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Quebec City: A Slice of Europe in Canada

Quebec-Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupre ©2013 Mike Williams

Quebec City: A Slice of Europe in Canada

story by: Tom Ricketts

There’s a city I know which has a massive castle at its centre. It has dozens of cobblestone streets separating higgledy-piggledy rows of houses. It’s surrounded by grand city walls to protect her from invaders. The historic centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And everyone speaks French. But it’s not in France. It’s not even in Europe. Of all places, it’s in Canada! The city is Quebec City, easily one of the most beautiful and romantic cities in all of North America. 

Quebec lies on the Saint Lawrence River, a couple hundred kilometres north of the much larger city of Montreal. It was settled by the French in 1535, making it one of the oldest cities in North America. The French it seemed, missed home. In the centre of the city is the Chateau Frontenac, one of the most stunning buildings in North America and said to be the most photographed hotel in the world. It was in fact, always a hotel and not a castle, but you would be forgiven for thinking otherwise. 

Around the chateau is a maze of cobblestone streets and town squares reminiscent of the historic centres in any European city. Gorgeous old houses and churches are around every corner. Most have been converted into luxury boutique hotels, restaurants, bars, and the odd souvenir shop. It’s winter here (and winter in Canada means -10 to -40 degrees Celsius!), yet somehow I’m oblivious to the cold, too caught up in exploring the beautiful laneways. When I do finally succumb to the cold though, there’s plenty of inviting bars and restaurants with roaring fireplaces. 

Although I’m alone on this trip, everything feels incredibly romantic to me. Perhaps it’s because everyone here speaks French and I’m being taken back to memories of Paris. However unlike Paris, very few people here speak English, they are all staunchly French speaking, even in restaurants and souvenir stores. 

The city has a fascinating history which can be discovered around every corner. The French held the city until 1759 when the British captured it after the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, a site with an old fort just outside the old city which can be visited today. The American’s attempted to liberate the city during the American Revolution, hoping that they would then gain French support. However the British held off the American attack and the city has remained part of the Commonwealth ever since. 

If you want to be warm on your holiday, then summer is of course the best time to visit. But the hugely popular Winter Carnival is the city’s biggest event. Events include ice canoeing races, sleigh races, ice hockey (it wouldn’t be Canada without ice hockey), and the most famous event, snowboarding competitions where entire streets are packed with snow and turned into a makeshift downhill halfpipe course!

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