Beautiful Drives About Quebec
( Originally Published 1907 )
THE environment of Quebec is peculiarly beautiful. Nowhere on this continent is there such a blending of majestic grandeur of mountains with river and lovely peaceful valley. It is a panorama of surpassing magnificence and rural beauty which charms the eye and captivates the imagination, and it is ever changing in the varying lights of summer days, and from the many different points of observation. The mighty St. Lawrence spreads, below Quebec, into a great bay where sits enthroned the picturesque Island of Orleans, and opposite, in the dark canyon, the Montmorenci pours its waters into the mightier stream from a height of several hundred feet. On the upland from the beaches spreads, in a long thin string, the populous parish of Beauport, and close behind it the mountains drop into the valley, not a solid wall of granite, but purple-hued mountain behind mountain of many and varying forms. Nearer Quebec the St. Charles meanders through fertile and undulating country dotted with those quaint and picturesque French Canadian homesteads with their avenues of weird Normandy poplars. On the brow of the upland, where the St. Charles takes its mad leap of two hundred feet into the valley below, boldly stand the two villages of Lorette, the one with its magnificent modern parish church the other with its small quaint chapel about which cluster the little houses of the Indian reservation, and the back ground of both is mountains. The oldest European colony on this northern continent still jogs elbow with the original occupant, and the primitive wilderness. Behind the mountains stretches a primeval bush, a land of many lakes and wild rivers given over to fish and game for the benefit of anglers and sportsmen, and in the future to become the great sanitarium of the continent.
The valley of the St. Lawrence stretches westward for many miles, much further than the eye reaches, and it is populous and rich; full of the charm of a life that is nowhere else to be found other than in remoter parts of France, in which the customs of the 17th century civilization jostle somewhat curiously with that of the 19th—an odd commingling, but bringing both out in startling contrast.
Down the river, on the north side, the mountains crowd close to its shores, and nestling under one of them is the Shrine of St. Anne the pilgrimage of thousands of persons annually from all parts of the United States and Canada.
If you stand on the King's Bastion and turn your eyes southward, they will roam from the picturesquely-situated town of Levis, on the opposite heights of the St. Lawrence, to the great fortifications back of it, and thence over a vast plain until they rest upon the mountains near to the border line. Turn slightly towards the west and the foam crest of the lovely Chaudiere Falls comes into view, a short four miles from Levis, past the pretty Etchemin River, at whose mouth many lumber mills are plainly visible.
Another interest also attaches to the country and places about Quebec, aside from the scenic beauty which is so delightful, and that is the romantic and stirring history which attaches to almost every spot within view or reach from the gates of Quebec. Kingdoms contended here for supremacy on the continent, in fierce struggle, and a budding Republic threw down the gauntlet to the previous victors before the gates, and paid dear penalty on that drear December night, although the invading force continued the siege until the following spring, when it was compelled to retire to Montreal by forced marches.
In the light of knowledge of these stirring scenes and of the various points of interest, one's journeyings about the country have all the added enjoyment of the living in imagination those times of long ago.
Every road leading from Quebec is macadamized, not a creation of yesterday, but dating back forty years or more, and there are between seventy and eighty miles of them in whatsoever direction you list. They are under the control of the Turnpike Trust, a provincial corporation, and are maintained in a fair condition from the revenue derived from the tolls on all horse vehicles. Surely the automobilist must have been antipicated by the old Quebec fathers, and his roadway smoothed, for in no other part of Canada or the United States, that we are familiar with, are there such superb motor roads, and so many of them. Let our first spin be to:
CAP ROUGE AND RETURN
If this drive be taken in the early morning or late afternoon, the gracious shade of pine, oak and maple which line the whole length of the St. Louis road and part of the Ste. Foye road, will add much to the comfort and pleasure of the motorist. The round trip is but sixteen miles over smooth macadamized roads without a hill on them, except the short rise at the intersection of the two roads at Cap Rouge village. On both roads a magnificent panorama unfolds with every mile of the journey, and frequent short stops must be made at the numerous points made famous by interesting historical events.
