j’taime quebéc cité

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Well, it’s almost Valentine’s Day, and what could be a more romantic gesture than stealing away to the most European city in the North America?  It’s moody, dark and sexy.  And yes, it’s in Canada.  Quebéc City, the government seat of Québec, Canada, is a jewel upon a hill, its stately skyline looking out over the Saint Lawrence river.  It’s as close to being in a French village as you could possibly get, yet still retains its own Canadian charm.

poutine on the ritz

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Quebéc is an Algonquin word meaning “where the river narrows.” That river is the Saint Lawrence, one of the largest waterways in North America, and is probably best known in US history books as an artery that French fur traders took into the great lakes area.  The best vantage point to see where this river narrows is at St Michel de Sillery Church.

Sillery is an unincorporated city within the limits of Quebéc, and was the site where Jesuit missionaries came to convert the First Nations people to Catholicism (obviously there’s a lot of these sites in North America).

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This church is quite striking, Gothic revival with stark white statues of the Canadian Martyrs at the front.  The view from the parking lot is the money shot where you can see the gorgeous narrows of the Saint Lawrence.

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where the river narrows 

Heading in to the main municipality of the city, the grand Parliament buildings are at the mouth of the Plains of Abraham, the historic site where the British took control of the city over France in 1759.  I often forget that Canada is a part of the Commonwealth, and hey, maybe the Duke & Duchess of Sussex could come here on vacations.

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These Plains, not biblically named but rather after a fisherman who owned this land, are adjacent to the Citadelle of Quebéc, a still active fortress and official residence of the Canadian monarch.  Famous for being the meeting place of the Quebéc conference, Winston Churchill and FDR met here to discuss WWII strategy in 1943 and 1944.

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The Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec is the fine arts museum that sits right on the edge of the Plains.  They have art installations throughout the city, most notably, the gigantic lampshades designed with different artworks on Rue Cartier.  J’aime an arty city.

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The main event is Vieux Quebéc, or Old Town.  This is provincial France from the stone gateways to the architecture to the piece de resistance, the Chateau Frontenac.  This Fairmont hotel sits high up in Upper Town and is probably the most well known landmark.

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It is a massive and grand hotel, designed to look like a medieval Loire Valley chateau, and has had countless famous guests including heads of state and celebrities upon celebrities.  Perhaps the perfect place for a Valentine’s escape: quiet, a little melancholy and dark, lovely and classic.

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The Old Town connects to Lower Town with many escaliers (stairs) and you can get lost exploring the narrow cobblestone streets. The brightly-hued rooftops are so European it hurts.  Very chalet-esque, just imagine a dusting of snow whilst munching on a pain au chocolat sipping on cocoa in front of a crackling fire.

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Don’t miss the oldest (and maybe cutest) restaurant in Quebéc, Aux Anciens Canadien on Rue Saint Louis and the umbrella covered pedestrian walkway on Petit Champlain.

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And you’ll want to check out the beautiful architecture of the Notre Dame de Quebéc and the Musee du Fort, military museum for a juxtaposition of polarizing subjects.  This city was made for cozy strolls: tree-lined avenues, cafes, and winding backstreets, a fairy-tale of a city.  Oh L’amour, n’est pas grand?

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And that’s the end of the Canadian cruise series, so much diversity, from urban oases to quaint countryside farms, Canada’s maritime cities are wonderful places to relax and be one with nature, especially during the autumn kaleidoscope of leaves.  Slower paced than some destinations, it’s a journey that will indoubtedly inspire reflection and tranquility.  J’taime, Canada!

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