Que­bec City

Al­ways En­chant­ing

Snowbirds & RV Travelers - - Contents - Story and Pho­tos by Wil­liam En­nis

Que­bec City’s ‘old world’ charm makes it a pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tion for RV trav­el­ers. Cana­di­ans are for­tu­nate to have such a per­fectly pre­served slice of the coun­try’s his­tory. With its forts, bat­tle­field parks, mag­nif­i­cent stone build­ings, and tan­ta­liz­ing shops along nar­row streets, Que­bec City is ready to wel­come you.

Some 400 years ago France be­gan send­ing ex­plor­ers to North Amer­ica with the in­tent of creat­ing the Coun­try of New France. In 1608 Sa­muel de Cham­plain landed on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River, just where the river passes a large is­land and then nar­rows abruptly. Stada­cona, a small Iro­quois set­tle­ment, was nearby and it was there that Cham­plain pro­ceeded to build the base camp for what he pre­dicted would be a pros­per­ous, and wealthy na­tion.

His l’Habi­ta­tion was pro­tected with a pal­isade of stakes, which sur­rounded a crude fort with sev­eral floors. It was rushed to com­ple­tion and took up much time that should have been used to hunt and store away food for the win­ter. The win­ter dev­as­tated them, leav­ing only a hand­ful of the 25 men who win­tered there alive. It was a poor start for the ful­fill­ment of Cham­plain’s dreams.

The camp per­se­vered and the present day city of Que­bec is the net re­sult of the tu­mul­tuous cen­turies that have passed. The Bri­tish never ceased in their ef­forts to dis­place the French and for a short pe­riod they were suc­cess­ful but were then driven off, though they con­tin­ued at­tacks over the years. Mean­while, the French built their ram­parts, and their gates, and the stone build­ings, and their churches.

Re­li­gion played a large part in creat­ing the beau­ti­ful struc­tures you will see in the city. Huge churches are open for vis­i­ta­tions. The early set­tle­ment be­came more ac­tive as fur trad­ing took hold, and shiploads of furs headed back to Europe. The set­tle­ment ex­ported forestry prod­ucts. Ev­ery­thing seemed to be go­ing well.

In 1759, the Bri­tish were back and laid a three-month siege. Que­bec City was well placed for de­fence, lo­cated on high cliffs over­look­ing the river but it fell to the Bri­tish by a strange twist of fate. All at­tacks onto the land had been met with dis­as­ter be­cause of the well-es­tab­lished safe fight­ing po­si­tions of the French, who even used the for­ti­fied stone homes along the river­front. Some­thing, per­haps money and strong drink, gave Gen­eral James Wolfe some in­for­ma­tion that led him into a se­cret at­tack on a least likely place,

a high sheer cliff with a bat­tery of guns on top. His in­former told him about a nar­row track that led to the top of the cliff. A small group of Bri­tish cleared out the sen­tries and left the cliff free for Gen­eral Wolfe to lead his troops to the top. The morn­ing brought an un­happy sur­prise to the un­sus­pect­ing French Gen­eral Mont­calm who or­dered an at­tack with­out wait­ing to gather up his out­spread troops and guns. The bat­tle was short. The Bri­tish over­whelmed the en­emy. Sadly, both brave gen­er­als died in the bat­tle.

It’s this his­tory that makes Old Que­bec City such a great tourist des­ti­na­tion. A visit to the Ci­tadel is a good way to start your trip. The Ci­tadel is the largest fortress on the con­ti­nent. The chang­ing of the guard cer­e­mony at 10 am should not be missed. The huge star-shaped fortress was built in the 1770’s af­ter at­tacks on Canada from the coun­try to the south.

Nearby, to the west, is the huge park fea­tur­ing the Plains of Abra­ham where Gen­eral Wolfe fought the bat­tle that turned the own­er­ship from France to Eng­land. A short visit to the Plains of Abra­ham Mu­seum is an ex­cel­lent way to see the his­tory and learn about what to see as you stroll on the bat­tle­field.

