Oct 042009
 

These horse-drawn tours circle and circle the upper city and there is quite a lot to see, from the fortifications overlooking the Plains of Abraham on the Southwest, where the French future of Canada received its first blow and Montcalm and Wolfe died, to the Terrace Dufferin and Chateau Frontenac, which overlooks the Saint Lawrence and back up the Grande Allee on which one exits the City Gate and has before one on the right hand, the Hotel du Parliament — not an hotel, but the Parliamentary Buildings and gardens — and beyond to the Parc des Champs-de-Bataille (Battlefields Park) and the Musee national des beaux-arts du Quebec (Quebec Museum of Fine Arts). We were unable to go into the later because it was closed on Mondays, but we enjoyed the walk.

Stone dated 1647 , once belonging to Governor Montmagny, who wanted to erect a large, urban city on the heights of Quebec. (He was frustrated by the Ursuline, Augustine and Jesuit religious orders, who held large tracts of land there and refused to have them divided up. For that reason, the old city remained largely administrative and religious in character until the 19th Century, when a few elegant residential neighborhoods developed along five streets.) It now overlooks the central courtyard of the Chateau Frontenac.

Quebec City was founded by Samuel de Champlain, a nerveless explorer and colonizer. I was thoroughly impressed by his exploits as retold by Francis Parkman. (One can read about his discoveries and activities in his own words, if one reads French.)

Here is a summarization of the man from Pioneers of France in the New World:

“For twenty-seven years he had labored hard and ceaselessly for its (the Colony of Quebec), sacrificing fortune, repose and domestic peace to a cause embraced with enthusiasm and pursued with intrepid persistency. His character belonged partly to the past, partly to the present. The preux chevalier, the crusader, the romance-loving explorer, the curious, knowledge-seeking traveller, the practical navigator, all claimed their share in him. His views, though far beyond those of the mean spirits around him, belonged to his age and his creed. he was less statesman than soldier. He leaned to the most direct and boldest policy….His dauntless courage was matched by an unwearied patience, proved by life-long vexations, and not wholly subdued even by the saintly follies of his wife. He is charged with credulity, from which few of his age were free, and which in all ages has been the foible of earnest and generous natures, too ardent to criticise, and too honorable to doubt the honor of others….The adventurous explorer of Lake Huron, the bold invader of the Iroquois, befits but indifferently the monastic sobrieties of the fort of Quebec, and his sombre environment of priests. Yet Champlain was no formalist, nor was his an empty zeal. A soldier from his youth, in an age of unbridled license, his life had answered to his maxims; and when a generation had passed after his visit to the Hurons, their elders remembered with astonishment the continence of the great French war-chief.

“His books mark the man, — all for his theme and his purpose, nothing for himself. Crude in style, full of the superficial errors of carelessness and haste, rarely diffuse, often brief to a fault, they bear on every page the palpable impress of truth.”

One of many sidewalk cafes, this one in the Lower City.
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