Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Quebec City

It's very difficult to know how to group blog entries for Quebec City. Do you group by the history, the old buildings, religious buildings, the wars & fortifications or chronological order for how we toured ?

Due to extremely changeable weather we didn't really see the city in a very logical order - choosing more to do indoor things when it was pouring with rain and then rushing out with the camera when the sun came out (usually about 10 minutes after it had stopped raining and about 10 minutes before it started again). With three whole days in the city we had more than enough time to re-trace our steps a few times.

So, here's an entry giving an overview of the city. I will write a blog for the Old Towns (Upper & Lower) and another for the views from the Observatory. While we visited many of the churches in the city I won't dedicate an entire blog entry to them for risk of religious overload. This entry therefore, is all the bits inbetween !

Our hotel, Manoir de l'Esplanade was a small family run hotel situated within the Upper Old Town. It was four townhouses that had been converted many years ago into an Inn. The Ritz it wasn't, but it was comfortable, affordable and in perhaps the most perfect location in the whole of Quebec City being within a few minutes walk of any location within the Old Town but also only a stones throw from the sites, shops and restaurants on Grand Allee in the new downtown core.

Our room

It turned out our visit coincided with the 400th Anniversary of Quebec City. Celebrations have been taking place in the city throughout the year. Many buildings displayed the 1608-2008 green & yellow flags and in the evenings numerous illuminated '400' signs in simple white lights - some small one attached to buildings with larger ones spanning roads. The 400th celebrations were very tasteful and the city was clearly very proud of it's heritage.

Quebec Citys existance is due entirely to the geography of it's location.

A penninsula jutting out into the St Lawrence River, a narrow strip of land adjacent to the water (Lower Old Town) followed by a steep 300ft cliff up onto the plateau above (Upper Old Town) gave enormous advantages to the French when defending themselves from the English or the Americans (and subsequently the British from the Americans and the French).
The only relatively weak point was the gap joining the penninsula to the mainland so French Military Engineers built a wooden & earthworks defense in 1690 along this stretch. During the late 1700's when the British had gained control of Quebec they replaced the original defense with a massive stone wall, which still stands intact today.
At the South end of the wall on the highest point of the plateau the French had built a wooden fortified base. Again under British control this was replaced in the early 1800's with an enormous stone built base known as La Citadelle.

This aerial photograph shows the Old Town.

You can see the line of the stone wall running slightly diagonally from the top left of the image. The Citadel can be seen at the bottom of the photo.
The green strip running from the top to the bottom of the image on the right marks the 300' cliff between the Upper and Lower towns.

One of the first things that struck us about Quebec City is quite how magnificently it has been preserved - you genuinely feel you are stepping back in time once you walk through the city walls - the buildings, roads & fortifications have been restored and maintained with great sympathy to their history.
Old Town Quebec was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985.
This aerial image shows more of the city. The Old Town can be seen on the top right of the photograph. The large green park running South West away from the Citadel are the Plains of Abraham - a National Historic site where the British won control of Quebec in the 1759 battle.

Everything within the Old Town is well signposted.

This is one of the gates through the stone wall. This is the gate at Rue St. Jean.

This is the gate at Grand Allee. Our hotel can be seen through the arch in the distance.

This is the view again looking into the Old Town from the Grand Allee gate. Again our hotel is in the centre of the image. The roof top of the tall building on the left above the trees is the original office of Price Brothers, built in 1929 and 15 floors high it was Quebecs first skyscraper and ultimately the only one built within the stone walls.
The green roof to the right is the top of Chateau Frontenac.

In Battlefields Park, close to the Grand Allee gate a number of statues have been erected in memory of anglophone world leaders who were considered by Quebec to be 'sympathetic to their plight'.
This one of Sir Winston Churchill

Franklin Roosevelt

And Ghandi

Adrian on top of the Grand Allee gate

The cannon studded stone ramparts that surround the city.

Looking at the downtown core outside the city walls, across the Plains of Abraham.

The tower of the Parliament Building from the Plains of Abraham

Looking along the St Lawrence River from La Citadelle

Views of Levis, a town on the opposite side of the St Lawrence River where the British Military established a base to conduct their assult on French Quebec in 1759.

Canadian Coast Guard Icebreaker Martha L Black

View East along the St Lawrence River with two cruise ships docked in the port

A flag flying at La Citadelle

Cannons on Terrase Dufferin. From here they have a great viewpoint over the St Lawrence River to Levis on the Southshore and beyond.

Fountain at the front of the Parliament Building

Statues in the fountain

The Parliament Buildings were built in 1877 and are actually four buildings joined together to form an interior courtyard.

David outside the Parliament Building

The blue flag flying above the Parliament Building is the flag of Quebec.

This is the Manege Militaire Voltigeurs de Quebec Armoury. It burnt down in a fire on 5th April 2008. Sadly it burnt well given that it had one of the largest wooden roofs in North America. So, this is an image I found of it before the fire.....

And this is the image we took in Oct 2008.

More cannons, these ones in Parc Montmorency

Finally, a cute image we saw while walking down a side street. I guess the cat that lives in this 3rd floor apartment likes its independance. You do wonder though, how many stupid people it took trying to climb the stairs before they had to put a 'Cats Only' sign up !

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