Monday, August 18, 2014

Cruising to Québec

Have you always dreamed of experiencing the charm of Paris, but the thought of “crossing the pond” has squelched any hope of you doing so?  If so, you may want to consider cruising to Canada and New England. A stop in Québec City allows cruisers to discover a little bit of French flavor in North America!

Old Québec exudes European charm! The Upper Town is perched on cliffs overlooking the St. Lawrence River providing views of the countryside for many miles beyond. The castle-like hotel, Château Frontenac was built by the Canadian Pacific railroad at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries and has dominated the city’s skyline ever since.  Old Québec is a walking city and nothing is as enjoyable as wandering the cobblestone streets of the Petit-Champlain district, the oldest neighborhood in North America. It’s a great place to shop, eat and people watch. Cafe tables overflow on the streets and flowers are everywhere, much like a Parisian neighborhood. There are lovely boutiques and cute shops, many which specialize in maple products. Ride in horse-drawn carriages, stroll by centuries-old architecture, enjoy street entertainers, singers, and artists, particularly at Old Québec's open-air art gallery, Rue du Trésor.

The French explorer Samuel de Champlain founded Québec early in the 17th century, and fortifications, ramparts, and gates that surrounded the city serve as a reminder of its role in the colonial wars. The city was the capital of New France until 1760, after which it fell under British control before eventually becoming part of an independent Canada. A key part of the city's fortifications, the star-shaped Citadel, sits high above the St. Lawrence River and the views are amazing! Today, the Citadel’s functions are ceremonial; the changing of the guard and the firing of cannons, but the Citadel is quite interesting and kids love exploring the grounds!

The Shrine of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, located only 20 minutes from Québec City, has been a “place of miracles” for the past 350 years. The shrine, North America's oldest pilgrimage site, attracts some one million visitors a year. It’s a neo-Roman style basilica with hundreds of stained glass windows, and valuable works of art including a golden statue of Saint Anne. The shrine is well worth a visit, whatever your beliefs.

Montmorency Falls Park, just a few minutes from Québec City, attracts nature-lovers and sightseers alike with its 272-foot waterfall. To put that in more relevant terms,  Montmorency Falls is one and a half times taller than Niagara Falls! There are staircases that allow visitors to view the falls from several different perspectives or a gondola that carries passengers between the bottom and the top of the falls. A suspension bridge over the crest of the falls provides access to both sides of the park as well as a spectacular view.

So if you’re looking for a cruise vacation with bit of European flavor, consider a cruise to Canada.  Look for an itinerary with Québec City as a port of call and it will be like visiting Paris…without the jet lag!

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