North America

Welcome to “La Belle Province”

National pride | Photo credit: Flickr user abdallahh

The cradle of creativity of French civilization in North America

Québec has a rare and distinct way of life in North America. Largely French in terms of language and culture, Québec has managed to preserve its Francophone heritage in the midst of a strong Anglophone culture. French is the mother tongue of 82 percent of the residents of the province. However, it is very easy to travel in Québec speaking only English. In fact, some 40 percent of the population is bilingual. In major cities like Montréal, this percentage is considerably higher. So you can expect that you can find your way around this charming province with ease …

Québec, located in the eastern region of Canada and situated along the Gulf of St. Lawrence, is the largest of the 10 Canadian provinces. So be prepared … you are in for a treat whether you are visiting just Montréal or Québec City, or touring the many other out of the ordinary regions of “La Belle Province”.

Québec is unlike any other the Canadian provinces or territories. It is a multifaceted blend of European and North American origins, original cultures and personalities. Québécois enjoy life. Celebrations and dining are important aspects that enrich the lives of residents and visitors alike. Québec is both well-known and well-respected for the creative talent that resides within the province, and the world has been treated over the years to the likes of Cirque du Soleil, Céline Dion, Oscar Peterson, Mordecai Richler, William Shatner, Jacques Villeneuve and many others too numerous to list …

When you visit this vast and often absorbing province, you need to prepare yourself (as aforementioned!) for a wealth of experiences. First, you will be in good company. You will find visitors from across the world and in particular the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Mexico and Japan.

And all come for the same reasons … be it seasonal or cultural, Québec attracts visitors year-round.

In each region of the province, during the four seasons of the year, there is something to attract anyone and everyone, especially those that appreciate a world-renowned festival or the greatest of the great outdoors.

Between quaint villages and cosmopolitan cities and numerous rustic regions and national parks, the reputation of Québec as a must-visit destination precedes itself.

The City Experience

Montréal and Québec City are an integral fraction of the history of the country and the province. Combining a European texture with a sense of North America, Québec’s two most important cities charm visitors with their vibrancy, energy and warmth. The cultural life of these cities is known the world over …

Québec City

Quebec City | Photo credit: © MINISTÈRE DU TOURISME DU QUÉBEC

The capital, Québec City, is the only fortified city in North America and has its own European cachet. The oldest Francophone city in North America, Québec City was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1985 and celebrated its 400th anniversary in 2008.

You will certainly be charmed by the ancestral style of its town centre. The small cobblestone streets, which you can traverse on a horse-drawn carriage, and its historical districts such as the Quartier Petit Champlain and Place-Royale, beguile everyone.

In the suburbs of Québec City, you will find enchanting scenery as well as lovely towns and small villages. On the Côte-de-Beaupré, nature is in perfect harmony with culture to offer magnificent sites where spectacular falls and high mountains will delight winter sports enthusiasts. The beauty of the Jacques-Cartier Valley is comparable with that of the Montmorency Falls and the Cap Tourmente. And Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré is far from being outdone thanks to its important religious heritage.

Above all, do not overlook the Île d’Orléans, which has been attracting visitors for years. This small green island conceals more than one secret. Its parks, its famous chocolate factory, its historic monuments, the Parc des Bisons, its orchards and its inns will enthral you.

Montréal

Place D'Armes Hotel | Photo credit: Michelle Schaffer

The only Francophone metropolis in North America, Montréal is also the second largest Francophone city after Paris (in terms of population). This major Canadian city of 3.6 million inhabitants is a tapestry of cultures from the world over with its many neighbourhoods, including Chinatown, the Latin Quarter, the Gay Village, Little Italy, Le Plateau-Mont-Royal, the Quartier International and Old Montréal, just to name a few. Montréal has a rich architectural heritage, along with many cultural activities, sports events and festivals.

What can be said or written about Montréal that has not already been said or written! Montréal is internationally renowned … so be sure to plan your time accordingly …

If you appreciate a good festival and celebration of the arts, then you can plan a visit around numerous festivals and special events. Year round, there are music, humour, gastronomy, sports, as well as international-scale events.

Montréal is the largest city in the province of Québec, the second-largest city in Canada and the seventh largest in North America. Originally called Ville-Marie, or “City of Mary”, the city takes its present name from Mont-Royal, the triple-peaked hill located in the heart of the city, whose name was also initially given to the island on which the city is located.

For over a century and a half, Montréal was the industrial and financial centre of Canada. The variety of buildings provides a legacy of historic and architectural interest, especially in the downtown and Old Port areas. There are some 51 National Historic Sites of Canada such as Notre-Dame de Montréal Basilica, Bonsecours Market, and the 19th century headquarters of all major Canadian banks on St. James Street (Rue Saint Jacques), Saint Joseph’s Oratory, Ernest Cormier’s Art Deco Université de Montréal main building, the landmark Place Ville Marie office tower, and the controversial Olympic Stadium and surrounding structures. There are also a few notable examples of 20th century architecture. Pavilions designed for the 1967 International and Universal Exposition, popularly known as Expo 67, featured a range of architectural designs. Though most pavilions were temporary structures, several remaining structures have become Montréal landmarks, including the geodesic dome US Pavilion, now the Montréal Biosphere, as well as Moshe Safdie’s striking Habitat 67 apartment complex.

In 2006, Montréal was named a UNESCO City of Design, only one of three design capitals of the world (the others being Berlin and Buenos Aires).

