THE CITY OF
THE MISGUIDED TOUR
part II … THE CITADEL AND THE ST LAWRENCE
As I said on the previous page, we'll be finding out round about now why the Côte du Citadelle is so named.
But never mind that for a moment. Once you pass the Porte St Louis you are facing what these days is known as the National Battlefields Park, the site of the battle of 1759 that we visited yesterday .
This mixture of the old and the new is in the Grand Allée, a road down which I've often driven when I've come into the city from the battlefield. The building there in the "traditional" style is the Military Stables I reckon, if I have my bearings.
Yes, if I have my bearings. I know that I've lost all my marbles.
Did you notice the tall modern building away in the background in the previous photo? There's a lift at this building, as you might expect, but I say "at" rather than "in" because you can see that it's actually on the outside.
That must be something quite novel and I wouldn't mind going for a ride up in that. The view from the top must be spectacular - the kind of place where you would expect there to be a pretty decent café at least. I wonder how much an apartment would cost on the top floor of that building.
But talking about having things on the outside when they are usually on the inside reminds me about the old joke that went something along the lines of
"what's the difference between a cactus and a police car?"
If you don't know the answer to that, to find out.
And returning once more to the Battlefield, these are the famous Plains of Abraham upon which the battle for Québec was fought. And a big thank-you to Mr Lincoln for loaning them to the city for the battle while he went off to stay at his Gettysburg address.
To the far left of the photo we have the St Lawrence River as you can see. We've now worked ourselves round to the south-western corner of the defences.
It's here at this corner of the walls that we encounter the citadel. At the head of the Côte du Citadelle, as it happens.
Many people consider the citadel to be the keystone of the defences but nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, it's more of a case of the citadel being built at the keystone of the defences because it was not actually built until long after the fall of the city to the British. Construction of the citadel did not begin until 1820 and the work was completed in 1832.
Prior to the citadel, there was a redoubt here that dated back to 1693, although Champlain had in 1615 proposed some kind of fortress round about this spot to control movement in and out of the city and its hinterland.
100 years after Champlain's proposal, a French engineer by the name of Chaussegros de Léry drew up plans for a fortress here to improve the defences of the city but apart from a tentative design submitted in 1720, no further action was taken at the time.
It was not until some 100 years after that that the plans submitted by Lieutenant-Colonel Elias Durnford were approved. These were based, somewhat loosely, on the style of Vauban, the great French engineer who constructed fortified sites all over North-Eastern France in the late 17th and early 18th Century.
The principle of Vauban's design is that the fortifications are star-shaped with a kind-of arrowhead at the peak of each of the points of the star. Built in a design such as this, there is no part of the walls of the fortification that is not covered by defensive fire from two different directions.
You can see in this photograph
taken from the city walls of Berwick-on-Tweed on the Anglo-Scottish border how effective this sytem of arrow-head fortifications might be, even if James Fenimore Cooper was to bewail the fact that
"the beauty and manliness of warfare has been much deformed ... by the arts of M Vauban",
a statement which goes to show, if it shows anything, that Fenimore Cooper never stood face-to-face with an enemy at a battle such as Towton, Borodino or Dettingen.
Magnificent as these fortifications might be, they aren't a patch on anything that Vauban ever designed, and certainly nothing like what I consider to be Vauban's classic work - the city of Rocroi in France on the Belgian border. And don't forget that the citadel here at Québec was never actually put to the test.
Still, it's nice to see the fortifications and walls so well-preserved and for that we have to thank Lord Dufferin, Governor-General of Canada in the 1870s. We'll talk about him in a bit, but it's safe to say that Québec, the only walled city in the Americas north of Mexico City, would not be a patch on what it is today had it not been for him, and there would certainly be no walls here.
By the way, you might be thinking that the view of the citadel is pretty miserable from up here and that none of the photos so far give you a decent impression of its site and situation, never mind the magnificence of its construction.
But never fear. If you would care to come out with me into the middle of the St Lawrence later this afternoon there's a view from there right up to the citadel where you can see it all all its glory and I promise you that you will not be disappointed.
At the back of the citadel where I'm standing right now is probably the highest part of Cap Diamant and the views up and down the St Lawrence from here are easily the most spectacular that anyone could imagine.
Over there is the town of Lévis - pronounced Layvee and not Levi's or whatever - and that's the ferry that links the town with the city of Québec. I might go for a wander across there a little later on if I have the time.
