A Taste of French Canada: Five Days in Québec City and Charlevoix

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Judy Perl of Judy Perl Travel has visited Québec City countless times and knows the twisting lanes of its Lower Town and the grand buildings of its Upper Town like few other travel advisors. There is arguably no other city in North America that is as culturally and historically rich, a distinction recognized by UNESCO which has included the city’s historic district on its list of World Heritage Sites. It is the only city in North America that still has its defensive ramparts intact, and it is the cultural heart, as well as the political capital, of francophone Québec. With her itinerary, you can get a quick taste of French culture in three days—and all less than two hours from New York.

Québec City’s Upper Town
After you arrive, you’ll transfer to the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, perhaps the most photographed hotel in the world, looming over the city like a grand castle with sweeping views of the St. Lawrence River. After settling in to your room, stroll along the promenade and then wander the streets of the Upper Town, visiting the city’s two cathedrals(one Roman Catholic and one Anglican), the Augustinian Monastery (where Judy recommends stopping at its restaurant, which serves healthy and flavorful food, for lunch), and the Morrin Centre, home to the city’s jail in the 19th century and later a Québec City outpost of Montreal’s McGill University. Continue on to visit the Plains of Abraham, where New France officially came to an end in 1759 when British troops led by General Wolfe defeated French troops led by General Montcalm. The area is now the green lungs of Québec City, and also the home of the Musée national des beaux-arts. Québec City has countless excellent restaurants serving French and Québécois cuisine. On your first night you’ll dine at Restaurant Saint Amour, one of the city’s top restaurants and less than ten minutes on foot from your hotel.
Québec City’s Lower Town
After breakfast at your hotel, descend to Québec City’s Lower Town on the funicular that connects the two halves of the city. Here you’ll find the old port and the earliest surviving buildings. The symbolic heart of not only the historic district but the entire province of Québec is the Place-Royale where Samuel de Champlain founded the settlement in 1608. Today the cobblestone streets of the neighborhood are lined with boutiques, small hotels and welcoming restaurants. Along rue Saint-Paul, you’ll find antique shops while foodies will want to continue on to the Marché du Vieux-Port with its food stalls and restaurants. It’s the perfect place not just for lunch but also to pick up Canadian products from maple candies to dried blueberries. History buffs who want to dig deeper should stop at the Musée de l’Amerique Francophone, with its recent finds from the Cap Rouge settlement established in 1541, and the Musée de la Civilisation that offers a global perspective, with exhibitions on cultures around the world. For this night’s culinary adventure, you’ll dine in the Lower Town at Panache. This restaurant in the Auberge Saint-Antoine combines a historic setting with innovative contemporary cuisine.

Montmorency Falls and Île d’Orléans
Today you’ll go on a quick country escape with a morning drive to some of the sights just outside Québec City. The first stop is the dramatic Montmorency Falls, at 84 meters (275 feet) they are the tallest in the province and even taller than Niagara Falls. An aerial tram connects the base of the falls with their peak, and offers stunning photo opportunities en route. Hop back in your car and continue on to the Île d’Orléans. Part of the charm of Québec City is that this rural escape is so close to the urban center. The island is home to wineries, many specializing in ice wine, apple orchards, and maple syrup shacks. It’s an opportunity to meet the farmers who grow the products that end up on the tables of Québec City’s leading restaurants. Have lunch at the Auberge de la Goéliche’s Restaurant Vue, which lives up to its name with water views, before heading back to the city. Spend your final afternoon visiting some of the city’s charming shopping streets like Rue Saint-Jean or, outside the historic district, the Avenue Cartier. For your final dinner, you’ll head to Légende, a restaurant that specializes in “boreal cuisine,” serving only local, seasonal ingredients from cocktails to dessert.

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