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Having dealt with the fortifications, the city within the walls, the matter of my stomach and also the inebriated youth of the city, let's go for a look at the lower town, which was the first part of the city to be settled.

Of course, early Québec is synomymous with Samuel Champlain and in 1608 he organised a few fortified wooden buildings here to act as a fur-trading post and also as a defensive settlement. However, after his death the area was parcelled out for settlement. You will be extremely lucky to find very much that dates from the 1630s though, because in August 1682 the area was, as you might have guessed, totally devastated by a fire.

Following this disaster, the city fathers passed a new building code that said inter alia that buildings had to be constructed from stone, and this is really the start of Old Québec as we know it today.

porte prescott cote de la montagne escalier casse cou stairs ville de quebec city canada avril april 2012 copyright free photo royalty free photo

The best place to begin our little wander around the lower town is to return to the Porte Prescott, by the Parc Montmorency. You may remember that this is halfway down the Casse-Cou, or "Break-neck" stairs and what we shall be doing is to continue down the steps to the bottom.

You can see the head of the stairs just where those people are congregating down there, in between the two parked cars

escalier casse cou stairs rue de petit champlain ville de quebec city canada avril april 2012 copyright free photo royalty free photo

And so taking ourselves off to the head of the stairs, we can look down into the lower town. The street that we can see used to be called the rue de Meules - the "Street of Millwheels" but it is known today as the rue de Petit Champlain.

As for the stairs that you see, these are the escalier Champlain - the "Champlain stairway", although they are informally known as the casse-cou or "breakneck" stairs, for obvious reasons, and date from the 1960s. The stairs replaced a set of stairs from 1893 but there had been stairs here since ... ohhh ... probably 1680 if my maths is correct

rue sous le fort ville de quebec city canada avril april 2012 copyright free photo royalty free photo

At the bottom of the stairs we encounter the rue Sous-le-Fort, or the "Street Below the Fort". This leads down to the St Lawrence and is where you'll find today all of the tourist-trap boutiques and so on.

It looks so chic and trendy today but, believe me, it looked nothing like this 50 years ago. For quite some considerable time the focus of the city had been slowly shifting ever westwards, as we've seen with the new Government building and the expansion of the city around the Grande Allée.

This area eventually came to be basically no more than an extension to the wharves along the river, servicing the ships and the crews that were tied up there, but with the expansion of motor and rail traffic that saw a decline in the coastal river traffic, and the growth in size of ships that required more specialised dockside facilities with deeper water, the area quickly declined and whatever commerce was left also slowly began to go west.

It wasn't until the very late 1960s that the Government took the initiative to halt the decline and to bring some life back into the area - a process that is still continuing today.

funicular terrasse dufferin terrace ville de quebec city canada avril april 2012 copyright free photo royalty free photo

If you don't fancy the casse-cou steps down to the lower town you can take the funicular railway from the Dufferin Terrace.

Built in 1879 it slides down at an angle of 45° into the back of a house that was once the residence of a certain Louis Jolliet or Joliet. "Who he?" I hear you say. So to put your minds at rest I'll mention that it was he, along with Jacques Marquette, who were the first Europeans to discover the northern end of the Mississippi River.

boulevard champlain maison chevalier ville de quebec city canada avril april 2012 copyright free photo royalty free photo

At the end of the rue Petit Champlain we burst out in modern civilisation on the Boulevard Champlain, the road that follows the north shore of the St Lawrence.

Down there you can see the Maison Chevalier, but don't worry if you can't see it clearly - we'll be taking a closer look at it in early course. Meantime, have a look at the buildings here on the front of the street. A curious mixture of authentic, rebuilt, and new construction.

I'm sure though that they could have done much better with the new building slap in the centre of the row. It looks totally out of place here and the enlargement of the older building next to it is poor. Mind you, the older building is still there, which is something, and it's not a hideous concrete-and-glass enlargement with which many magnificent British buildings have been vandalised .