Montréal’s Underground City (officially RÉSO or La Ville Souterraine in French) is an array of interconnected complexes (both above and below ground) in and around Downtown Montréal.

The Québec Countryside Experience

Lac Paul - Parc national de la Gaspésie | Phoro credit:  © MINISTÈRE DU TOURISME DU QUÉBEC

The Eastern Townships is the southernmost region in the province, located in a magnificent setting, dotted with imposing mountains, lakes dating back from the last glaciations, rivers, and large forested areas.

This is where you will find remnants from the past such as round barns, and covered bridges.The religious heritage of this region is highly diversified. In fact, people can visit more than a hundred churches from all denominations.

No matter the season, national parks and a well-developed 500-kilometre bike path network and a number of cross-country skiing paths make this area attractive to outdoor enthusiasts.

The Charlevoix region, as a result of with the natural beauty of breathtaking landscapes, has been inspiring artists and visitors for years. The St. Lawrence River slowly meanders by the coast while mountains dot the land. And here’s something that you probably didn’t know … Charlevoix is one of the largest inhabited craters of the world, since the region was hit by a meteorite more than 350 million years ago.

The region is divided in six areas, each bearing very different characteristics and offering captivating attractions.

Make sure you drive along the panoramic road. It will make your drive a little longer, but the landscape is worth the time.

The vast and striking region of Chaudière-Appalaches stretches along the St. Lawrence River for 200 kilometres and continues to the U.S. state of Maine in the south. The area is greened by luxurious forests, rivers and lakes, as well as by the Appalachian mountain range.

You will find several villages among the most beautiful in Québec, as well as manors, ancestral houses and a rich historic and cultural heritage. The area is well liked – and appreciated – by hikers, bird watchers and frequented by canoeists, kayakers, snowmobilers, alpine and cross-country skiing enthusiasts and during the winter months the area attracts ice-fisher folks and dog sledders.

The Gaspésie or Gaspé Peninsula or the Gaspé is a peninsula constituting part of the south shore of the Saint Lawrence River. It extends into the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and is separated from New Brunswick by the baie des Chaleurs and the Restigouche River.

And much can be said about the name of the area …

“Gaspé” may come from the Mi’kmaq word “Gespeg” which means “Land’s end”. However, Gaspé may be a mutation of the Basque word “Gerizpe” which means “shade”, with the figurative meaning “sheltered place”. This may be why explorer Jacques Cartier considered it; On July 24, 1534, he officially took possession of the area by planting a wooden cross with the king’s coat of arms and the sentence “Vive le Roi de France” (meaning: Life (to) the King of France), This is why Gaspé claims the title of “French-Canada’s Cradle”.

The Gaspésie is a land of water and mountains and exceptional colours.  Beyond the region’s rugged coastline, peaceful fishing havens, pleasant valleys and mountainous wilderness, the real reasons behind your unforgettable stay in Gaspésie are its proud and hospitable people. Here you can enjoy activities as varied as hunting for agate stones on the beach, whale watching, fishing the waters of the sea or the rivers, relaxing at a health spa, or taking in a little culture and a lot of the delectable maritime cuisine.

The Laurentides region may just be the preeminent four-season destination in Québec. Located to the north between Montreal and the mountains, this area is a synonym for – your choice – either adventure or relaxation and nature.

The Laurentides (or the Laurentians in English) region is home to Québec’s largest protected area. Parc national du Mont-Tremblant has a wide array of outdoor sports to choose from, ranging from hiking to canoeing, camping, fishing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and more.

Nestled at the base of the 968m mountain of the same name, the village of Tremblant repeatedly tops the list of eastern North America’s best resorts. The liveliness of its pedestrian village combined with a great range of activities – downhill and cross-country skiing, swimming, cycling, golf and luge are but a few – have earned Tremblant its enviable popularity.

Nearby, Saint-Sauveur is another landmark destination, its picturesque villages bustling with bistros, lounges and boutiques. Unparalleled when it comes to skiing and sliding, Saint-Sauveur is the place for night skiing. In the fall, the forests of the Laurentides take on their characteristic flamboyant hues, reviving the festive spirit of the entire region and providing cause for residents and visitors alike to celebrate the seasons.

 View of Outaouais region | Photo credit: Flickr user abdallahh

The Outaouais region, which was discovered by Samuel de Champlain in 1613, was first inhabited by the Outaouaks First Nation, then by the Loyalists who decided to settle permanently in the region. Nowadays, the territory of the region is divided into five areas, and its proximity to the city of Ottawa in Ontario provides the region an unusual cultural exchange.

Nature is everywhere in the Outaouais region, as visitors will immediately notice in the numerous parks and natural preserves that dot the territory. More than 20,000 glimmering lakes, as well as dozens of rushing rivers and waterfalls contribute to the scenery of the region. Outdoor lovers truly appreciate and savour the region, since they can go biking, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, as well as cross-country and alpine skiing.

Culture is also an important characteristic of the region, and you will not be disappointed by the many museums scattered in the region, like the Canadian Museum of Civilisation and the Canada Museum of Science and Technology, in Ottawa. Art galleries abound in the region as well, while theatres offer brilliant performances of local and international artists.

Year round, the Outaouais lives to the rhythm of its events and festivals such as the Canadian Tulip Festival or the Hot Air Balloon Festival.

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