Many snowy destinations in North America claim a wealth of attractions for
skier and non-skier alike, but I can't think of any that appeals so completely
to both the winter sport enthusiast and the sophisticated traveler as does
Quebec City. A winter visit to this capital of French-speaking Canada
may not be quite as exotic as skiing the Alps, but it's the next best
thing—plus it's a lot closer and more affordable. For those living in the
Northeastern U.S., Quebec City offers a perfect mini-escape. In fact,
over a long weekend, you can actually blend good skiing at either of two
downhill and several cross-country areas with snowmobiling or a dog sledding
trek, and on the side, enjoy fine dining, excellent shopping, and an abundance
of museums and art galleries.
Quebec City is not only the poitical capital of French-speaking
Canada; its also the heart and soul of its most expansive province. And, if you
were following the news in late 1995, you know how close Quebec came to
seceding from the rest of the country. Visiting Quebec is really like
visiting a European country. Yes, most people do speak some English—if
spoken to in English—but French is definitely the first language and its
an intrinsic part of the culture. With less than 200,000 inhabitants,
Quebec City feels more like a big town than a city. It is cozy,
friendly, and very manageable. In fact, if you stay right in the Old City, you
can easily walk to most of its attractions. Set on a high promontory jutting
into the broad St. Lawrence River, Vieux Quebec is so historic that it
is on UNESCOs World Heritage List. A few modern office buildings rise above the
old city, but its narrow, winding streets are mostly lined with low-rise,
well-preserved older buildings. Along the lowlands bordering the river are the
Quartier Petit-Champlain, Place Royal, and Vieux Port, quaint, if somewhat
touristy shopping and dining districts.
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