FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

Quebec City: Damsel In Disguise

Aug 1, 2006
2006 / August 2006

Standing atop Quebec City’s rampart wall one might see a small, almost medieval-looking city, and to label it as one of the most idiosyncratic in North America is no big stretch. It is the only fortified city north of Mexico. It is the capital of the only officially and predominantly French-speaking province in Canada (the language in large part has been preserved by the currently quiet Parti Quebecois secessionists). Its neoclassical buildings, with characteristic red and blue painted copper rooftops, are influenced by archaeological discoveries at Pompeii and Herculanum. One could easily confuse it with a European city of another century, when cities were protected and clearly defined by parapet walls and when grand stone cathedrals were a town’s beating heart.

Yet Quebec City’s appearance considerably contradicts its modern accomplishments. This is no small, sleepy town, but the seventh-largest economic center in Canada. Current major industries are tourism and civil government. The city is also a growing technological powerhouse that’s attracting jobs and talent with new economy, knowledge-based and high-tech industries (information technology, optics-photonics and multimedia to name only a few). Currently outfitted with more than 100 research centers, Quebec City has one of the highest concentrations of research and development jobs in Canada, proof that this city is more than just its ramparts and Vieille Ville (Old Town).

KPMG recently ranked Quebec City as the fourth-best location to establish an IT enterprise, selecting it from among 42 North American and European cities. GATIQ, an organization bent on advancing technology and industry in the region, created the Quebec High Tech Park, the ninth-largest development designed for a concentration of high-tech or science-related businesses in North America. The Association des Producteurs en Multimedia du Quebec currently includes more than 65 producers of multimedia content. Its aim is to ensure the multimedia products created in Quebec City are recognized in both domestic and world markets. With such a tenaciously established technological foundation, Quebec City could potentially become Canada’s very own Silicon Valley.

In the early 20th century, Art Deco-inspired buildings with geometrical shapes and large vertical spaces began to spring up, a visual testament to the city’s newfound modernity. There has been some recent effort, however, to maintain the distinguishing old-style grace of Quebec City, and Art Deco, ironically enough, is now a thing of the past. Quebecois, who are themselves thoroughly contemporary and stylish — particularly those in their late 20s who don the latest European couture and spend late Saturday nights out at popular discotheques drinking mojitos — don’t wish to continue building their modern identity by sacrificing a deep respect, even affection, for what makes their city beautiful and distinctive. So, even as Quebec City’s future economic footing solidifies, the view from atop the ramparts will always be of a town characterized by its remarkable past.


LODGING

HILTON QUEBEC

All of the Hilton Quebec’s 571 rooms have magnificent panoramic views, from the Laurentian Mountains and Quebec City’s more modern expanse to the north, Parliament Hill, the Saint Laurence River and the historic Citadel to the south and Old Quebec to the east. Old Quebec, with its narrow cobblestone streets and rich French and British history, is only a short two blocks away. The city’s night time hot spots, boutique shopping and fine dining are equally as close, with underground walkways connecting the hotel to the convention center next door. Hotel amenities include a heated outdoor pool, fitness center, on-call doctor and laundry service, as well as videoconferencing and English, Spanish and Italian interpreters. Executive guests have access to Club Exécutif for continental breakfasts in the mornings and canapés and cocktails in the evenings. $$$
HILTON QUEBEC
100 Rene-Levesque Blvd. East
P.O. Box 1797
tel 418 647 2411, fax 418 647 6488
www.hiltonquebec.com

DELTA QUEBEC

Opposite the Hilton, the Delta Quebec also is linked directly with Quebec City’s convention center, and is just steps away from boutiques, discotheques and gourmet restaurants. The 377-room property has a Signature Club floor for executive travelers. Its amenities include free high-speed Internet, CD players and a private lounge with breakfast and evening hors d’oeuvres. The business center is equipped with fax and photocopy machines as well as a computer with printer. On the lobby floor, Le Bistro restaurant is worth a visit. It is a dining venue where gentlemanly servers meticulously follow the conventions of formal service and the French cuisine is excellent. $$
DELTA QUEBEC
690 Rene-Lévesque Boulevard East
tel 418 647 1717, fax 418 647 2146
www.deltaquebec.com

HÔTEL MANOIR VICTORIA

Although Manoir Victoria’s glory days were in the 1920s, it has been outfitted over the years with many modern trimmings associated with luxury, and remains a fashionable place for the province’s upper class. Parlorlike lamps rest upon well-polished mahogany-stained furniture. Some rooms have whirlpool bathtubs big enough for two and electric fireplaces. All are wired with free Internet access. Showers are equipped with massage showerheads, and the invitingly soft beds face color televisions where guests can choose from a variety of movies and video games. Manoir Victoria has two restaurants: La Table du Manoir for fine dining and the more casual Le Saint-James bistro. The indoor heated pool is adjacent to a dry sauna, a small fitness room, and Le Spa du Manoir, which has an extensive menu of body wraps and massages. Baby-sitting services are also available. $$$
HÔTEL MANOIR VICTORIA
44 Côte du Palais
tel 418 692 1030, fax 418 692 3822
www.manoir-victoria.com


