Quebec – a visit to Canada’s beautiful province


Quebec is a city in Canada, capital of the French-speaking province of the same name. The city is home to the Quebec Parliament and the main provincial government apparatus, although Quebec is much smaller than Montreal. Only about 5 percent of the city’s 715,000 residents do not speak French.

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The historic downtown by the St. Lawrence River retains the atmosphere of French port cities, its streets giving North Americans a glimpse of the Latin Quarter or Montmartre of Paris. Quebecers honour their past, remembering the triumphs and hardships of their ancestors, but at the same time absorbing the realities of modernity.

The name “Quebec” comes from an Algonquin word meaning “where the river narrows,” and in fact this city originated on a huge cliff above the St. Lawrence River. Jacques Cartier named the cliff “Point of Diamonds”, after the sparkling crystals he found there which he mistook for diamonds. In the past, the town prospered from shipbuilding and the trade in furs, timber, tanned leather, furniture, and textiles. Modern shipping and railroad development have led to the decline of the local port. Nowadays, Quebec is first and foremost a center of tourism, high-tech and the seat of government of the province of the same name.

For the best view of the city, cross the south bank of the St. Lawrence River and take a traversier ferry from Levis, a suburb of Quebec. In any case, leave the modern part of town, which is very attractive but of little touristic interest. Head for Old Quebec, which occupies the entire Cape Diamant area. The fortified Upper Town is connected to the Lower Town by a steep highway and a cable car route. Aside from the Citadel and Battlefields Park, all attractions are a short walk away, but if you like, you can explore them by taking a 45-minute horse-drawn carriage ride (departing from the Parc de l’Espanade) .

Quebec City Centre

The first major French-influenced settlement in Canada, Quebec’s historic downtown is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Granite houses with slate roofs surround the romantic-tale Château Frontenac, with magnificent views of the St. Lawrence River below.

Vieux-Québec, the Old Town, surrounded by walls, consists of two areas: Bass-Ville and Haut-Ville. French is spoken in both areas, and residents are also very proud of French culture. Bass Ville, the original colony at the foot of Cap Diamand, is a thriving neighborhood of cafes and boutiques, once home to merchants, traders, and boatmen. Ot Ville, connected to Bass Ville by a cable car branch, is particularly reminiscent of Europe in its style of architecture. There are sidewalk cafes, horse-drawn carriages, and cobblestone streets.

Walking through the gas-lit streets and alleys of compact Ot Ville, you come across an ancient monastery, a museum, and in the heart of the neighborhood is the slightly star-shaped Citadel, the largest group of fortifications in North America, even though not a single shot has ever been fired here. The Dufresne Boulevard above the city itself is a place where you can admire picturesque views of the river and mountains.

The Notre Dame Basilica is worth a visit – its interior, rebuilt after a fire in 1922, is neo-Baroque in style, and the paintings and treasures recall the French regime. The exterior of the basilica, built in 1647, was seriously rebuilt in 1771.

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The majestic Château Frontenac, a replica of a castle from the Loire Valley, is clearly visible from all quarters of the city.

If you visit this lovely city in the summer, be sure to attend the free concerts that take place in the magnificent Parc de Champs de Batailles (literally, the “Battlefields” park) . This is the park where, in 1759, General Wolfe and the Marquis de Montcalm commanded troops in the battle after which French influence in North America was visibly weakened.

Upper Town.

Start at the top of the cliff where the city’s main landmark, the Fairmont Chateau Frontenac, a fortress that has dominated the city since 1892 and has now been converted into a fashionable hotel, stands. Its picturesque location and Gothic-Renaissance turrets, which look like they came from the pages of a fairy tale, make it one of the most extravagant hotels that the Canadian Pacific and Canadian National Railway have built across the country as symbols of their commercial power. It’s named for Count Louis de Frontenac, a seventeenth-century French governor who incurred the wrath of the clergy by encouraging the sale of brandy to the natives. Inside, admire the carved moldings, tapestries and wood paneling.

Behind the hotel at the monument to the city’s founder, Samuel de Champlain, the Dufferin Terrace offers magnificent views of the St. Lawrence River, all the way to Orleans Island.

