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Quebec City's Historical Treasures
History is fascinating when one is surrounded by it. In Quebec, a city steeped in the past, it's impossible not to spend at least one day immersed in built, natural and visual historical treasures. Heritage gems can be found in many disguises. Standing in J.A.Moisan at 699 rue Saint-Jean, surrounded by cheeses, pates and breads, it struck me that this store, the oldest grocery in Quebec City, qualified as a rare treasure. We'd already visited two others, the Epicerie europeenme and Epicerie J.P. Langlois on the same street in our search for the perfect picnic lunch to enjoy in Battlefield Park. Should we buy the fresh goat cheese, raw milk cheese or creamy Camembert? How about the Rosemary or lemon flavoured potato chips processed in olive oil? Would lavender and blueberry jam taste better on rye crackers or crusty baguette? Decisions, decisions, decisions.
Choices finally made and knapsack full of goodies, we set out for Battlefield Park, the first stop on our day of exploration. To fully understand the importance of the area, and the events that took place our trek led to the Discovery Pavilion of the Plains of Abraham on Wilfred Laurier Avenue near the Saint-Louis Gate.
At the Discovery Pavilion visitors learn that Battlefield Park consists of 270 acres on the heights above the St. Lawrence River. There's a scale model of the area, a video presentation and Canada Odyssey, a multimedia adventure covering four hundred years of history and achievement. Be sure to pick up map of the park and a pass that gives reduced rates at other historical military sites. If an overview of the park from the comfort of a vehicle is on your list of things-to-do, board Abraham's Bus for an animated and informative tour.
Battlefield Park consists of a number of attractions, the Plains of Abraham being the most important. As you may be aware, the Plains of Abraham were the site of a battle between two warring European factions, the French and English on September 13, 1759. Collections of large ordinances are on display throughout the Park as are monuments include one for Wolfe who died on September 13, 1759 and one for Montcalm who died the next day, September 14, 1759.
The Museum of Quebec is an interesting feature of the park . Housed in a former jail, the Museum features Quebec art from the eighteenth century to the present. The Battlefield Commission has an Interpretation Centre on the main floor featuring a multimedia show explaining the battles and temporary exhibits on the area.
Gardeners have taken the art of carpet bedding to fine heights in another of the park's areas. The Joan of Arc Gardens were created by landscape architect Louis Perron in 1938. Rectangular in shape and slightly sunken, the gardens are planned around the best elements of English and French gardens, the area is centered with a monument of Joan of Arc.
One of the most interesting features in Battlefield Park are the round stone Martello Towers, built as a line of British defense against the Americans. The towers were modelled on a gun tower at Cape Martella on the gulf of San Fiorenzo, N. Corsica. Only 196 were built in the world, sixteen of them erected in Canada, four in Quebec City. Of those four towers, three survived to the twenty-first century. The work on Towers #1 and #2 were completed by 1812. On weekends mid- June through Thanksgiving, Martello Tower #1 is open to the general public. Martello Tower #2 hosts a Council of War, an 1814 mystery dinner theatre where participants take part while enjoying a hearty early nineteenth century style meal. If you are visiting on a summer weekend, do plan to take a part! Ask about tickets at Discovery Pavilion.
At the eastern end of Battlefield Park, the Citadel is home the province's Lieutenant Governor. From the Governor's Kiosk overlooking Cap Diamond there's a great view of the St. Lawrence River. The Governor's Promenade runs behind the Citadel and by a series of stairways drops down to Dufferin Terrace and the Chateau Frontenac. At one time more than one hundred stairways linked the lower town with the upper level, many located at Cap Diamond. Today there are twenty-eight stairways remaining that have been restored and put to use.
National historic sites operated by Parks Canada include Louis S. St. Laurent's Heritage House and Artillery Park. Louis S. St. Laurent Heritage House is open to the general public mid-June through Labour Day weekend. L. S. St. Laurent was Canada's 12th Prime Minister.
Artillery Park in the old city near the Saint-Jean Gate presents two hundred and fifty years of area history in three historic buildings including the 1712 Dauphine Redoubt, an 1818 Officer's quarters and 1903 Arsenal Foundry. There's also an on-site outdoor bread oven. Costumed staff are on hand to answer questions and you can access the fortifications for a panoramic view of the River and old city of Quebec.
One of the most poignant monuments stands at the entrance to Artillery Park. A Celtic cross, made of Irish blue limestone commemorates the compassion and concern the peoples of Quebec had for the thousands of Irish immigrants who fled the potato famine in the 1840's. Many people died on ships crossing the ocean or on Grosse Isle. Orphaned children were adopted by Quebec families and allowed to keep their Irish names. The Strokestown Park Famine Museum in Roscommon, Ireland donated the cross monument to acknowledge the generosity of Quebecois people.
Armies marched on their stomachs and so do visitors to Quebec City. Battlefield Park and the Plains of Abraham lie adjacent to Grande Allee. There are enough great homes preserved in this area to maintain the sense of history that goes so well with vibrancy of culture and community. It's evident in this bustling area of the city that locals and visitors alike know how to enjoy themselves. Warm weather fills outdoor cafés, terraces and patios. One of the best restaurants is Graffiti on Ave Cartier. Their motto is "In the heart of Quebec, In the hearts of Quebecers". Graffiti's specialty is Franco-Italian fair and cuisine of the season
IF YOU GO:
Quebec, G1K 7R3
P.O. box 2474
Postal Terminal, Quebec G1K 7R3
P.O. Box 2474
Postal Terminal, Quebec, G1K 7R3
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