Sidewalk cafes by the dozen, baguettes in bicycle baskets, the classic French shoulder shrug, charming pedestrian-friendly plazas and squares, and residents with a special Gallic grace and beauty. Am I in Avignon? Lyon? St. Tropez? Non, mon ami, just a bit north of the U.S.
Port of Quebec City
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Quebec City offers a savory taste of Europe right here in North America. Think of it as France without the attitude. Friendly locals convey that sense of romance and Old World charm found across the Atlantic, making Quebec City a wonderfully distinctive port of call on Canada/New England cruises.
The city is located within the St. Lawrence River Valley, framed to the north by the majestic Laurentian Mountains and to the south by the Appalachian foothills and mountains leading to New England. The St. Lawrence River, flowing beneath the cliffs of Upper Town (dominated by the regal Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac, one of the world's great hotels) swirls into the Atlantic and explains the colonization of this part of the world.
Settlement occurred in four phases: Native Amerindians, the French, the British and finally, the Canadian Confederation in 1867. Chosen as a site for a permanent trading post in 1608 by Samuel de Champlain, Quebec's name comes from an Algonquin word for "where the river narrows." The year 1608 marked the beginning of a continual French presence in the area. In the 17th and 18th centuries, several historic battles were fought there among the French, British, Americans and native peoples. Rusted cannon balls still can be seen lodged in trees and buildings in the Old City. It remains the only walled city in the U.S. and Canada.
Quebec City is delightful for fall foliage and impressive with its boughs of green and remarkable light in spring and summer -- all seasons that find cruise ships in town. Summer temperatures average in the 70s, but on spring and autumn cruises, a jacket will be a necessity.
Top Quebec City Itineraries
Zaandam7-day Canada & New England DiscoveryMontreal, Quebec City, Charlottetown , Sydney , Halifax, Bar Harbor, BostonNow
Zaandam14-day Canada & Ne DiscoveryBoston, Bar Harbor, Halifax, Sydney , Charlottetown , Quebec City, Montreal, Quebec City, Charlottetown , Sydney , Halifax, Bar Harbor, BostonNow
Seabourn Quest45-day Atlantic Isles QuestDover, Greenock , Kirkwall, Lerwick, Akureyri, Reykjavik, Ilulissat, Quebec City, MontrealNow
Caribbean Princess13 Night Canada / New England CruiseFort Lauderdale , Charleston, New York , Newport, Boston, Bar Harbor, Saint John , Halifax, Sydney , Quebec City, Quebec CityNow
Seabourn Quest35-day Greenland & Maritimes QuestReykjavik, Ilulissat, Quebec City, Montreal, Quebec City, Quebec City, Charlottetown , Halifax, Bar Harbor, Provincetown, BostonNow
Where You're Docked
Ships dock at Le Vieux Port or La Basse-Ville (the Old Port or the Old City), where the Saint Charles River enters the St. Lawrence. The Old City is situated on two levels, Lower Town, at the Port, and Upper Town, both a quick walk from the terminal (although Upper Town is obviously uphill). On some days, when four or five cruise ships enter the port, some will be docked farther down river making for a long hike to the city center. Often those ships offer shuttles to the old port and into town. In the terminal, cruisers will find free Wi-Fi and a visitor's information booth staffed every day a ship is in port.
Le Vieux Port offers easy access to shopping. Just a few blocks away is Place Royale -- the 400-year-old plaza regarded as the birthplace of French civilization in Canada where Samuel de Champlain chose to build his Habitation when he arrived in the New World in 1608. The replica buildings house restaurants, galleries, shops and museums. Head north on Rue Notre Dame to find bustling Rue du Petit-Champlain, considered the oldest commercial street in North America. Art galleries, clothing stores, souvenir shops and quite a few cafes line the pedestrian street.
For a touch of culture, head to the Musee de la Civilisation just across the street from the port. Here you'll find a mixed bag of exhibits, including a model of Champlain's early dwelling on the shores of the St. Lawrence; a longboat, the transportation of choice by the early Amerindians; and the Olympic Torch.
Don't want to tour? Go right next door to Le Cafe du Monde (418-692-4455) for mussels you won't soon forget, then climb back aboard ship. Diners get a delightful taste of Paris, lunching on a terrace overlooking the St. Lawrence.
Good to Know
Leave high heels on the ship when headed for the historic parts of town crisscrossed by stairways and cobblestone streets. The suggested route to Upper Town is via the Old Quebec Funicular; a ride is $2.25.
