For Québec City residents, the funny looking word “Limoilou” refers to the vibrant, unpretentious neighborhood just to the north and west of the old city. Lying along the north shore of the St. Charles River, Limoilou overflows with boulangeries and bicycle shops. Any tourist who wanders across the river will be well rewarded with a delightful slice of Québec urban living.
But where does this name “Limoilou” come from? In this province, where it would seem that nine out of ten cities are named for saints, this name stands out on any map. As far as I know, there is no Saint Limoilou…
In February of 1893, as the Chateau Frontenac was taking shape in Québec City’s upper town, authorities were reconfiguring the lower town as well. They decided to subdivide the area known as St. Roch, turning the portion north of the river into a separate municipality. When it came time to name this new neighborhood, they turned to their history books and looked up the first European to have called it home.
It was in this part of the Québec City region that Jacques Cartier had waited for spring during the winter of 1535-1536. It was a severe winter – most of them are in this part of the world. Many of those who camped at the bend of the St. Charles River that winter died. When spring finally arrived, those who survived the ordeal weighed anchor and headed back for Europe.
After a final trip to the region in 1541-1542, Cartier retired to his native St-Malo, France. He had two homes there. One within the city walls on rue de Buhen (rue Chateaubriand today) and one about six kilometers out of town, between the villages of St-Ideuc and Rothéneuf. Jacques Cartier’s will, read shortly after his death in 1557, would refer to this country house as “the house of Lymouellou,” after the tiny hamlet that surrounded it.
(Pictured above: Manoir de Limoëlou, St. Malo, France)