UN PEU DE FRANCE AU CANADA
Quebec province on the eastern side of Canada is the biggest province in Canada and is also referred to as French Canada due to French being its official language. I spent a week here exploring the two biggest and most exciting cities, Montreal and Quebec City!
First, Montreal, the main gateway to Quebec, with daily direct flights from Heathrow. Staying in downtown Montreal at the Sheraton Le Centre meant I was conveniently located in the heart of the city, perfect to visit many of the main attractions.
A great orientation spot is the Montreal Observation Wheel, the biggest in Canada, located in Old Port. As the wheel rotates you have great views across the river, old town and the skyscrapers of downtown. It’s open from 10am to 11pm which means you can choose to see the view in daytime or at night when the city lights are on – or perhaps go up twice in one day and see both?
You must take a city tour – an easy way to see all the highlights of the city. My first stops were St Helen’s Island and Notre Dame Island, which included seeing the Biosphere - a unique domelike building originally built for Expo 67. This World’s Fair brought over 50 million visitors to the city and is now home to an Environmental Museum and the Grand Prix circuit which you can walk, cycle or drive around as part of Parc Jean Drapeau.
One of my favourite places was Mount Royal Park. Designed by the same person who designed Central Park in New York, Frederick Olmsted, it is nearly 700 acres of green parkland in the middle of the city and includes Beaver Lake as well as the main lookout point which has spectacular views across the city. Mount Royal itself, a small extinct volcano, after which the city is named, is one of the main landmarks and looms over the city with no buildings allowed to be higher than the cross at the top. I visited at the beginning of October and I was lucky to see its slopes dressed in the Autumn colours of red, orange and yellow.
One afternoon I decided to explore the underground city and their main shopping street, St Catherine Street. The underground city is an extensive network of heated walkways under the heart of the city that link the Metro system with many buildings, both businesses and shopping centres. This allows the locals and tourists to carry on with day to day life through the snow and ice in the middle of winter … what a great idea!
Montreal done; I then took the Via Rail train to Quebec City. It takes about three hours to travel between the two cities with stunning views across the Canadian countryside at any time of year but the journey particularly comes into its own in October with Fall foliage as far as the eye can see. The trains are comfortable with plenty of luggage storage and in Business Class I was served drinks and airline style meals.
In Quebec City, I started off with a trip to Montmorency Falls, which although not as wide as the more famous Niagara Falls, is over 30 metres taller. A cable car takes you to the top of the falls where there is a manor with museum, gift shop and restaurant. Across the waterfall is a suspension bridge you can cross but for the even more adventurous they have abseiling, three via ferrata routes (a type of climbing similar to scrambling or rock climbing) as well as a zipwire that crosses the width of the falls.
Quebec City is a great place to walk around, with cobbled streets and stone buildings giving it a European feel. There are many side streets with small shops and boutiques to explore. Or take a walk around the city walls and explore some of the city’s history at Artillery Park and Citadelle de Quebec. Towering over the city is one of the most famous landmarks – Chateau Frontenac – which appears on all the postcards. If you fancy a treat, the building is a hotel, currently run by the luxury chainof Fairmont Hotels.
For those interested in culture and history, a visit to Wendake is a good way of finding out more about the indigenous Huron-Wendat Nation. Also, a hotel with an interesting museum, the more interactive way of learning about the First Nation people is a visit to the recreation of a traditional longhouse where you can find about their legends and myths and their way of life in the past and present. Also try Labrador tea, a herbal tea believed to be medicinal, and have a go at cooking bannock (a type of bread) over an open fire.
After returning to Montreal, my last night was spent at the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth, and with direct access to the Central Station, it makes the perfect base for exploring Canada by rail.
What an exciting visit, and close enough for a short break or a shopping weekend!
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No, I'm not a Travel Guru, but I have loved travelling since I was five years old, and more than love travel... I love to share my experiences... and show you our Wonderful World through my eyes!