where it was stored in a barn for restoration.
It cost Commission de la capitale nationale du Quebec and the City of Québec close to $2 million to prepare the site and install and illuminate the fountain. La Maison Simons covered the cost of purchasing, shipping, restoring, and assembling the fountain, which came to nearly $4 million.
The Parliament Building (the National Assembly) was erected between 1877 and 1886. It is an imposing structure whose four wings form a large square. Its architecture, inspired by the Louvre Palace in Paris, makes it one of the only French-style institutional buildings in Quebec City. It is Quebec’s oldest historic site and the seat of Quebec’s government. The building’s main facade boasts 26 bronze statues erected to the memory of key historical figures.
We turned back taking the Rue Saint Jean (Saint Jean Street) that runs almost parallel to Rue Saint Louis.
The Cathedral of the Holy Trinity is the first Anglican cathedral built outside the British Isles. Nestled in the heart of Old Quebec, is the mother church of the Diocese of Quebec and has two parishes of Quebec Parish and the Parish of All Saints.
The Cathedral-Basilica of Notre-Dame de Quebec ("Our Lady of Quebec City"), is the primatial church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Quebec. This church is the oldest church in Canada and was the first church in Canada to be elevated to the rank of minor basilica, by Pope Pius IX in 1874.
Built on the site of a chapel constructed by Samuel de Champlain in 1633, the cathedral was designated as a national historic site of Canada in 1989 because of its long and close associations with the history of New France; its influence on subsequent ecclesiastical architecture and interior decoration in Quebec. Four governors of New France and the bishops of Quebec are buried in the crypt, including Francois de Laval, Quebec's first bishop.
Alongside the Chateau Frontenac is the Terrasse Dufferin, a wood-board walkway along the edge of the cliff, offering views of the Saint Lawrence River. The terrace leads toward the nearby Plains of Abraham, site of the battle in which the British took Quebec from France, and the Citadelle of Quebec, a Canadian Forces installation and the federal vice-regal secondary residence.
From the terrace a stairway takes you down to Quartier Petit-Champlain, and for those not inclined to foot it, a funicular is available. Two way fare, per person, is $7. It was a good idea to take the stairs whilst going down and use the funicular to come up.
Rue du Petit-Champlain, one of the oldest commercial streets in North America, is lined with one-of-a-kind boutiques and restaurants. The Petit-Champlain district isn’t just illuminated for the holidays but it stays decorated all winter long, much to everyone’s delight. It’s the ideal place to bundle up for a winter evening stroll in an enchanting atmosphere straight out of a Christmas fairy tale.
The French influence is evident everywhere you look in Place Royale and along Rue du Petit-Champlain. The two and three storey plastered stone homes with their dormer windows, gabled roofs, large chimneys and firewalls rising above the rooftops is sure to take you back in France.
Place Royale is steeped in history. It was here that Samuel de Champlain chose to erect his “Abitation,” which served as a fort, storehouse, trading post, and residence after his arrival in 1608. Place Royale is also home to Notre-Dame-des-Victoires, the oldest stone church in North America, built in 1688. Only a few steps from Place Royale, the enormous Fresque des Quebecois mural recounts the story of Quebec City and pays homage to some fifteen historic figures and various authors and artists.
After almost 12 hours of walking in the just-about 2-days-on-hand, it was time to leave for Montreal.
Quebec City Image Gallery Photo viewer
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