Reflections 2013
Series 6
May 5
Canadian Trio III b: A Traveler in Québec


Virtual Time Travel   Dictionaries define something as being "virtual" when it exists in effect, but not in fact. Or an event can be called virtual when it exists only in the mind, as a product of one's imagination, yet seems real. What facilitates this sort of imagination? Anything theatrical, certainly, such as darkness, wind, drizzle or rain, mist, storminess, the fluttering leaf, a feeling of the unknown, all of which engender a feeling of aloneness, and possibly the moving to another plane of imagined reality. We experience it all the time as effects in the theater or in the movies. Sometimes it carries us away to an earlier period of time, like when you walk into an old, abandoned house and picture the people that lived there in the past. A bit of inherent romanticism on one's own part doesn't hurt either.


When this happens to the traveler, I refer to it as virtual time travel, as I did in 2004/23. There I described a Thanksgiving weekend in the early evening, when I was driving in the darkness in a chilly drizzle south of Montgomery, Alabama, in search of a relative's college town of Montevallo, which had a strong childhood significance to me. I not only finally found the town off back roads from the main highway by chance, when I got there, I walked in the drizzle about the empty campus, deserted by all for the holiday, yet brightly illuminated, and I felt a connection between the town and myself as a child seeing my late cousin off on the train at Penn Station as she went to a far-off place called Montevallo. The no-longer existing New York-to-Montevallo train route of years earlier became real to me on the spot, and I felt I was walking in her footsteps on the deserted campus and in the empty town.


A less personal and more historic instance of virtual time travel I described in 2005/18. It was a dark, wintry, December night when I visited Historic Hudson Valley's Philipseburg Manor up the Hudson River at Sleepy Hollow for their holiday open house. As I was driving the historic route north through Manhattan, across to Spuyten Duyvil and through Yonkers, it was easy to imagine Frederick Philipse taking the same route in the 17C to visit his country estate, perhaps by land, perhaps by the river, from his city home in the Wall Street area. With a bit of imagination, the centuries disappeared, especially when finally reaching the brightly illuminated, restored estate standing out in the cold winter darkness, where hot mulled cider and hot chocolate awaited museum members about to tour the grounds as they might have awaited Philipse centuries ago.


As it turned out, all these theatrical elements for virtual time travel were in place when I arrived in Québec. Although I would have perfect weather from the next day on, the arrival on my first half-day was, shall we say, of a more theatrical nature. This made it a most memorable day.

 It is assumed that readers have read the previous posting of the Prolog and will find all places and place names about to be cited to be familiar. Therefore, little information will be repeated. An excellent map will be provided after the initial time travel to follow the narrative and walks. At that point, we'll all walk the city together.

A Time Traveler in Québec   The day was mostly one of making connections. It had been an overcast Sunday morning in Ottawa as I walked to the Transitway for a bus to the VIA Station on the edge of town. There was frequent service, five trips a day, taking just under two hours, including two stops. The late morning trip to Montréal was comfortable, but unremarkable, and I got in just before noon. This was the only train connection I'd be making in Montréal that didn't involve an overnight stay, so I stopped for lunch in Montréal's Gare Centrale until my connection leaving an hour later was ready.


The theatrical atmosphere started to develop when I got on line to go downstairs for the train and noticed that the people standing behind me who had just come in to the station from outside had rain-spotted luggage and clothes. Rain causes any traveler concern as to how the day will go, but I hoped it would clear up. I boarded the train for the three-and-a-quarter hour trip, and got comfortable in my assigned single seat as we went a bit south and crossed the Saint Lawrence to travel most of the way on the south bank. I never did see the First Class coach, but those in Economy Class were so comfortable, I couldn't imagine anything much better. There were two seats on one side, and singles on the other, which I appreciated. I could plug in my laptop to do some writing and enjoy the trip, even with drops from a light rain streaking the window. This being Québec Province, announcements were first en français and then in English.


There were only two stops until the Québec area, where we stopped either side of the bridge—readers of the Prolog know just which bridge, and will recognize the names of the two stops--before arriving in town. As we pulled into the Gare de Charny (Photo by Harfang) on the Lévis side, I knew we'd be turning left here off the main line to cross the historic Québec Bridge (photos and history on previous posting). The sense of early 20C history for anyone that knew the bridge story was palpable, although most passengers didn't pay attention. The river below and the Laporte Bridge to the left were visible, though slightly obscured in gray mist. In seven minutes, at exactly 16:00, we stopped at the Gare de Sainte-Foy (Photo by Michel Robichaud) at the western end of Québec, its "back door". We then continued, to my surprise, northward, and transcribed a large clockwise semicircle until we arrived 22 minutes later, from the north, at Québec's Gare du Palais. As we pulled in to the back end of the station, I looked downward and saw us crossing the narrow Saint Charles River that separates the promontory from the north bank.


It was still drizzling, and was humid. Bummer. How do I see the historic station, and its attractive façade? That would have to wait until the next day, as would any strolling around town I'd considered doing in the late afternoon. Even the route I chose on the way to my bed and breakfast would be best redone for closer inspection the next morning, should the weather improve. I wheeled my bag out the front of the Gare and pulled the hood of my jacket up. I dashed through the mist across to the park with the large fountain, whose splashing waters seemed to mock the drizzle. But which of two routes up into the Haute Ville from there? The late afternoon hour, the overcast, drizzle, mist, humidity, sense of urgency to get in and settled after a whole day's travel, all were setting the stage for an episode of virtual time travel into the historical geography of Old Québec, which would last throughout the gusty evening.


I was somewhat familiar already with the street plan, but my knowledge was still sketchy--although now, after all this research since the visit, I think I could find my way through Vieux-Québec blindfolded and walking backwards. Normally, with a map in hand, I can go anywhere, but on arrival I didn't want to get all my paperwork wet, so in advance, on the train, I'd inspected my map to check the walled city's unique geography to find I had a choice of only two routes to get from this far north corner of the Basse Ville up to the Haute Ville. Should I cross the park and go a little right up the Côte du Palais? That would then cut across the center of the Haute Ville to my neighborhood. No, perhaps it would be best to go around the edge of the ramparts. I would turn left out of the park and cut over to the Côte de la Canoterie instead. I found the côte with no trouble and dragged my wheeled bag up the slope, leaving the 21C for earlier times.


At the top of the côte, memory of streets weakened, but I didn't want to take my map out and get it wet. Leaving the ramparts themselves by crossing the Rue des Remparts made sense, and Rue de la Sainte-Famille penetrated inward. As previous centuries engulfed me, and the drizzle and mist confused, after one block I crossed the Rue Hébert but didn't realize it until I reached the next street, the Rue de la Vieille Université. Bummer. Backtrack to Rue Hébert. Then, the historic stone buildings looked so much alike that I walked past my B&B by a half-block and ended up on the ramparts again. Backtrack, and there it was, my couette et café, La Maison Lafleur.

 Not only do I love staying in cozy bed and breakfasts, I love the charm of the term itself. Yet I'd never seen this expression in French before. I looked up couette (KWET) and it refers to what is called in the US a comforter and in the UK a duvet (du.VÉ)—the Brits use a term of French origin. So a bed and breakfast is a "comforter and coffee" or "duvet and coffee". Nice. Cozy. Language goes so well with travel.

I'd always thought that whenever I came back to Québec, I'd stay at the Château Frontenac, but that was just too big a venue to appeal to me this trip. There were some B&B's listed over on the west side, but I wanted to be on the east side, near the cliffs, which happened to be the historic Hébert-Couillard area of the Fief du Saut-au-Matelot, and the website of the Maison Lafleur and its description on were very appealing. Maison Lafleur is a petite brown-brick building with a center door between two windows, then two windows above those. The name is above the door, high enough to be easy to miss, especially when looking down in the drizzle. It's run by Gilles Lafleur; fleur means "flower", so there were flowers in the windowboxes and above the door. Cute.


The neighborhood was so charming, with narrow streets and those extremely narrow sidewalks one usually sees just in Europe. My romantic mind's eye lies to me. It even wants to remember cobblestone streets, which isn't the case, it's just simple asphalt. There's a tiny stone step at the entrance in front of the storm door and regular door, and then there I was dripping in Gilles's tiny vestibule. To my left was the breakfast room, with the kitchen behind. Ahead was the wooden staircase to the guest rooms. To my right was Gilles's office with his living quarters behind, with Gilles greeting me and inviting me to sit down and register. (Gilles is ZHIL and rhymes with "feel".)