Passing through St. Louis gate the stately Parliament buildings, in their ornate grounds that command a vista of mountain, river and valley, first arrest attention. A little further out, on the left, is the Drill Hall, built of stone and of decidedly handsome exterior. In front and facing the street stands the Short-Wallick Monument, erected to commemorate the gallant services of two brave officers who perished in the performance of their duty at the last great fire in St. Sauveur. The range of heights just beyond, where stand the Martello towers of massive stone construction, indicate the spot where General Murray gave battle to the forces under General Levis, on April 28th, 1760, and met with such an overwhelming defeat at the hands of the French general that had he not had the fortress of Quebec to withdraw to, the lily of France once more would have waved over the Citadel. Here, at a later period, the American force under Arnold were paraded in "defiant show before the British garrison, but experience had shown that fighting behind walls was more prudent than an open engagement, and the challenge was declined. At the toll bar we turn aside for a few moments to visit the monument to the immortal General Wolfe, erected on the spot where he fell just as victory crowned the English arms. Before us spread the plains of Abraham whereon was decided the destiny of Canada, giving it into English hands, after a hand to hand engagement in which both contending armies fought with desperation, the French general, the intrepid Montcalm meeting defeat with death.
We now turn again to the St. Louis road and speed away to "Spencer Wood," the Provincial Gubernatorial residence, but for many years before confederation the official residence of successive English Governor-Generals. Huge forest pines and oaks adorn the long avenue leading to the house, and as we spin along it, we obtain a lovely view of lawn, cliff, river and distant hills. We may, if time permits, enroll our names on the register kept for callers, but unless it is the official day for calls we are not apt to see any of the Governor's family. Pretty little St. Michael's Church,enclosed by well-trimmed evergreen hedges, next appears, and directly opposite beautiful Mount Hermon Cemetery with its miles of close shaven lawns, stately pines and varied monumental constructions. The next three or four miles of our road we pass a succession of imposing country mansions, embowered in trees and shrubbery, the residences of the English gentlemen, who, with an eye to the picturesque, have chosen this road for their homes. The handsome equipages well-caparisoned horses, and imposing-liveried coachmen, which pass us, plainly indicate that the residents of the road maintain considerable style in their establishments.
The great bridge pier on the South Shore now comes into view and gives one some slight idea of the immense size that the finished bridge will assume when completed. Upon entering the long pine woods that lead to the village of Cap Rouge we stop for a few moments to rest in their inviting shade. Another short spurt brings us to Cap Rouge hill. Far below us nestles the little village, crowding the cliff side and scattering along the Cove. Apart from the beautiful coup d'oeil which is unfolded at this westerly point of Quebec's island, for island it has been in some remote past, a strangely interesting history attaches to the spot. Here, in 1541, came Jacques Cartier with his two ships, and wintered in the little river, to lay the foundation of the colony which was to follow, under Roberval, the following summer. Upon his arrival a great fort was built on the high point, also storehouses, mills, a bakery, etc. ; land was cleared and planted, but the little colony did not thrive. It lacked the essentials of permanency, and the break-up soon followed. But it should be borne in mind that at Cap Rouge was seriously commenced the first European colony on the main land of North America, sixty-four years before Quebec was founded.
We have now turned into the Ste. Foye road on our way back to the city. The view on this road is magnificent and of immense extent. At the village of Ste. Foye, the winter quarters of the American soldiers in 1775-76, and an old redoubt, are still pointed out. Picturesque villas embowered in immense forest trees now line the road until we reach the monument erected to commemorate the fierce battle which ended here on the 8th April, 1760, between the forces under General Levis and the British Garrison under General Murray. The monument was the gift of Prince Napoleon Bonaparte, and was erected in 1860.
Within another five minutes we are again within the city limits, and our drive is finished.
