In these photos from his September 2004 travels, le Singe tours the stately streets of Québec City’s old town, taking in some of the city’s character and learning of modern-day uses for centuries-old ramparts.
With the possible exception of Toronto’s CN Tower, Québec City’s Château Frontenac is probably Canada’s most famous building. The red brick castle holds pride of place in Vieux-Québec, commanding stellar views of the St. Lawrence River from its hilltop position. The chateau was commissioned by William Van Horne, head of the Canadian Pacific railway, and designed by U.S. architect Bruce Price. It opened in 1893, though several additions kept construction going into the l920s. With its sister chateau at Lake Louise (in Alberta province), the Frontenac is a jewel in the crown of the Canadian Pacific’s luxury hotels. Among the luminaries to put head to pillow in the Frontenac: King George VI, Queen Elizabeth II, Charles de Gaulle, François Mitterand, Chiang Kai-Shek, and Alfred Hitchcock. Here the Monkey scopes the Frontenac from a safe distance: this hotel ain’t cheap, and the Monkey kind of is.
This photo in Québec City’s Basse-Ville shows the Château Frontenac’s dominant position in the skyline of the Haute-Ville. It goes without saying that the scenic cobblestone street and this lovely fieldstone house would look right at home in any number of French country towns. Of course, their presence on this side of the Atlantic is welcome, too. Indeed, tourism is a major part of Québec City’s economy, as North American visitors get a taste of Europe without the jetlag.
In front the of the Frontenac is the Terrasse Dufferin, a wonderful promenade that overlooks the St. Lawrence and the Basse-Ville. Lamentably, the Monkey forgot his top hat and cane, but he was still able to enjoy the tremendous views.
Québec City leapt into world headlines in April 2001 when it hosted a major hemispheric summit that sought to advance plans for a so-called Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). Having witnessed the mass protests in Seattle in 1999, the Canadian hosts took advantage of Québec’s historic high ground to shield delegates at the closed-door conference from huge crowds of protestors who demanded more of a say in the discussions. Québec’s centuries-old walls were augmented by a temporary 3.8 kilometer-long, police-reinforced concrete and chainlink wall designed to keep campaigning citizens out of the old city and away from the summit. Predictably, the attempt to shut out the crowds led to clashes that shook the typically subdued atmosphere in Québec, and did much to derail the FTAA talks.
The calm had returned to Québec by the time of the Monkey’s September 2004 visit, and the FTAA seemed dead in the water.
The Monkey considered terrifying the passing couple with his renowned King Kong impression, but instead settled for admiring the balanced proportions of… the building. What were you thinking? Québec City’s first skyscraper, the graceful Edifice Price is a classic art deco tower built in 1929, on a scale just right for Québec’s stately skyline.
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