His Québec French was not too hard to understand, and I asked him if there were guests in his other two rooms. There was a husband-and-wife in one, and a woman traveling them in the other. He then volunteered some information which, in a split second, I first misunderstood and took offense at, but then realized what he meant. This can easily happen when one is working in a second language.


What he said was that the three were des personnes agées, and then he added the killer aussi. This is what went through my mind in an instant, first negative, then positive: des personnes agées--aged people. Bent backs, walkers, canes. But aussi? Also? Was he categorizing me as needing a walker even after I hauled my bag all the way from the station up the Cote? Oh, wait. No. What he said would mean "older people", as I noted that he appeared to be in his forties and that we were in a university neighborhood with lots of college students. "Also" now made sense—all his guests that day were older people and that's fine. You always have to be careful about misunderstandings between languages.


Upstairs, it was easy to settle in. My room was to the left of the stairs, with the window above the dining room and nice street view. There was a room opposite, and to the right, the other one with a street view. Opposite it was a cozy sitting area for guests, plus the shower and toilet. Very comfortable. The rooms were simple, but quite adequate. I dried off, settled in, and wrote on the laptop for a couple of hours.


The only reason to venture out was dinner. I looked out at the drizzle on the dark street and wondered how that would work. The neighborhood was very residential, and the B&B was the only business I could see. I didn't want to go into the center of town, even though it was a few blocks away, so I asked Gilles for the restaurant that was closest. Le restaurant le plus proche? C'est Chez Temporel dans la rue Couillard. Another historic name, and the extension of Rue Hébert. Gilles had an umbrella stand at the door, so I borrowed an umbrella and set out.


It was still only a heavy drizzle, but the wind had come up and I had to hold the umbrella with two hands so it wouldn't blow inside out. The distraction of the wind, the drizzle, the mist, the darkness and being careful about the umbrella as I crossed Sainte-Famille, all added to an otherworldly feeling in this historic neighborhood of stone buildings. After a few blocks, I saw on the left light streaming out of a cozy wooden façade, perhaps made of mahogany--and I was at Chez Temporel.


After having had a feeling of "any port in a storm", I was glad to find out it was pleasant and charming, though more of a café than restaurant. Only after the fact did I read some reviews, and found out it's a local icon. It dates from 1974, and apparently likes to call itself the crème des cafés. (Get the double-entendre? The "cream of cafés" would be the best of cafés, but the phrase also implies something like the "cream in your coffee". Cute.) Reviews said they make their dishes from scratch, including their quiche Lorraine, and the clientele filling their only nine tables is largely students and professors from the nearby Seminary / University, plus hospital workers from the nearby Hôtel-Dieu. (Everything's nearby when you're within the city walls.) It's also popular with local artists and writers, and I was pleased to find out it's also a literary site, in that Québec novelist Chrystine Brouillet and English-Canadian author Louise Penny have each had characters in their works frequent Chez Temporel. What a serendipitous find.


On reading the menu, I immediately had my eye on the quiche Lorraine (Image uploaded by H Padleckas), so I'm glad to find out it's a specialty. Visitors to Québec province should learn to recognize the word érable as being a Maple tree (remember the Canadian flag), so I was pleased to be able to order for dessert a tarte au sirop d'érable (figure it out).

 Later, I felt I just had to look up the background of the quiche, and got a shock. It's a quintessentially French dish, right? Yes, it is, but it nevertheless originated in Germany, as did the name. In retrospect, it's the word "Lorraine" that should give it away, since Alsace-Lorraine has always been a bi-ethnic and bilingual area, now in France, but frequently contested between France and Germany. The German word for "cake" is Kuchen (KU.khen), but in the Lorraine Franconian dialect of German it's Küeche. This dialect also alters the Ü to I and CH to SH, so it sounds like "kishe". We know how French spelling reacts to a K (cf Kebec & Québec), so the word pronounced as "kishe" was respelled "quiche", and there we have it. A quiche is essentially an egg-cake. Its pastry crust makes it look more like a pie, filled with a savory custard with cheese and meat or vegetables.

Perhaps this "dark and stormy night" theatrical atmosphere I found on my first evening in Vieux-Québec, as it imitates virtual time travel by reaching into the romantic past, is something a bit like the "involuntary memory" of Proust's madeleines (2007/14) which also reached into a past that is forever gone, yet nostalgically longed for. In that posting I quoted Proust as saying Les vrais paradis sont les paradis qu'on a perdus, and explained how I got to my more succinct translation of "True paradise is paradise lost". Perhaps it is.


A Present-Day Traveler in Québec   The morning saw a bright sun out the window of my couette et café which brought me back into the present. The narrow street with its tiny sidewalks was dry, and across the way were stone buildings typical of the old neighborhood. Looming over their roofs and over the next street, Rue de la Vieille Université was the silver spire (Photo by Hélène Grenier) of the main building of the Séminaire (Université). In the breakfast room right below my room (Gilles had made crèpes!) I met the three other guests, who, as I recall, were francophones, but who spoke English as we chatted. As it turned out, after a couple of days' visit they were driving off right after breakfast. I'd be staying for two more breakfasts, so I later asked Gilles if more guests were expected, since it was just the 1st of October. They were not. He then told me with a smile, that I was the last one:Vous êtes le dernier. Le dernier? Oui, le dernier. Once I left, he'd be closing for the season, until the spring. That meant that I'd have the whole upstairs to myself for the rest of my stay, and then Gilles would have his privacy over the winter. Being by myself gave me a renewed feeling that it was my house and historic neighborhood, and that I belonged here.


Adding to the feeling of longevity was a framed history of this plot of land that was hanging at the top of the stairs outside my room. It explained, in French, that once Laval had purchased the Hébert-Couillard properties, the Séminaire du Québec started selling off some plots of land in 1787 for houses along what is now Rues Hébert, Couillard, Laval and others in this neighborhood. All the owners of the plot of land where I was standing since then were listed, and the 13th owner from that date is Lafleur, as of 1986. But the house is not all that old. For most of those years, this lot was vacant, and served at varying times as a garden for the houses to the left, right, and behind (facing the ramparts). It was maybe only in the 1930's that the present house was built, but in a style that fits in perfectly with the streetscape.


I want readers to see some pictures on Gilles's website. Skip the top picture for now as there's a better one below. I particularly like the next picture of the fork in the road, which unfortunately doesn't enlarge. A half-block behind the camera is the beginning of Rue Hébert over at the ramparts, and the street continues to the left of the fork, becoming Rue Couillard with Chez Temporel. The street at the right of the fork is the one-block Rue Laval. The Maison Lafleur is the dark building on the right, and technically has the address of 2, Rue Laval, even though the buildings opposite have addresses on Rue Hébert.


The six thumbnail pictures grouped below do enlarge. Click the upper left one and you'll see the row of houses on the Rue Laval side of the fork, and get the flavor of the neighborhood. Note the European-style sidewalks and fleurs above the door to the Maison Lafleur. My window was the upper-left one above the breakfast room window.


Back at the thumbnails, click the upper right one and see how charming the breakfast room was, with more fleurs in the window. The kitchen is behind the camera, where Gilles had a modern, but old-looking wood stove in bright brass and black wrought iron. Instead of wood, I think it was actually either electric or gas, but did add to the atmosphere.


The lower-right thumbnail shows one of Gilles's crêpe offerings. The other three pictures show the three bedrooms, mine on the lower left. It and the other one facing the street have—what else—more fleurs.


As we're ready to start our walk, it's time to look at the excellent map I've referred to earlier that will tie together all the places we've seen on the historic maps in the previous posting, and all the street names and other place names. This is the direct link to the map of Québec that we'll use. However, it will be much simpler to navigate if you open a separate window and copy this following link to that map into it: You can then flip between windows.


