THE CITY OF
THE MISGUIDED TOUR
part III … DUFFERIN TERRACE
Bounding down the stairs from the Governor's Terrace, I finally make it to the boardwalk that is Dufferin Terrace. If you ignore the absence of the sea for a moment, you'll find that it's just like the boardwalk in Atlantic City (or, at least, the Atlantic City boardwark prior to the storm of Autumn 2012) in that this is the social centre of the city. Everyone who is anyone comes here to see and be seen, as you can see in the photograph.
One thing about coming into Québec on the buses is that you don't have issues trying to find a parking place, like I did yesterday when I was here
. I can make a decent exploration of this part of the city at my leisure.
Looking back up the ramp down which I've just walked, you can see at the top of the photo one of the Martello Towers that form part of the fortifications of the city. They were built between the period 1808-1812 as the pressure of the Napoleonic Wars in Europe started to overflow onto the North American continent.
There were originally four of them but one of the towers was demolished not all that long ago.
Turning around to face the other way we have a view of the iconic Château Frontenac. It's this building that dominates the skyline of Québec and the building that everyone sees in the backs of their minds whenever anyone else talks about the city.
We talked about the controversial Louis de Buade, Comte de Frontenac a couple of days ago and although it is his name that is attached to the building, that is his only connection with it because the building is of comparatively recent date, being built in the final years of the 19th Century.
The building that was originally on this site was called the Château Haldimand, built in 1786 as the residence of Frederick Haldimand, the Governor-General and in later years had become the home of several Government offices. When the Government offices were all relocated in the new Parliament Building that we visited earlier this morning, the building became vacant.
Lord Dufferin, the Governor-General in the 1870s and 1880s and to whom the city owes so much, reckoned that some kind of iconic or symbolic building should occupy the site, and he found a ready and willing partner in the Canadian Pacific Railway. The architect Eugène Etienne Taché, who we also met at the new Parliament Building, drew up some plans for the site but these were greatly improved by the American architect Bruce Price, and it was his horseshoe-shaped building that soared above the city, copper roofs and all.
It is in fact a hotel, not that you or I could ever afford to stay there, and having been enlarged on several occasions (and you have to look long and hard to notice the joins) now offers 610 rooms, 24 suites and 20 meeting rooms. Talking of meeting rooms by the way, Winston Churchill met Roosevelt here on a couple of occasions during World War II.
As a brief aside, the other side of the Château was formerly the site of the Château St Louis, long-since disappeared, and several stones from that château, including one displaying some carvings and dated 1647, were incorporated into the Château Frontenac.
I noticed these houses yesterday when I came up here in the Dodge, and they look extremely attractive too. Not only that, the view that they have over the downstream St Lawrence, the view that you saw in one of the photos a few minutes ago, is quite spectacular.
In the background we have an even better view of the Martello Tower that is there in the corner of the citadel. A couple of decent pieces of artillery on the roof of that and nothing could sail up the river towards Montreal.
There's absolutely no doubt that just like Halifax in 2010 I'm being really lucky with the weather for my Sunday walk. It's not like me at all.
To the right of those houses you might have noticed a set of steps. These lead up to a little park, the Jardin des Gouverneurs. This park was laid out in the mid-17th century "for the pleasure of the Governor-General". That's an enigmatic statement if ever I heard one. Whatever he did to take his pleasure would doubtless have brought pleasure to all of the local residents who would surely have filled the windows of the surrounding houses whenever he put his foot in the park.
This would be a nice place to come and sit and eat your butty at lunchtime, with all of the trees and the beautiful houses and the Château all around, not to mention the magnificent view over the river, but I have a great deal to do before I can even think about eating.
The white obelisk here has the name of General Wolfe inscribed thereupon, and I suppose the reason that it hasn't been blasted into oblivion by the Separatists is that it has the name of Montcalm inscribed upon the other side. Not that that has ever stopped a good terrorist before though - there have been numerous instances of terrorists chucking out the baby with the bath water.
It was erected in 1827 to pay homage to the "courage that each man displayed that brought his opponent to death" and which was said at the time to have been the decisive act in creating the unified country of Canada (the Confederation of 1867 notwithstanding, of course) and for that reason alone I'm surprised that the local terrorists haven't put enough explosive around it to send it back to London (UK, not Ontario) piece by piece in the first prevailing westerly wind. It makes me wonder what we pay these people for.
There's also a little notice with a mention to the Lépine amnesty. Knowing nothing about that, I went off to make a few enquiries and to my surprise I found that it once more concerns our old friend Louis Riel, who we met the other day in Lavaltrie. .
To cut a long story short - "for which we are all grateful" ...ed - Ambroise-Dydime Lépine was one of the right-hand men of Louis Riel during the events up on the Red River in early 1870, during which period a few atrocities were committed, in at least one of which (the "execution" of Thomas Scott) Lépine was deeply involved.
At the end of the Red River Rebellion Lépine was amongst those who fled across the border but by 1873, feeling homesick, he returned to face justice.
The Red River Rebellion was still a hot potato in the hands of the Government at that date and no doubt the powers-that-be must have wished that he would remain in North Dakota rather than stand trial in the politically-charged atmosphere. Nevertheless, return he did, and he was immediately arrested, but bailed at the sum of $8,000.
Failing to take the clearest of hints that the bail had implied, he went to trial and was, not unnaturally, sentenced to death by hanging. Once the political uproar had died down, this sentence was reduced to 2 years imprisonment and a short while later he was offered amnesty if he agreed to leave Canada. This he refused, and served out his sentence.
I did stop by the obelisk later in the day (it was still there), not to eat my butty though but to come to sit in the sun and relax for 15 minutes, seeing as how the weather continued to warm up throughout the day. There is only one thing nicer than finding a place to sit in the sun and relax and that is to find a place to sit and relax in the sun right next to an ice-cream parlour that sells a million varieties of sorbets.
And who do I encounter while I'm sitting here eating my sorbet but my oriental friend from earlier in the day . It really is a small world, isn't it?
The other side of the Château Frontenac is the Place d'Armes. It was on the edge of this square that the original fortress of Québec, the Fort St Louis, was situated, and the square was the parade ground for the fort. When the citadel was built, the military abandoned the square and the city took it over to convert into a public open space.
I went for a good wander around there later on in the afternoon and so you can join in the tour at the appropriate moment .
Meanwhile, back here on the boardwalk, I can understand them dumping a cage around a set of works on the deck, after all, crazy Health and Safety rules have started to arrive over here. Dumping a set of pallets right up against a statue however - that's just gratuitous and unaesthetic. It made me wonder if it is a statue of General Wolfe and we were preparing for a "burning in effigy" after the 5th September 2012.
Much to my surprise however, it turns out to be a statue of Samuel Champlain, erected in 1898 "in homage to the Father of Nouvelle France". Well, well, well!
As the ground slopes quite steeply here, there's a set of stairs, the Casse-cou or "Breakneck" stairs that take you down to the next level below and eventually all the way down to the old port.
Before I set off though, there's a beautiful view of this magnificent building which is in fact the Québec Seminary. That has to be well-worth a closer look and I mustn't miss the chance to see it.