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pont de quebec Pont Pierre Laporte vieux cap rouge canada avril april 2012

Continuing along the rue St Felix and musing over my plan of attack for the Québec suburbs, I happened to come across a spot a the side of the road from where there was another stunning view of the bridges over the St Lawrence just outside Québec.

I'm much closer than 20-odd miles away and so the photo comes out so much better than that of earlier this morning but then again, it's so much less of a technical challenge than it was at that range.

In 2011 I had vaguely followed the Rue St Félix, what I thought might have been the Chemin du Roy, as I drew inexorably closer and closer to Québec. And cresting the brow of yet another hill, I once more come to a stop.

Pont Pierre Laporte pont quebec vieux cap rouge canada september septembre 2011

Yes, there's another view in the distance of the bridges across the St Lawrence, and these are worth a photo. What we have in the foreground is the modern Pont Pierre Laporte, which at 668 metres is Canada's longest suspension brige, and in the background is of course the historic Pont de Québec. It was issues like the leaves blocking the view that prompted me to come back in the Spring of 2012.

I'm surprised I wsn't arrested taking this photo though. It took me 10 minutes of hunting around before I could find a really good spec. The best place I could find was in a school yard - and I wasn't with Julio either, for the benefit of Simon and Garfunkel fans.

And I wouldn't particularly have minded either because these bridges across the St Lawrence are magnificent and they are well worth reproducing. And I'm going to see if I can do even better than this as well.

railway trestle bridge Tracel de Cap Rouge vieux cap rouge canada september septembre 2011

But never mind that for a moment, look what I have found right down there in the valley. I shall be going to have a closer look at that - isn't it magnificent?

But it's worth just pausing here to see what I mean about the difficulties that there are with photography in North America. You can see the Dodge stuck on the verge close to a bend and on a single yellow centre line. This is because lay-bys at the side of the road are for all intents and purposes totally unknown.

I was keeping a count of lay-bys on the 2011 journey and to date I reckon that I'm at two. Contrast that with Europe where every few miles there's a place to pull in and park up for a short while if you want a rest.

railway trestle bridge Tracel de Cap Rouge plage st laurent vieux cap rouge canada avril april 2012

Turning the clock forward to 2012 (if you want to know on which particular journey the photos were taken and you can't work it out from the trees, look in the top left-hand corner of the full-size image) I had a drive around looking for a much better view of the layout of the land at the bottom of the valley.

No leaves in the way, of course, blocking the shot this time. I'm here at the end of a private road, which is the Plage St Laurent if I remember correctly.There's a much better view.

charlesbourg royale st laurent riviere cap rouge canada avril april 2012

The river that flows down the valley here is the Riviere de Cap-Rouge and you can see, if you peer through the piers of the railway viaduct, that we are right at the confluence of the St Lawrence River, and this is the key to the site here.

It was originally the site of an Iroquois settlement, but it was occupied by Cartier and became the site of the earliest permanent French settlement in what was to become Nouvelle France, even if that was something of an ephemeral exercise.

To set the scene, Cartier's 3rd expedition to North America was actually under the command of one Jean-Francois de la Rocque de Roberval and Cartier was merely the second-in-command. However Roberval's preparations took so long that he was nowhere near ready to sail by the appointed date so KIng Francois I of France ordered Cartier to depart with what he had.

On April 15th (or 23rd May, depending upon which account you read) 1541 therefore, Cartier and his 5 ships and 300 (or 1500, as I have also seen written) or so colonists and supplies for 2 years, and not forgetting to mention the healthy arsenal of weapons, set sail into the Atlantic, confident in the knowledge that Roberval would follow "in due course".

By all accounts the voyage was a nightmare and they ran out of drinking water during the voyage. It was not until 23rd August 1541 that they arrived.

Because of its sheltered position in a valley between two rather large headlands, Cartier set up his colony here and named it Charlesbourg Royal. However, it didn't last very long. Scurvy was not understood at the time, and over the winter Cartier "lost" 35 men. All of his animals had gone too and there was what was described as "a deterioration of relations with the natives".

