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Why is Canada’s 2nd Oldest City Forgotten by So Many Guidebooks?

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Apr 10th, 2009, 06:48 PM
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Why is Canada’s 2nd Oldest City Forgotten by So Many Guidebooks?

Blowing the candles out this year on its 375th birthday, I only became aware of this fact from the artistic“375 ans” signs as I approached the city of Trois-Rivières (pop. ca. 120,000) on my Orléans Express bus from Montréal along Autoroute 40. The middle child, second-oldest city, squeezed between the showier stepsisters… the elder 400-year-old statesman Québec City with its walls, government buildings and oh-so-important historic battles and the younger (well, 3rd oldest) Montréal with its brash skyscrapers, heady nightlife and multicultural pizzazz… middle Trois-Rivières is often bypassed altogether as tourists, Canadians and international, whiz by on Autoroute 20 on the opposite shore, completely oblivious or indifferent to its presence. Even though I decided to visit by bus today (for what is incidentally my first visit ever after nearly 12 years of living in close-by Montréal!), Montrealer friends ask (we Montrealers can be such royal snobs sometimes) “why are you going THERE????”.

A day off work, curiosity had taken me along the 1hr.40min. journey along the north shore of the Saint Lawrence to visit the last city I had yet to see within several hours of Montreal. My first impression of the city was… well, in truth, it was the city`s only otherwise uneventful skyscraper… an uneventful rectangular skyscraper except for the fact that it was entirely blue! Well, aside from that building, the historic aspect of Trois-Rivières struck me very quickly with the narrow streets with clapboard homes on either side coming in by bus.

The bus station is located very centrally, with several trips from Montreal and Quebec daily, making a day trip quite do-able. I recommend marching down one block like I did straight to the Infotouriste center on 1457 Notre-Dame. The woman behind the counter was very kind, giving suggestions as to pleasant walks to see historic homes and churches, explaining to me that much of Trois-Rivières was destroyed in a terrible fire in 1908.

One pleasant thing about Trois-Rivières is that not only is the (old) Vieux Trois Rivières part very walkable, but it’s right next to the waterfront, as well as the restaurants, cafes and bars along and nearby Rue des Forges downtown. The recommended historic walk (self-guided) starts on rue des Casernes by the bust of the founder Sieur de Laviolette and then winds along rue des Ursulines where one passes lovely homes like the Manoir de Tonnancour (rebuilt 1795), fascinating churches like the Église St. James (built originally by les Pères Récollets in 1754) ori and the unique white-building flanked centrally-copper-domed Monastère des Ursulines (taken possession by the Ursuline nuns in 1700). The recommended walk passes close by the waterfront, which makes a pleasant detour, as one can see the silver-steepled church across the river at Ste. Angèle de Laval and pass through a park in front of the Ursulines with modern art and informative plaques. Finally, the arrows on the map weave their way past the white stone with red-shutters Manoir Boucher-de-Niverville (built 1729), ending at the magnificent Cathédrale de l’Assomption de Marie, a beautiful green-stained stone house of worship with green-framed stain-glass windows and tall green spire with clock.

After a visit at the Musée Québécois de la Culture Populaire ($8, more for kids I think), as I walked back toward the bus station for the ride back to Montréal, I was impressed by the general liveliness and youthful energy on the streets on rue des Forges and adjacent streets as I stopped at the local chain Morgane Café. It was a windy 5˚C, yet the overwhelmingly smartly dressed francophone crowd were sitting out on the sidewalk on stools in front of bars, sharing pitchers of beer and laughing with their friends. I kind of wished I knew somebody in their group so as to join in with their good times, but was happy enough just to observe.

As the bus pulled out of the station, I could not but think that maybe that the middle child Trois-Rivières was doing just fine… maybe in fact better off, happier being off the tourist map (and better off without snobbish Montrealers passing judgment). A place with history and joie de vivre for those who live there and the mildly curious to go appreciate.

Happy travelling Daniel
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Apr 11th, 2009, 04:56 AM
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What a delightful report, Daniel. Thank you so much for posting it.
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Apr 11th, 2009, 07:38 AM
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The current issue of Canadian Geographic has a feature article on Trois-Rivières.

http://www.canadiangeographic.ca/mag...s_rivieres.asp
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Apr 11th, 2009, 06:22 PM
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Port-Royal (modern day Annapolis Royal) is generally considered to be Canada's 2nd oldest continuously inhabited city. It's the oldest if you take out the continuous part. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acadia
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Apr 11th, 2009, 07:00 PM
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Thanks for that thought QueScaisJe!

Annapolis Royal came to my mind actually after the Infotouriste lady mentioned the "2nd oldest" detail of Trois-Rivieres.

