The true beauty of Quebec City lies in the fact that it must be felt more than seen. History and culture can be found in many European cities, but it is in this North American city that the two combine with a sense of joie de vivre that has to be experienced to be understood.
A pair of walking shoes, a taste or wine and a willingness to take in our centuries of history and architecture are all that is required to bask in what is known as the cradle of French civilisation in North America. Old Quebec, the historic neighbourhood of Quebec City, is easy to navigate through. Despite the higher cost of accommodation, this part of the city is ideal. This is a great opportunity to be surrounded by fortifications dating back to the 17th century and to live in what has been declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
What to see
Walking on sunshine: The Dufferin Terrace comes alive with bands and joggers during the summer
Old Quebec can be easily covered on foot, if you are ready to climb up and down its cobblestone slopes. For the faint-hearted, there are buggy rides to take you on a guided tour of the fortifications for Canadian dollar 80 (approx Rs. 4,300) for a few hours. There is also an electric bus, Ecolobus, at just a dollar a ride. Whether on hooves, feet or wheels, there are some must-sees in Quebec City:
St Lawrence River and Chateau Frontenac: The mighty St Lawrence River, on the cape of which the grand Hotel Chateau Frontenac sits, is a lifeline for the Quebec province. It is one of the longest rivers in the world and a walk along the Dufferin Terrace is a must. This comes alive with bands and joggers during the summers. It owes its name to Lord Dufferin, a former governor who fought against the demolition of the fortifications that give the city its character.
The Chateau Frontenac is probably Canada’s most photographed building. Built in seven stages from 1892-1893, it evokes the romanticism of the 14th and 15th century architectural heritage of historic towns along the Loire River in France.
Place Royale: This is the birthplace of French America. It was here that the first permanent settlement was founded by Samuel de Champlain in 1608. It used to be the hub of commerce, and is now abuzz with old-style restaurants and boutique shops selling blown glassware and animal furs. One can climb down the many steps from Chateau Frontenac to this site or take the cable car for CAD2 (approx Rs. 100) a ride.
Birthplace of French America: A visit to Place Royale in Lower Town is like travelling back in time
Notre-Dame of Quebec: The first Catholic parish and cathedral in Canada, this is a five-minute walk from the Chateau Frontenac. Built in 1647, this church was ravaged twice by fire through the centuries.
Plains of Abraham or Battlefields Park: Only North America can convert its war zones into parks. Once the site of clashes between the British and French armies, Battlefields Park was created in 1908. The more than 103 hectares of gardens are one of the largest urban parks in the world.
Citadelle of Quebec: Located on Cap Diamant (Cape Diamond), the star-shaped Citadelle constitutes the eastern side of Quebec’s fortifications. Its construction began in 1820 and lasted more than 30 years. Take a guided tour for CAD10 (Rs 540). If you’re here at noon, you will hear a cannon being shot across the nearby plains. While inside, don’t forget to take a free tour of the Residence of the Governor General at the Citadelle.
Museum of Civilization: A popular museum in Quebec City. There are at least 10 exhibitions to view, and guided tours in English. Admission is CAD14 (approx Rs. 740).
Montmorency Falls: Take an entire day to travel 12 km northeast of Quebec City to enjoy these impressive falls. Their claim to fame is the fact that they are 98 feet higher than Niagara Falls, although considerably lesser in volume. The falls are at the mouth of the Montmor-ency river, where it drops over the cliff into the St Lawrence River. A suspension bridge over the crest of the falls is ideal to walk on for a spectacular view. Some 487 steps have also been built to view the falls from different angles. An aerial tram carries passengers between the foot and top of the falls for CAD10.
Water, water, everywhere: Montmorency Falls are 98 feet higher than the Niagara Falls
Tourists this year got treated to the famous acrobats of Cirque du Soleil. In a rare instance, they performed for free. While Quebec City does have pubs and dance clubs, its cultural nightlife surpasses the modern kind. Here’s where you should head to:
Image mills: This open-air spectacle takes place at the old port on some weeknights. Using grain elevators as projection screens, this hour-long visual extravaganza combines music, laser, animation and movies to put together a fete that is unique and unforgettable, for free.
Ground zero: The British and French armies once clashed at Battlefields Park
Parliament hill: The architecture of the Parliament Building is best viewed when it is lit up at night. Across the building stands the Tourny Fountain, gifted to the City of Quebec on its 400th anniversary by a family-owned local retail store.
An array of antiques, blown glass, wooden sculptures, furs and jewellery beckon. You can also buy maple products, chocolates, cheese, wines and fine liqueurs. Quebec City boasts of five of the largest shopping centres in North America. And if you’re in North America, can shopping be far behind!
Visa: Indians need a visa. Visit www.vfs-canada.co.in
Flights: There are no direct flights to Quebec from India. Fly to Toronto and book a domestic flight on Air Canada or Porter Airlines
Road: From Toronto rent a car to drive down to Quebec City. The distance: 795 km
Bus: Chinese-operated bus tours ply from Toronto to Quebec City but they cover Montreal and Ottawa on the wayweather: The best time to visit is between May and September, but winter fans can visit between October and April too
Carry a good pair of walking shoes and a light sweater if you’re travelling between June and September
Be prepared to survive on pizzas if you’re vegetarian
One Canadian dollar (CAD) equals Rs. 54 approximately
The Winter Carnival takes place in February. Temperatures range between -10 and -25 degrees
From HT Brunch, November 4
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