DINING

KIMONO SUSHI BAR

Located on Cartier Street, a local hot spot in modern Quebec City, Kimono Sushi Bar is a delight for its ambience, food and staff. Sit under the wood-paneled ceilings accented by leaf-shaped lamps, statues of stone Buddhas and red painted walls while listening to the up-tempo French contemporary dance music. The servers are buoyant, and though they do not speak much English, they will try to translate the menus as best they can for those who don’t speak French. For a light meal try the kamikaze roll (tuna, salmon and avocado) or the spicy tuna roll. For a warm meal, the lightly fried chicken in a port sauce over rice with a peanut dressing salad is quite popular. $$
KIMONO SUSHI BAR
1034 Cartier Ave.
tel 418 648 8821

LE LAPIN SAUTE

This restaurant was once a turn-of-the-century home, which gives the dining area the feel of a warm country inn.With a fireplace, only 32 seats, unscreened windows that open wide to additional patio seating along the boutique strip of rue Petit-Champlain, this is a place to stay and languidly watch the movement and activity of Old Quebec. The goat cheese salad with almonds, fresh asparagus and maple dressing is particularly tasty. $$$
LE LAPIN SAUTE
52 rue Petit-Champlain
tel 418 692 5325, fax 418 692 2195
www.lapinsaute.com

CASSE-CRÊPE BRETON

You can find this small 14-table eatery just inside Quebec City’s fortified wall, a little nook along rue Saint-Jean. The food here is not the usual light cuisine one might associate with crêpes. These crêpes are stuffed with a choice of mushrooms, ham, egg, asparagus, cheese, pepperoni and onions, the result resembling a massive burrito. Dessert crêpes are equally as big, with jams, fresh fruits and creams. The fresh strawberry crêpe topped with a generous amount of chocolate sauce is difficult to finish after the main course, but try it anyway. Perhaps share it with a dining companion. It is a treat not to be missed. No credit cards accepted. $
CASSE-CRÊPE BRETON
1136 rue Saint-Jean
tel 418 692 0438


DIVERSIONS

Much of what Quebec City has to offer its visitors is pieces of its history. UNESCO declared the 2.9 miles of a protective rampart wall a historical monument in 1957 (www.pc.gc.ca/fortifications). There is a path along the wall detailing the history and evolution of this defensive system. In a similar vein, take a tour of the Citadel (Cote de la Citadelle, tel 418 694 2815, www.lacitadelle.qc.ca), the largest military fortification in North America, still garrisoned by regular troops, home of the 22e Régiment and official residence of the Governor General of Canada. Quebec City has a variety of museums depicting the city’s history. The Musée de l’Amérique Francaise (2 côte de la Fabrique, tel 418 692 2843, www.mcg.org), which is the oldest museum in Canada, highlights the establishment of French culture in North America. The Musée du Fort (10 rue Sainte-Anne, 418 692 1759, www.museedufort.com) presents a re-creation of the six sieges of Quebec City.

In Old Quebec City, take a stroll down the promenade at the back of the Chateau Frontenac Hotel (for tours of the hotel: 1 rue des Carrieres, 418 691 2166, www.tourschateau.ca). The promenade overlooks the Saint-Laurent River, Notre Dame des Victoria church, as well as the colorful rooftops and French architecture of the lower city. Take either the stairs or the funicular (akin to an elevator, it travels down a short, steep slope) to the lower town and the revitalized Petit Champlain for some shopping and French cuisine. Only a 15-minute drive (about a half-hour by rented bike) outside Quebec City is the Sault de Montmorency waterfall. Not as wide, but 100 feet higher than Niagara Falls, it is a powerful demonstration of nature. Across the bridge from the fall is the Cele D’Orléans, a quiet, 20-mile-long, five-mile-wide island with only one traffic light, six villages and one hell of a chocolate shop.


NIGHTLIFE

Summer in Quebec City brings the most active and diverse nighttime activities. The city’s amphitheaters, such as City Hall, Parliament Hill and the bandstand on the Plains of Abraham (also known as Battlefield Park) buzz with residents, tourists and music. The rest of the year the nightlife centers primarily around the many bars, discos and restaurants scattered throughout the city. Voodoo Grill (575 Grande Allée, tel 418 647 2000, www.voodoogrill.com) is an especially hip place to rub elbows with older 20-somethings. The grill is decorated with authentic African art, has live music some nights and tamtam shows on others. After dining hours, patrons have free access to the 1,000-person capacity Maurice Salon-Bar (575 Grande Allée, tel 418 647 2000, www.mauricenightclub.com), a nightclub that plays anything from hip-hop to Latin to international house music. For something a bit different, visit the Largo Resto Club (643 rue Saint-Joseph, tel 418 529 3111, www.largorestoclub.com) for a river cruise with Mediterranean music and cuisine.


INFO TO GO

Most of the airlines that serve Quebec City, including Air Canada, arrive by way of Montreal or Toronto. From the East Coast, the train is a popular alternative mode of transportation. It is significantly less expensive than flying. Amtrak (www.amtrak.com) runs to Montreal in Quebec and Niagara Falls in Ontario, though the most direct route is through Montreal. From both Montreal and Niagara Falls, Canada’s VIA Railways (www.viarail.ca) travels to Quebec City. Once in Quebec City, taxis are a convenient way to get from either the airport or train station. Taxis can be expensive, however. The meter starts at approximately $3 USD.

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FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

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