3:49 AM / Wednesday September 27, 2023

20 Jul 2013

Quebec City, Canada (Part Two)

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July 20, 2013 Category: Travel Posted by:

ABIVE PHOTO: Parlaiment Facade


By Renée S. Gordon

“Je Me Souviens.”


For more than 50 years after Samuel de Champlain established Québec as a trading outpost it remained a small village. In the mid-1600s Louis XIV deemed it the capital of New France, a New World colony that stretched the length of the continent from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico and west to the Rocky Mountains when the British occupied only a comparatively narrow strip of land along the Atlantic Ocean and west to the Appalachians. 


A map of the era indicates that structures were built on two levels, the Upper and Lower Towns. The Lower Town, near the St. Lawrence River, was where merchants lived and had their businesses. Upper Town, built on a ledge atop Cap-aux-Diamants, was the site of the governor’s residence and religious and administrative centers and all of the religious buildings erected in the 1680s with the exception of one still exist today. Both areas have distinctive charm, heritage sites, eclectic eateries and shopping opportunities.


After completing a tour of Basse-Ville, the Lower Town, you are faced with a choice on how to get to Haute-Ville, the Upper Town. Both Escalier Casse-Cou, Breakneck Stairs, and the funicular will take you to the Terrasse Dufferin. There are more than 25 staircases that provide access to Haute-Ville but the Breakneck Stairs are easily the most well known. It is the city’s oldest stairway, dating from 1635, and contains 59 steep steps.


Located a few steps away is the funicular, a 45-degree incline railway that has been operational since 1879. The funicular is boarded through the 1683 Maison Louis-Jolliet, formerly the home of explorer Louis Jolliet.


Dufferin Terrace offers splendid views of the St, Lawrence River and Basse-Ville. Champlain constructed the wooden Fort St. Louis and Chateau Saint-Louis, a fortified residence, on the site in 1620 and spaced along the terrace are glass topped viewing stations that allow visitors to look down on the archeological remains uncovered in 2005-07.


Two of the iconic Québec City monuments are located along Dufferin Terrace, the statue of Samuel de Champlain and the incomparable Chateau Frontenac. The bronze statue on a stone pedestal of Champlain was sculpted by Paul Chevré and placed there in 1898.  Champlain gazes toward the Place d’ Armes the former military parade ground that Gov. Montmagny laid out as a public square in 1640.


Allegorical figures including the spirit of navigation represent his achievements and his more than 20 voyages to North America.


An overlooked monument is also in the area. In 1985, the UNESCO Monument, a modern bronze, granite and glass structure was placed on the terrace in recognition of the Vieux-Québec’s designation as a UNECO World Heritage Site.


The Chateau Frontenac is one of the most famous hotels in the world. Architect Bruce Price created the hotel for the Canadian Pacific Railway. He blended the look of the chateau of the French Loire Valley with the Scottish baronial style. The original portion of the hotel officially opened in 1893. In 1942 and 43 Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt met there to discuss WWII.


Adjacent to the Chateau Frontenac is a peaceful oasis now known as the Governor’s Garden because it was once the garden of Chateau Saint-Louis. It contains the Wolfe-Montcalm Monument said to be the world’s sole monument dedicated to both the victor and the vanquished. The 65.5-ft. limestone obelisk honors Québec’s dual heritage by recognizing both British Major General James Wolfe who fought against the French Louis-joseph Marquis de Montcalm in the Battle of Québec on the Plains of Abraham on September 13, 1759 where both men died. The monument was dedicated in 1828 with an inscription that reads, “Valor gave them a common death, History a common fame, and Posterity a common monument.”


The Musée du Fort is the best place to gain an overview of Québec’s military history and its significance. Displays include a 400-sq. ft. model of the city as it looked in 1750 and a timeline of the development of New France.


Maison Jacquet, built circa 1675, is the oldest extant house in the city. The house was once owned by the Ursuline Convent but was the home of sculptor Pierre-Noël Levasseur and in the 1800s Philippe-Aubert de Gaspé author of “Les Anciens Canadiens.” Since 1966 the building has been the restaurant Aux Anciens Canadiens serving Québécois cuisine. It should be noted that the building’s right side is original with a 1820s addition on the left.


The first Anglican cathedral in the British colonies was constructed between 1800-1804 in Québec City. The Cathedral of the Holy Trinity was designed by two British artillery officers, Captain Hall and Major Robe and was patterned after London’s Saint-Martin-in-the Fields but it is one-foot smaller and the roof was remodeled because of snow accumulation. It has the oldest and most authentic interior in the city.


Highlights of the interior include the 1790 English chamber organ, one of only seven in the world and a sterling alms plate gifted by King George III. His coat of arms can be seen on the pew reserved for the Royal Family. The Whitechapel Foundry, the same company that crafted the Liberty Bell, made the cathedral’s eight bells.


