May 18th - Quebec City


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May 18th 2018
Published: July 23rd 2018
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Sadly, our QC hotel does not include breakfast as our hotel in Montreal did. That forced us to forage down the street cafes, for edibles. I managed to get by each day with coffee and a chocolate croissant. As you can see, I suffered miserably.

Our guide was Marie, a retired teacher. She said that 96% of the population speaks French as the mother tongue, 1.6% claim English as their mother tongue (though nearly everyone is at least bi-lingual), with the rest divided among other languages. The French/English "social divide" seems pronounced in QC than it was in Montreal; though much of what we saw in our few days in Quebec was good-natured ribbing between Francophones and Anglophones, it seems likely that the teasing may also disguise a deeper chasm.

Here are some highlights of Marie's tour:

One of the largest families descended from one name from the 1650s - Trombley/Tromblay/Tromble. This couple had 10 children, only 4 of them sons. In counting up descendants, only the males count (of course!); there are supposedly over 80,000 in Canada, and more than 180,000 in North America. When the original Tremblay patriarch died, he had 181 great-grandchildren!

Quebec is the only North American walled city north of Mexico; though the wall was built in the early 15th century, provincially-employed masons continue to repair the wall. It takes 30 years to get around the entire wall, and then they start again! This photo shows a section of the wall that may have housed fortifications and ammunition, but also has gates for both vehicles and pedestrians. It's also an example of the work that continues on the wall in current times.

Quebec City has 410 years of history, and the oldest European architecture in North America. Marie pointed out that the dormer windows on the upper floors open IN, and that they use small panes because the glass was so likely to break during the ship transport from Europe. To try to prevent breakage, they layered the glass in barrels of molasses to protect the panes.

Champlain lived in Quebec City, but his wife lived in Paris. He crossed the Atlantic 29 times to spend time with her. On his travel to the West Indies, he saw how the native people there were so mistreated, and determined that the natives in New France would be accepted into daily functions in the city. This is thought to be the foundation for Quebec's open-minded acceptance of all.

Street performers must have a license for which they audition. Once granted a license, they can perform on the streets and keep any donations, but they must move to another sanctioned location every 2 hours to keep the performing fresh.

King Louis XIV realized that his settlement in New France needed to increase in population. Between military ships and men thirsting for adventure and fortune in the new world, nearly all the French emigrants were men. Louis XIV came up with "The King's Daughters," a plan by which he would entice young women (ages 12-25) to emigrate to New France. Though there WERE women in the New World, an additional advantage (to the Church, anyway!) was that providing eligible French women would help to encourage the men to marry young Catholic girls instead of the uncivilized natives. The girls had to be of high moral standing (sometimes requiring a letter from their Priest to qualify) and physically strong enough to withstand the rigors of life in the new city. Since the young women most likely to be successful (i.e. rural peasants!) could not afford passage, the king "sponsored" their passage and provided each with a trousseau and dowry. About 800 came in the mid-1600s and married soldiers and farmers who had emigrated earlier. This was advantageous for the men also...besides having a life partner, it relieved them of the extra taxes Louis XIV levied on single men, and allowed them to apply for the limited number of fur licenses, which were provided first to married men. These couples are the forebears of many French Canadians today.

As we walked around the city, we saw several churches that were beautiful, and Marie told us of their history as well. We passed innumerable OLD buildings, and some exposed foundations discovered during some digs. These foundations were likely to be small houses and shops in this small business district. In the same area, you can see some buildings with very steep roofs to try to reduce the snow load in the winter. Regardless, most roofs need to be shoveled 2-3 times a year. If you click on the photo, you can zoom in to see the ladder on one roof and the metal rungs on the other.

In the same area, there is a HUGE mural (Fresque des Quebecois) painted in 1999 as part of a city celebration. I don't really know the size of it, but I'd guess it's about 4-5 stories high and nearly as wide. It portrays historical figures all the way through 1999. It is very detailed, and it is said that if a person stands in front of it and you take their picture, they actually seem to merge into the painting. The entire mural is on a flat wall, though it really looks like it's painted on a building with two tall protruding "arms." When they thought it was complete, they asked for public input, and one of the kids noted the absence of any children, which is when the hockey players were added. It is extraordinarily detailed. Looking at the top, they even painted another building seeming to be farther away. Truly magnificent! And it only took 3 months to paint!

The mural is close to Royal Square, where Samuel de Champlain landed and built his first house. In the 1700s this area was still a port but also contained a market and small shops. In the center of the square is a statue of Louis XVI.

From here we went to Hotel Frontenac for a lovely lunch. Because we were in the lower town, we took a funicular up to the terrace below the hotel. The hotel is beautiful and stately, with over 600 guest rooms and a fantastic view of the river. We lunched at Sam's Bistro, then took a stroll on the boardwalk that fronts on the river. In the winter they have a toboggan chute that they say reaches 55 miles per hour! Along the boardwalk are plexiglass domes that peek down into some archeological sites. Tres interassant!

After lunch we split up and I spent time wandering the shops along Petit Champlain. I discovered another tall mural, but this one was behind a construction fence so I couldn't get a good look at it. There were many interesting shop fronts, including a restaurant with a pig looking in the window!

We met up with friends for drinks and dinner at Tournebroche then it was off to bed, to prepare for another chocolate croissant in the morning!


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