22 December, 2010

Can't afford Europe? Quebec City is a hop, skip and jump away

If you're bemoaning the weakness of the US dollar vis-a-vis the Euro, unwilling to endure the enhanced TSA "pat down" molestation, or your inner Francophile is itching to parler Francais, then consider a quick getaway to the walled, UNESCO World Heritage site of Quebec City.

 The cradle of French civilization in the New World (i.e. North America), Quebec City's center is compact, easily walkable, quite photogenic, and full of nice little shops and restaurants. And yes, the language. Most Quebecois' first language is French (though most speak decent English as well), so first-time visitors could be forgiven if they think they've actually crossed the Atlantic.

Let it snow, let it snow...
My first trip to Quebec City was five years ago on a day-trip from Montreal. Who can forget the towering Chateau de Frontenac, walking along the Terrasse Dufferin promenade, and browsing the shops at Quartier Petit Champlain? Alas, an afternoon was too short to fully appreciate the charms of Quebec City, so I vowed to make it back someday.

That someday turned out to be the 4-day long Thanksgiving weekend here in the US. As you can see from the snow, perhaps it wasn't quite the most ideal time to visit, but with familiar sights like the majestic Chateau Frontenac perched on top of the cliff overlooking the St. Lawrence river, and the huge colorful mural depicting Quebec City's history, it felt like visiting an old friend's home.

Chateau de Frontenac
Exploring the Quartier Petit Champlain area in the Lower Town is always a pleasure, especially with all the holiday lights on display. Some new experiences for this repeat visitor include taking the ten-minute ride by ferry to Levis, situated on the other side of the St. Lawrence River, for a few drinks at the Corsaire microbrewery, and venturing outside the walls of Vieux Quebec to explore the food shops and restaurants in the St. Jean Baptiste neighborhood. One particularly great find was Le Billig, a creperie-bistro serving Breton cuisine where I had a sumptuous lunch.

Mural depicting Quebec City's history

If you're worried about the language barrier, suffice it to say that all the Quebecois locals and service industry staff whom I encountered spoke English well, suffered through my valiant attempts (somewhat successfully, I hope) to render basic greetings and phrases in their native tongue, and displayed none of the snobbery towards non-French speakers that I had been advised about.

festive Quartier Petit Champlain
Overall, I was quite pleased with my quick getaway to Quebec City, despite the frigid temps and occasional snow, and extremely delighted at my choice of accommodations, the Hosteling International Quebec City hostel (aka Auberge Internationale Quebec City). Not only was the hostel's location central, but it was kept quite clean (a must!) at all times, and offered activities that provided travelers opportunities to mingle. Surely a traipse across the pond could not have proved equally memorable.


RV rentals Canada said...

I definitely agree! Quebec is a stunning city with a European feel all over the place. It cost less than traveling via air to Europe, so you don't need to worry about sky high plane tickets. It features great travel destinations that everyone loves. For your next visit to Quebec, you may want to check out the famous Hotel de Glace. It's a must see!

Car Hire Canada said...

Quebec is truly spectacular! For anyone who loves old world architecture and European charm in North America is top on the list.

Anonymous said...

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Quebec is one of my favorite city. A Few days ago I had been to Sherbrooke and stayed in Hotel le President it was a wonderful experience …