The first thing you notice when you see Vieux-Québec (Old Québec) is the ramparts. It's important to understand how these exist in two different forms. Vieux-Québec and its ramparts take the shape of a capital D. The curved part of the D to the north, east, and south is where the cliffs are. At the top of the cliffs, the ramparts take the form of a low parapet, set in modern parkland. There are three entrances to the city here, up côtes (slopes). All once had gates, but they were removed in 1871. The straight part of the D is in the west, where there is an actual wall of the type you'd expect, with several gate openings (but no actual gates any more), also set in modern parkland and running down to include the Citadel. Note the very large park west of the Citadel along the river, with the Québec Parliament north of it. The Haute Ville (Upper Town) is within the ramparts, and the Basse Ville (Lower Town) largely extended over the centuries, encircles the cliffs in a backwards C-shape.


Since we sneaked into town last night in the drizzle and have to backtrack anyway, we'll start in medias res right at the Maison Lafleur. Hover over the bottom of the map until the black bar appears, and click the + (and – when needed) as you hover over the bulge in the ramparts furthest to the right until you settle down on Rue Hébert. Keep referring to this map as we take our walk.


You can see the fork where Laval takes off a half-block from the ramparts, and therefore where the Maison Lafleur is. We're hemmed in by the Rue des Remparts and Rue de la Vieille Université (Old University Street), whose buildings form the large blue footprint. Let's walk west on Hébert, and three houses beyond the fork is one of the many houses in Vieux-Québec that are landmarked because of age, style, or because someone famous lived there. This is the 1856 Maison Joseph-Morrin (Photo by Malimage). Continuing beyond Sainte-Famille we're now in the Rue Couillard and come upon the 1727-8 Maison André Bouchard (Photo by Sylvainbrousseau). Aside from giving a great feel for the narrow streets of the area, it shows more. Click to enlarge to see, after the break in the sidewalk, the dark brown façade of Chez Temporel and the interesting rooflines. The storefront just beyond it is the Épicerie [Grocery] de la Rue Coulliard, also adding to the neighborly atmosphere. Beyond that can be seen the greater activity of the junction with Rue Saint-Jean, which I was unaware of the night before. We'll go there later. Let's backtrack past the Maison Lafleur to the far end of Hébert and walk along the ramparts on Rue des Remparts.


We have a very interesting view of the ramparts (Photo by Gilbert Bochenek) from halfway down the cliff. Click at the lampposts and people to see that the ramparts are nothing more than a parapet wall here above the cliffs. The lampposts, people, and houses are on the Rue des Remparts, with an excellent view downriver (behind the camera). Rue Hébert with the Maison Lafleur is one parallel block behind, and Vieille Université two, where the imposing main Seminary Building is located. You can see how I'd look up to that spire from my window. This is the oldest residential district of the Haute Ville, at its far eastern end, and I'm so delighted I'd decided to go there to "live" for three days.


Let's keep walking to the right a short way to where Sainte-Famille (Photo by François Laflamme) emerges to cross Remparts. (I first need to apologize for what would have been an excellent picture, ruined. When Beverly and I used to do quality travel photography on our trips, we would have come back when the car wasn't parked there, and certainly without the bright blue cherry-picker.) Enlarge it and you'll see that we've just come down Remparts from the left, and it continues to the right. Behind the camera is the Côte de la Canoterie we've come here for, and Sainte-Famille leads into town. On the left is the historic Maison Étienne-Marchand of 1721-2. This is the peaceful intersection where I arrived up the Côte to the previous day, but it has a lot more history than that.


We said a moment ago that the three cliff entrances to the city all were up côtes (slopes), and all three had had portes (gates) that were demolished in 1871. Somewhere at this intersection once stood Porte Hope, built in 1786, later than the house we just saw. Porte Hope is shown here, with the view through it up Rue de la Sainte-Famille into town. It was the era of muddy streets, and the gate is narrow, which is what led to its demolition. But consider how charming it would be at this quiet intersection in the present era of historic preservation.


We have to comment on the imposition of English in this era, since you see the name "Hope Gate" in the drawing. Henry Hope was a lieutenant-governor of Québec Province, and English speakers back in the day liked to call Rue de la Sainte-Famille Rue Hope, hence the name of the gate. However, others did refer to the gate as Porte de la Canoterie, logically, because of the Côte de la Canoterie that lead up to it, but which now leads up to nothing but local streets.


Before we go down the hill, check out this picture of the same intersection (Photo by Jeangagnon) from another angle, but unfortunately in the snow of winter. Note the low parapet walls. We're on Rue des Remparts, which continues forward to the left. Sainte Famille exits from the left, goes through a now invisible Porte Hope, bends, and descends Côte de la Canoterie to the right, down to the Basse Ville. As always, check it out on the map.


As we walk down the Côte de la Canoterie, we can look over the parapet and continue to enjoy the view down over the roofs of the part of the Basse Ville on this side of town, and downriver as well. The name of this côte was the only one that puzzled me, but first we should talk a little more about the word côte (sounds like the English word "coat"). You may have seen it in more places than one—three, to be exact.


When you look at a French menu, one item you may see is a côte d'agneau. Anatomically, côte can mean a rib, and a côte d'agneau is a lamb chop. Then, looking at a map of France, you'll find the Côte d'Azur on the Mediterranean. What in English is called the Riviera (an Italian word), in French is the "Azure Coast", or Côte d'Azur. Actually, côte not only can mean "coast', it's directly related to the English word. Finally, the version of côte we have here is its reference to a "slope", "gradient", or "incline". (We also use the word "hill" when a road rises or falls, but that isn't an actual, free-standing hill, which in French is "colline" or "coteau"--but then this last word is also related to "côte".)

 Language stuff (actual, though odd): The Latin word "costa" meant "rib", and that's where it all started. The imagery developed like this: as ribs form the SIDE of the body, the SIDE/EDGE of a landmass is a coast, and the SIDE of a mountain or hill is a slope. It's similar in Spanish where "coast" is "costa", "slope" is "cuesta" and "rib" is "costilla".

The concept of a côte being a slope transferred from French to English as the VERB "to coast", which always involves a slope, since it means to move ahead by gravity alone, and not otherwise propelled. Think about a côte on your next roller COASTer ride.

So we're still walking down the Côte de la Canoterie wondering about its name. The only thing that had occurred to me is that the beginning looks a little like English "canoe" pronounced ka.NU, and even written in German as Kanu. But in French it's written "canoë", and pronouncedÉ. Investigating that led me to a new French word for me, "canot" (ka.NO), which in standard French describes any small watercraft propelled in various ways. A canot can be used servicing a ship, or for fishing, or for pleasure. But then came a proviso in the dictionary: in French Canada, a canot refers to a Native American/First Nations-type canoe.


The Québec sources of street names that I'd found then completed the explanation. Under the French Régime, clergy coming to town headed for the Seminary would arrive by canot across the Saint-Charles, which at that time came up to the edge of the Rue Saint-Paul at the foot of this côte (see map). They would dock there and proceed up the côte to Sainte-Famille to the Seminary. Except for the canot, that's just what I did in the drizzle yesterday. To house and protect their canots, they eventually built on the dock a canoterie, or boathouse. Thus, while we should never impose English onto Québec Streets (remember Hope Street and Hope Gate), we can understand Côte de la Canoterie to be Boathouse Slope, but since we'd never say it that way in English, let's make it Boathouse Hill. Et voilà.


We continue on Rue Saint-Paul just a few blocks to the large block between Rue Abraham-Martin (remember this name—it comes up later) and Rue Saint-Nicholas, reaching up one block to the Rue de la Gare-du-Palais. A recent archeological site, this is today a modern park with that fountain (Photo by Gilbert Bochenek) I hastened by yesterday. (I assume it's supposed to be rusty.) There are two attractive buildings behind it, but the Gare du Palais / Palace Station is on the left. This, behind the fountain, is a better view of the Gare du Palais (Photo by Gilbert Bochenek). It was built in 1915 by the Canadian Pacific in the Châteauesque style (2013/3) used in buildings across Canada, as is the Château Frontenac. This is its beautiful waiting room (Photo by Claude Boucher). This station building is smaller than those in other major cities, but has an intimate charm. Nevertheless, this beautiful station was closed in 1976 due to declining rail service. I remember those years when, to reach Québec, one was told to take the train to Lévis across the river, make one's way to the ferry, take it across the river to the Basse Ville, and make one's way up to to the Haute Ville. What indignity for Québec!. That lasted for nine years until the station reopened in 1985 as the northern end of the rail corridor, and now has service to Montréal three times daily. However, now attached to it is the local bus station.