Consequently, in the Spring of 1542 with still no sign of Roberval, Cartier pulled up sticks and he, and the remainder of his party set off back for home.

Roberval had in fact left La Rochelle on April 16th and he and Cartier met upl at St John's in Newfoundland on June 8th. Despite the earnest entreaties of Roberval, Cartier was adamant about returning, and abandoned the expedition.

Roberval continued on his way to Charlesbourg Royal with his 200 or so people. He lost a third of his colonists to scurvy and, would you believe, hangings. Michel Gaillon was the first to go, being hanged for theft and so he holds the rather dubious record of being the first person to be the victim of a judicial hanging in Canada.

Others followed him too, their crime being mainly insubordination. However the oldest official Canadian document is one dated 19th September 1542 that pardons one Aussillion de Sauverterre, who had been sentenced to hang for murder.

With all of this going on, it's hardly surprising that the colony didn't keep going. On June 6th 1543 the survivors were repatriated by the French Government. France was at war with Spain and England at the time and so could not guarantee maintaining contact with the nascent colony and keeping it fully-supplied.

Some time during the first quarter of the 17th Century the land passed into the hands of the Compagnie de Cent Associes, whose interest appeard to be more in the fur trade rather than in settlement.

It was acquired by a certain Jacques Archambault on 15th September 1651 and although he only had possession for 6 years, he is said to be the father of all the Archambaults in North America. No wonder he couldn't find the time to devote to the upkeep of his land. Clearly there was nothing else to do in the long winter nights before ice hockey and television.

Over the passage of time, the area was a favourite haunt of fishermen but in the 19th Century it became an embarcation point for timber being sent to the UK.

coastal path shoreline st lawrence cap rouge quebec canada august september october 2013

In 2012 I was diverted from my task of tracing the route of the Chemin du Roy by going off for a closer look at the Tracel de Cap Rouge. Fast-forwarding the clock to the late afternoon on day in September 2013 I'm back here again to continue my little wander around.

The logical place for the Chemin du Roy to run would be to continue along the shoreline at the foot of the cliff, but I've no idea how practical that might have been back in 1734.

pont pierre laporte quebec canada august september october 2013

One thing that can be said about this path is that it gives me probably the best view that I have had of the Pont Pierre-Laporte. That's not the magnificent cantilever bridge that we can clearly see - that's the Pont de Quebec - but that's the modern suspension bridge in front of it.

Had it not been for its illustrious neighbour, the Pont Pierre-Laporte would have merited a page all to itself because it is the longest suspension bridge in Canada - all 668 metres of it.

coastal path shoreline st lawrence cap rouge quebec canada august september october 2013

And the road continues on and on and on, and as my 30 minutes of free parking comes to an end (such are the disadvantages of being at a place like this in the tourist season), I need to retrace my steps to the car park where I have left the Dodge.

But I'll have to come back because this path here looks quite significant and in the absence of any alternative, this would be a likely candidate for a former trace of the Chemin du Roy

decorated house coastal path shoreline st lawrence cap rouge quebec canada august september october 2013

Now what can you say about this house? Clearly someone who has plenty of time on his hands. Perhaps he doesn't have a television and isn't a follower of ice-hockey, and you need something to do when you are holed up at home in a long Quebecois winter.

But chapeau to him anyway for doing this because in many places the local Authorities would frown quite heavily upon someone decorating his house like this. In the Western World in the 21st Century, we aren't supposed to be "different".

And I don't believe it!

As I'm walking back to the car, I hear the horn of a diesel locomotive. That can only mean that there's a train approaching the viaduct and I'm not there to see it.

I can move quite quickly when I need to, but not quickly enough, unfortunately, because it beats me hands-down and is gone by the time that I make it back. GRRRRRR!

railway trestle bridge Tracel de Cap Rouge vieux cap rouge canada avril april 2012

Back at the viaduct, minus the train of course, I have a good look at the headland right over there. The view from the top of that must be quite spectacular and I would quite happily give a quid to find a way up there for a look around.