Stroll through the nearby Parc de Gouverneurs, with an obelisk honouring Generals Wolf and Mocalme, killed in the bloody battle for Quebec in 1759. At the end of the terrace, the Governor’s Promenade skirts the foot of the citadel toward Battlefields Park.

In the center of Old Quebec, north of the Château Frontenac, is the Place d’Armes, where troop levies and parades were held, proclamations were read, and criminals were scourged or executed. The Monument de la Foi in the center of the square commemorates the work of the French Catholic missionaries to North America. The Fort Museum (Musee de Fort; 10 rue Ste-Anne; open: Apr-Oct. daily 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Nov-March Thu-Sat 11 a.m.-4 p.m.) on the north side of the square alternates between English and French sound performances of Québec military history.

On the narrow rue de Tresor, at the northwest corner of place dArmes, artists exhibit their work for sale. The street leads to the Latin Quarter of Québec with a Parisian atmosphere surrounding eighteenth-century houses, cafes and bookstores around rue Couillard, rue St-Flavien and rue Hebert.

Nearby, on rue de I’Universite, is the seminary founded in 1663 by Québec’s first bishop, François Laval de Montmorency. In the summer, concerts are held in the courtyard. The Museum of French America (Musee de lAmerique Francaise; 2 Cote de la Fabrique; open: Tues-Whs 10 a.m.-5 p.m., summer daily 9:30-17 p.m.) houses a portrait of a grumpy elderly bishop painted in 1672 by Brother Luc, as well as landscapes by Joseph Lehar and self-portraits by Antoine Plamondon and Theophile Gamel.

In the Anglican cathedral of St. Trinity (1804), with its graceful spire peeking out from behind the trees, on rue des Jardins, Londoners will recognize the native church of St. Martin in the Fields. Note the massive old English oak pews.

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The large Ursuline convent in the beautiful garden was founded in 1639 and rebuilt twice after a fire. The monastery church has a remarkable altar and preacher’s pulpit. Montcalm was buried here in 1759, but only his skull survives today. It is displayed in the museum dedicated to the first abbess of the monastery, who compiled the first dictionary of the Iroquois and Algonquin language. The former pasture around the monastery has been transformed into the vast Parc de l’Eslanade, a beautiful place for recreation.

The Lower Town

From Dufresne Terrace to Basse-Ville, where the original Champlain colony was located, you can descend the winding Cote de la Montagne, which skirts the Parc de Montmorency, and several stairs, one of which (most popular with children), the Escalier Casse-Cou (Dizzy Stairs), is very dangerous in summer after rain and especially in winter when covered with ice. The cable car terminal in the Lower Town was the home of Louis Joliet, an intrepid fur trader and explorer of the Mississippi River.

Place Royale was the business center of Quebec City until 1832. Its name is related to the “king-sun” Louis XIV, whose bust was brought here from Versailles and installed in 1686 (today a copy has replaced it). The bust stands on the spot where in 1608 Champlain founded the settlement: two wooden houses and a storehouse for furs, surrounded by paling and a ditch. Today the square is decorated with elegant houses of XVII-XVIII centuries, masterfully restored. But the most eye-catching of all the buildings framing the square is the church of Notre-Dame-des-Victoires (open daily: mid-May to mid-October, 9.30am to 5pm; mid-February to mid-October, 9am to 5pm). 9.30-17.00, mid Oct. – Mid-May 10.00-16.00) . Built in 1688, it was named in honor of the French victories over the Anglo-Americans prior to 1759.

After centuries of devastating wars, fires, looting and neglect, the painstaking restoration undertaken by the provincial government preserved the cultural heritage of New France, confirming the motto: Je te souviens (I remember) . After 1759 most of the merchants and colonial administrators left Quebec, and many of those who remained moved under the cover of the new British fortifications in the Upper City. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, many buildings were demolished to make way for port warehouses and workshops.

Among the old mansions on rue de Marche-Champlain – Maison Chevalier (open: July-Aug. daily 9.30-17.00, Sept. – Mid-Oct. morning to night 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., mid-Oct. – June Mon-Fri 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sat-Sat 10 a.m.-7 p.m.) The museum was built in 1752 and is now the museum of antique furniture and housewares. The Maison Lambert Dumont (1689) is now a store selling stones and crystals. On the corner of the ruelle du Porche, note the solid roof beams of the Maison Milot (1691) .