On the other side of the park was my alternate choice yesterday for an entrance up top, the Cöte du Palais. But wait. Gare du Palais. Côte du Palais. Where's the palace? Post-visit online research answered that question. The individual second in authority to the Governor of New France, but on a civil level, was the Intendant of New France, and his palace had been where the park is now, a location here north of town that I find rather remote for the 17C. The Canadian Encyclopedia says that once the Dow Brewery at this location was torn down, archaeologists investigated the site of the palace in 1971, finding at least eight different levels of occupation. The lowest level shows indigenous occupation, followed by the first European settler occupation in 1666-1668. Then Intendant Jean Talon built a brewery, of all things (1668-1675), followed by the first Intendant's Palace (1684-1713), and the new Intendant's Palace (1716-1760). The palaces also housed council meetings, courts, and the prison. Between 1760 and 1852, the site was abandoned, including British troops setting fire to the palace when they occupied it in 1775, but then reoccupied by soldiers and civilians. In 1852 the Dow Brewery was built, a curious parallel to the ancient brewery of two centuries earlier. It was when this was torn down in 1971 that the area became an archaeological interpretation center and park. It's worth investigating names, since this palace site to the north is an interesting parallel to the Habitation to the south of town.


It is not unusual to have a place named after something that no longer exists, such as having no boathouse at the foot of Côte de la Canoterie and no palace between the Gare du Palais and the Côte du Palais. After all, the stockade wall on the north side of Wall Street in New York is also long since gone.


Crossing the park at Rue Saint-Nicolas (check map), one reaches the Côte du Palais heading up and into town. It, too, used to have a gate, the Porte du Palais, that was removed in 1873. An artist named John Crawford Young in 1825-1827 created this brown ink wash of the Côte and Porte du Palais. A little romanticized, perhaps, but then, perhaps, life moved at a slower pace. This was the Porte du Palais in the mid-19C from the inside on a winter's day, looking out down the côte.


At the top of the côte is the huge hospital, a modern version of the Hôtel-Dieu we saw on ancient maps. A walled city being so cozy, you can see on the map how close we are to the Rue Couillard again, and how hospital workers easily join artists and students at Chez Temporel. If we continue straight ahead, we'll be a the center at the city hall, but since we've been following the ramparts atop the cliffs up until now, it's worth turning right (west) down Rue McMahon through another quiet neighborhood with interesting residences to the walls on the west side.


It's at this point I have to explain the reality of Québec's walls, as I discovered it. We all quite romantically imagine city walls in medieval days. Perhaps a city on a flat plain, with massive walls and towers fully encircling a city. The only entries are a few gates with portcullises that can swing down and keep the enemy out. The reader may have visited European cities famous for their walls. Coming to mind are Rothenburg ob der Tauber in Germany, Ávila in Spain, Carcassonne and tiny Aigues Mortes (EG MORT) in the South of France. Québec is not them. How could it be? Québec, an old settlement in North America, dates from well after the medieval period. In addition, even as a walled city with fortifications surrounding the Haute Ville for 4.6 km (2.9 mi), there are no actual walls on the cliffs, only here on the west side, facing flat land. But, as I discovered, we have to yield even further on our image. Let's look at the background.


On the west side, the earliest walls date from the 1690's, but were replaced in the early 1700's and essentially completed by 1745 by the French, before the British takeover in 1763. The original gates were guarded and closed at night, closing off the Haute Ville. It was then the British who built the Citadel (see map) in the southwest corner of the Haute Ville in response to the War of 1812, to protect this part of town from a possible American invasion, and to house British troops. The Citadel's west side incorporates a section of the French defensive wall of 1745. However, the star-form of the Citadel that we see today wasn't built until 1820-1831. Keep in mind, then, that Québec has had walls on its west side since the 1690's, but the French walls of 1745, amplified by the British over the following decades, should be considered the last actual MILITARY fortifications of the city. If we understand that, we're OK in understanding Québec's heritage.


But then, by the mid-19C, these genuine walls no longer had military value, and the narrow gates blocked traffic. People wanted to modernize, and feelings of historic preservation was weak. Thus circa 1871-3, the gates on the three côtes, plus the busy Porte Saint-Louis on the western wall, were demolished, and further demolition was scheduled. But the next year, there was a new Governor-General of Canada, Lord Dufferin, who was in office from 1872 to 1878. He intervened and stopped the demolition, wishing to preserve the character of the walled city, and we owe to him the preservation of the majority of the fortifications of Québec. He also arranged to have reconstruction and preservation work done in the wall to the west of town, including gate work, although the gates on the côtes were never replaced.


This is all very true, but people don't usually pay attention of the additional details—and the devil is in the details. The reconstructed walls today, set in grassy parkland, are far too pretty. If they'd been reconstructed a century later, we'd be calling them disneyesque. The gates are not gates, but arched overpasses, with no barriers. The reconstruction of the walls and gates was not based on any defense strategy, since they were no longer meant for defense, but instead based on notions of urban embellishment. The redone walls, and totally reconstructed so-called "gates" reflect the romantic spirit of the Victorians, evoking the fortifications of the Middle Ages. While not lessening the marvelous effect of Québec's walls, nor the good works done by Lord Dufferin, these prettified walls and "gates" need to be taken with a grain of salt.


First, the actual gates that existed in the "real" walls were just two, Porte Saint-Louis on Rue Saint-Louis in the southwest, and Porte Saint-Jean on Rue Saint-Jean in the northwest. Dufferin felt there was another one needed in between, and also added an opening that no one talks about, but that I found first of all the gates I came across. We have an 1875 map of Dufferin's plans for the walls and gates (click to enlarge). In my walk, I came down the three short blocks of Rue McMahon from the côte and came to museum buildings in this whole corner (see Parc de l'Atillerie on the main map) corresponding to the barracks and other military buildings on Dufferin's map. Then I walked right through the wall on McMahon where there was no gate, no archway, nothing, and where McMahon becomes Rue Richelieu on the other side. I like to consider this "my secret passage" in the wall, but as you'll notice, Dufferin had proposed another gate here that was never built.


Then note on his map his re-do of Porte Saint-Jean, his proposed gate on Rue Dauphine that actually did become the new Porte Kent, and further down, the new Porte Saint-Louis where Rue Saint-Louis becomes the Grand Allée. All guidebooks will tell you there are three gates in the wall (the middle one being non-traditional), but I call it three-and-a-half gates, or at least, three gates and one passage. I'm also concerned by Dufferin's imposition of English, using the terms Saint John Street, and Saint Louis Gate, but those were the times.


To start with the Porte Saint-Jean, it's just a few steps to Rue Saint-Jean, in some ways an extension of Rues Couillard and Hébert, which leads through the Porte Saint-Jean (Photo by Pierre-Olivier Fortin). Here we're outside the walls looking in. Click to inspect the street life on Rue Saint-Jean, so much more lively than quiet Rue Couillard that connects to it further in. The beautiful street you see is an authentic reflection of Québec life. The "gate" and wall are, shall we say, pretty, a park decoration, Dufferin's idea of what medieval walls should look like in a non-medieval setting. It's called a gate, but what closes here? Nothing. It's an archway, made wide enough for traffic to pass. On the plus side, it does allow the beautiful street view to be seen on the other side. All and all, it's very nice, albeit just a tad faux.


Here's a surprise: it isn't even Dufferin's gate. The original had dated from 1693, and was replaced in the French rebuilding in 1745. This was replaced in 1863, and again in 1897, which would had to have been Dufferin's. The present gate was actually built in 1939-1940! So love the park setting you're seeing and appreciate the "adjusted" history behind it. The way I look at it, the romantic image of these fortifications reaches further back than the reality.


This is the 1863 Porte Saint-Jean (Photo by Louis Prudent Vallée), in a picture taken four years later. Note the intrusion of English again. Obviously, these earlier gates were more military in nature, and did impede traffic. You also don't get that nice street view through it, so, for decorative affect, the modern one wins.


Before I had a chance to climb to the top of the wall to walk along it, I was surprised by a beautiful building on the outside of the gate that I came across by pure serendipity. It's a theater called Le Capitole de Québec (Photo by Christophe Finot—click to inspect details). It was built in 1903 in Beaux-Arts style, but by the late 1980's it closed and was abandoned. At that point, it was declared a historic monument and National Historic Site of Canada, and completely restored in 1992. The ex-Union Station in Ottawa is also in Beaux-Arts style; note here the classical columns typical of this style, which was particularly popular in North America for twenty years both sides of 1900.


