Like many people I know, Canada has always topped the list of countries I've always wanted to visit. Food, wildlife and natural beauty are typically what I look for in a perfect holiday, so you can imagine my excitement when I was given the opportunity to experience three of my favourite things in this amazing destination. Canada is a pretty big place and I may, or may not, have had to use Google maps to find out exactly where this province was before jetting off. So if, like me, your North American geography leaves a lot to be desired, here’s some quick facts to help set the scene.
Quebec is located in the east region of Canada and is the country’s largest province. You’ll find that most people in speak English here – especially in the cities – but it’s official provincial language is French. Canada is known for its extreme weather - but thankfully, it’s quite predictable and consistent. In southern part of Quebec, temperatures can reach as high as 30°C in the summer and fall lower than -10°C in the winter, making it a great destination for all kinds of activities. So, without further ado, here’s a little bit of what’s on offer.
If you fancy yourself as a bit of a historian, you might be interested to know that Quebec is home to 11 First Nations communities – the aboriginal peoples of Canada. The first part of our trip had us travelling three hours from Montreal airport to the indigenous reserve of Wendake. A trip here is sure to give you a real sense of traditional life while still enjoying the comforts of the modern-day. On our visit to the Huron Traditional Site we had the unique opportunity to discover the history, culture and the lifestyle of Hurons of the past and present day, from food preservation, to pre-marital arrangements. All of us crafting enthusiasts then had our creative needs fulfilled at the medicine wheel workshop where we used leather, feathers and beads to create our own wheels and learned about the healing practices behind them.
With our new indigenous keepsakes complete, off we went to watch the Endi Wendake cultural performance where we enjoyed a show of traditional dance and music. This was followed by something a little more factual - the First Nations Discovery Package - where we took a guided museum tour and develoepd a deeper understanding into the cultural history of Wendake. But the highlight of my First Nations experience was undoubtedly the Myths and Legends Tour, where we ventured into an amazing wooden longhouse and enjoyed traditional storytelling by an open fire.
If you’ve ever fancied journeying into the wilderness and living off the land, you won’t regret going on an outfitter experience. You needn’t be a seasoned angler or hiking enthusiast to get involved, but if you are, you’ll be in your element. We travelled 42km off road to reach the outfitter, Club Claire. Greeted by the friendliest staff you'll ever meet (and Max, the dog), we were shown the process of trout-smoking just before we took a boat onto the beautiful lake to catch some of our own. Club Claire has eight comfortable and cosy lodges overlooking the enchanting backdrop of Canadian forest, allowing us to enjoy nature at its finest. To top off this experience, I recommend firing up the barbeque and making a bomb fire, just as we did, to enjoy dinner under the stars and to get a glimpse of the Northern Lights - if you’re lucky.
Canada is well-known for its waterfalls and you’ll find six of them in Quebec. Just outside Quebec City lies Montmorency Falls, standing higher than Niagara at an impressive 83 metres.
Choosing the scenic (and easier) route, I took the cable car, while others braved the steps to get a closer look. At the top of the waterfall we walked along the suspension bridge to enjoy the amazing surrounding panoramic views for miles. While you’re there, it’s definitely worth taking a trip to Manoir Montmorency (summer residence of Prince Edward, Duke of Kent) where you'll find a small museum and get a quick history lesson on famous Battle of Beauport of 1759. And if you've worked up an appetite, the restaurant is a great place to grab a bite to eat or enjoy a refreshing beverage.
As North America’s most European-influenced city, Québec City is full of charming museums and heritage attractions on virtually every street corner. One could almost mistake this for being a European city – if it wasn’t on a completely different continent, that is. While we were here, we paid a visit to Château Frontenac, the most photographed hotel in the world – and once you see it with your own eyes, you’ll understand why. Located inside the walls of old Quebec with views overlooking the St. Lawrence river, this grand building looks like something from a fairy tale, with its metal roof and luxurious, ornate interiors. If you’re budget doesn’t allow for an overnight stay, try and book a breakfast you won’t forget. Choose from freshly baked pastries, pancakes, custom-made omelettes, to name but a few - you'll really get a taste of France.
