QUEBEC City is worth every minute of the journey to experience a place like no other in the world. It is a 170-mile trip up the road from Montreal, usually the first taste of French Canada for the transatlantic visitor.
Standing on the esplanade of the towering Château Frontenac and gazing out on to the mighty St. Lawrence River, you get a sense of the birth of a nation.
The Frontenac opened in 1893 – an opulent monument for wealthy travellers built by the Canadian Pacific railroad entrepreneurs who by 1885, in an acclaimed feat of engineering, had founded a transcontinental railway which united Canada and Canadians from coast to coast., .
The Frontenac is still a hotel. You can stay there and even enjoy guided tours explaining its history. Along with the equally imposing Banff Springs hotel on the west side of Canada, in Alberta, it is an enduring and unfading reminder of the country’s history.
Another feeling you get while standing on the hotel’s esplanade, which gives a superb view of the St. Lawrence River, is one of awe at the feat of General James Wolfe and his expeditionary force in navigating the then uncharted river and storming steep cliffs on 13 September 13, 1759, to win the Battle of the Plains of Abraham.
This battle with the French left control of Quebec City to the British. It allowed them to take control of Canada the following year.
As Vieux Quebec is an old walled city you can walk nearly everywhere, including the Plains of Abraham, to soak up its ambience and history.
And despite the military victory of the British it remains French to the core with cobblestone streets, cafes with unscreened windows thrown open to the sidewalk, locals wandering home with fresh baguettes and cheeses.
French is the official language of the city and Quebec Province but that is no problem to the British visitor as so many residents are bi-lingual.
Try and speak phrase book French to a shop assistant and you will probably get swiftly drenched in English as he or she proves who is the boss. Better to just sit in a coffee bar and marvel at the way the locals slip in and out of both languages in conversation as they enjoy a get together.
Winter or summer, Quebec City is a fabulous place for a family holiday. In the winter an ice rink is set up right in the centre of the Old Town and cross-country skiing can be enjoyed on The Plains of Abraham..
It is the jewel in the crown of Quebec province but other parts of the province are also well worth a visit.
Montreal, of course, virtually an underground city in the severe cold of winter, has much to offer but if you want a more relaxed look at French Canada, the small university city of Sherbrooke is also well worth a visit.
It started life as a spot chosen by a farmer for a flour mill in 1802 but, due to its fortunate location, just grew and grew as its museum illustrates.
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