Thursday, 12 August 2010

Quebec: Basse-Ville

Notre Dame des Victoires

Having yesterday walked around the Haute-Ville, today we naturally walked around the Basse-Ville. We started in the Place Royale opposite the pretty church of Notre Dame des Victoires. The church dates from 1688, but was restored in 1759. It celebrates two French naval victories over the British.

We turned right into rue sous le Fort and headed towards the funicular and the steps which provide alternative routes to the Upper Town.

On the corner, by climbing some way up the stairs, there is fine view along rue du Petit-Champlain, said to be north America's oldest street. It is pleasant enough, but full of tourist shops.

At the end we turned left and walked along past the river ferry terminal into rue Dalhousie parallel to the river bank. After a while this handsome building with its imposing campanile came into view - it turned out to be the fire station.

Further on we turned right towards the riverside promenade and past the imposing neo-classical Custom House (1830-39), with the Agora outdoor theatre in front.

We walked along beside the wide St Laurence river to the Pointe-a-Carcy where you are forced to turn towards the old port. Across the water is the truly massive Bunge of Canada grain elevator which stores Canadian wheat, barley and so on before they are shipped to Europe. One's first impression is that it is a tremendous eyesore, but each summer night it becomes a giant screen on which the Image Mill sound and light show is projected. We saw some of it the previous evening as we walked home from dinner and it really is remarkably clever. You can see some video clips on the website of its creator, Robert Lepage.

After wandering around the port area as far as the Marche du Vieux Port, we headed back along rue St Paul and rue du Saute-au-Matelot. As you approach the Place Royal there is a marvellous piece of trompe l 'oeuil painted on the end of a building.

Returning to Place Royale, it is extraordinary how European it looks. You could be in some small town in Burgundy or Alsace. It was the centre of the first permanent French colony, but by 1950 it had apparently become derelict and run down. Since then it has been restored to pristine condition.

Conditions: hot and sunny.

Distance: about two miles.

Rating: three and half stars. Much less striking than the Haute-Ville, but more charming.

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