A trip to Petit Champlain is the perfect place to burn off those delicious carbs with a spot of shopping down some of North America's oldest streets. Lined with boutiques and bistros down cobblestone streets, this picture-perfect district offers a romantic atmosphere in every season and provides the ideal opportunity to buy some unique gifts for loved ones.
Living the wild life
If, like me, you’re a lover of animals, Essipit is a great place to see wildlife thrive in their natural habitat. From the safety of an observatory deep in the forest, we had the pleasure of watching beautiful wild black bears roam around just metres in front of us. But if you’d like to get even closer to nature, I recommended stoping off in Tadoussac. Dressed in our luminous sea-wear we took to the waves and went on a breath-taking trip down the St Lawrence River for a whale watching expedition. There’s nothing quite like the thrill of searching for wild whales in the waves and though nothing is guaranteed, the boat ride alone was an exhilarating experience. Time it right, and you could be lucky enough to spot the incredible humpback whale in the summer months, or the magnificent blue whales during the winter. We had the fortune of sighting minke whales – an experience I’ll never forget.
Food, glorious food
If there’s one thing you need to do in Quebec, it’s to take full advantage of the delicious food on offer. If, like me, you’re real a foodie, you’ll be salivating at each and every corner - and you’ll find yourself a few pounds heavier, too! With its English, Scottish, French and First Nations influences, you’ll never be stuck for choice when it comes to this cuisine. For the adventurous carnivores, there is plenty of traditional dishes to try out, including moose, caribou and other game meats which are not so readily available in the UK. And as the world’s largest producer of maple syrup, it would be almost criminal to visit Quebec without sampling some of the sweet sticky stuff. For those with a savoury tooth, poutine is an absolute must. I found this famous dish of chips, cheese curds and gravy in almost every café and restaurant - it'd be pretty hard not to try it!
Often referred to as the Paris of Canada, Montreal is without a doubt the metropolis of Quebec.
This city blends European old-world charm with North American modernity like nowhere else and you’ll need at least few days to explore the best bits on offer. But if, like me, you’re only visiting for a whistle stop tour, be sure to head over to Old Montreal to visit the Notre Dame Basilica. Built between 1824 and 1829, this gorgeously gothic church is located in the district of Old Montreal and is considered to be one of Canada’s greatest heritage monuments. We've got our fair share of beautiful cathedrals here in the UK, but you'll honestly be wowed by the extraordinary craftsmanship and religious art in this grand building. The mesmerising Aura Show, where light, orchestral music and architecture unite, takes place each evening (expect Sundays) is like nothing I've seen before. It's a real treat for the senses. I think it's a must-see attraction for anyone - whether you're religious or not.
Air Transat offer multiple flights from the UK to Canada, including two direct flights to Montréal per week and daily flights to Toronto, with connecting domestic flights to Montréal and Québec City. Return Economy flights from London Gatwick to Montreal start from £349pp for 2017 and £367pp for 2018 (incl. taxes). I highly recommend upgrading to Club Class to enjoy a comfortable journey with in-flight entertainment, chef-curated meals and priority services.
Where to stay
A standard double room at the First Nations Museum Hotel in Wendake starts from CAD$129 (approx. £77) per night (based on two sharing) including breakfast www.tourismewendake.ca/en/hosting/hotel-musee-premieres-nations
A stay at the Club Claire lakeside outfitter in Essipit starts from CAD$98 (approx. £58) per night (two-night minimum). www.vacancesessipit.com/en/essipit-outfitters/club-claire-outfitter
A condo at Condos Natakam in Essipit starts from CAD$136 (approx. £81) per night (up to four sharing). www.vacancesessipit.com/condos-hotels-natakam/condos-hotels-avec-2-chambres
- Quebec City
A double ensuite room at Le Monastère des Augustines in Quebec City starts from CAD$165 (approx. £96) per night (based on two sharing) including organic breakfast and entrance to the museum. www.monastere.ca/en
A standard single room at Marriott Chateau Champlain in Montreal starts from CAD$149 (approx. £89) per room per night. www.montrealchateauchamplain.com
- Pictures: Quebec Original/Quebec Original Tourism/Shutterstock
- For tourism enquires, contact Quebec Tourism on: 0800 051 7055 or visit www.quebecoriginal.com
- Words by Gabrielle Albert