The 150th year since the signing of Confederation, in what is now PEI, on July 1st 1867. The Province of Canada (southern portion of modern-day Ontario and Quebec), New Brunswick and Nova Scotia joined together to form Canada. It was not until 1949, with Newfoundland joining, that Canada became the country we now see on maps. Nunavut became its own territory in 1999, having previously been considered part of the Northwest Territories. That is the shortest history, as close to non-political possible, piece I have ever written.
The day started with pouring rain, with the sun barely making an appearance for the local parade from the top of the road to the bottom – dead end – a tradition started by a family several years ago. Typical country style. Tractors, ATVs (well, only recently typical), horses and friendly waving to all. We stood on the porch out of the rain.
Then to town to celebrate with the city folk. Everywhere there were throngs of people. Entertainment at Confederation Park and an Art Festival at the relatively nearby City Park (the original proposed site for city centre and Hall) with over 150 artisans. A beer garden and food truck area with live music made this a very popular event. I bought lunch for one daughter – we had managed to lose her sister somewhere in the crowd along with her friend. (They were already seated to eat) We had an enjoyable afternoon seeing all the sights and spending too much money at the Art Fest before declaring starvation. Kingston has one of highest, if not the top, percentages of eateries per capita in the country and it appeared all the downtown locations were ready to burst their seams. We finally settled on Kingston Brewing Company (yet another pub), now only my two daughters and one SIL.
This pub is a funky favourite for locals and tourists. There is so much beer paraphernalia it is impossible to be bored. It is a brewery, and serves various selections of their brews. I have never liked beer, I also do not drink. Neither do my younger daughter or husband so it was up to my eldest to try out what was on tap. I guess she was not smitten, it was a Dragon something, she ordered a glass of wine instead. Fortunately the food is very good. I chose the Portobello Veggie Burger with roasted pepper, roasted onion, arugula and basil mayo. Easy to cut on carbs by removing the top half of the bun. I would return for a meal.
Sated, but not stuffed, we felt ready for a a meander back to the main celebrations, listened to and watched a band, did a little on the side dancing, then joined a friend of my younger D for watching the fireworks. They were spectacular! If my sore knees were any indication of the time the show lasted about 20 minutes many oohs, ahs clapping has throughout. A completely natural occurrence was a shooting star that fell across the path during a very short lull – now that certainly took away the collective breath of those of us saw it. Then the finale once more drew all spectators in, a crescendo of firepower and a display that no one could find fault with – rather than standing and roaring with delight everyone seemed to just be pulled into the moment before rising with thunderous cheering and applause.
We were tired and happy. A very fine day.
The numbers:18.00 lunch; 7.00 garlic oil (gift for D looking after Mozzy); 75.00 dinner for 3; 15,500 steps
We were ready to leave, our bags were packed. I had my usual early breakfast, took a roundabout walk to enjoy the quiet morning before the streets, sidewalks, alleys, restaurants and shops were crowded with people. Of course one of my goals was to get a coffee before cruelly waking my GS. I think I wore him out the day before – he did not want breakfast. I tend to leave early for wherever I am departing from so there was only a little time to stop anywhere on our downhill spiral. That was just up the hill from our hostel. Finally, real coffee! Coffee that I promptly attempted to spill over the table, me and the floor. Before I even tasted it. Fortunately I somehow caught the cup before losing all the contents. Desperation does wonders.
Perhaps I am being a bit dramatic, it just felt like we were walking in a spiral. We arrived at the train station with over an hour to spare before boarding. The spiral continued after the coffee. I wanted to take photos of the train station so put my bags on a nearby chair along with my sunglasses – that fell onto the floor. Picked them up, took my photos, caught up with my GS. I tend to find it difficult to sit still when in a waiting room. So I pace, or I change seats or check out stores.
Other than the stunning entrance and hall the QC station is pretty small and only one small eatery was open. The great hall is so big, and high, my iPhone simply did not have the scope to take it all in. The stained glass on the ceiling was spectacular. I could not figure out what the shields at the top of the windows represented, then forgot all about it after what happened next. I gathered up my belongings, plopped them beside my GS and declared I was going for a walk. He had his music and games on his phone. Grabbed my small bag, went to pop my sunglasses on my head…no sunglasses.
I searched my bags, the seats, the floor and where my GS was sitting. I retraced my steps. Asked a cleaner if he had picked up a pair and said where they were last seen. The only difference was the two chairs I had put my bags on were turned into the wall – no idea by whom. Asked at the large restaurant that appeared to be under construction. Nothing. I was devastated. These were not expensive, brand name glasses. Just a simple pair of wraparounds that originally had a string attached to them for easy removal when going from sun to less light. Except they were my mother’s, she bought them only a few months before she died and wore them on her walks with me or riding in the car. I kept them because they were so practical, but more for the sentiment.
Although my mother did not travel out of Canada, besides some trips to the US, (after emigrating from England as a young teen) she and my father did hike and camp a lot, including a year crossing the country and back. She was keen to get her life back on track after my father died and she had been ill; walking was always part of her routine, buying the sunglasses was, for her, a step forward to wellness. I decided, after being sad, to think someone else is wearing the glasses while on an adventure. (I wore them on all my trips starting in November 2013.) We had a phrase in my family if things were not going our way, “It’s an adventure.” (From Charlie Brown of course) to which one of us more recently would invariably reply, “I don’t want an adventure, I want lunch!” (Direct quote from my, now 31 year old, daughter when she was 4). This day was also my father’s birthday – he would have been 82.