Back at the gate, we look to the right and see how parkland surrounds the wall (Photo by Pierre-Olivier Fortin) up to Porte Kent. On the inside, we climb a staircase to walk the wall's fortifications (Photo by Jean Gagnon) that short distance. Up at Porte Kent, we look back (Photo by Christophe Finot) for a fine view of the are inside the walls on the right, Porte Saint-Jean ahead, and Le Capitole outside the walls on the left.


And then we get down from the wall again for a view of Porte Kent, (Photo by Christophe Finot) from the outside looking in. It was the last one built, in 1879, and it totally ornamental and non-historic—apparently Dufferin just wanted to let Rue Dauphine pass through. That street not being as much of a main thoroughfare, the view of it through the gate is more peaceful. The whole concept of the gate is not French at all, but British, since it was named in memory of the Duke of Kent, Queen Victoria's father, and she contributed financially to its construction. This is the opening made in the wall where Porte Kent would be built.


With one gate to go, I decided to sweep into the center of town at this point and exit by that still-unvisited gate, so I proceeded up Rue Dauphine to Rue Saint-Anne. I came to the Hôtel de Ville / City Hall on my left, with the Édifice Price / Price Building on my right (pictures on previous posting). I strolled the center around City Hall, finding to the north Rue Couillard again from this opposite end, and to the southeast the busy Place de l'Hôtel-de-Ville, where it was fun to sit and people-watch.


On the opposite side of the Place was Rue de la Sainte-Famille, so I was near home again. In a walled city, everything is nearby! (Keep following on the map.) Across Sainte-Famille was the Cathedral (Photo by Gilbert Bochenek), the original building for which was built on this site in 1674. The statue on the left is in the square where I was just sitting, and note the blue roof, also on the left. That's the front entrance to the buildings of the Seminary (University)! As you can see when you click, the Seminary's Main Gate (Photo by Claude Boucher) abuts the Cathedral on the right, and, as the sign says, it's now the School of Architecture of Laval University. Wandering the courtyards, you come across the front of the large Seminary building with the spire (Photo by Gilbert Bochenek) that I can see from my room.


We cut across to the Place d'Armes, a name we've seen in many cities (Plaza de Armas in Spanish). The arms referred to would be the rifles of militiamen, since a Place d'Armes would have been used for drill practice and other military exercises. I suppose the English term would be Parade Ground. This particular one was built between 1640 and 1648 outside the original Fort/Château Saint-Louis to its southeast, built at the same time to house the governors of New France. The square has had several other names, including Place du Fort and Place du Château, both of which I like for their historic value of indicating the now-gone buildings it serviced. But when it was made a public park in 1865, those buildings no longer existing, it regained the name Place d'Armes.


The only picture I found that showed just what I need here shows ground once again unfortunately covered in winter snows. Disregard that as you look across the green grass I saw on the Place d'Armes (Photo by Jeangagnon) toward the river. To the right is the Château Frontenac, and straight ahead is where the Fort & Château Saint-Louis used to be, now the site of the Champlain Monument. Remember this monument as a pivotal location as we walk around (check the map). For instance, click to enlarge to see the entrance to the funiculaire / funicular down to the Basse Ville. To bring us all back to summer reality, this is the Champlain Monument (Photo by Nanad61) from another angle with the hotel in the background. The greenery on the right is the Place d'Armes, but we are standing where the historic Fort & Château Saint-Louis once was. Let's start walking. We'll return along the Terrasse Dufferin / Dufferin Terrace to the left of the hotel, but for now, let's walk from the invisible, historic Fort Saint-Louis where we're standing down Rue Saint-Louis to the right of the hotel, between it and the Place d'Armes.


The Rue Saint-Louis is one of my favorite Québec streets, since it's so attractive and historic, showing up on some of the oldest 17C maps we've seen as the historic western route out of the city. It left from, and was named after, the Fort Saint-Louis, which in turn was named by Champlain in 1623 for his king, Louis XIII. The street still exits through the Porte Saint-Louis, where it changes its name to the Grande Allée, another name dating from the French Régime, and then to the Chemin [Road] Saint-Louis on the way via Sainte-Foy, near the Québec Bridge, on the way just beyond to Cap-Rouge, the descendant of the settlement that Cartier tried to found. In the 17C, country folk would travel to Québec on this road to sell their furs. Under the three names, this street is the longest in the city.


To appreciate the atmosphere of the Rue Saint-Louis, note the following houses, all on the list of historic places. There is a mix from the 17C, 18C, and 19C. We start on our left with the Maison Maillou (Photo by Jeangagnon), another snowy picture. You can tell we've just started down the street since the Château Frontenac is visible in the background. Diagonally across the way is the most interesting house on the street, the Maison Jacquet (Photo by François Laflamme), the oldest house in Quebec, which dates to 1675. Before that, the property belonged to the Ursuline convent behind it, which I went down the side street to visit. Just as the Seminary subdivided some lots on the fief it bought in the Rue Hébert neighborhood, so did the Ursuline convent we saw on the ancient maps subdivide some of its own fief into lots on the Rue Saint-Louis. The house has been a restaurant since 1966 and features traditional Quebec/French food. I'd been wondering about the unusual name of the restaurant (click to enlarge), and later online research showed that Québec author Philippe-Aubert de Gaspé lived here in 1863 when he wrote his novel "Les Anciens Canadiens" ("Old-Time Canadians"). For grammatical reasons in French, that name alters slightly to [Restaurant] Aux Anciens Canadiens.


Walking along, we find the Maison Cureux of 1729 (Photo by Alexbruchez), the Maison Crémazie of 1830-1 (Photo by François Laflamme), and the Maison Péan from the 18C (Photo by François Laflamme), plus many others.


Before long we come to the last of our gates, the Porte Saint-Louis. Here we're still inside the walls looking out the Porte Saint-Louis (Photo by Smudge 9000). Pretty, wide enough for traffic, no actual gate under the archway. The original gate was built in 1693, and replaced in the French reconstruction in 1745. Then came Lord Dufferin's version in 1880. But that's still not what your seeing, since it was redone again in 1925. Just like Porte Saint-Jean, the other original gate, both are today 20C reincarnations.


But here's a nice surprise using the modern gate. Let's walk out through the gate, turn around once outside the walls and look back at the view of Rue Saint-Louis (Photo by Pierre-Olivier Fortin). Click to enlarge to inspect the pleasant streetscape.


Rue Saint-Louis has now become the Grande Allée ("Grand Boulevard"), and there are two major sights right outside the walls, one on either side of the Grande Allée. On the north side, to our right, in Second Empire style and in a park setting, is the provincial Parliament Building, the Assemblée Nationale du Québec (Photo by dszpiro). It's one of the oldest legislatures in the world, dating from the legislature of Bas-Canada / Lower Canada of 1792. It originally consisted of a lower house, the Legislative Assembly, and an upper house, the Legislative Council. It's been unicameral since 1968, when the upper house was abolished and the lower house was renamed the National Assembly.


On the south side of the Grande Allée (check map) we walk into the Parc des Champs-de-Bataille / Battlefield Park, which also abuts the Citadel, here the de facto extension of the city wall. We are on the storied Plains of Abraham. This is where the Bataille des Plaines d'Abraham / Battle of the Plains of Abraham was fought in 1759, which led, four years later, to Britain taking over Nouvelle France / New France.


When I learned about this battle in school, I really remembered little about its significance, but its florid name really impressed me. The Plains of Abraham! Not fields, certainly not meadows, but plains! And Abraham! How biblical! I could see biblical lightning flashing during the battle.


Which is why I had to smile when any specific significance of that name became totally deflated. The name of the battle was so florid because the area to the west of the walled city was called that. I cannot say why "plains", since it couldn't have been any more than fields and farmland. And forget the biblical Abraham. It's much simpler than that.