Annapolis Royal, founded in 1604, you're right, makes it Canada's oldest "more-or-less" (with an brief hiatus apparently due to a few years of European skirmishes in the early 1600s) permanent European settlement, five years before Quebec City (it's up there for a place to visit the next time I'm in Nova Scotia!). However, since Annapolis Royal has a present-day population of under 500, one might consider it a village. Consequently, the qualification of Trois-Rivieres as Canada's 2nd oldest CITY (if one considers pop. 100,000+ to qualify as a city, which I believe is a fairly reasonable cutoff) does not seem unfair to my knowledge.

Best wishes, Daniel
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Apr 11th, 2009, 07:40 PM
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QueScaisJe--- Your query made me question 2nd oldest "city": This title appears to actually go to St. John's, NF, which seems to have had ships in its harbour in the early 1600s and from what I can tell, settlers in the 1620s were in the area, so I'll grant St. John's seems to precede Trois-Rivieres by a few years (but perhaps polemicists could argue in favour of Trois Rivieres from a chartering point of view). Regardless, 2nd oldest CITY on "mainland Canada" still sounds pretty good to me.

BTW thanks cmcfong for reading and laverendrye for the article!

Daniel
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Apr 11th, 2009, 07:44 PM
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Thank you. Very enjoyable report. I will keep it in mind for a day trip if I make it to Montreal! Sorry, that I am puting Montreal first!
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Apr 13th, 2009, 06:58 AM
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Annetti

Thanks for enjoying!

And no need to apologize . Coming from a local, Montreal really has a lot to offer; I'd highly recommend as the focal point of a journey to this neck of the woods. Despite my tongue-in-cheek earlier comments, I too love Montreal, even the snobs can contribute to the fun ambience . (There really are quite a number of fascinating day trips to be made from Mtl also, one reason it took me so long to make it to Trois-Rivieres!)

Do come! Daniel
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Apr 13th, 2009, 08:32 AM
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Daniel, Perhaps you can answer a question for me. We are considering a home exchange for this summer in Montreal(mid July to early August for three weeks) and wonder if we need air conditioning. I don't believe the home exchanger has a/c. I know I would want it in NY, so what is your take on the a/c? Thanks.
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Apr 13th, 2009, 08:36 AM
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BTW, years ago and I mean years ago, I remember traveling through Trois-Rivieres with my parents and was intrigued with the name. I was just beginning high school French. We did not see much of the town, in fact, it seemed more like a sleepy village to me then. AND it probably was. . .
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Apr 13th, 2009, 09:02 AM
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Hi annetti,

I've lived for many years without A/C in Montreal, but there's usually a period of maybe 2 weeks in summer ("les canicules") when it can get quite hot and humid. During these periods, I go through this "should I? or shouldn't I? debate" as I feel a bit sweaty or hot trying to sleep with fans blowing at me and windows open, but I've not yet succumbed. Depends how stalwart one is I guess; I would say of my Montrealer friends, it's roughly half-half with A/C... some people can't manage without their creature comforts... I've thought about getting it for when guests visit, though.

Best wishes, Daniel

(P.S. There actually aren't "three rivers"; the Maurice River is just split by islands to give this impression at the entrance to the Saint-Lawrence.)
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Apr 13th, 2009, 09:15 AM
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Daniel: Thanks very much for the quick answer. We are now waiting for our Montreal counterparts to make a decision on whether or not they want to visit So Calif. We should know in a few days!
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May 20th, 2009, 12:59 PM
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I stopped there. Trois Rivieres is a great place at which to cross the river.

As for the general area, I found the smaller towns between T.R. and Quebec (city) more enchanting than was T.R.

I remember struggling in T.R. while trying to get from the riverside city onto a bluff up above town (couldn't find or easily get myself to the road 'up').

All in all Trois Rivieres is quite a pleasant area.
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Jun 20th, 2009, 08:18 PM
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I hope this helps.

Name Date
St. John's 1540s
Quebec City 1608
Saint John 1631
Trois-Rivières 1634
Montreal 1642

Three of the oldest five cities in Canada are found in Quebec. Wow. Must have a lot of very interesting historical sites in Quebec.
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Jun 21st, 2009, 06:00 AM
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Hi Aaron73,

Thank you for this list... yes, the three Quebec cities have a good amount of historic charm... As for Trois-Rivières being second, I believe the Infotouriste lady was not lying, but rather I may have misinterpreted what she may have said. She may have said something like, « Trois-Rivières est la deuxième plus vieille ville canadienne » or the 2nd oldest city "of the canadiens". That term however, "Canadien" in French, despite the present political whatever in this country, was a term used by the early French-speaking settlers to refer to themselves. So, she may have simply meant the 2nd oldest French Canadian city...

St. John's, Newfoundland though is an interesting one... on Wikipedia I read, "The earliest record of the location appears as São João on a Portuguese map by Pedro Reinel in 1519. When John Rut visited St. John's in 1527 he found Norman, Breton and Portuguese ships in the harbour." So in some Portuguese manifestation, it may have existed even in the fifteen teens it seems! Makes me want to go!

Best wishes, Daniel
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