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Québec City: Queen of the St. Lawrence
Holland America guests rate
  Québec City No. 1 of 300 ports

By Pat Woods

On our recent Canada/New England Discovery cruise on Holland America Line, the ms Maasdam called on four Canadian ports. Each had interesting attractions with fascinating learning experiences in Canada's rich blend of Native American, French, and English history and culture. Québec City was the undisputed standout port.

Ships make a dramatic entrance into Québec harbor. In this beautiful city, the ship docked in Lower Town, in the heart of Old Québec, which has the most distinct French flair this side of the Atlantic. Near the ship, narrow cobbled streets in Old Town are filled with unique bistros, boutiques, and art galleries inviting exploration.

Resembling a French coastal town, Québec City is French in language, spirit, and feeling. Narrow, twisting streets, centuries-old churches and government buildings, quaint shops and inns, galleries and outdoor cafés, horse-drawn carriages and street performersall convey a Paris-like feel. The only remaining walled city north of Mexico, Old Québec is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Québec City residents hold their French history and traditions dear with a bevy of museums, historic sitesm and battlegrounds. While remaining strongly rooted in the reality of Québec, Musée de la civilization links the past, presentm and future. It projects a new, attentive and dynamic outlook on human experience in its whole and on world civilizations.

Located in the heart of the Plains of Abraham, a former battleground turned city park, Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec features Québec artists, past and present, as well as prestigious international art exhibitions.

Lower Town and Upper Town are connected by steep streets, staircasesm and a funicular. At the top of the cliff, the imposing Fairmont Le Château Frontenac with its turreted castle-like facade presents a dramatic photo op.

Everything we heard about Québec City is true. Beautiful, historic, picturesque, and charming, it was the birthplace of French civilization in North America. Discovered by French explorer Jacques Cartier in the 1530s, Québec City was founded by Samuel de Champlain in 1608.

The first significant settlement in Canada, Québec City prospered as the centre of New France for many decades. Things changed dramatically in 1759 when Québec fell to Britain. However, the Québec Act of 1775 enabled the province to maintain the French language, culture, and traditions. Québec City became the provincial capital in 1867.

We rode the funicular ($2 US dollars) up the steep cliff to Upper Town where we attended a Catholic Mass then watched tourists in horse-drawn carriages and children playing in a grassy park. The wall surrounding Old Town offered fantastic views.

Tour guide Michelle took us to the 31st floor of a Parliament Hill office building for magnificent views of this lovely walled city, the St. Lawrence River, and the Maasdam docked in the harbor. Québec means where river narrows.

Michelle also took us to Montmorency Falls, a pretty provincial park nine miles east of downtown. After shooting digital photos from the base of the 272-foot falls, we rode a cable car to the top. Manor Montmorency houses a visitor center, gift shop and dining room with a terrace overlooking the falls, the St. Lawrence River, and the bucolic Island of Orleans.

While eating a tasty lunch, we watched storm clouds gather. Lightening and drenching rain canceled our plans to walk across the falls on a suspension bridge before returning to the ship.

Although summer is high season, Québec City is a year-round tourist destination. Colored lights illuminate Montmorency Falls in winter. From our brief visit, it was easy to see why Holland America guests rate Québec City as No. 1 of the 300 ports HAL ships visit each year. Everyone on the Maasdam said the same thing, “Beautiful city; wish we could have stayed longer!”

Eighteen cruise lines and 23 ships call on Québec City. Ships offer a plethora of excursions, and more are available locally. If time permits, energetic cruisers can sail, kayak, or canoe on the St. Lawrence River. Whatever you choose, enjoy this fascinating city.

For additional information, visit QuebecRegion.com.

Article & Photo © Pat Woods

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