If you would like to be in Paris but you don't want to spend the time or money to fly that far, my recommendation is to take a quick trip to Quebec City in Canada. You have to stay in the "old town" but there are less expensive lodgings than Le Chateau Frontenac, the crown jewel of the city. You will be surrounded by a charming French speaking population and lovely old stone buildings that house wonderful French restaurants, galleries and shops. Needless to say, I love Quebec City and I wanted to share with Larry the memory I had from a visit over 40 years ago. I was not disappointed upon returning in July of 2007. We stayed at the tiny red roofed hotel (coincidentally next door to the U.S. Consulate) you see in the picture above. The long boardwalk spread out before us and the lower town lay just beyond that. Steps lead down to a small and equally charming 8 block area.
Sitting at one of the many sidewalk cafes is an ideal way to pass time as you watch horse drawn carriages pass by through this highly car-restricted part of Quebec. This is an area for leisurely wandering, browsing, shopping, eating and drinking! The atmosphere easily envelops you with relaxation. Cobbled streets and bouquets of flowers make just sitting an exquisite adventure.
A tour of the Chateau Frontenac is an adventure also. This castle-like building has been enlarged many times through the years to accommodate increasing numbers of visitors enticed by its majesty. Originally opened in 1893, it sought to encourage luxury tourism via the newly constructed railway line. It succeeded in doing so and has enlarged to over 600 rooms through the years. It's old world luxury ambiance may no longer be the most comfortable but nevertheless is intriguing enough to continue to attract guests. A delightful tour is hosted by a beguiling young lady who purports to be a frequent early-1900 visitor who guides you into one of the rooms as well as the huge ballroom, the chef's rooftop garden, the infamous staircase and the brass embellished elevators.
If you can bear to leave, you will find a clean and inviting modern city outside the walls of the old Quebec City. We enjoyed a large park with a memorial stature of Joan of Arc that we happened onto as well as the outstanding aquarium complex with its own garden and restaurant overlooking two of the several bridges that cross the St. Lawrence River.
(The bear at the aquarium seemed quite content to contemplate his own presence. With the fish swimming above visitors' heads in one area, I wondered who was watching whom. Look closely!)
We are always attracted to local food markets, so it wasn't unusual for us to find the farmer's market where we saw some lovely displays of cheeses, berries, ciders, spices and, of course, chocolates!
Montmorency Falls was our last exploration before heading home. It is a short drive of about 10 miles outside the city. The falls are almost 100 feet taller than Niagara but considerably more narrow. A large park and restaurant at the top can be reached by riding a cable car that gives you sweeping views of the falls and surrounding areas. On the adjoining bleak hillside, there is also an alternative staircase. Larry chose to climb down the stairs while I was quite content to enjoy the cable car again for the return trip!