Stroll east­erly past the Ci­tadel on the Prom­e­nade des Gou­verneurs. This path is on the edge of the cliff, high above the river. Views to Old Que­bec’s Lower Town and across the river are def­i­nitely out­stand­ing. It’s a per­fect place to see how the French made use of a great place for de­fence.

Head east to the Chateau Fron­tenac, to see what is pos­si­bly the most pho­tographed build­ing in North Amer­ica. There is no doubt as to why. This ho­tel is an im­mense stone land­mark, of ex­cel­lent old-world de­sign, sit­ting high above the river near the cliff edge. It was de­signed, and built for the Cana­dian Pa­cific Rail­way, to en­cour­age travel across Canada by the well-todo. It played host to two Que­bec Con­fer­ences where the WWII al­lies met to plan strat­egy. The ho­tel is des­ig­nated as a Na­tional His­toric Site. At the front, there is a long board­walk with good views of lower town and across the river, which pro­vides ac­cess to the fu­nic­u­lar. Rows of his­toric can­non still re­main placed strate­gi­cally to pro­tect the town.

Visit the lower town by tak­ing the rather steep set of stairs, or if you don’t need the ex­er­cise, ride the fu­nic­u­lar. The his­toric Lower Town is like a visit to a me­dieval town in Europe. The cob­ble­stone streets are nar­row, and lined with gaily painted shops. The mix­ture of colours, red roofs, and white build­ings, or tan build­ings next to white, makes it feel like you are en­ter­ing a warm, wel­com­ing part of town. The shops are filled with sou­venirs, or an­tiques, and re­fresh­ments are avail­able at cosy bistros. Artists putting on a va­ri­ety of shows may oc­cupy the streets. Here and there you may find a square with a foun­tain, and benches on which to rest and view the street. The tall bel­fries loom­ing above the smaller build­ings add to the Euro­pean am­biance.

There are sev­eral ex­am­ples of re­li­gious her­itage, in fact, there are over one hun­dred churches, two cathe­drals, and two basil­i­cas. The Basil­ica Notre-Dame de Que­bec dates to 1647 and is a Na­tional His­toric Site. If the out­side de­sign at­tracts you, wait un­til you en­ter this huge build­ing with its great vaulted ceil­ing, paint­ings, and stat­ues.

I don’t sug­gest you at­tempt driv­ing in the his­toric part of the city. The nar­row streets, horse-drawn car­riages, lo­cal driv­ers, and crowds of peo­ple don’t make it easy. Search­ing for park­ing may keep you be­hind the wheel as you

look and look. A bet­ter idea would be to leave the ve­hi­cle at your lodg­ings and take one of the many tours that are avail­able. The tour guide will keep you in­formed with in­ter­est­ing com­men­tary along the route. There are even open-topped tour buses that let you on and off at fixed stops. Make sure you visit Mont­morency Falls, an im­pres­sive water­fall of white wa­ter and spray, mark­ing the lo­ca­tion where many lo­cal res­i­dents go for rest and re­lax­ation.

Que­bec City has sev­eral camp­grounds around the perime­ter. One of the most con­ve­nient is Que­bec City KOA on the south side of the river. They work with a tour com­pany and you can select from sev­eral city tours, and for an ex­tra fee, be picked up at the camp­ground.

If a visit to Que­bec City is not yet on your agenda this win­ter, give it an­other thought. For a city with Euro­pean charm, it’s a lot closer than Europe, and its Cana­dian his­tory, and great ar­chi­tec­ture will draw you back again and again.

FOR YOUR IN­FOR­MA­TION For an over­view of tours: https://www.toursvieuxque­bec.com/en/home

For a PDF guide of tours: https://www.toursvieuxque­bec.com/as­sets/files/ guide-tours-vieux-que­bec-2017.pdf

Chateau Fron­tenac

Clock­wise: The Old Walls, the har­vest, Mont­morency Falls, Old Town Shop and mu­ral of Old Town.

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