Among the first settlers in Québec with Louis Hébert, who arrived in 1617, was one Abraham Martin, who arrived with his wife in 1618. Martin was a fisherman and river pilot who was granted a tract of land in 1635-1645 to the west of the walled city on a plateau, which he used as grazing land for his livestock. You may remember we mentioned next to the Gare du Palais the Rue Abraham-Martin. Because of his tract of land, the area took on the dramatic name of the Plains of Abraham. It just as well could have been Martin's Fields, or something similar that's less dramatic.


This reminds of a similar situation when we discussed in 2012/18 the capital of the Faroes, Tórshavn ("Thor's Harbor"), which is apparently not named at all after the Norse god of thunder and lightning, but also after an early settler.


The Battle of the Plains of Abraham was a major battle in the Seven Years' War (called the French and Indian War in the US). It took place on 13 September 1759 between the British and the French. After a three-month British siege of Québec, the battle lasted only about 15-30 minutes, and is well-known as the battle where both army leaders were killed. British General Wolfe died on the battlefield and French General Montcalm died the next morning. It was a pivotal battle, and while other battles followed after Québec was captured, some won by the French, within four years, the Treaty of Paris of 1763 turned over New France to Britain.


This map shows the Plains of Abraham, and Québec (Map by Hoodinski) the day before the battle when the British made a landing on the north bank, upstream from the city. Just for understanding the space we're in, the distance from their landing site west to today's Québec Bridge is more than double the distance from their landing site to the city walls. Today's Battlefields Park reaches along the river from the walls to just short of their landing site. Note the artillery at the three city gates, including the two traditional ones in the western city wall that we've been discussing. When the battle started the next day, these were the battle lines (Map by Hoodinski), with the British in red attacking the French defenders of the city, in blue.


In the 19C, Québec continued to grow westward, and much of the site of the battle was built over. Only in 1908 was some of the land ceded to the city of Québec, and this became the Parc des Champs-des-Bataille / Battlefields Park, even though it only covers the southern end of the Plains of Abraham, running along the river for 2.4 km (1.5 mi), but inland from the river only 0.8 km (0.5 mi).


History remains alive here. 2009 was the 250th anniversary of the battle, and ceremonies were planned, including a reenactment of the battle. The reenactment was cancelled, as it was felt to be a slap in the face of the francophone majority, commemorating the end of New France. One sometimes wonders what the planners were thinking.


On entering the park (Photo by Montréalais), one has a view back to the National Assembly, and can walk along, as I did, a remnant of the city wall adjoining the Citadel. This aerial view (Photo by Sébastien Beaujard) of the area shows everything we've been discussing. Click to inspect the Château Frontenac and Price Building to the right, and in the upper center are the Portes Saint-Jean and Saint-Louis. In the upper left is the blue-roofed National Assembly, and an entrance to the park, along the side of the multi-pointed, star-shaped Citadel. The paths in the park lead to a riverside viewpoint.


Note at the bottom of the citadel a wooden boardwalk clinging to the cliffside that then seems to disappear in the woods. This is the Promenade des Gouverneurs / Promenade of the Governors, that leads one back into town, going up and down steps on occasion, until it ends on the Terasse Dufferin. The Terrasse Dufferin / Dufferin Terrace (Photo by Pierre-Olivier Fortin), is the wide promenade running 671 m (2200 ft) further along the cliffside, leading back (click to view details) past colorful, roofed kiosks to the Château Frontenac and Champlain statue, even adding a view in the distance of the Seminary spire. A better view of Champlain is in this atmospheric view from a kiosk (Photo by Selbymay) (click).


The river view from the Dufferin Terrace (Photo by Ebuz610) is spectacular. Click to see the ferry terminal, the gray building in the center with the ferry leaving for Lévis on the other side. Another ferry is mid-river. The most historic part of the Basse Ville is on the left. Note in particular the historic gray church and steeple, which we'll visit shortly. Looking sharply over the edge of the Dufferin Terrace we can see right below us the Rue du Petit-Champlain, so well-known that it gives its name to the whole neighborhood running 2-3 blocks over to the river, the Quartier [Quarter] du Petit-Champlain. We'll be down there soon, too.


But as we step back from the edge and turn our gaze behind us, we see the Château Frontenac. The Château Frontenac hotel (Photo by Canonnica), here on its Dufferin Terrace side, is the most prominent and spectacular site in Québec.. Click to inspect details, including the Champlain monument on the far right and the Parc des Gouverneurs / Governors' Park to the left. We first saw this greenspace on 17C maps, and there it is still. The Wolfe-Montcalm Monument, an obelisk, that you see is unusual in that it commemorates in one single memorial the two generals that died on opposite sides of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham. As for the hotel, given how this momentous building by itself dominates the skyline, probably more than any other structure elsewhere dominates by itself its city's skyline, one can understand why we've been seeing it peeking through here and there since we started our walk. The Frontenac claims it is probably the most photographed hotel in the world, and, limiting that claim just to hotels, I see no reason to doubt it. Because of its name, for years I thought it had been a real château that was converted to a hotel, but that isn't the case. It's one of the châteauesque railroad hotels built across Canada during the heyday of railroad hotels. It's named after Louis de Buade, Count of Frontenac, who was governor of New France in the last quarter of the 1600's.


The hotel opened in sections starting in 1893 with the wing along the river, and was an immediate success. Wings kept being added for a total of five, through 1920-1924. If the building had been left at just those wings, it would have been handsome enough. But what made it so massively overpowering was the decision to add, also during 1920-1924, the huge central tower. Look again at the last picture and picture it without the tower. All the turrets and roofs of the lower wings would have looked like a little town, perhaps, but then when the central tower dominates them like a mountain, the whole building takes on the massive effect. As mentioned in the previous posting, another quirk about the central tower is that it widens as it gets higher, finally reaching up to its huge roof. Essential to the design is the fact that the central tower is asymmetrically placed in regard to the wings, which are also very asymmetrical, typical of the châteauesque style. And the monumental effect increases when the hotel is viewed from below (Photo by Huguette Dion), so that the tower seems to even moreso dominate the wings of the hotel as the entirety dominates Québec. And of course, the hotel evokes the romanticism of the châteaus on the Loire from the 14C-15C. The effect is breathtaking.


We will now go outside the ramparts for the third time as we visit the most historical area of the Basse Ville. Check the map again to locate the Frontenac and surrounding locations we've discussed and check out the two ways to descend from here, by funicular and by the Côte de la Montagne. We'll do the funicular today and the cöte tomorrow.


The Funiculaire du Vieux-Québec / Funicular of Old Québec opened in 1879, and has often been rebuilt, to the extent that it's no longer a funicular, though still great fun to ride. The explanation all comes down to counterweights. In the case of an elevator going vertically up and down, do not imagine that some machine up top pulls up the dead weight of car and passengers. At the top of the elevator shaft is a pulley, and the cable from the car at the bottom rises up over the pulley and is attached to a set of counterweights that approximately equal the car and passengers. In actuality, nothing is really being "lifted". The pulley turns and as the car rises, the counterweights descend. The pulley just governs the movement.


When we have a slope, such as here in Québec, we expect to find a funicular, which doesn't use a separate set of counterweights. Funicular cars are each other's counterweights, so they always come in pairs. the pulley at the top turns to let one car down as the second car acts as a counterweight coming up. Funiculars can have four tracks (in two pairs) (Schematic by Cmglee), one pair for each car, as shown here on the left. But most of the time, there are only two, maybe three, tracks up the hillside. Such tracks are shared, with a bypass at the mid-point.


Québec had a real funicular until 1996, when a person was killed after a cable snapped and the emergency brake failed, allowing the car to come crashing into the lower station. After two years of reconstruction, the "funicular" reopened, but had become in reality two inclined elevators on tracks (Photo by Christophe.Finot), working totally independently of each other. There's a pulley for each car, and there are elevator counterweights UNDER the tracks, so as you go down and look below track level (Photo by GarrettRock), you see the counterweights coming up passing you, or at least the cables for them. In other words, each cabin is an elevator, but inclined, so that tracks are needed, and one can be closed down in slow periods, just as an elevator can be. Obviously, there has to be two separate pairs of tracks, as in the first illustration a moment ago, just as two elevators would have two separate shafts. The system is electric, and is 64 m (210 ft) long. The height difference is 59 m (184 ft). The view down from the car (Photo by Friejose) is spectacular. Note again that gray church and steeple, where we'll be in a minute.


