A bit of ‘ooh la la’ in Quebec
North American city is all about history, tradition – and its fantastic cuisine
IT’S North America’s only completely-walled city and the home of maple syrup.
Oozing with history, Quebec is arguably the most beautiful city in all of North America. I totally love it, and you will too.
It’s a stronghold of French culture unique in the Americas where less than 2% of the 520,000 population speak anything other than French as their national language (but they still understand you when you speak English – tick!).
Much smaller than Montreal, it’s the Edinburgh equivalent with Montreal being the Glasgow – both fab, but very different.
Montreal is more North American in its attitude, but when you’re in Quebec City, you might as well be in France.
Interestingly, the Scots had a major hand in the history and foundation of this beautiful city.
By the beginning of the 19th Century, poor Scottish immigrants, many the victim of the Highland and Lowland Clearances, saw unlimited opportunity in this huge forested land and settled here.
But even before that, in 1779, Scotsman Simon McTavish helped establish what would become the North West Company to compete in the fur trade with the English owned giant, the Hudson’s Bay Company.
There’s a St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church which is the oldest Englishspeaking congregation of Scottish origin in Canada.
And even some of the architecture will remind you of Scotland.
Quebec is a green, hilly city, full of open spaces which means it’s a delight to explore on foot. Two places provide a superb overview of the city – the Dufferin Terrace in the Citadelle, a Unesco World Heritage Site that’s part of the fortifications of the old city, and the 31st floor of the Observatoire de la Capitale.
– and unusual – place to visit is Le Monastère des Augustines, which occupies the historic wings of the Hotel-Dieu de Quebec monastery (from 1639).
It was the birthplace of the first hospital on the American continent, north of Mexico.
Sensitively restored and redesigned, the Monastère now offers a unique ‘wellness’ (holistic spa) experience and many imaginative ways to connect with the Augustinian Sisters’ remarkable heritage, all within a secular environment.
It offers accommodation in a 17th Century cloister, and also houses a museum tracing the evolution of medicine through the ages.
Another ‘must-do’ is the Morrin Centre. Built more than 200 years ago to house a prison, it’s now also the home to one of the world’s most beautiful libraries.
A visit here lets you see the jail cells and learn more about the life of its prisoners and the conditions they endured. As part of the same visit you can also learn about Morrin College, the city’s first Englishlanguage institute of higher education.
A short drive away are the thundering 272ft-high Montmorency Falls, which are actually higher than the more famous Niagara Falls. There’s a boardwalk leading to a suspended footbridge that crosses the foaming white water, and cable cars take you to the very top.
In the foothills of the Laurentian Moutains is scenic Lac Beauport and there is also a bridge across to the Île d’Orléans, a veritable open-air museum with more than 600 historical buildings and traditional villages.
I won’t recommend the hotel where I stayed because it was pretty poor (so avoid Hotel Royal William) but there are all sorts of great places to be found.
A wonderful hotel (and restaurant, even if you’re not staying) is Auberge Saint Antoine. Built on one of the city’s richest archaeological sites, it incorporates three historical buildings
You can’t miss the Scottish influence when you visit the city. Quebec is the only walled city in North America and the home of maple syrup.