Old Quebec, 1st Day

Yes, it’s touristy, and one art historian called the Place Royal “a lie, but we still like it!”. But remember that restricting uses in parts of cities to preserve history leaves those parts no choice but to be touristy. See Venice. Well worth seeing Old Quebec, though, if you can’t make it to Europe for real.

Tourists? Tourist Attractions? Sure. Some architectural lies? Sure. Still worth the visit, though.

I stumbled into the Ursuline Museum. The museum, and a few nuns are left of what used to be an active monastery dedicated to teaching girls. Life for the boarding girls was pretty restricted. Lots of prayer, silence during meals and for an hour after rising in the morning. No spontaneous dancing.

Yet: the Ursulines were enormously dedicated to education. For instance, in the mid 19th C. they offered photography classes to their students, having bought a number of cameras. They involved expert musicians and painters to teach the kids. No corporal punishment as far back as the mid 19th C. Which was well ahead of Europe.

A second specialty was embroidery. Not your Whitman Sampler, though. They combined in their designs symbolism from various cultures, as well as painting and sculpture. For instance, there are Chinese dragon motifs, some First Nations elements, plus of course European influences.

I illegally took photos in the museum. Though I’m not into embroidery at all, these were special pieces, usually for altars. The top pieces used metal threads, which were particularly demanding. The raised surfaces were created with horse hair. I didn’t reduce these photo sizes as much as other photos, to give the full impression. Again, these are illegally taken. Without flash to protect them. The room lighting was clearly designed with preservation in mind.

I didn’t have the nerve to try and get rid of the reflections. I was worried someone would walk in.

Metal threads. Areas raised with horse hair;.

Ah, the Military

I had to visit the must-see fortifications that have developed since the 17th C. The story is the same everywhere. Fortify, get destroyed, fortify, improve fortifications, etc. The associated military language has words I don’t know in French *or* English, and I don’t feel the need to learn.

What’s ‘La casemate’ in English? From the English side of the plaque we see the answer: ‘the casemate.’ The military knows no linguistic boundaries. Though I’m still in the dark.
Ah, and what do we have in 1759? Surprise! The British bombed Quebec City to ruins. Which is why some buildings are “lies,” as my art historian in the Ursuline museum confided. The picture is a French officer egging on his troops. Didn’t matter.
Here is why a continuously raised defense budget is so important.

And here an example of how only military aesthetics create a facade so welcoming to the visitor (this entrance was inward-facing, mind you.)

So welcoming and inviting to the visitor.
We enter…

Entering through the archway we find how only L’Office de Tourisme can make you feel welcome!

At least we are rejected in both English and French.

I see two pedestrians pass by the barrier in the archway, and make to follow them. I can make my way through fortifications without museum exhibits if need be.

But as I pass, a manly voice from within the archway hails me.

“Where are you going!”

I discover a window in the shadows, behind which a soldier in modern combat fatigues has stopped me. We are not talking 18th century military garb.

“I am trying to view the citadel.”

“The museum is closed; you cannot to through the barrier.”

“Oh,” I conclude, “so there is still military in the citadel?”

A bit peeved:

I am military!”

Trying not to offend, in my most submissive voice:

“But the British aren’t coming any more, are they?”

No smile from him.

“It’s tradition!”

Which is another reason why our military budget is so important!

Guess we’re done here.

Lastly, it took me several days to understand that the Canadian question mark on freeway exit signs:

Exit 23 ?

did not not mean that Canada’s department of transportation was unsure whether I was approaching Exit 23, or maybe Exit 21 or 24. So many exits, who can avoid accounting mistakes? A question mark would at least have alerted me to some uncertainty. I appreciate honesty. We are all human.
But no:

Well, is this the way to tourist information or not?

Instead, a question mark proposes the possibility that tourist information may be near. Mind you, after I figured this cypher out, I have at times left the freeway to find information, to discover that this time the question mark was in fact a guess about the availability of information. No information booth past that off ramp. So don’t blame me too much for slow comprehension.

Like what you read? Give Andreas Paepcke a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.