Busy day. I was absolutely Exhausted by the time I went to bed. Fortunately we took a 1 1/2 hour break at the hostel between activities. I have found my energy dips around 3:00PM wherever I am. I think by the end of the day it became what did we not do.
After breakfast, eaten in two shifts – mine at 7:00, GS close to 10:00 – we headed out to explore and find good coffee for me. (By the time we left QC I was convinced there is not anywhere other than franchises that can make a decent cup of coffee) Second Cup, just beyond the wall, was pretty good. We headed to the Plains of Abraham, uphill of course, made our way to the bandstand then down the Governor’s Promenade. Some fabulous views, a leisurely downhill stroll that ends at Hotel de Chateau Frontenac then a visit to Fort Saint-Louis, just steps from the Chateau Frontenac.
The Plains of Abraham, (98 hectares) gussied up name for a farmer’s field to befit the grand, bloody, extremely short battle that determined the reign of what would eventually become Canada. Set within The Battlefields Park, the Plains are very impressive with rolling grass hills and postcard perfect setting. This was my third trip, one in the middle of winter, each time I was blown away by the vastness of the area. I was also grateful it remains basically uncrowded. I was told that major outdoor concerts are held near the base, behind the Plains of Abraham Museum building, with many well known musicians having performed there. The acoustics must be fabulous. A huge stage and a magnificent sound system were being set up for Canada Day.
In a nutshell, in keeping with the span of time, the actual battle, September 13, 1759, lasted a mere 15 minutes, with eventual British victory at Quebec – although they won the battle it was not until the Treaty of Paris, signed in 1763, that clear rule of the land was officially ceded to Britain. In that quarter hour, out of of a combined 8000 plus men, 174 men were killed and 1200 – 1800 wounded from both sides, (no idea how there could be a 600 strong discrepancy) including the commanding officers, General Montcalm on the French side, and General Wolfe, on the British side. I can only assume there were more deaths as those wounded succumbed to their wounds. The numbers may seem small when compared to more recent wars; however, a quick calculation shows approximately 12 men died per minute. The rolling hills must have been a muddy, bloody mess. According to one account, written by a British soldier, the weather had been very wet on September 10th. It is difficult to imagine these days when walking along quiet paths and neatly trimmed grass.
Rather than wander through the Plains we headed to the bandstand for the view before heading down the Governor’s Promenade – a sloping, cliff hugging, boardwalk wide enough for 4-5 people to walk abreast. I did wonder if the ghosts of the generals had a hand in how it was built in vain hopes of wresting, or keeping the glory of the land from the other. Opened in 1960 the promenade is half a mile in length (opened prior to Canada switching to the metric system) and over 300 stairs. Which basically means anyone wanting a gentle workout should walk the hill up the Plains and then walk down the promenade. There are a few lookouts for breathtaking views and plenty of photo opportunities of the Chateau Frontenac, the St. Lawrence River, the landscape, church spires and more. I cannot imagine anyone choosing to not walk down at some point in their visit as going up means an obscured views. The many stairs are challenging for anyone with a physical disability – my knees were quite sore by the end of day (although that may have been the 24,000+ steps I walked in total). We arrived at Dufferin Terrace, took a rest to view the river and be silly before heading to the archeological site of Fort Saint-Louis.
Between 2005-2007 archeologists found the ruins of four successive Forts, the first constructed for Samuel de Champlain in 1620; although subsequent additions were made over several decades nothing major was done until 1690 by Compte de Frontenac when the size of the Fort was quadrupled. More changes due to damage and demand saw reconstruction over several decades in the 18th c. that would include a bakery, kitchen, laundry house, greenhouse, ice-house, stables, sheds, etc.to meet the increasing needs of the governor to perform his duties. The early 19th c. saw more expansion with a third floor added. Sadly, the whole building burned to ground in 1834, never to be rebuilt. All we have now are artist renderings and architectural drafts. By 1838 the promenade I mentioned was partially built, called the Durham Terrace, which basically protected the ruins below. Digging began in the 1980s with first access to the public not until 2008. It appears archeologists are still in the process of searching for more artifacts – as if 500,000+ will not keep them busy!
I had the bounty of visiting this fabulous work in progress in 2014 with two of my daughters and somehow managed to convince my GS to check it out this time. I was convinced he thought I did not where I was going when heading into the bowels of of what appeared to be below Chateau Frontenac. Additional interpretive stations seem to have been added which is why I say work in progress. I am always astonished at how much a place can change in a relatively short period. My GS thought it would be cool to go back in time to live like the early Europeans had; after I reminded him there was not any electricity, no computers, cell phones, dirt bikes or ATVs! Some of the artifacts were interesting in how little items have changed over the centuries whereas others tend to be complete mysteries to people or no longer in use. Hatpins, various strange looking glass beakers – found out some were for liquor (of course) – two pronged forks were found along with other household effects. One interpretive area shows the findings based on the period – I have seen these before but had not really taken in mobiles, coke cans and Tim Horton paper coffee cups. The latter was quite puzzling, we did not even see that place in the Old Town. Considering my lack of good coffee I was willing to search for one! Although upon ascending to the modern world I could have found coffee at the very busy Starbucks in Chateau Frontenac. However, I was holding out for a decent cup after dinner.
We walked some more trying to decide where to have dinner. After crossing a few places off the list – I rather wanted wapiti (elk) or lapin (rabbit) – I allowed my GS to make a choice again. I said I would blame him for my fussiness. I was not actually expecting to be dissatisfied. Dinner only so-so. l’Omelette. Chicken Crepe for me, poutine for GS. Disgusting cup of coffee. I was beginning to have withdrawals. (Not really, I seem to be lucky when it comes to coffee headaches. My GS might have called me cranky though) The service was not much better so I begrudgingly left a minor tip. Of course this meant explaining to my GS that I never feel obliged to leave a tip and, yes, I will complain if I am very dissatisfied with anything. He had claimed the poutine was not as good as the night before – by this time I was convinced he is a connoisseur – then said it was alright. My meal, just fine. I cannot blame them for the chips, I completely missed that on the menu. Cosy setting, very busy, snooty service, overpriced. Definitely geared to getting the patrons in and out without making them feel excessively rushed.
A final evening walk to take in the ambience before trying to find the art exhibition that I was positive was somewhere within the Plains. We never did find it and the Plains of Abraham Museum was closed. We did pass one of the Murney Towers where a group of perhaps Rangers or a similar group were visiting and quickly became part of the show put on, my GS absolutely refused to get involved. However, we did walk by, and stop for several photos, of the Voltigeurs de Québec Armoury that had been burnt out April 4. 2008. All that was left was the back wall and the two turrets at the front door. Although Armoury Museum artifacts were lost 90% were saved. It appears this former drill hall (armoury) is being raised from the ashes. I doubt anyone is seriously considering a similar wooden roof – it must have made the fire move very quickly.
We wandered about the Plains some more before finally retiring to our hostel. Those stairs and hallways seemed to have increased.
The numbers: 4.50 toiletries; 4.50 two coffees (second cup); 2.00 postcard & bookmark; 47.00 dinner 24,000 steps (estimate as phone ran out of power)