I first visited QuĂ©bec City 12 years ago with my French class. We stayed in the shabby student hostel (with our own room keys, how grown up!) and delighted in showing off our bilingual prowess ordering smothered servings of poutine in the cafĂ© around the corner (where I tried my first cup of coffee, oh lĂ lĂ !).
The city remains one of my favorite getaways and even a decade later almost nothing has changed. Summer in QuĂ©bec City means the restaurants spill onto the cobbled sidewalk, their makeshift patios adorned with flowering baskets and twinkling strung lights. Artists spread their masterpieces along the city wall and musicians serenade you on every corner as you stroll in the balmy evening.
On a recent trip up I was shocked to see new development at the base of the iconic Fairmont Le ChĂ˘teau Frontenac (I think I am single-handedly responsible for the world record it holds for being the most photographed hotel in the world). It turns out the work is actually older rather than new.Â From beneath the promenade excavations reveal a labyrinth of old stonework, hearths and foundations dating back to the 1600s! It is fascinating to walk amongst the eerie, centuries-old remnants of someone’s home.
From the ChĂ˘teau I take the steep â€śescalier casse-couâ€ť (neck breaking stairs) down to the lower city where a creamy dish of maple ice cream awaits me at La Petite Cabane Ă Sucre de QuĂ©bec, (I always save a moment to take in the incredibly intricate mural on the side of the Neptune Inn next door). Luckily, the funicular is always ready to heave my treat-laden self back to the upper city.
There are always new shops, new dance clubs and since that first visit I have been fortunate enough to stay in far plusher luxury hotels within the old city. Yet the distinctly European atmosphere of QuĂ©bec City, its glamour and cosmopolitan ambiance is constant. One of the oldest cities and the only remaining fortified city in North America, QuĂ©bec Cityâ€™s French-Canadian romance maintains a class of its own.
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