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The Lowdown | Québec

French Joie de Vivre in North America Words by Mayssam Samha

Where Canada

Quick Quote $450 per day per person

Best Season Summer & Early Fall

Thinking of Music, Art, Food, Festivals

Best Portrayed in The Favorite Game by Leonard Cohen

As the most European of North American regions, Québec is the perfect fusion of French joie de vivre with American ease. Québec City, the capital of Canada’s “Plus Belle Province,” is breathtakingly romantic any season of the year. Green space, innovative artwork, and artisan food are all abundant here, as are epic views around every corner. The city’s 400-year-old fortification walls encircle cobblestone streets, the oldest shopping district in North America, and the most photographed hotel in the world. Montreal is the largest city in Québec (and second most populous in Canada). With the Mont Royal Mountain as its green heart, Montreal’s diverse neighborhoods mingle and mix in perfect harmony, from cobblestoned Old Montreal to the hipster Mile End and the laid-back Southwest area. The city is a year-round celebration through the many festivals it hosts, from the world-renowned Jazz Fest and Grand Prix at the height of summer to gourmand MTLàTABLE (Montreal’s restaurant week) in the fall.

Where to Stay

In Quebec City, treat yourself to a royal stay at Fairmont Le Château Frontenac. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the 125-year-old property is conveniently located in Old Quebec and offers breathtaking views of the surrounding city and the St. Lawrence River from its 611 rooms. Alternatively, choose a quieter stay at Monastère des Augustines, a beautifully restored monastery that offers a haven of tranquility with a focus on physical and spiritual wellbeing. In Old Montreal, stay at the beautiful Gault Hotel located inside a 19th century greystone building. Each of its luminous 30 suites is furnished with contemporary pieces. Linger in the lobby library or sip on a cocktail in the loungy bar area. If you’d rather be in the heart of the downtown Montreal action, stay at the elegant Le Germain Hotel with its incomparable concierge service is and impossibly comfortable beds that will make it difficult to get up.

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Words by Mayssam Samha Québec Editor

Mayssam is a food and travel writer and blogger based in Montreal. From the latest coffee shop down the street to the trendiest restaurant across the planet, her wanderlust spirit is never satiated. Nothing brings her more joy than sharing her latest discoveries, culinary or otherwise, especially when they happen to be in her hometown of Montreal.

Where to Eat

Quebec City: Just a 20-minute drive from downtown Québec City, Restaurant La Traite can be found spilling onto the tree-lined terrace and each dish is prepared from what has been hunted, fished, or gathered from the snow forests of Québec. Le Pied Bleu is the place to go for simmering stew, unbeatable charcuterie, and traditional Québécois breakfast (maple baked beans included). Plan on sharing. If Alice in Wonderland stumbled through chanterelles and sunchokes in a wild island garden that led to an 1822 wooden-beamed warehouse with crystal-drop drum lights—that warehouse would be Chez Muffy. A 12,000 bottle-wine cellar adds to the mood.

“Québec is my adoptive province and for 26 years now, I have chosen to stay here despite my animosity towards its bitter cold winters. I absolutely adore the Québécois’ inclusiveness, open-mindedness and joie de vivre. Its summers are glorious and the food is outstanding! It’s home.”

Montreal: Walk down a secret back alley to get to Candide, a restaurant set in a former presbytery and serving a set 4-course menu features farmed and foraged regional and seasonal ingredients. In the same neighbourhood, Vin Papillonpairs an unbelievable wine list of natural and biodynamic wines paired with a vegetable-centric menu featuring local producers. Damas specializes in fragrant Syrian cuisine in a décor reminiscent of One thousand and one nights. Montreal is a gourmand city with a plethora of restaurants. However, three of its iconic foods are must haves for first time visitors including a warm Mile End bagel from St. Viateur or Fairmount, dunked in a tub of cream cheese, the Montreal way; a smoked meat sandwich from Schwartz or Lesters; and a classic poutine from Chez Tousignant.

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What to Do

In Quebec City: Spend the afternoon shopping along Rue Saint-Jean heading west from Old Québec. Stop into Ça Va de Soi for fine knitwear, Érico for truffles, and BiBi & Cie for hats galore. Cozy Libraire St.-Jean-Baptiste offers rare books, wine, and live music—just a few highlights. Québec City’s trompe-l’œil murals are unique windows into local history. Look for explorer Jacques Cartier in Place-Royale’s massive Fresque des Québécois. Stroll along the Plains of Abraham, the grounds of a decisive historical battle between the British and the French and admire the surrounding quaint houses and imposing Château Frontenac. Although touristy, the incredibly quaint Petit Champlain neighborhood is located at the foot of the Château and is worth exploring for its independent boutiques, restaurants and art galleries. If you don’t feel like hiking back up to the higher part of town, grab a seat on the electric funicular that’s been operating since 1879.

 

While in Montreal––discover Old Montreal––the oldest part of the city and the most reminiscent of Europe, with its cobblestone streets and buildings that date back to the 17th century. Stroll along the boardwalk, climb up the Chapelle du Bonsecours steeple for stunning views, discover the manmade beach or zipline over the Old Port. Open 361 days a year, the Jean Talon Market is the largest market in North America and a food lover’s heaven. Stroll among the hundreds of colorful stalls displaying seasonal produce, sample local products or stock up on edible souvenirs. Named for its golden business prosperity, the Golden Square Mile is a great spot to visit for art, architecture or shopping enthusiasts. The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, McCord Museum and Redpath Museum are all located here, as are many art galleries along Sherbrooke Street West.  A veritable celebration of contemporary urban art, the Mural Festival is 11 days of action packed live art and artists’ talks every summer. However, the indelible mark left by the giant colorful murals on the city can be enjoyed all year round by strolling along Boulevard St Laurent or taking a guided tour with a side of history.

Take a Side Trip

Beautiful Île d’Orléans is an easy 15-minute drive from Old Québec and juts between the St. Lawrence River and the largest estuary in the world. Spend a day driving between the island’s fertile orchards, lavender fields, artist studios, and cheese caves. Sip local ice cider and crème de cassis, wander Parc Maritime de Saint-Laurent, and sample local jam—made from 30+ varieties of strawberries—at the charming Confiturerie Tigidou.

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