Even though I’ve visited Quebec City quite a few times, I still get a kick out of hopping a plane in NYC and one measly hour later arriving in a “foreign” country, complete with fortified stone walls, winding cobblestone streets, ancient buildings, beckoning bistros and cozy cafes, fashionable boutiques, trendy galleries and the most fun part is that everyone is parlez-vous-ing, although the locals will graciously switch over to English if you need directions.
This clean, safe, walkable, food-obsessed, boutique-laden, delightful capital city, often referred to as the “Paris of North America” makes a winning “European” Girlfriend Getaway choice when you and your gal pals are a little short of time and/or funds.
Why Go Now?
Quebec City was party-central in 2008 when it threw itself a whopping year long birthday bash to celebrate the 400th anniversary of its founding in 1608 by French explorer, Samuel de Champlain. Q.C. was buffed, cleaned and spit-polished for the occasion, with countless new shops, restaurants and special events joining in the celebration. One year later, the city is still buzzing with youthful energy and excitement.
Dollar: Auberge Saint-Antoine
It’s hard to believe that this glam-luxe waterfront hotel (seen above) located in the Old Port, began life as a dark, dreary wharf and gun battery, albeit with great massive wood beams. A major remodel/ expansion project in 2003 uncovered a wealth of architectural artifacts buried underground that are now beautifully showcased throughout the 95-room museum hotel, adding a palpable sense of history to your stay. The striking lobby is warmed up with soft lighting, a welcoming fire, comfy seating areas, and some very cool metal chandeliers.
The rooms are just what you’d expect (and more) from a Relais & Chateaux property, that recently was voted: Best Hotel in Canada by Conde Nast Traveler After a long day exploring I couldn’t wait to return to my room to crawl under the cozy goose-down comforter, brew an espresso and then clean up for dinner in the sleek, tiled bathroom complete with super-deep tub, rain-shower nozzles, lovely heated floors and an exclusive line of amenities labeled “We live like this.”
The well-equipped Le Gym (which offers yoga) almost lured me in for a work-out, but I compromised with a visit to the sauna instead.
The superb restaurant, Panache, opened in 2004 under the capable and talented hands of Executive Chef Francois Blais, who promptly scored the city’s Best New Restaurant Award for his inspired seasonal, lightened-up, farm to table French Canadian cuisine. Memorable bites include: pressed rabbit with a plum mistelle jelly, a magical blackcurrant cream glazed duckling sweetbread and any of his stellar breakfasts.
Hotel PUR –an urban retreat located in the heart of the revitalized Saint Roch district, on Rue St. Joseph. This hip hotel, is minimalist in design yet maxi on service and extras, such as complimentary cappuccino machines next to the free computers, Aveda products and huge floor -to-ceiling windows the offer magnificent city views as well as really brightening up your room. Extra credit points for the biggest (immaculately clean) indoor swimming pool in Quebec-also with enormous windows, dry sauna and well-equipped fitness center. Their new restaurant featuring a communal dining table, is due to open any minute. Very reasonable prices.