Things to Do in Quebec City - page 2
Located at the confluence of the St. Charles and St. Lawrence Rivers, Quebec City welcomes over 4 million visitors each year. Strategically important early on as a gateway to the Great Lakes, it remains the only walled city in North America. It is also one of the oldest cities in North America, but the strong French influence means that you may feel like you have been transported to Europe as soon as you arrive.
Cruise ships arrive at either Le Vieux Port (the Old Port) or Le Basse Ville (the Old City), both of which provide easy access by foot to many of Quebec City’s major sights. If you arrive at the Old Port, taxis are also readily available to take you to the Old City.
Quebec’s Old City is divided into a Lower Town and Upper Town and a funicular connects the two. Start your visit in the Lower Town by strolling through the Quartier Petit Champlain, a delightful pedestrian mall lined with cafes and boutiques. Then head to the Place Royale.
Just 18 miles (30 km) outside of Quebec City stands one of the most important pilgrimage sites of Canada and the Catholic word: the Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré Basilica. This Catholic sanctuary receives more than half a million visitors every year, which represents quite a lot of people for this modest village.
The reason why this basilica is so famous—even more so than its Montreal counterpart—is because it is credited with many miracles, especially when it comes to curing the sick and disabled. Initially built as a shrine to Sainte-Anne, the basilica, whose history goes all the way back to 1658, got its healing reputation when Louis Guimont, a local carpenter suffering from rheumatism, came to help with the construction of the first chapel and was miraculously healed after its completion. Even nowadays, the pillars in the front entrance of the basilica are covered in crutches from people who are said by the parishioners to have been miraculously cured by Sainte-Anne.
Just a few miles/kilometers downstream from Quebec City, the St. Lawrence River splits and the land between is Orleans Island, or Ile d'Orleans. Just 22 miles/35 kilometers long and 6 miles/9 kilometers wide, the island still evokes that pioneering spirit in its people and culture since it was colonized in the 17th century.
Orleans Island has six tiny delightful villages. Ste-Petronille is famous for its Victorian Inn, La Goelich, and has a dazzling forest of red oaks. St-Laurent was once the shipbuilding center on the island, the heritage of which is embraced at Maritime Park. St-Jean is filled with homes of creamy yellow “Scottish brick” facades, which came from the ballast of boats. Also here is La Sucrerie Blouin, where you can see maple syrup being made. Just outside St-Francois you can take in sweeping views of the St. Lawrence River and the Laurentian Mountains.
On the northern shore of the St Lawrence River, Quebec’s Charlevoix region is known for its beauty, filled with fjords, bays, and mountains. One of the world’s first populated UNESCO World Biosphere Reserves, the region is named after the famous French explorer, François-Xavier de Charlevoix, who first traveled here in the 18th century. Ever since, Charlevoix has been a popular visit with America’s bourgeoisie, and a popular base while in the region is the upscale resort town and longtime artists’ enclave of Baie-Saint-Paul, 60 miles from Quebec City.
Popular year-round, in summer Charlevoix is known for hiking, biking, and kayaking opportunities in the region’s two national parks — Les Grands-Jardins and Hautes-Gorges-de-la-Rivière-Malbaie. In winter it’s all about skiing, sledding, and snowboarding at one of the region’s many ski resorts.
Run by the wife and family of the late, great coppersmith, Albert Gilles, the Albert Gilles Copper Art Museum showcases artwork by both Gilles and his family. Part of the economusee network of Canada, this small museum allows visitors to make their own copper memento, and groups with reservations will get to see live copper work demos. In the museum store, you’ll also find artworks and jewelry for sale.
Albert Gilles was born in Paris in 1895, where an aunt taught him the craft of copper embossing. Crossing the Atlantic in the 1930s to make a new life in Quebec, Gilles quickly established a name for himself as a master coppersmith and created work for everyone from Walt Disney to Pope XII. Perhaps his most famous work is the copper doors he created for Ste-Anne-de-Beaupré basilica, 22 miles outside Quebec City.
The first ice hotel in North America, Quebec’s Hôtel de Glace is sculpted over the course of five weeks every winter from over 500 tons of ice and 15,000 tons of snow. Open from January until late March with 44 bedrooms and suites, the hotel even has its own wedding chapel made of ice.
In fact, everything’s made of ice, from the huge chandelier in the Great Hall to the icy frozen blocks that make up the hotel’s beds. Thanks to high-tech sleeping bags and plush deer pelts, you’ll still be able to keep cozy on an overnight stay, and the outdoor spa and sauna will help to warm you up, too. Even if you’re not staying the night, you can head to the Hôtel de Glace’s Ice Bar for a chilled vodka shot (or a hot chocolate for the kids). Kids and adults will also love the chance to zip down the hotel’s famous ice slide.
In Quebec’s scenic Charlevoix region, La Malbaie was Canada’s first resort. Known as Murray Bay to the wealthy Americans who holidayed here from the late 19th-century onwards, the grand Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu is a testament to the era of the Gilded Age. Known as the “Castle on the Cliff,” this deluxe 19th-century resort is also home to a 27-hole golf course which overlooks the St Lawrence River and hills beyond. Just next to the Fairmont, the Casino de Charlevoix is another popular visit.
For a taste of the old days, wander Chemin des Falaises, where North America’s elite, including former US president William Howard Taft, built their grand summer retreats. For arts and culture, Pointe-au-Pic’s renowned Musée de Charlevoix explores the history of Charlevoix in its permanent exhibition, ‘Belonging’, and is also known for its rich folk art. The Church of La Malbaie, by City Hall, is also worth visiting.
In Quebec’s Charlevoix region, for centuries the well-heeled town of Baie-Saint-Paul has been inspiring artists ranging from the traditional, including the Group of Seven who painted here in the ‘20s, to the avant garde, like the Cirque du Soleil performance troupe that hosted its first ever show, right here in Baie-Saint-Paul, in 1984.
Founded over 350 years ago on the northern shore of the St Lawrence River, Baie-Saint-Paul is one of Quebec’s oldest towns. Surrounded by mountains and woodland, take a wander past the centuries-old houses, dozens of which have been turned into galleries and museums highlighting the work of local artists. Given the local scenery, it’s perhaps no surprise that most of the art you’ll see focuses on the peaceful surrounding landscape.
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