In fact, I may well make the time to go for a wander over there. My attention has been caught by those two magnificent buildings up there on the cliffs above the ferry terminal and they certainly look worthy of further investigation.
This photograph incidentally shows the benefit of spending some money buying a decent high-quality lens for the Nikon. You can quite happily crop bits out of images and enlarge them, and the subsequent loss of quality isn't anything that you need worry about.
When I was here back in September 2011 I noticed a "Euronav" oil tanker, the Cap Georges tied up at the terminal over there.
There's a much better view of the docks from over here, and you will note the pipeline leading away from the terminal and the oil storage tanks in the background. That's very probably why the Cap Georges was here - bringing in a load of oil from North Africa.
Right in the background you can see the Appalacian Hills - that's where I'll be in a few weeks time if everything goes according to plan.
Here on the north bank of the river looking upstream you can make out in the background the Pont de Québec and along the shore of the river is the road that I usually take to bring me into the city and where I stopped to have lunch yesterday.
There are a couple of ships in this photo, one tied up at the quayside and the other out there in the river. They are unfortunately too far away for me to be able to make out their names, but I reckon that their colours is the livery of the Canadian Steamship Lines.
Looking out eastwards downriver, we have in the background the Bouclier Canadien, the Canadian Shield, where I'll be in a few days time, and in the centre of the image the bridge across to the Ile d'Orleans, over which we drove (and walked) yesterday afternoon
We also have the most impressive sight of a monster ship being shepherded into the harbour by a couple of dockyard tugs.
Using a bit of the old "crop - enlarge - sharpen" technique, I manage to sort out a much better view of the aforementioned ship. Not so much though that I could identlfy it from this kind of range. I didn't bring the big zoom lens with me, which was probaby a mistake, and I didn't have the binoculars either. I really need to organise myself so much more.
Not to be outdone however, later this afternoon would find me out on the river where I had a good view of this ship and I could clearly identify her. She is none other than the 12-month-old Cape Celtic, flying the flag of Panama and on her way into port from Flensburg in Denmark. A bulk carrier by trade or profession, she has an impressive gross tonnage of 89,500 and a deadweight of an even more astonishing 177,500 tonnes, which must place her amongst the largest ships that I have ever seen. I was certainly impressed by that.
It certainly says something for the St Lawrence that a monster ship such as this could sail comfortably up the river, but no wonder she needs the tugs to help her into port.
But from up here at the back of the citadel, there's no doubt that this is probably the best viewpoint of the whole city, even if this is one of the most savage winds that I have ever encountered. I always carry a dictaphone with me to record my thoughts, such as they are, and when I played it back later I could hardly hear what I was saying over the noise of the wind.
But whether it was the wind or what, I really do not know, but it was while I was up here that I suddenly found that I had cheered myself up. Not that I was feeling depressed or anything, but it really was a most extraordinary feeling. Flushed with pride and full of enthusiasm, you might say. It did make me wonder what crisis was waiting for me now.
Down below us you can see the Dufferin Terrace, which is the focal point of the fortifications. To reach it you need to walk along what is called the Governor's Terrace beneath the city walls (and luckily out of the wind because it really was wicked up there on the top) and down this magnificent stairway.
There's also a view over the lower town and the old port, with one of the ferries to Lévis moored at the terminal.
What made this part of the walk even better was that out of the wind the weather really was gorgeous. It was warm and sunny and with the heat radiating and reflecting off the stone wall of the citadel behind me onto my back, that really did make all the difference.
It was down here that I encountered a young French couple from Lille and we had quite a chat. We discussed this and that aboiut the Province and I told them about Highway 138 and the Charlevoix - a region not to be missed at any price. as it happened, they had indeed heard of it and that was their ultimate destination, and who can blame them?
One thing that I had been noticing around here is that almost everyone in Canada these days has Nikon cameras - even that couple that I was just talking to. I've seen very few Canons.
While I was standing at the viewpoint halfway down the stairs chatting to this French couple, the ferry that was at the terminal just here set off to cross the river, and it met its brother in midstream. This had to be worth a photograph and much to my surprise it didn't turn out quite badly.
I notice that the ferries gave each other quite a wide berth. I suppose that they come from a family such as mine where my siblings give me such a wide berth that more than 20 years and a thousand or so miles separate us from each other.
Anyway, you haven't come to these pages to hear me prattle on about events of no particular importance to anyone. You are here for the guided tour of Québec, and for this you need to go to the next page, the link for which is below.