Several good antique stores are concentrated around rue Sault-au-Matelot and rue St-Paul in the Port area. The warehouses of the Old Port (Vieux-Port) have been restored and converted into a commercial and public complex. At its center, amidst flowerbeds, waterfalls and fountains, is the Agora, a 6,000-seat amphitheater used for cultural events, especially summer evening concerts.

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Museum of Civilization (Musee de la Civilisation; open: mid-July to early September. 9.30-18.30, mid-Sept. – beginning of June, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.) are exhibits on the themes of language, thought, body and society. Also noteworthy in the Old Port are the craft market and the beautiful sailing ships at anchor.

Beyond the City Wall

From Esplanade Park, drive up the hillside, along the Cote de la Citadelle, through the tunnel, for a guided walk through the once mighty fortress. This star-shaped citadel was built by the French in 1750 to defend against the British. In 1820, the British extended it to defend Quebec against the Americans, but their cannons never had to fire on the enemy. The British garrison remained for 20 years, and then the fortress was taken over by the Canadian forces. Today the elite 22nd Royal Regiment is stationed here.

In summer there are changing of the guard ceremonies (daily from June 24 to the first week in September at 10 a.m.) and the bedtime signal (July-Aug. Fri-Sun 7 p.m.). The 22nd Royal Regiment Museum now occupies the former gunpowder warehouse and exhibits the history of the regiment, including its trophies, weapons and uniforms.

To the east of the Esplanade runs the wide, modern Grand Walk. It passes by the Provincial Parliament (Assemble Nationale), built between 1877 and 1886 in the then fashionable French Renaissance style. Here Quebec struggled for identity with the rest of the Canadian Confederation, especially during the time of the separatist premier René Leveque, founder of the Quebec Party.

On Boulevard St-Cyrille stands the Grand Theatre de Quebec, opened in 1971 as an arts center and home to the Quebec Symphony Orchestra. The Parc des Champs de Bataille, 390 rue de Bernieres, is dedicated to the Battle of Abraham’s Plain (1759), which decided the fate of Québec. The park’s tree-lined paths invite you to take a pleasant walk.

In the center of the park stands the Martello Tower, erected in 1805 as part of the new Quebec fortifications against possible American attack. The monument at the end of rue Wolfe stands on the spot where General Wolfe was mortally wounded; unknown Quebec patriots “answered” this challenge with a statue of Joan of Arc on avenue George VI.

In the southern part of the park is the Quebec Museum of Fine Arts (Musee National des Beaux-Arts de Quebec; open: June-Aug. daily 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Wed. to 9 p.m., Sept.-May. Tues. to Wed. 10 a.m.-5 p.m.) It has a first-rate collection of Quebec painting and sculpture, antique furniture, jewelry, gold and silver church ornaments. The sculpture mostly dates back to the 18th century, but the paintings cover the period from the founding of the colony to the present day. Note the historical sketches by Joseph Lehar, the neoclassical portraits by Antoine Plamondon and Theodore Gamel, and the landscapes by Cornelius Krieghof.

Quebec – a visit to Canada’s beautiful province

The French part of Canada, the Province of Quebec, bears the nickname “La Belle Province” (“The Beautiful Province”). People are justly proud to be Quebecers . They have little interest in the English-speaking part of Canada. They fight for independence, dreaming that their province would secede. On the license plates of Quebec cars you will find the slogan “Je me souviens” (“I will not forget”).

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Quebec - a visit to Canada's beautiful province

Quebec – a visit to Canada’s beautiful province

The writer Eugène Tachet intended in 1883 to prolong the memory of the people of the hardships they faced, the enduring (unspoken) consciousness of the marginalized French-speaking citizens of Quebec, victims of political colonizers and deprived of a national identity . In 1969, French President Charles de Gaulle, visiting the province, shouted the infamous, “Long live Free Quebec!”

Practical Tips

– There are frequent flights to Montreal via Paris with Air France. – Right at the airport, you can buy a three-day pass (ticket) for all public transport in the city. – The local bank charges a fee when you withdraw money from an ATM. You will be informed of its amount directly during the process. – In Canada, prices are given without taxes, which are federal and then charged by each province. This varies from province to province. So when you buy something, you should think that it will cost you 13 or 14 per cent more! This is unusual, but Canadians are used to counting in their heads.

