Wednesday, January 27, 2021

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A Visit to Québec City

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Photographed by Zoe Roos/elan Magazine

Photographed by Zoe Roos/elan Magazine )

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Photographed by Zoe Roos/elan Magazine

Photographed by Zoe Roos/elan Magazine )

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Photographed by Zoe Roos/elan Magazine

Photographed by Zoe Roos/elan Magazine )

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Photographed by Zoe Roos/elan Magazine

Photographed by Zoe Roos/elan Magazine )

It's probably the closest one can get to visiting a European city without ever actually going to Europe. A fine blend of history, culture, and recreational activities all year round, Québec City has a little something for everyone.

Located in northeastern Canada on the St. Lawrence River, Québec City is the capital city of Québec province. The city is one of the oldest European settlements in North America and the only fortified city north of Mexico. Settled and founded by the French centuries ago, the French influence is still quite obvious – and not just because of the language.

The city itself has numerous neighborhoods, the most famous and most popular to tour being Old Québec. This section of the city is a certified UNESCO World Heritage site. This part of the city is completely fortified and small enough to allow tourists to easily wander through the old cobblestone streets. Within the walls, visitors can see numerous historic sites including Place Royale,

Petit-Champlain District, and the parliament building. At the far end of Old Québec, right on the river, is the Dufferin Terrace, a large boardwalk-type structure that is usually packed with tourists taking photos of Château Frontenac – possibly the most photographed hotel in North America, if not the world.

In Old Québec, a good place to start is Rue Saint-Jean, more or less the main drag through this part of the city. During the summer months, the road is closed to car traffic so pedestrians can mill about freely. On this street, visitors find plenty of restaurants, shops, churches, and historic buildings as well as a fair number of artists, musicians, and street performers during the summer. While it may sound like a very touristy thing to do, you'll find no shortage of shops selling poutine. The dish originated in Québec and since combining French fries, cheese curds, and brown gravy may be one of the greatest gifts to taste buds known to man, I strongly recommend eating a lot of it.

Other important neighborhoods in Québec City include Old Port, located on the river with a number of waterside restaurants; Saint-Jean-Baptiste, commonly known as the bohemian neighborhood due to its collection of independent stores, bistros, pubs, and typically younger inhabitants; Montcalm, the arts neighborhood; and Saint-Roch, commonly thought of as the trendy neighborhood. Québec City places a high premium on its tourism industry and provides a robust selection of resources for visitors to help determine what sites and areas of the city may be of the greatest interest.

There are plenty of things to see just outside of the main city, too. Île d'Orléans, situated in the middle of the St. Laurence River, is a stunning example of high-class countryside living. Complete with farms and homes preserved from the 18th century, this island offers magnificent views, artist attractions, and plenty to eat and drink. Highlights include the Chocolaterie de Île d'Orléans, which sells chocolate dipped ice cream cones, and Domaine Steinbach which offers cider tastings of numerous local ciders including ice cider found only in Québec.

Canada, as a whole, is well-known for its natural beauty. Québec City is a reasonably small city, which makes it easy to quickly escape the city atmosphere and explore some of the natural wonders of the area. Just 15 minutes from city proper is Montmorency Falls. The waterfall is 30 meters higher than Niagara Falls (though not as wide) and it's a site to behold. Visitors can take a gondola or walk up to the top of the falls. A suspension bridge spans the top and for those brave – or crazy – visitors there is also the option to zipline across the face of the falls.

Other close outdoor sites include Parc National de la Jacques-Cartier, a massive glacial valley with hiking trails and options for canoeing or kayaking. Nearby Canyon Sainte-Anne offers numerous trails along another river and falls. There is also the option here to go on the air canyon, a two person seated ride that sends you across the forest and over the canyon gorge and falls at close to 90 meters above the ground – pretty much the closest a person can get to a birds-eye view.

Things to Know, Where to Stay, How to Get There

Québec is a mostly French–speaking province and even more so in Québec City than in other popular destinations like Montreal, the larger southern city in the province. Important to note, the French spoken in Quebec, sometimes referred to as Québécois – referring to both the language and the people – is different from France French. The difference isn't astounding, but it did take my Parisian French ears a bit of time to adjust to the accent and grammatical differences. Fortunately, the people of Québec are, shall we say, a bit warmer than the Parisians so the locals kindly smiled and helped me along as I stumbled over the linguistic difference on my first day there.

In terms of places to stay, there are plenty of famous hotels to choose from but there is also a booming apartment or Airbnb rental industry. Rentals are available in the heart of the city but also in some of the quieter suburbs for very reasonable prices and fortunately, the city has a robust bus system so getting into downtown from the suburbs is easy and fairly cheap.

To get to the city, visitors can fly or opt to drive. The drive from Connecticut is about seven hours depending on how direct of a route you choose to take but it's a fairly easy (and scenic) drive. Just keep in mind that once you hit the border, the car speed switches to the metric system and the road signs are no longer in English. And, as was in my case, be prepared for your traveling companions to possibly burst into a very loud rendition of "O Canada" as you cross the border.




Zoe Roos covers news for Guilford and Madison for Zip06. Email Zoe at z.roos@shorepublishing.com.

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