Better yet, let's use a YouTube video to vicariously take a ride down the Québec funicular. Note in particular the building that houses the lower station; pause at 1:11 to inspect both the staircase ahead and street we're standing on.


We are now down in the most historic part of the Basse Ville, right at the Saint Lawrence, where Champlain's original Habitation had been. My experience on earlier visits was that the neighborhood, which had started to decline as early as the 1860's when port activities slowed down, by the 1970's was nothing more than a slum—a historic slum, but a slum nevertheless. At that point, the government started restoration, and I remember seeing one construction site after another when walking around down here. Now it's very attractive.


I said to pay attention on the video to what you saw of the lower station, because, quite amazingly, it's a historic house. It's the house which the explorer Louis Jolliet had built for himself in 1685, and where he lived until his death in 1700. Along with much else of the area, the house was restored in 1978. Jolliet was born in Québec in 1645. By 1666, he was involved in fur trading and exploring, and on one expedition with Father Jacques Marquette, they discovered the Mississippi River, since at that time, New France extended that far (before Britain took over Canada and before the Midwest was turned over to the US). Joliet was one of the first people of European descent born in North America to be remembered for significant discoveries. This, unfortunately in a winter scene, is the Maison Joliet (Photo by Jeangagnon), which today serves as the lower funicular station and boutique.


The tiny intersection at the Maison Joliet is the center of the first special area in the Basse Ville, and we'll now get into my earlier suggestion to pay attention to the staircase on the right and street on the left—everything is cheek-by-jowl. In the above snowy picture, the people on the right are about to climb the staircase, and those on the left are walking down the picturesque street.


On the earliest maps in the previous posting, there was always a steep path cutting off from the Côte de la Montagne down to here. The path was steep enough so that it was only for pedestrians, and by perhaps 1635, the year Champlain died, was replaced by a wooden staircase, today Québec's oldest, although it has been replaced more than once. The 1895 replacement was by an iron one, and the present one is relatively new, dating from 1968—but then that was the time the Basse Ville was being restored. Original names for the staircase were logically Escalier Champlain / "Champlain Stairs", or even more logically, Escalier de la Basse-Ville / "Lower-Town Stairs". Because of their steepness, the anglophone population started calling them in the mid-19C the "Breakneck Stairs", while francophones continued to stick by the earlier names. It wasn't until the 1960's that the francophone population started translating the English name, quite accurately, as Escalier Casse-Cou, which then became the official name.


So let's look at it. Famous as it is, the Escalier Casse-Cou (Photo by Christophe.Finot) looks neither dangerous nor particularly high, only four flights. There are cafés and boutiques all up its length, with entrances at the three landings (click to enlarge). That historic stone building with blue window frames at the top is on the Côte de la Montagne, and we'll see it again when walk past there later.


It's time to take a look at the famous Rue du Petit-Champlain, so let's now walk up beyond the café with the striped awnings and turn around to admire the Rue du Petit-Champlain (Photo by Christophe.Finot) straight ahead. Everything is SO close here, so do click to enlarge to inspect the Maison Joliet with its funicular and boutique, located on this very street, plus the approximately three blocks of the pedestrian street's length. It, too, is filled today with artisan's shops, boutiques and cafés, and the ones on the right back up totally to the cliffside, as does the Maison Joliet, which we noticed in the video. Concentrate on the street sign for the perpendicular street, and you'll find the charming name Rue Sous-le-Fort (Under-the-Fort Street) a reference to the fact that Fort Saint-Louis used to be directly above here—well, of course, at the top of where today's funicular is.


The background of the street is interesting, and its name is VERY interesting. We saw this street on the oldest of the 17C maps, at the point where the shoreline was very close, and cut off what is now the far end of the street. The census map of 1792 shows the street was given the name Rue Champlain. But due to landfill, the shoreline was later extended upstream, underneath the Plains of Abraham, where there was a longer street with the same name—or if you will, a non-contiguous section of this same street. Therefore, another map dating from 1874 showed the upstream one as the Grande Rue Champlain, and this one was the Petite Rue Champlain. So far, so good.


In the 19C, especially after the Irish famine, there was a large Irish immigration to Canada, and many settled in Québec, a large community near the Côte du Palais, and another one on the Petite Rue Champlain, where workers found maritime jobs. This coincided with a lot more English being used in francophone regions—remember that the Breakneck Stairs were named first in English. The English-speaking Irish quite sensibly referred to this street as Little Champlain Street. Again, so far, so good.


The street became so well known by its English name, that francophones started referring to it by a grossly mistranslated French version of the English version, Rue du Petit-Champlain, which is literally Street of Little-Champlain! What's a Little-Champlain? Anyway, that unusual French version became official in the 1960's.


The Rue du Petit-Champlain is so well-known that it's given its name to its entire, very petite (no pun intended) neighborhood (quarter), the Quartier (du) Petit-Champlain. This map shows the two neighborhoods we'll be mentioning, including the Quartier (du) Petit-Champlain (Map by Jeangagnon). Follow the Rue du Petit-Champlain to where it turns into the Rue Sous-le-Fort at the Escalier Casse-Cou (note where it reaches the côte) and the funicular (not shown). The neighborhood consists of the few streets to the southeast of these two, that's all. The dotted line in the river shows where the ferry to Lévis leaves, which we'll take tomorrow. At the intersection of Rue du Marché Champlain and Rue Notre-Dame, on the left, is the Maison Chevalier (Photo by Gilbert Bochenek), built in 1752 for a ship owner, which incorporates two earlier constructions from 1675 and 1695. The view from the street at the back of this building (Photo by GK tramrunner229), which includes the Château Frontenac, further illustrates the charm of this neighborhood, now totally visitor-oriented and no longer residential. But we must comment on the unusual name of this little street, Rue Cul-de-Sac. We use this French term, literally "bottom-of-sack", meaning you can't go any further, just as the French do, to mean a dead-end street. It should first of all strike one odd that one would actually NAME a street "Dead-End Street". But then check the map. This street has outlets at both ends. Go figure.


While you're on this local map, let's cross Rue Sous-le-Fort and go up to the other neighborhood of note, the Quartier Place-Royale, surrounding the Place Royale with its church, Notre-Dame-des-Victoires, whose spire we'd admired from up top.


The Place Royale is considered the oldest French settlement in America. It's where Champlain established his wooden Habitation in 1608, which developed into the Basse Ville of Québec. After the fire of 1682, the buildings were reconstructed in fire-resistant stone, defining the area. It had been called Place du Marché / Market Square, but a bust of Louis Quatorze / Louis the Fourteenth, the Roi-Soleil / Sun King was erected there in 1686, and the square was renamed Place Royale / Royal Square. Centuries later, when the provincial government decided to rehabilitate the neighborhood in 1967, the whole neighborhood was named Quartier Place-Royale. The rehabilitation was not quite a restoration, since warfare had left little of the past. It was actually a demolition of later buildings from the 19C and a reconstruction of buildings in the style of the 18C.


At the southern end of the square is the stone church, Notre-Dame-des-Victoires (Photo by Gilbert Bochenek). Construction started in 1687, but it has been very much restored. It's considered the oldest stone church in America north of Mexico. Note the statue we'd mentioned. Now turning around from the church steps we see more of the atmosphere created by the cobblestone Place Royale (Photo by Nowisaod).


I was impressed during earlier visits by the bust of Louis XIV (Photo by Selbymay) in the center of the square, since it's unusual to see representations of him remaining after the French Revolution, but it is a beautiful representation, and a real work of art. So much so, that I got curious and tried to find out more about it. What a surprise. It's by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, yes, THE Bernini who built the Bernini colonnade around St Peter's Square in Rome. In 1665, Bernini traveled to Paris for a few months and carved a white marble bust of Louis XIV (Photo by Louis le Grand, a Berlin photographer with an obvious sense of humor). It was one of the few portraits for which Louis XIV agreed to pose. He had commissioned the bust, and allowed Bernini thirteen sittings. It took 40 days to create, and has been called the "grandest piece of portraiture of the baroque age". The original bust still remains in the Diane Salon of the Palace of Versailles (Photo by Coyau / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0 & GFDL).


It was a bronze copy of this marble bust by Bernini that was brought to the Place Royale in Québec in 1686. However, over time, it was lost. In 1931, France donated to Québec the copy of the bronze bust of Louis XIV (Photo by Gilbert Bochenek) that we see today.