Quebec - a visit to Canada's beautiful province

Practical Tips

Quebec French (accent) is “different,” very strange. It’s as if they started writing the word in French and then twisted the pronunciation to English. Especially if someone speaks very fast, you will have a hard time understanding their French at first, you will have to guess what they are really saying.

Little Paris

The center of Quebec’s largest city, Montreal, is not very big. The most important places and sights can be seen in a day. Montreal’s peculiarity is its ubiquitous outdoor staircases. It’s practical, they don’t take up interior space, so they don’t deprive the apartment of square footage. Another plus is privacy. Even those who live on the upper floors have their own staircase leading to their apartment, they don’t have to step over someone else’s. Notice the buildings. They have a completely different style than we do! The architects tried to build the same as in Europe. But the result was different because local materials were used.

Quebec - a visit to Canada's beautiful province

Little Paris

In Old Montreal, don’t miss visiting one of the most beautiful cathedrals in the world! You walk in and unknowingly say “Wow”. The amazingly decorated interior is like something out of a fairy tale, magical. If you’re lucky, you can enjoy the rich decorations to the sound of a huge organ. It was once the largest church building north of Mexico. In the back, in the Sacré Coeur chapel, wedding ceremonies are held. But if you’re interested, you’ll have to book the ceremony a few years in advance.

Babylon of the World

Overall impression of Montreal? Cool city and smiling inhabitants. There is a nice atmosphere in the place. People take great pleasure in life. They are used to spending almost their entire paycheck on wants. After work, they go out for a drink or to a restaurant. Especially in winter, when it’s cold outside, up to minus thirty, they prefer to go to different cafes and try international cuisine. And there are a lot of them. Montreal, like other big cities, is the Babylon of the world, one of the best cities in the world to live in.

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The Latin Quarter or village is full of diverse and fancy restaurants, cafes, bars, and stores. The area around the Mont Royal metro station is also good.

The Mont Royal park, where you will see many students and joggers, offers an amazing view of the whole city. In winter, you can skate on the St. Lawrence River, needless to say, hockey is Canada’s number one sport. Montreal was the site of the 1976 Olympic Games and the 1977 World’s Fair.

Quebec - a visit to Canada's beautiful province

And because of the great winter, the city has an “underground world” : a system of connecting passageways under the city that runs between subway stations, commercial buildings and various important facilities. People can also shop, shine shoes, or use other services underground.

Quebec City can be reached by express bus from Montreal in about three hours. The provincial capital of Old Quebec City and its old part have a very romantic “open-air museum” feel. The historic part of the city is surrounded by walls and is a UN World Heritage Site. Museum of Civilization and Maple Syrup

Be sure to check out the local Museum of Civilization and see the great exhibit on the history of Quebec and the first peoples of Canada. By the time European explorers arrived in the country, the Mohawk people dominated the area around the St. Lawrence River from Ontario to Quebec City. The Montagnards (mountain people) settled in and around Quebec City, the Crusaders lived farther north, and even farther north were the Eskimo, Naskapi and Inuit tribes of Labrador (who today make up about one percent of the population). Did you know that the name “Canada&ldquo originally came from the lexicon of the Canadian Indians?

Quebec - a visit to Canada's beautiful province

The Chateau Frontenac, built in 1893 by the Canadian Pacific Railway as the grandest of all the company’s luxury hotels in Canada, towers over the city. And in front of the hotel (it’s actually a castle) is Dufferin Terrace, a favorite meeting place for Quebecers. If you want to know something of the city’s dark history, you can book a non-traditional tour of the city, such as the tour “Drunkenness and Prostitution”.

And if you get hungry, be sure to try Quebec’s main specialty, poutine – French fries with fresh cheese in barbecue sauce. The best of them are made in the Chez Ashton chain of restaurants. Quebec also accounts for three-quarters of the world’s maple syrup production. Canadian Indians taught Europeans how to make sweet syrup from maple sap. There are legends associated with its production.

And the last interesting fact . Since leases in Canada always last exactly one year and end in June-July, many people celebrate National Canada Day (July 1) by moving in. The streets are filled with trucks and garage sales.

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