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Québec City

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Québec City, the historic heart and capital of Québec, is the cradle of French culture in North America. Its entire old town is on the UN's World Heritage list. North America's only remaining walled town, it is a living museum, recounting French Canada's struggle for survival in British North America. The architectural gem is a place of churches, stone houses and narrow streets. Its charm comes from a blend of history, culture and architecture, in rather impressive surroundings. Many of its residents are bilingual, but French is the first language for the vast majority.

The city is an important port, lying where the St Charles River meets the St Lawrence. Part of it sits on top of and around the cliffs of Cap Diamant, giving superb views over the river and the town of Lévis, and part lies below. Québec is divided into Upper Town and Lower Town, each having old and new sections. The Citadel, a fort and famous landmark, overlooks the city from the highest point of Cap Diamant.

Most visitors find walking around the cobblestone streets the best way to enjoy the town. The north-eastern end of Upper Town is surrounded by a stone wall and its main rue St Jean is where the bars and restaurants are. The area's narrow, winding streets, hidden stairwells and European feel make it Québec's main attraction.

The copper-topped, castle-style Chateau Frontenac was built in 1892, high on a bluff overlooking the St Lawrence River and the historic Plains of Abraham. Old Town spreads below it and from there you can walk — not far or difficult — or take a funicular to the top of Upper Town. Behind the hotel is a large boardwalk, the Terrasse Dufferin, which edges along the cliff. There you will see a statue of Monsieur de Champlain, the man who started it all. The boardwalk leads to the famous wooden slide used during the annual winter carnival. The boardwalk leads to the Promenade des Gouverneurs and beyond the walls is the enormous, verdant Parc des Champs de Bataille, in which the battles for Québec were fought.

Hôtel Manoir Victoria, a European-style property in the heart of Old Québec, has been delighting guests for centuries. The six-storey building has a great variety of rooms and suites and was totally renovated in 1988. Since then all rooms and suites have been upgraded.

If you fancy a trip out of town, just 45 minutes east is a favourite local day-trip, Canyon Sainte-Anne and Sainte-Anne Falls. The 74-metre chasm was created over millions of years and can be explored from a series of platforms, walkways and suspension bridges.

Jean-Marie McNicoll was on a camping trip in the summer of 1965 and was directed to the falls by a logger. The awesome discovery was difficult to reach, but he and his brother leased the immediate shores of the river from Hydro-Québec and developed the banks. They built a restaurant and opened to visitors in the summer of 1973.

The uniquely European via ferratta opened in 2004. It involves climbing up a series of rungs which are bolted into the rock face. You get the true experience of climbing the mountain using ropes and carabineers to keep you locked in. It gives breathtaking views of the falls and basins.

Jean-Marie retired from the enterprise in 1992, concluding 27 years of love and sweat, but he shares the administration of the site with his children.

Forty kilometres north of Québec City is Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier. Its deep valley is nestled among 600-metre-high cliffs and traversed by a river of changing moods.

Witness a salmon swimming upstream and, with a little luck, a moose slowly going about its business, watering in the early morning mist. It has water for canoeing, kayaking and fishing and ideal conditions for cycling, hiking and camping. In winter you can go snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and dogsledding. And of course, wildlife and plant life abound. Dense forests of yellow birch, sugar maples and black spruce mingle and present unbeatable beauty.

The parc has a Nature and Gastronomy package for those who like to camp without sacrificing creature comforts and good food. The package is a combination of ecotourism activities (moose at dawn and beaver at dusk) and the comfort of the Lac a l'Epaule lodge. Enjoy two evening meals, lunches and breakfasts prepared by an on-site chef, table service, minibus transportation, guided hike-moose tour, beaver canoe trip and talks about wildlife and flora. Black bear, timberwolf and Canadian lynx live in the area.

Location

Québec, an eastern province of Canada

Cost

Canyon Sainte-Anne entry is around $10 per adult. Canopy Canyon Adventures are around $35 for adults and $10 for children under 14. They come with qualified guides, equipment and run every day from the end of June to September and on weekends in early June, September and October. They start at 10:30am and 1:30pm and reservations are essential.

Jacques Cartier National Park entry is around $5 for adults and $8 for a family of four. Their 1 night Wildlife Observation package is around $265 per person twin share. Meals, park access, guide, habitat exploration, accommodation at the Lac-a-l’Epaule lodge and canoe rides are included.

Hôtel Manoir Victoria rooms start at around $170 a couple a night.

Prices correct at August 14, 2008.

More information

Hôtel Manoir Victoria
44 Côte du Palais
Vieux-Québec
Canada G1R 4HI
Ph: 0011 1 418 692 1030
Fax: 001 1 418 692 3822
www.manoir-victoria.com

Canyon Ste Anne
206 route 138 Est C.P. 2087
Beaupré, Québec, Canada, G0A 1E0
Ph: 0011 1 418 827- 4057
Fax: 0011 1 418 827- 2492
www.canyonsteanne.qc.ca
canyon@canyonste-anne.qc.ca

Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier
Route 175, Stoneham-et-Tewkesbury
Québec, Canada G0A 4P0
Ph: 0011 1 418 890 6527
www.sepaq.com/JacquesCartier
parc.jacques-cartier@sepaq.com

Air Canada
Ph: 1300 655 767
www.awircanada.ca
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