If you can’t get to France, try visiting your French Canadian neighbors in historic French Quebec City in Canada, the only North American city to be designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Getting around town.
Old Quebec is separated into the Upper and Lower Towns. The Funicular provides a quick ride up and down the hill, with big windows for a spectacular view. The funicular is scheduled to run until 11 PM, but one Saturday evening, after a stroll around the lower town, it closed about ten minutes early. So, we learned that the famous “Breakneck Stairs” aren’t really so hard to climb after all. Steps in some form have been on that spot for centuries, and we had no need to break the1698 rule that forbade bringing herds of animals.
Lower Town with Murals, shops, and restaurants.
In Lower Town there is an amazing mural which fills the entire side of a building with the history of Quebec. Pick up a diagram of the mural and see how many of the characters you recognize. Who are those nuns looking out of the window? Is that Champlain? After looking at the entire history of the city painted so realistically on one huge wall, continue past stores and restaurants to see what was going on at the local Irish pub years ago portrayed in another full wall mural.
While in the Lower Town, stop into the Musee de la Civilisation, visit the port, the old churches, and shop for beautiful art work, or just some souvenirs.
Walk the promenade around the Upper Town.
Walk along the promenade which follows the city wall past the landmark Fondulac Hotel for a lovely view of the river and the city. Archaeological digs are unearthing the early city buildings, and guides dressed in period costumes explain what life was like when these old stone buildings were new.
There is a wonderful view of the St. Lawrence River and the sites of battles for territory. The city grew as ships arrived from England or France, depending on who was in charge at the time. The Plains of Abraham were the site of fierce fighting, but today the vast expanse of grass has walking paths and tourists enjoying scenic rides in horse drawn carriages. The Citadel is still an active military installation, but if military history is your interest, tours are conducted.
What to see in Quebec City.
Read the historic markers everywhere which give facts about events, characters, and dates for many of the old buildings. Rue du Tresor is a short narrow street full of artists displaying their work much as you would find in Paris. Use your tourist map to find the cannonball firmly lodged in a tree which grew around it, then visit city hall for a lively presentation of a model of the city and an overview of the history which you may have forgotten, or never learned.
When to visit.
The busy summer season doesn’t really get going until well into June, so May is a lovely time to visit. If you would like to enjoy a touch of winter, Winter Carnival is in February. We were told “It’s beautiful!” and “It’s magical!” by enthusiastic Quebecois encouraging us to return for a winter wonderland visit. I almost had my husband talked into it when our waitress heard me saying we’d be back in the winter. “Oh no,” she whispered. “You don’t want to do that. When its 20 below, you’ll want to go home.” Since, as tourists, we won’t need to tread carefully along the streets to work, but can take a leisurely walk when possible, and a quick taxi ride when weather deteriorates, I still plan a winter return.
Do the French have the best food in the world?
The French have long claimed they have the best food in the world, and visitors to Quebec, Canada may agree with them. From the simple patisserie for pastry and coffee for breakfast to the fabulous and elegant restaurant Initiale for dinner, you will think you are in food heaven. There are several ice cream shops in town serving ices and fruit sorbet. Buy a cone or cup each time you pass one, you will get chance to taste a selection of flavors.
Aux Anciens Canadiens in a lovely old 1667 building serves traditional fare, such as meat pie filled with a variety of game meats followed by maple syrup pie. Crepes are a popular meal any time of day for tourists on a budget, whether savory with ham and cheese or sweet ones stuffed with fruit, hazelnut Nutella, and plenty of whipped cream.
Raclet cheese is pushed up to a burner to melt, and then scraped off onto the plate with potato, cured sliced game meats, pickles, and other condiments. Order cider or wine, and spend your afternoon or evening toasting the cheese, and toasting your great choice of a vacation spot.
French pastry chefs have the perfect balance of flavor, creamy custards, and buttery layers without excessive sweetness. Have pastry for breakfast, an afternoon snack, or take some to your room for a late night dessert or early morning breakfast treat. They are worth every calorie!
On our last night in Quebec we relaxed at the Tresor Restaurant, enjoying one last evening, sitting on the outside patio with a view of the square and the hotel, and listening to our favorite sidewalk saxophone player on the next block. We ordered a cheese tray with local cheddar, blue, St. Andre, several soft ripened cheeses, which came with grapes, and apples decoratively cut into a swan and a mouse. We sipped on sweet and delicious apple ice wine and planned to return again soon.
Source: Personal Experience.