At this point, I continued walking north on the Rue Saint-Pierre to see more of the area, but when reaching Rue Saint-Paul again (see main map), I saw no reason to go further, and turned back down the Rue du Sault-au-Matelot, named for the Fief descending the slope to here from up top. I then took the funicular back up, and decided to finally enjoy the Château Frontenac. I went to the Bar Saint-Laurent / Saint Lawrence Bar, which has nice views over the river, and had dinner at the bar, where I met a nice couple from Calgary and had a pleasant extended conversation, putting a personal touch on the end of a long walking day.


My last full day was for relaxing. After strolling around up top, I went down the last côte of the visit, but the oldest one in town, the Côte de la Montagne (discussion will follow), plus the Escalier Casse-Cou to walk over to the sleek ferry terminal. I wanted to do in Québec what I had done in New Orleans (2007/1), when I took the ferry, free for passengers, not cars, at the end of Canal Street across the Mississippi to the community named Algiers. The ride only lasted 3-4 minutes and was actually meant to experience riding on the river and then looking back to the New Orleans skyline.


This view from the far side of Dufferin Terrace (Photo by Joël Truchon) shows my route across the river on the ferry to Lévis. Click to inspect at the lower left the roofs of the Quartier du Petit-Champlain, and the waiting ferries in the river, across which is Lévis. Beyond Lévis and wrapping around it is the southern branch of the Saint Lawrence; moving to the right is the Île d'Orléans, with the northern branch of the river to its left, including the bridge that crosses the northern branch (only). This is the view directly across to the center of Lévis (Photo by Harfang), including its ferry terminal. There's a small passenger fee for the ferry crossing (Photo by Antoine Letarte) , and they leave frequently, crossing in ten minutes. They carry cars below.


But it's the view back to Québec (Photo by Datch78) that you come for (click). The thing you can't miss is the Château Frontenac, with its bulky, oddly-angled central tower dominating the other wings, as the ensemble dominates the city. Behind it can be seen part of the Price Building, in front of it the Dufferin Terrace on the ramparts, and to its left the Parc des Gouverneurs with the dual Wolfe-Montcalm obelisk. Above the waiting ferry, the funicular and its route are clearly visible. This view to the right showcases the Seminary (University) (Photo by Claude Boucher) and its silver spire. Click to inspect it and the restored buildings right below in the Quartier Place-Royale.


On our way back up top, we'll climb the Escalier Casse-Cou to reach the Côte de la Montagne. As we do so, we'll come to that historic gray stone building we saw earlier, which is the Maison Gervais-Beaudoin (Photo by Gilbert Bochenek). It's located at the top of the staircase, seen here at the left, and right at that sharp curve partway up the Côte de la Montagne we saw on the oldest maps. Note the steepness of the street. Although this house was erected before 1741, it acquired its present appearance at the time of its 1966 restoration. We are looking at its front entrance, which shows a height of 3 ½ stories, but this is deceptive, because of the irregularity of the terrain. On its left side, there are two floors below this, used commercially at the side of the staircase, so the building is actually 5 ½ stories high, and we see only about 2/3 of the building here.


When we turn around at this point, we get a surprise because of the sharp curve on Côte de la Montagne (Photo by Jeangagnon), here in a snowy, winter view. Click to see that the stone house we were just looking at is at the extreme left. You have to realize that the photographer, in order to fit this panoramic shot in, had to tilt the camera to the right, so you have to compensate by tilting your head to the left, in order to appreciate the steepness of the côte as it ascends to the "gate" up top on the left.


The Côte de la Montagne is the very first côte laid out in Québec, and its construction started immediately at the time Québec was founded in 1608, since it was the only way to leave the riverside settlement by land, this being long before landfill extended the Basse Ville all around the cape. It was used to reach Fort Saint-Louis, located right at its top, and beyond.


Some unusual stories involving people have been proposed for the explanation of its name. Since in 1659, a man named Noël Jérémie, sieur de la Montagne, rented a house at the top of the hill, some people thought the hill was named for him. Even odder was the thought that it was named in honor of an Anglican bishop of Québec, Joseph Mountain. (!!!) These stories continue to appear, although no one takes them seriously any longer. What's believed is by far the most obvious. From the beginning, Champlain and the early settlers considered what later became the Haute Ville a mountain they had to climb. Nothing can be more logical than their using Montagne in the name of the slope.

 You really have to stay with the French name here. You can understand the other two côtes as Boathouse Hill and Palace Hill if you wish, but to call Côte de la Montagne Mountain Hill sounds even stupider than calling it by its literal translation, Mountain Slope. If you are really desperate to put it into English, perhaps Mountain Road would be passable.

I find a curious issue of directionality of names between the Haute Ville and Basse Ville. The oldest côte, Cóte de la Montagne, was a reference uphill to the mountain that was made by the new settlers, but after the Haute Ville was established, the Côte de la Canoterie was a reference downhill to the boathouse, as was Côte du Palais also a reference downhill to the palace. It gets more curious. Long after the name Côte de la Montagne was established, with the growth of the Haute Ville, an alternate name developed for this côte, the Côte de la Basse-Ville / Lower-Town Hill, another downhill reference. While this term is no longer used, it did last until at least 1866.


As we know, all three côtes lost their gates in about 1871. The gate on this côte was Porte Prescott, erected by the British in 1797 and named for the then Governor General. This is Porte Prescott circa 1840 in an engraving by William Henry Bartlett, and this is a wintry photo of Porte Prescott in 1860 (Photo by William Notman). What today is referred to as Porte Prescott is hardly more than symbolic, since it's merely a small, raised, pedestrian footbridge (Photo by Jean Gagnon) from 1983 crossing the road and connecting two sections of the parkland along the ramparts above. By the way, it's the park on the right that has the monument to Louis Hébert.


I'd found on my walk a restaurant near the Place d'Armes that had single-portion cheese fondue for individuals, something one doesn't often find, so I had a pleasant dinner my last evening and walked back along the ramparts to the Maison Lafleur. Since we're talking about evening, I think it's worth taking a look again at that sunset panorama of Québec (Photo by Martin St-Amant CC-BY-SA-3.0) that we first saw when discussing Québec in the last posting, 2013/5. Click to see, in the Basse Ville, in the center of the panorama, the illuminated funicular and illuminated steeple of the church on Place Royale, plus the restored stone buildings in that neighborhood. Then go to the Haute Ville and start on the left, where the terrain is very high and forested. You can follow the boardwalk of the Promenade des Gouverneurs as it descends from the Citadel to the Dufferin Terrace, and follow the illuminated ramparts past the obelisk in the park to the monumental and imposing Château Frontenac, and to the Champlain statue at the top of the funicular. The tall building with the peaked roof is the Price Building. Further along is the Seminary, with its illuminated silver steeple I could see from my window to its right, followed by the Hôtel-Dieu hospital. Fantastic.


In the morning, I had finished everything I'd wanted to do in town, so after breakfast I relaxed and wrote in my room till about noon, then said goodbye to Gilles as le dernier guest until the spring season. I rolled my bag down the Côte de la Canoterie to the Gare du Palais to catch the middle of the three daily trains, at 13:10. But something was wrong, and the electric signs at the station were talking about bus service, with no further explanation, so I asked. It seems that the incoming train had had a minor accident along the way that delayed it, so it wouldn't be in in time to take outgoing passengers back to Montréal. For this, VIA was doing the usual "bustitution". But that was for those whose aim was just to get transportation to Montréal. My aim was specifically to get TRAIN transportation to Montréal, so I told the woman to change my ticket to the last train of the day. I had a mid-afternoon meal in the station, then wrote on my laptop in the waiting room. At 17:30. I pulled away in my comfortable train seat, and after the stop in Saint-Foy, I enjoyed another crossing of the Québec Bridge. In Montréal I spent the third and last single night at the Delta Centre-Ville, and the following morning I took Amtrak's Adirondack back to New York. The border crossing was easy, but it was interesting to hear two separate conversations of people not familiar with local rail wondering why it should take almost eleven hours to go a mere 381 miles (613 km), which averages, with stops, 35 mph (56 km/h). When will high-speed rail come to this and other routes? But it was still a pleasant close to the Canadian Trio rail trip to Saguenay, Ottawa, and Québec.

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