Dearest Family and Friends,
We are actually back at Possum Kingdom and I have be trying to catch up, so this Travel Update is a bit late. However, today, I would like to tell you about Quebec City. It was the biggest surprise of our trip for me. I never had heard much about this place, even though it is the capital of the Canadian province of Quebec and the second most populous city next to Montreal. However, I was immediately smitten by the charm and beauty of this wonderful gem. It is one of those places we never thought of going to and one that is near the top of the list of places to which we want to return. And we will someday. Unfortunately, I forgot to take my camera before we left on our tour of the city before I left the ship, so you will have to follow along with the stories we heard and next time I will promise to get art for you.
Quebec City is built on two levels: the lower city on the river and the upper city perched on top of a 150 foot escarpment. The old part of the upper city is dominated by the huge Chateau Frontenac, now a luxury hotel that fills the skyline. The old city is grand and quaint at the same time and the architecture is fabulous, the narrow streets and lush parks clean and the views spectacular.
The walls of the original garrison established on the highest point on the escarpment still exist as do the quarters which are still occupied. In 1775 the British were trying to take control of Quebec City and prevent the French from joining the Americans in the Revolutionary War. Seven thousand troops came down the St. Lawrence River in 40 ships but the French left their hilltop fort and positioned themselves on the northern side of the river in a five mile long line of resistance. The British, not being able to land, held up and occupied the Isle of Orleans, a six mile long and two mile wide island in the middle of the river, upstream from the French troops. Because the St. Lawrence narrows significantly at Quebec City (the name is an Algonquin word which means "where the river narrows"), there is a very strong current going down river. The British, under the cloak of a moonless night, allowed their darkened ships, their sails furled, laden with men and supplies to drift down river past the troops and they landed on the other side of the river from the city, a point only 3/4 of a mile wide.
The next morning they started bombardment of the city and the garrison with cannons shot across the river. Over 40,000 cannon balls were fired, leveling the lower city and laying waste to much of the upper city and its battlements. But the British could not cross the river at that point or risk being sunk from the remaining French artillery. Capturing two Frenchmen on Orleans, they extracted from them information about a secret path, leading from a small port where French ships sailing up the St. Lawrence put in to unload supplies which was two miles down stream.
The British drifted, again at night, put into the small port, and moved 6000 troops up the path to the now nearly abandoned garrison. When the French troops got word their garrison was under siege, they moved their troops off the shoreline positions and back up the escarpment. But it was too late. When they arrived their garrison was filled with British troops and the two-year running Battle of Quebec (or Battle of the Plains of Abraham as the final fight was known) came to an abrupt end, the engagement lasting less than 25 minutes. Both commanders, General James Wolfe for the British, and General Louis-Joseph, the Marquis de Montcalm, died within 24 hours of each other from wounds suffered during the brief skirmish. From there, the British were able to seize and secure the shipping lanes into the Ohio Valley and prevent the French from fully assisting the Americans in their war for independence. Quite an interesting part of history, don't you think?
Can anyone guess what the largest export item is from the Province of Quebec? No, it is not hockey players. It is electricity. The Province is blessed with an abundance of water, fast running rivers and many waterfalls, most of which are huge generators of electricity. In addition to supplying all their own needs at a retail cost of only $0.02/kwh, Quebec exports electricity all over New England, servicing Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island with a huge portion of their power requirements at a quite profitable $ 0.11 per kwh.
We loved our visit to Quebec City and the friendly people we did not expect to find. Turns out Canada is very much like the United States in many respects only nobody lives there. The total population of Canada is only 35,000,000, about 12 % of the US population. Quebec Province, has the largest land mass of any Canadian province and the second highest population, but New York City has more than its 8,000,000 people.
Next up, Montreal, and the end of our journey. Until then, God Bless you all.