Originally not more than a hazy dot on a hazy map, Quebec began as a trading outpost in a vast wilderness, 800 hundred miles from open ocean and icebound for up to 6 months of the year. Nonetheless, over the course of these past 400 hundred years the city has evolved into a place of great visual charm and sophistication. This can be considered the result at least in part of geopolitical struggles between far distant Britain and France. Both colonial powers expended not only military time and treasure but also cultural energy in their centuries long struggle for dominance in the region. To take but one example, in 1804 the British chose Quebec as the site of the first Anglican cathedral in the Americas. The Cathedral of the Holy Trinity was and is no rough or hasty effort, however, but one closely modeled on Christopher Wrenn’s masterpiece St Martin’s in the Fields on Trafalgar Square in London. The French responded by adding a massive gilt baldachin to the Notre-Dame de Quebec Cathedral, inspired in turn by Bernini’s masterpiece in St. Peters Basilica in Rome. And so it went, back and forth, a competition between empires that existed all the way up to the creation of the Federal Dominion of Canada in 1867. The motivations at play may have been less than pure but the result is now pure visual delight—a compact and walkable walled city with a charming vista around seemingly every corner. And while the architecture may be a gorgeous hybrid, the culture otherwise skews heavily--and happily--toward the French; a heritage perhaps most satisfyingly experienced through the city’s passionate attachment to truly excellent food. In restaurants, in marches, epiceries and boulangeries--in short, everywhere--the terrific food is French-inflected, creative, innovative, and disciplined all at the same time.
No doubt we’ll be posting again on this magical city later this year when Studio Traveler leads a trip to Quebec City. In the meantime, for a few more photos taken during our recent look-see, please CLICK HERE.