Where there's a will there are relatives, so the old saying goes, but there is also a way. It was quite something of a drive, and even when I did find the correct road and drive right along to the end, I still had something of a hike through the shrubbery and undergrowth to find the best view.

railway trestle bridge Tracel de Cap Rouge st lawrence laurent vieux cap rouge canada avril april 2012

Do you remember the photograph that I took in 2011 of the two bridges over the St Lawrence River - the one from the school yard that is one of the very first on this page?

If you look very closely at this photo just here, just to the right of centre on the skyline you will see a modern red-brick building. That is the school to which the aforementioned school yard belongs. And this photo just goes to prove my point about coming here in early spring when there are no leaves on the trees.

railway trestle bridge Tracel de Cap Rouge st lawrence plage st laurent vieux cap rouge riviere canada avril april 2012

You will also remember the photo that I took of the Tracel du Cap Rouge from down on that private road that might have been the Plage St Laurent. That's what you can see down there. I was somewhere round about where the white house is.

The view of the confluence of the Cap Rouge River and the St Lawrence was also well-worth the effort of finding my way up here. I must admit that I'm quite lucky with the weather too. I'm glad it wasn't like yesterday morning when I was at Repentigny .

Walking down alongside the railway line to the headland back there, I had noticed several piles of rubble, stones and bricks as if there had at one time been some important buildings there. Nevertheless, I didn't pay very much attention to them at the time.

It wasn't until later that I discovered that this headland had been the site of Ravenscliff, the famous mansion of George Moore Fairchild, author and patron of the arts. The property, known previously by a couple of other names, had always been the centre of some of the upper-crust social life but under the ownership of Fairchild, who had made his fortune in finance, all kinds of literary and artistic people came to stay at the property.

All that came to an end however in 1905 when the land was purchased for railway purposes. The embankment that leads up to the viaduct has been built squarely over the site of the house. The ruins that I had seen were formerly the stables and the track that I had been following may well have been the remains of the path that led down to the back of the house.

railway line trestle bridge Tracel de Cap Rouge vieux cap rouge canada avril april 2012

I stumble across - well, almost into - a depression in the ground and so, peering through the trees - wasn't it a good idea to come here in the early spring before all of the leaves grew on the trees - you can see the railway line in the distance heading off towards the viaduct.

You'll also notice that the depression seems to widen out just a little further along there, and so that gave me a clue as to what this is all about. I don't know the technical term for it but it's what is commonly known as a Y siding. A train will pull into here from one direction via one branch of the Y, reverse back out to the main line down the other branch, and then head off back in the direction from whence it came.

It's how you would turn a locomotive round when you have no turntable handy.

One thing that I didn't find up here, even though I spent some time looking, was the remains (if that is the correct word to use) of the Protestant cemetery that was up here. Back in the old days, the Catholic Church had such a tight grip on life around here that it refused to authorise the burial of Protestants in the regulated cemeteries and so these had to be buried elsewhere.

The cemetery has long-since closed but I was told that there are still several fragments of the gravestones littering the trees. I'm not quite sure why anyone would want to shatter the gravestones - it seems to be a rather irreverent gesture to me - but all I can hope for is that they have disinterred the human remains and buried them with dignity elsewhere, even if they couldn't make the same dignified gesture for their identification.

When I was in Windsor, Ontario in September 2010, sorting out Liz's daughter, I had my first encounter with black squirrels . Being a European, I'd never seen any of them before. I'd been wondering about their colouring, and up here is one of these signboards talking about squirrels, that states that the black squirrels are of the same family as grey squirrels but their colour is caused by a mutation of the melanoma - the parts of the body cells that produce melanin, the dark pigment in certain skins.

Red squirrels are a completely different species, so it seems.

So now having done all of this, my next challenge will be to try to find my way back to the Dodge. While I'm doing that, though, I'll tell you some more about the Tracel de Cap Rouge

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