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.
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.
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.
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.
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.