Usually once a month we try to feature a country of origin that represents the background or ancestry of one of our Amintro friends. Today we’re doing something a little different, shining a spotlight on a locale within a country, a location that’s kind of like a little piece of Europe right here in North America. If you’re looking for an affordable, fun, French getaway – look no further than Quebec City! With historic buildings, an iconic boardwalk, bistros, cafes and cathedrals, there is so much to see and do (all in close proximity to one another) you and your friends will be kept busy for as long or as short a visit as you have the time for.
Quebec City is located in the Province of Quebec, which in turn – for readers from afar – is in Canada. It’s an easy, accessible drive from most major urban centres using major highways or you can fly in. Once you arrive, depending on where you choose to stay and your fitness level, much of what you might want to see and do is within comfortable walking distance. Be warned however, there are quite a few hills to climb and many of the streets are cobblestoned so you will want a great pair of sturdy and comfortable walking shoes!
Quebec City is divided into Upper Town and Lower Town. It is the only fortified city (the walls still exist!) north of Mexico and was originally founded in 1608 by Samuel de Champlain. It’s located on the banks of the St. Lawrence River and has played a prominent role in Canadian history ever since. It is the capital city of the Province of Quebec and in 1985, the historic old town was granted status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. “Old” Quebec features beautiful old buildings, cobblestoned streets, historic “gates” (stunning large stone structures) similar to what might be seen dotting European landscapes and many shops, cafes and restaurants. It has, as the travel agents might describe it, “a distinctly European feel.”
Traveling between Lower and Upper Town, as we hinted at earlier, is not for the faint of heart! If you are walking you can meander through the winding streets and there are a number of steep sets of stairs known as Escalier “casse-cou” which literally means “neck-breaking stairs!” If stairs are not an option for you – take the Old Quebec Funicular instead – a sort of “Gondola” that runs on a set of railway type tracks between “Haute-ville” (Upper Town) and “Basse-ville” (Lower Town.) It’s one heck of an incredibly steep journey but the views are pretty spectacular! Upper Town includes the famous Chateau Frontenac where, for the history buff, a secret World War Two meeting between Sir Winston Churchill, US President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King took place in 1944. Included on the agenda were plans for D-Day. The Chateau is a beautiful example of early 20th century architecture and is part of a series of hotels located across Canada originally built by the CP Rail Company. Also in Upper Town is the grand and gorgeous Notre Dame de Quebec Cathedral, a Roman Catholic Basilica that should be a “must-see” on any tour of Quebec City. The historic Plains of Abraham are nearby, where you can also tour the Citadelle of Quebec, the oldest (and still active) military installation in Canada. Finally, no trip would be complete without a walk along the “Terrasse Dufferin,” a boardwalk which extends 425 metres along the base of the Chateau Frontenac and which is perched 60m above the sweeping views it provides of the St. Lawrence River. In the summer it is a lively place full of buskers and street performers and in the winter, a portion of the boardwalk forms an impressive, speedy toboggan run – a great opportunity to relive your youth!
While French is spoken widely throughout Quebec City, if you don’t speak the language don’t let that be a deterrent to visiting. Most people can (and will) switch easily between French and English in order to accommodate their many visitors. Many of the cafes and restaurants are also quite fluent in understanding and accommodating allergic diners as well. If this is an issue for you or a friend you’re travelling with, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to dine with relative comfort. We should also mention that if you travel by car, there are plenty of beautiful stops nearby including the magnificent Montmorency Falls, just 15 minutes away. In short, if you’re located just about anywhere in North America but want to experience a little bit of French flair and European style, consider a visit to Quebec City. You won’t be disappointed!
Written by Sheralyn Roman