As Canada turns 150, deputy editor Alex Laws looks back on having lived a decade in this country — her 10-year Can-niversary — and reflects on seven spots that have stolen her heart. In this second instalment, she’s charmed by the quirk of Quebec City. Read other instalments in the series here.
I had no idea what to expect the first time I visited Quebec City in 2012, but I certainly didn’t anticipate feeling like I was in Aladdin’s Cave as I explored the cobblestoned streets, stone staircases and narrow alleys that meander through the city, lined with delightful eateries, lively boutiques and atmospheric bars.
The imaginative cocktails and candle-lit patio of the industrial-chic Cendrillon bar-restaurant will always stand out because of the industrial-vibe atmospheric setting (and deliciousness of the tequila-based Princess Sour with eucalyptus syrup), as will what followed them: A long climb up numerous staircases and culminating in a hill to the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac, which yielded some delightful first views of the St Lawrence River. People describe the UNESCO heritage site and its historic architecture as being a piece of Europe in North America, but for me, it feels grander and more fairy tale-like, and suitably exaggerated: a castle on a hill surrounded by a walled city, filled with people who are both friendly and French.
Last summer, my French fantasy continued an hour and 20 minutes west of the city in Charlevoix. Famed for its scenic vistas, the lush green landscape has for decades inspired a community of artists to take up residence, including the founder of Cirque de Soleil, Daniel Gaulthier. The area is also a source of culinary creativity and through the Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu, a group of journalists and I toured a Basque-style foie gras producer, a selection of local cheesemakers and farms. We sampled the region’s freshest ingredients and picked up supplies as we went, before heading back to the hotel for a cooking lesson with then-executive chef Patrick Turcot, which we served at a giant dark wooden table in his office, as the taxidermy looked on.
My appetite for Quebec City’s artisanal eats and historic architecture is still strong. Fortunately, you don’t need a magic carpet to appreciate what this place has to offer.