Perhaps losing my glasses in Quebec City was alright, my parents did visit there when on their trip. I am becoming a sentimental fool.
The trip back to Kingston was anticlimactic.
10.00 coffees & treat (latter for GS); 22.75 new sunglasses (so sad); 2.00 water on train
Clip clip of horse hooves outside our hostel window made it sound like we were thrown back 150 years ago, perhaps just before the Confederation of Canada. I believe the section of the hostel we are staying in is quite old. (I later found out perhaps less than 100 years) I wonder what inhabitants of QC thought about the future of Quebec, if they gave it any thought at all. There had already been so many major changes since the French and British arrived.
We again had a full day ahead of us that started at the Plains of Abraham Museum. I had already abandoned my GS to his pillow earlier to get a decent cup of coffee at Starbucks. Who would have thought I would know where two of these are in QC. Fortified with breakfast, coffee and adventure we were ready to explore. My first stop was a revisit from the previous day to take some photos of a church and nunnery that are closed, behind bars and in a state of destruction that is up the road from our hostel. The Missionnaires Du Sacre-Coeur looked miserable with its naked windows, stairs stripped away and walls bared. The church next door has a massive hole dug out in the forefront, pipes exposed. The doors shut out the beautiful stain glass (found photos from 2014) that I hope will be salvaged. I could not find what is planned for either structure. The little information I gleaned from the hostel reception was that, as the numbers of nuns decrease, nunneries and the chapels they connected with become obsolete.
On to the museum. Either I am really thick or the museum is very small. It is in a large building, next door to the burned out armoury, which had me thinking we would be spending at least a couple of hours there. However, other than a basement reception area, a small interpretive and display section, and a student display that would not open until July 1st, there was very little to see. I was quite disappointed. No apparent directions to lead us to other floors, besides where we had entered and been directed down, we left through the back doors then headed to the Citadel.
Once again it took some persuasion to convince my GS it would be interesting to pay the fee for a guided tour – the only way to see what is inside the walls of this working fortress. His father is in the military but it sounded like they had never actually gone beyond finding a free space to park. One of the perks of being military. We arrived just as a tour with the goat was finishing and within minutes for ours to begin. However, we missed the changing of guards. Our ticket did give us the opportunity to return the next morning for just that one activity.
La Citadelle de Quebec was very interesting. Home to the Royal 22nd Regiment and still a working garrison, the current citadel was built between 1820 – 1850 but the history of the site dates back to the late 1600s; we saw structures from 1693, 1750 and 1842 plus several more. The Governor General’s residence is within the walls – we could have had a tour of the house rather than the citadel.
The now 105-year-long Royal 22e Régiment, the Canadian Forces’ sole French-language regular force infantry regiment, has been at the garrison since 1920. Their mascot is a goat named Batisse, I believe the current goat is Batisse 15th. A direct descendent of Batisse 1st, a gift from King George V after WWll. We saw Batisse having photos taken at the tail end of the changing of the guards. Although we missed that spectacle we did get to see and hear the noon cannon fire. Deafening.
By that time we were ready for lunch and probably a nap. The nap had to wait, we were meeting a former student of mine who now lives in New York, and her husband. I had not seen her since she was only a little older than my grandson! That was in Nanning, China. Although not the original plan we met up for lunch after we both said we were starving after a full morning exploring. Some awkward minutes for those who had not met, then a very nice meal at Chez Jules (I am quite sure I ate here on my 2014 trip!). I had the quiche, lovely. Good conversation – even my GS – and then a couple of hours spent seeing even more sights, discussing history, academics and religion. My GS and I took them to the lower section to visit the smaller cathedral, enjoy the long allee window shopping and people watching, two murals and ride the funicular. We finished the afternoon at the Fairmont le Chateau Frontenac in the lovely lower lobby outside Starbucks. Yay, iced coffee! It had been a very hot day.
I have no recollection if we rested at the hostel after. During our pre dinner wandering I did take notice of my GS noticing some young women walk in and past our direction. I refrained from saying anything. Oh my poor daughter!
We eventually sought some dinner. To my surprise my GS did not choose Fondue or Crepes – both having been on his list my must do. After passing a couple of places a few times, one does tend to go in circles within circles in QC, checking out a few menus and discussing pros and cons we finally chose Cafe de Paris a restaurant next door to l’Omelette – the place I was not smitten with. Rather than embarrass my GS by leaving after I discovered both are owned by the same person I decided to give it a chance. Excellent service, (after I was convinced my GS they were not being snooty) great ambience, somewhat crowded with everyone seated in the front section to appear busy (popular) and very good food. I had traditional Boeuf bourguignon, my first bite of meat was melt in your mouth perfection. My GS had a very cheesy pizza. I did have to laugh when our napkins were settled on our laps with great flourish to only have my GS place his on the table. Another lesson in etiquette. We had an enjoyable evening….until I ordered coffee. What is it with the lousy coffee in QC? I have no recollection of a problem on my previous visits. This time I said something. My GS is firmly convinced I am too fussy and like to complain. I explained that if I am paying for something, especially when the price is inflated to beyond Starbucks, I want it to be good. I was willing to forego excellent by this time. The coffee was deducted.
I cannot believe we then went out for another walk! This was our last night, it was a lovely evening so off to the old city wall for a view of the lights of the city below.
5.70 coffee SB; 22.00 citadel; Funicular 12.00 (4 ppl); 4.00 ice coffee; 60.00 dinner inc tip; my former student and her husband kindly paid for our lunch; 18,000 steps
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)