PHOTO: Quebec City street


The Ursuline Convent dates from 1642 and because the Ursuline nuns were cloistered it was constructed around an inner courtyard. Additions were made until 1836. The nuns came to Québec to educate the young women of the settlement, both native and French, in 1639. It is now a private girl’s school.


The Musée des Ursulines showcases the handwork of this teaching order of nuns from the 1600s through the 1800s as well as that of the Amerindians.  Featured displays are a cape that belonged to the convent’s founder Marie de l’Incarnation when she sailed from France in 1639, phenomenal gold and silver embroidered fabrics and teaching supplies.


In 1902, the Ursuline Chapel was reconstructed. The chapel is comprised of interior and external sections divided by a grill so that the nuns and students could sit apart from the public. It is worth a visit to see the outstanding religious art and the altar crafted by Pierre-Noël Levasseur in the early 18th-century.


Marie de l’Incarnation is entombed in an oratory outside the external chapel that was constructed in 1972. She died in 1672 and was beatified in 1980.


The Neo-classical Notre-Dame de Québec Basilica was founded in 1647 as Notre-Dame de la Paix and in 1674 became the first Catholic cathedral north of Mexico. Notre-Dame has been destroyed several times but in 1923 it underwent total reconstruction on its original footprint. A tour of the ornate interior allows visitors to see the impressive golden sculpted baldachino that covers the sanctuary and a chancel lamp given by Louis XIV.


Atop an escarpment more than 350-ft. above the St. Lawrence River stands the 37-acre, star-shaped,  Citadel. British construction took 30-years, was completed in 1850 and was the most important and largest British fortress in North America. The Québec Citadel is a National Historic Site and the fortification was known as the “Gibraltar of North America.” The Royal 22nd Regiment is housed there and they perform the 35-minute Changing of the Guard ceremony daily from June until the first Monday of September.


The Fortifications of Québec encircle Vieux-Québec for nearly three-miles. Visitors can walk along a path atop the walls of the only walled city on the continent north of Mexico. The walls that date from the 1740s are packed earth, 30-ft. high and 60-ft. wide at the base. In the 1980s more than 50 skeletons were discovered in the walls. It is believed that they were British soldiers who died in Québec but because they were not Catholic could not be buried there. Walks can be either self-guided or a 90-minute guided tour that leaves from Dufferin Terrace.


Hotel du Parlement was inspired by the Louvre, designed by Eugéne-Etienne Taché in Second Empire style and completed in 1886. Guided tours are free and allow visitors to enter the National Assembly Chamber, the Legislative Council Chamber and the Speaker’s Gallery. The exterior of the edifice is a lesson in both art and history with 26 bronze sculptures representing people who have impacted on Québec’s culture prior to 1867. A fountain at the entrance honors the First Nations with two sculptures by Louis-Philippe Hébert, “A Halt in the Forest” and “Fisherman with Spear.”


On the ground floor of the building in the President’s Gallery an exhibit interprets the development of New France’s political system. A timeline and a series of showcases displaying artifacts line the corridor. On the Chamber Level, two films are shown that explore the architectural elements and building techniques used by Taché. On the Gallery Level archival documents are on display in the area between the governing chambers. 


The Beaux-Arts Le Parlementaire restaurant is open to visitors as well as public figures and both the food and the setting are wonderful. La Boutique, an onsite gift shop, offers unique souvenirs and memorabilia.


Québec’s motto is “Je Me Souviens,” “I Remember.” It is incredibly apropos because the people of Québec City remember and honor their heritage in vibrant and creative ways and the city invites you to immerse yourself in its European ambiance and continental flair. If you do I guarantee you too will always “remember” Québec City.


I wish you smooth travels!




The Philadelphia Museum of Art is presenting “First Look: Collecting for Philadelphia” from July 13 through September 8, 2013.  The exhibition features more than 100 of the 8,000 works collected in the last five years. These works were acquired to build on the strengths and diversity of the collection. The exhibition is comprised of three galleries, each emphasizing a universal theme. Highlights of the showcase are an 1820’s European Mummers costume, Peale’s 1819 portrait of Muhammad Yaro, one of the earliest portraits of an African American, and the blue silk skirt worn by the model for Matisse’s “Woman in Blue.” The exhibition ends with an interactive station that allows visitors to vote on the selection of the museum’s next acquisition.


Miracle on 81st Street is a great beach or airplane read. Myrna Skoller’s autobiographical novel takes us from her early childhood to her founding of New York’s premier designer consignment shop, Designer Retail. The memoir can be read on several levels, as one woman’s tenacious pursuit of a dream or as an insider’s view of the world of exclusive fashion and designer resale. The book is entertaining and filled with anecdotes that will intrigue you. It is available in hardcover, paperback and Kindle.


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