THE CITY OF
THE MISGUIDED TOUR
part XII … THE ESCALIER LEPINE and the BUS HOME
My first real visit to Quebec was on my way back from Labrador in November 2010 in a miserable, dreary, grey and depressing morning and teeming down with rain.
So despite the best efforts of the weather, I haven't come all this way to be disappointed and so I hunted around for a likely parking space where I could at least see something of the old part of the city, even if it was for only half an hour.
This is where I ended up. There were a couple of empty parking places just here. But you can understand why Québec is said to be the most European of North American cities - this photo could be anywhere in North-East France or the industrial belt of Belgium.
And where I was fits quite nicely in with our walking tour around Quebec though because it's just up the road from the Bassin Louise and it does take us back neatly to our bus stop.
You'll just have to excuse the miserable, grey photos.
I am sure that you are all dying to know what the view is like just behind me, aren't you? Well, here you are- this is it. It really is quite a contrast. But it does make me wonder exactly how this little square used to be in the 1950s before all of the demolition and the construction of these two grotesque motorway flyovers.
I didn't make a note of the name of the street where I was parked. I either forgot or, more likely, I was probably being intimidated by a howling gust of wind or something like that at the time.
Anyway, despite not knowing where I was, something that has never ever really bothered me, I did manage to find not 100 yards away from where I was parked the Escalier Lépine, or Lepine Staircase, and this took me up onto Cap Diamant, the rock upon which the old part of Québec is built.
From the top of the staircase, my first impression of Vieille Québec is something of a disappointment. I have to say that I was expecting to see something much more than salubrious surroundings such as this.
Mind you, how disappointed I am likely to be if I were to come back here 5 years hence and find yet another concrete-and-glass monstrosity built on this site is another matter completely. Despite the somewhat delapidated look of those old brick buildings, I have yet to see any modern architect conjure up anything that could match this kind of place for charm.
As is the custom, I have to take a photo back over my shoulder to show you the view in the reverse angle to the foot of the Escalier Lépine, and if you peer through the raindrops on the lens of the camera you will see exactly what I mean about disappointing modern architecture.
Back down there in what used to be the old residential quarter of the city 150 years ago, there is nothing of any note. And while the planners have incorporated plenty of green open spaces in their design, it's the barren featureless kind of green stuff that you might find on any British council estate of the 1950s and 1960s which soon becomes tired and jaded, making the place look even worse.
I walked as far as the Avenue Dufferin to see what I could see, and as luck would have it I stumbled across an attractive period-style kind of building.
I've no idea what it might be and much as I was tempted to go over there and take a look, you'll see by close inspection of the roadway that the rain is such that there is a veritable river flowing right down the street. It really was a most unpleasant morning.
What was also unpleasant, from my point of view at least, was that this attractive building was hemmed in by some more-modern glass and concrete monstrosities. I cannot believe that anyone could look at that building behind and to the right and say that it has any kind of aesthetic attraction.
To me, it seems to be influenced by the Albert Speer School of Berlin Fortification from the period 1943-44. It bears a very close affinity to the flak towers that were built in many German cities round about that time and I can picture quite easily half-a-dozen 105mm anti-aircraft guns and a gunnery radar sitting on the roof.
But let's forget the miserable weather of November 2010 for a moment. If you are here with me on the walking tour in the lovely and sunny Sunday evening in April 2012, the Avenue Dufferin is where we need to be because our bus stop is just up the hill to the right, on the left-hand side of the road.
And back at the bus stop in the biting wind, it seems that the London Bus Phenomenon is not confined exclusively to London but is in fact quite universal. You wait around for a bus for ages and ages, and then three turn up at once. That was the case with the 800 this evening.
Even worse, we arrived back at the interchange point where I found that I'd missed the 53 by 10 minutes. That means another 80 minutes to wait for the next one. Luckily there was a place down the road where I could buy a coffee while I was waiting - much better than standing outside in the biting wind.
This also meant that it was quite late by the time I arrived back at the motel where I'd left the Dodge. It was far too late to wander off to look for a place to doss down for the night and so I resolved to stay another night here.
Copulatum expensium, as we Pompeiians say but I wasn't bothered. I'd finally caught up with Québec City and it had been well-worth the money.