THE FALLS OF MONTMORENCI
In the late afternoon, when the sun is gilding the spires of many churches, far down the St. Lawrence, and upon the Island of Orleans, and the great bay is full of sailing craft tacking about in the light breeze of summer afternoon, a drive to the Falls of Montmorenci along the height above the river, returning in the gathering twilight after a little supper at the Kent House, is a trip which will linger long in memory. We still follow a beautifully macadamized road, free of hills. The great farmhouse belonging to the Quebec Seminary, is the most conspicuous place we come to after we cross the St. Charles River, by the Dorchester Bridge. It is resorted to, weekly, by the Seminary scholars for their day's outing. The road is now densely populated, the lands divided into long narrow strips, with the houses all hugging the road for closer companionship of their occupants. These houses and outbuildings are of the type peculiar to the farming communities of Lower Canada, and in their fresh dress of whitewash present a decidedly novel but most picturesque appearance. The seignory of Beauport was granted, as early as 1634, to Sieur Giffard. His daughters married the brothers Juchereau, and their descendants, the Duchesnays, occupied the manor for several centuries. The Beauport Asylum, in its beautiful grounds, is the home of the insane under the care of the Sisters of Charity.
The occupation of Quebec by the Kirkes, from 1618 to 1633 but little affected Beauport, which was then only in its infancy, but in 1690, when Admiral Phipps appeared with his great fleet, and landed a force at Beauport, it met with such a stout resistance from the inhabitants and a small body of regulars, as to force it to retire with great loss. Again in 1759, the English under Wolfe, and the fleet commanded by Admirals Holmes and Saunders, made many unsuccessful and disastrous attempts to dislodge the French who were entrenched on the heights and at Montmorenci, and fought valiantly, driving the English soldiers and sailors back to the fleet with severe losses and preventing them from crossing the Montmorenci River. The Americans, in 1775 and 1776, took possession of the parish and made themselves at home among the villagers, who, if not directly sympathizing with the invaders, were at least neutral.
" Haldimand House," at the Falls, now the Kent House was the summer home of the Duke of Kent, the father of Queen Victoria, during his stay in Quebec, where he commanded a regiment of fusiliers. He drove to and from Quebec daily, frequently accompanied by the beautiful Madame St. Laurent.
Though the volume of water is much less than Niagara, the Falls of Montmorenci are considerably higher, and present a beautiful effect amid their picturesque surroundings, with the extended panorama visible from the cliff. A walk of a mile up the river brings us to the great power dam. Should the motorist care to continue his journey, a good road leads on from the Falls to Bonne St. Anne, the great pilgrimage resort.
QUEBEC TO INDIAN LORETTE AND CHARLESBOURG
As several macadamized roads lead to Indian Lorette some eight miles from Quebec on the upland north of the city, it gives a change of road going and coming. We take the road by way of Charlesbourg, where we halt for a cooling drink of spruce beer, and a tramp to the ruins of Chateau Bigot, familiar to all readers of Kirby's "Chien D'Or" and Gilbert Parker's "Seats of the Mighty " as the rendezvous of the notorious and profligate Intendant Bigot, and where, so tradition asserts, was murdered Bigot's mistress, the beautiful Algonquin maid. The parish of Charlesbourg is laid out like a wheel, the church and houses the hub, the lands widening out at the extreme end. This was done for the protection of the settlers in the earlier days, from Indian incursions. From Charlesbourg we turn westward and skirt the upland, from which we have a charming view of Quebec and its fortifications, the River St. Lawrence and the lovely cultivated valley at our feet. The comfortable old farm houses that we pass, among fruitful orchards, indicate a well-to-do peasantry. At the Indian village we put up at Mrs. St. Amand's Hotel, and wander for an hour, through the streets of the little hamlet, watching, with amused curiosity, the various industries carried on by the men and squaws all savouring of the primitive life of the Indian, but in the countenances of men and women little trace remaining of their illustrious ancestors, the once powerful Hurons. The village, however, is full of quaint interest, and its location directly over the great Falls of the St. Charles River, lends to it a wild beauty. Returning we drive the length of the other Lorette, with its really magnificent parish church, and strangely French features, and then we turn down the long slope that leads to the Little River road; along the banks of which we pass for several miles before reaching the city limits.
OTHER RIDES ABOUT QUEBEC
The Montreal turnpike leading through the fertile and pretty parishes of Ancienne Lorette, St. Augustin, and thence to Lake Calvaire, and return by Cap Rouge make a delightful day's outing, as does a trip to Lake Beauport, or Lake St. Charles, both within twelve miles of Quebec, where some good trout fishing may be had, and comfortable inns found, and where one can spend a night if so inclined.