On Foot: It's one of the easiest cities to negotiate. So much is within walking distance of the port. Unless you really want a workout, use the Old Quebec Funicular to get to Upper Town.
By Bus: A "green" way to get around the city - other than walking -- is via Ecolobus, small, non-polluting electric buses that stop every 20 minutes at or near almost all Old City attractions and neighborhoods. Cost is $2 each time you board. It's a great way to get an overview of the city by hopping on at the port and traveling the entire route, a 35-minute ride. Then, return to the places of most interest.
By Taxi: Quebec City has many cabs and reasonable fares between the port and the Old Quebec neighborhood. Negotiate with drivers for tours around the city; rates vary depending on the number of passengers.
By Car: Major car rental agencies can be found in the city and some (including Enterprise) will pick up and drop off at the port.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money
The Canadian dollar is the currency of the country. Most stores take American dollars but return Canadian bills and coins in change. ATMs and banks are located throughout the city. For updated currency conversion figures, visit www.oanda.com or www.xe.com.
French is the official language. While English is spoken at almost all visitor destinations including restaurants and shops, some taxi drivers know only fragments.
Food and Drink
Quebec City is a fine destination for foodies who can enjoy culinary experiences ranging from simple bistro fare to sublime fine dining. The narrow streets of the Old City are lined with charming outdoor cafes with menus and prices to suit every cruiser's taste and budget. Although this is a French-speaking province, almost all servers speak excellent English. Don't be surprised if you taste a bit of maple syrup during your meals; it's used to flavor everything from cocktails to stews and desserts. For a low-brow bar snack, give poutine a try. The fast-food dish covers french fries with brown gravy and cheese curds.
Panache in stunning Auberge Saint-Antoine across the street from the cruise port is rightly touted by locals and visitors as the best fine-dining spot in town. A reclaimed 19th century maritime warehouse with stone walls, wood-plank floors and massive wood beams is the rustic setting for intimate dining. It's a great place for a special occasion meal featuring creative, seasonal French-Canadian cuisine with a master chef's twist. Much of the produce is grown at the restaurant's organic garden on Ile d'Orleans. The extensive wine cellar showcases a wide variety of French and local wines, including the mildly maple flavored aperitif Val Ambre. (10 Rue Saint-Antoine; (418) 692-2211; open for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day)
Celebrating 50 years in business, Restaurant La Cremaillere is a fine-dining restaurant in Old Quebec that doesn't take itself too seriously. International cuisine is served in two spacious dining rooms, where many dishes, ranging from Caesar salad to crepes suzette, are prepared tableside. The service is expert but unpretentious. Don't be surprised if the owner's son picks up a guitar to serenade guests with popular ballads and a few French folk songs. (Rue Sainte-Anne; (418) 692-2216; open 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tuesday to Friday for lunch, 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. nightly for dinner)
Award-winning Le Pain Beni offers innovative French-Canadian cuisine featuring regional products in a relaxed bistro setting. The comfortable main dining room is inside an old stone house, while street-side outdoor seating is ideal for people watching. The three-course lunch is seasonal and a good value. It's located near the famed Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac and art-lined Rue du Tresor in the heart of Upper Old Quebec City. (24 Rue Sainte-Anne)
French farm-house-charming Lapin Saute is right in the middle of the busiest tourist area in lower Old Quebec, yet it offers a wonderful and affordable dining experience with consistently great French bistro food. As the name suggests, rabbit dishes, including sausages and a lasagna, are specialties. End your meal with a signature maple-syrup creme brulee. On a sunny day, opt for the flowery patio with its view of tiny Felix Leclerc Park. (52 Rue Du Petit-Champlain; (418) 692-5325; open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday)
Le Petit Cochon Dingue is a charming family dining spot in the heart of lower Old City. Reasonable prices, rave reviews for its food and indoor and outdoor seating make it an ideal breakfast, lunch or dinner stop. The extensive menu features baked goods, crepes, sandwiches, quiche, soup, salads and pizza. Its staff has a reputation for be very friendly and helpful. (24 Boulevard Champlain; (418) 694-0303; open 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Wednesday and Saturday to Sunday, 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday to Friday)
At Quebec City Farmer's Market, a half-mile walk from the port, shop for all things made with maple sugar -- biscuits, syrup, candies -- and Quebec's famous ice wines. In fall, don't leave without a crisp apple to munch on the walk back to the cruise ship.
Caribou is a sweet Quebecois alcoholic beverage quaffed fall and winter to take the chill off. Served hot, it's made of red wine, hard liquor (usually whisky) and maple syrup, of course.
Quebec City Awards
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