29 Chapters
Medium 9781628871906


Matthew Barber FrommerMedia ePub


Settling into Québec City

Québec City seduces from first view. Situated along the majestic Fleuve Saint-Laurent (St-Lawrence River), much of the oldest part of the city—Vieux-Québec (Old Québec)—sits atop a rock bluff that once provided military defense. Fortress walls still encase the upper city, and the soaring Château Frontenac, a hotel with castlelike turrets, dominates the landscape. Hauntingly evocative of a coastal town in the motherland of France, the tableau is as romantic as any in Europe.

This was Canada’s first European settlement, christened La Nouvelle France in the 16th century. Today, Québec City clings to its French-speaking heritage and Gallic traditions: As it becomes increasingly chic and current, it keeps one foot rooted proudly in the past. It also keeps one foot tapping year round: No matter the season, it seems the city always has a party or festival going on somewhere. From the outdoor-activity-filled Winter Carnaval to the rich calendar of music and theater offerings in summer, the city’s joie de vivre is ever in the air. While most theater is in French, even non-Francophones can enjoy the artistry of Québécois productions.

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Medium 9781628872965

3 THE BEST NEIGHBORHOOD WALKS: Vieux-Montreal, Downtown Montreal, Plateau Mont-Royal, Pard du Mont-Royal

Matthew Barber FrommerMedia ePub

A stroll along Place Jacques-Cartier in Vieux-Montréal.

Many cities are best explored on foot, and Montréal is one of North America’s most pedestrian-friendly. There’s much to see in the concentrated districts—especially cobblestoned Vieux-Montréal, where the city was born. Its architectural heritage has been substantially preserved, and restored 18th- and 19th-century structures now house shops, boutique hotels, galleries, cafes, bars, and apartments. Take this tour to get the lay of the land: You’ll pass many of the neighborhood’s highlights. Start: Métro: Place d’Armes.Stanford White’s commanding Banque de Montréal.

Banque de Montréal.
Montréal’s oldest bank building dates from 1847. From 1901 to 1905, American architect Stanford White (1853–1906) extended the original building, and in this enlarged space, he created a vast chamber with green-marble columns topped with golden capitals. The public is welcome to stop in for a look. Besides being lavishly appointed inside and out, the bank also houses a small and quirky banking museum, which illustrates early operations. It’s just off the main lobby to the left, and admission is free.

 15 min. 129 rue St-Jacques.

 514/877-6810. Museum open Mon–Fri 10am–4pm.

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Matthew Barber FrommerMedia ePub


Festivals & Nightlife in Montréal

From the esteemed annual summer jazz fest to the winter Fête des Neiges, Montréal’s festivals and nightlife pull locals and visitors out of their private spaces and into the streets, public squares, concert halls, nightclubs, and restaurant terraces of the city. Snow is no deterrent, with arctic temperatures merely a barometer for how many layers to wear. It’s a city where people come together to celebrate life and the seasons with gusto. The city boasts an outstanding symphony, dozens of French- and English-language theater companies, an events calendar with over 100 festivals, and the incomparable Cirque du Soleil.

Montréal is planning big celebrations in 2017 for its 375th birthday, so in addition to what’s listed in this chapter, visit www.375mtl.com for up-to-date information about one-time-events.

Montréal’s reputation for effervescent nightlife reaches back to the Roaring Twenties—specifically, to the 13-year period of Prohibition in the U.S. from 1920 to 1933. Americans streamed into Montréal for relief from alcohol deprivation (while Canadian distillers and brewers made fortunes). Montréal already enjoyed a sophisticated and slightly naughty reputation as the Paris of North America, which added to the allure.

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Matthew Barber FrommerMedia ePub


Montréal & Québec City in Context

Montréal and Québec City, the twin cities of the province of Québec, have a stronger European flavor than Canada’s other municipalities. French is the first language of most residents and the official language of the province, and a strong affiliation with France continues to be a central facet of the region’s personality.

The defining dialectics of Canadian life are culture and language, and both are thorny issues that have long threatened to tear the country apart. Many Québécois have long believed that making Québec a separate, independent state is the only way to maintain their rich French culture in the face of the Anglophone—English speaking—ocean that surrounds them. On the other hand, the popularity of the political party that represents this point of view, Parti Québécois, waxes and wanes, and today is viewed by many as too extreme to be taken seriously. Even though secession is nearly completely unlikely, as Montréal celebrates its 375 birthday (in 2017), Québec’s role within the Canadian federation continues to be one of the most debated and volatile topics of conversation in Canadian politics.

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Matthew Barber FrommerMedia ePub


Québec City Walking Tours

The many pleasures of walking in picturesque French Québec are easily comparable to walking in similar quartiers in northern European cities. Stone houses rub shoulders with each other, carriage wheels creak behind muscular horses, sunlight filters through leafy canopies, drinkers and diners lounge in sidewalk cafes, childish shrieks of laughter echo down cobblestone streets. Not common to other cities, however, is the bewitching vista of river and mountains that the higher elevations bestow.

In winter especially, Vieux-Québec takes on a Dickensian quality, with a lamp glow flickering behind curtains of falling snow. The man who should know—Charles Dickens himself—described the city as having “splendid views which burst upon the eye at every turn.”

Walking Tour 1: Upper Town (Vieux-Québec: Haute-Ville)


Château Frontenac, the castlelike hotel that dominates the city


Hôtel du Parlement, on Grande-Allée, just outside the walls

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