Favorite Travel Quotes

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."
-- Mark Twain
Innocents Abroad

"Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey." -- Fitzhugh Mullan

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -- Lao Tzu

The Citadel—Preserving Québec’s Peace

With Kayaks, Mountain bikes, Backpacks, Daypacks, Walking Sticks, Fishing Poles—and an Airstream Travel Trailer

By Bert Gildart:

Bonjour, mon ami. Bonjour!

Since we’ve been in Québec, one of my big questions has concerned the French language. How, I’ve wondered, have the French maintained their language when they capitulated to the English in 1759? That’s a long time ago, and everything about the area, including the huge Citadel that looms over Old Quebec (the first settlement in Canada), suggests strong British/English domination.

And, so with questions such as that in mind, yesterday, we again took the ferry from Lévis, catching a carriage ride from near the wharf to a high point overlooking Old Québec. Here is where we joined Emily, a French Canadian who spoke excellent English, for a tour of this imposing structure.

Our group was comprised of an interesting assortment of people, one person in fact, was from London, and he seemed to have a military bent. And it seemed as though he wanted to proclaim the superiority of the British to our French guide. His manner, however, was endearing.

Of course, this tour was of a military compound, so it should not have surprised us to learn that others, too, were interested in military history. This pleased “Mr. London,” who asked Emily, our tour guide, if he might talk a bit about the cannon that had been lovingly named “Rachael.”

Rachael, according to London, loomed over the St. Lawrence, and, as Mr. London informed us, cannons such as Rachael could reach out and strike any ship within a 3 kilometer range. He said, however, that cannons were actually aimed so that they would strike in front of their target.

“Cannon balls would then skip across the water and strike a ship near the water line. If you wanted to sink a ship, this was the best technique.”

Continuing, he implied that the British have long been using superior techniques, and that is one of the reasons the British gained possession of Québec—and still have it.

Though Emily remained professional, here, I thought I detected a very slight trace of irritation.

In actuality, the British, according to our tour guide, built the Citadel between 1779 and 1783—toward the end of the American Revolution. American colonists were beginning to win the war, and because the British feared an American invasion, they believed they needed to fortify Old Quebec.

But it was not used then, nor has it ever been used. However, the Citadel has always functioned as a military bastion, and, today, it still serves as a military post. And that’s one of the features that attracts today’s visitors. Certainly, it should attract the French, for French-speaking soldiers of the Citadel have repeatedly distinguished themselves, as Emily pointed out.

When we arrived, our attention was drawn to the two soldiers guarding the one and only entrance to the Citadel. Each of the two men is instructed to stand ramrod straight for two hours, wearing two pound hats made from the fur of a black bear. The men are well trained, for as they stood, we watched as children attempted to break their stern countenance, and once, as two uninhibited ladies flirted shamelessly.

Placing themselves on either side, one of the ladies giggled and asked the soldier why he couldn’t smile? The young soldier remained stony faced.

“Well, will you meet me later this evening?”

Though I thought I saw a twinkle in the young man’s face, nevertheless, he remained unmoved. None of the people actually touched one of the guards, and I suspect that if anyone did, he or she would be escorted by other nearby soldiers from the compound.

Today, these men guarding the Citadel are members of a royal regiment, the 22nd Royal Regiment to be precise. The unit was created just prior to WWI under a different name and at the time, these French-speaking soldiers were integrated into English-speaking units. Under those conditions, it’s not surprising that recruitment levels remained low.

Several months later, the government changed tactics, and on October 21st, 1914, the Canadian government authorized creation of the 22nd, assigning the Citadel as its home post. Subsequent to that time, the 22nd has participated in all major conflicts, and French-speaking individuals have often been awarded Canada’s highest military medal, The Victoria Cross. Unfortunately, some of these awards were made posthumously.

Though I have not yet pinned down all the reasons French continues to dominate this province, it does seem as though the quick answer, initially, may have been from the influence of the Catholic Church. But it’s obvious that now the language persists by virtue of the great pride the people of Québec have in their background. Language, of course, often suggests pride in a culture, and the people here aggressively struggle to maintain that culture and a language that seems so full of romance and an undeniable joy of life.

This morning, in fact, we were informed on one of the English channels of our TV that the word Rue (street) was not large enough and that government should make it larger. Though I’m certainly not emotionally involved in this historic debate, certainly those in Québec are, and it should be remembered that about 10 years ago, the Province of Québec came within a few votes of successfully seceding from a predominately English-speaking nation.

On another note, we called Verizon and learned that for about $15, we can upgrade our wireless from an American plan to a North American plan. That, however, includes only our wireless telephone, so we’re still learning about Internet connections. It’s all possible, but ironically, there have been some misunderstandings—probably because of the French language, but after just two days, we’re starting to work that out.

So for now, I must take my leave: Au revoir, mon ami. Au revoir!

Comments are closed.