16 April 2009

Favourite places we've visited: Quebec City, Canada

Quebec City, Canada has two distinct parts. First, there's the yukky modern city. It seems about as lifeless and uninspiring as many modern cities can be.

Then there's the old walled city - and that's a different world. We were privileged to stay within the walls a few years ago at a charming hotel with an all-important adjoining parking garage (with a hefty fee...). What a pleasure it was to stay in this place! We could easily have lived there (except we didn't experience winter, and I suspect that it's a little colder than what we experience in Australia). So, what was so good about Quebec City?

Well, I guess the first thing is the people. Canadians are universally hospitable. We've never met an impolite, unfriendly Canadian and I wouldn't wonder if they didn't exist. And despite occasional English/French rivalry and attempts to secede from Canada, the Quebecois (French Canadians) were extremely courteous to us as their guests, even if they did assume we were British...!

Secondly, the architecture is fantastic. A European city in North America, replete with French architectural styles. The grand hotel Chateau Frontenac, with its commanding position above the city, certainly reinforces the French influences in the buildings.

Thirdly, the ambience and quaintness (and I don't mean that in a condescending way) of the city: cobblestones, steep winding streets, artists on the pavement, Christmas shops, the tangled driving maze, the wall encircling the town, the street decorations. The myriad of tiny details that conspire to create the feeling of a place, and not just the pretty view.

Fourth, the view. Commanding a high position above the St Lawrence Seaway, it is one magnificent view. And there's a long promenade to take advantage of it.

Fifth, the wonderful, wonderful eateries. OK, so we debased ourselves and went to McDonald's once, but we have repented of our error and won't do that again in a hurry. But the cafe across the street and up a bit was simply fantastic. Our lunch servings were so substantial we had to join several tables together just to fit the trays on them (there were 2 adults and 2 kids, ages 5 and 2)! And, the staff let me practice my very haltering French - we conversed bilingually until I got it right! The food was great and the coaching graciously endured. Also, the kid-friendly staff and food at the St James Resto-Bisto is worthy of special mention.

In planning this holiday, we had intended to see New York and the New England area - Vermont in particular. We stretched things and reorganised the itinerary to squeeze in several days in Quebec City, and we are so pleased that we did! It was well worth the visit.

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