As I mentioned elsewhere it's very pleasant to see that the traditional shop fronts have been retained. In most other places, these would have been ripped out 50 years ago and replaced by glass and aluminium, totally destroying the character of the area.

As an aside - "here we go again!" ...ed - I should make reference to a famous story that I have heard about the small town of Pionsat near to where I live in France. There's a chateau in the town and this has been declared a Historic Monument and so no changes can be made to any building within a 500-metre radius without formal approval from the Local Authorities.

An acquaintance of mine has bought a former shop in the town just 200 metres away from the chateau and this shop was "transformed" in the 1950s, prior to the legislation, and now has a glass-and-aluminium front. The new owner has carried out some research and with the aid of the local preservation society, the Amis du Chateau - the "Friends of the Chateau", he's located a photo from the 1890s showing clearly the old wooden shop front.

He tells me that what with being quite a handyman, he's applied to the Authorities to remove the shop front and replace it with a faithful copy of the old wooden front but for reasons best known to themselves, the Authorities are ... errr ... proving difficult.

chateau frontenac terrasse dufferin terrace ville de quebec city canada avril april 2012 copyright free photo royalty free photo

It's from down here on the quayside that you really begin to appreciate the magnificence and splendour of the Chateau Frontenac - or, at least, you would had it not been swathed in scaffolding and netting which always ruins a good view. It looks just like something that has been transported out of Medieval Bavaria.

Lord Dufferin's idea of creating some kind of masterpiece at the focal point of the city certainly paid off in spades, and the designers of the Chateau really did him, themselves and the city proud.

There's also a good view of the Terrasse Dufferin, along which we walked during our stroll around the fortifications this morning.

cap diamant chateau frontenac ville de quebec city canada avril april 2012 copyright free photo royalty free photo

Another thing that you will appreciate from down here is just how impregnible to 18th-Century military forces the crucial part of Cap Diamant - the point that faces ships sailing upriver into the interior - really was.

Just supposing for a moment that an invading force did manage to land and occupy the original settlement at the foot of the headland, no cannon of the period would have had sufficient elevation to fire an object up to the top. To have sufficient elevation, you'd need to position your cannon well back from the foot of the slope, and then you'd have issues with the range.

And then assuming that you did have a weapon that would fire objects up to the top, and even if you did manage to devastate whatever defences were up there, you would still have to send your troops charging up that slope into the teeth of the defenders, and half-a-dozen well-armed defenders could pick off an army trying to climb up that slope.

chateau frontenac terrasse dufferin terrace martello tower ville de quebec city canada avril april 2012 copyright free photo royalty free photo

There are other things well-worth seeing from this particular aspect down on the quayside, and one of those is the staircase that leads down from the Citadel to the Terrasse Dufferin. You may remember that the view from up there is magnificent , and you'll agree that the view from down here isn't all that bad either.

That's one of the Martello Towers that you see there, flying the Canadian flag. As I said earlier , there were four of these built between 1808 and 1812 and this is one of the three that remain.

Department of Fisheries and Oceans amundsen ville de quebec city canada avril april 2012 copyright free photo royalty free photo

Of course, you can't - "you mean YOU can't" ...ed - visit a quayside without looking at whatever shipping is about, and here we do manage to find some exciting things to look at.

This is the Amundsen and the fact that it is registered in Ottawa will tell you that even if you did not notice the Canadian flag painted on the stern, that it's a Government vessel, registered to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

Algoma Mariner ville de quebec quayside st lawrence laurent city canada avril april 2012 copyright free photo royalty free photo

That's not all the excitement either. You probably noticed the ship steaming (or dieseling) down the St Lawrence in the previous photograph. She's the Algoma Mariner, on her way into port from Hamilton Ontario, and here's a better view of her.

She's a bulk carrier of about 25,000 tonnes and was built as recently as 2011, would you believe?

So that's all there is to see around here for the moment. I promised you a closer look at the Maison Chevalier so why don't we have a wander off over there?

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