QUEBEC IS in the heart of French-speaking Canada. The capital, Quebec City, is just a three-hour drive from Montreal. For Indians visiting Toronto, exploring some of the highlights of Quebec can be an interesting option. It is one of the largest producers of maple syrup in the world. Maple is grown in only a few states in Canada and a visit to the traditional sugar shack, Érablière le Chemin du Roy, gives an interesting insight into the history of the industry and the manufacturing process. The sugar shack is surrounded by trees, which are tapped in spring. Only trees that are more than 20 years old are tapped, and some of them have scars that are at least five decades old. Visitors are welcomed with a glass of local Caribou, made of red wine, hard liquor (like whiskey) and maple syrup. They can have lunch at the shack and enjoy traditional music. The best part of the experience at the sugar shack is saved for the last—taffy on snow candy.
Quebec City has a very European feel to it with 95% of the populace being native French speakers. A leisurely walk soaking in the sights and sounds of the fortified Old Quebec is the best way to explore the historic city. There is a guided tour inside the Parliament, which also has a restaurant for visitors, serving delicacies with a focus on regional cuisine. Quebec City is on the banks of the St Lawrence River, which is the third-largest river in North America. Visitors can get a beautiful view of the river from Battlefields Park.
Aboriginal tourism offers a great insight into the life and culture of native communities in Canada. The traditional Huron Site is a recreated village that has guided tours and activities. The tour includes a visit to the Long House, sweating tents (for purification), giant tee-pee, etc. Activities range from canoeing to snow shoe riding in the forests, archery and craft classes. For those interested in aboriginal culture, a unique accommodation option is Hôtel-Musée Premières Nations. At this aboriginal-themed boutique hotel, guests can stay in luxurious rooms that are decorated with indigenous objects. Those a bit more adventurous can sleep in the nearby Long House and experience the true lifestyle of a native community.
Enroute from Quebec City to Charlevoix is a destination which is considered among Canada’s hidden gems: Canyon Sainte-Anne. This is the site of the magnificent Sainte-Anne Falls, which is higher than the Niagara Falls. The 74-m-high waterfall is a spectacular site, which visitors can enjoy from the three suspension bridges and the many observation decks. A visit to the park is an enthralling experience for all age groups. Adrenaline junkies can also zipline across the gorge.
The Bureau d’information touristique de Charlevoix is located at a lookout spot from where visitors can enjoy the scenic vista of St Lawrence River and the mountains. Baie-Saint-Paul has a vibrant art scene, thanks to the Musée d’art contemporain de Baie-Saint-Paul. This contemporary art museum holds many national and international art exhibits throughout the year. The little town of Baie-Saint-Paul is famous for its art galleries, quaint shops and restaurants. Saint-Jean-Baptiste street is the best place for some curio shopping.
An interesting accommodation option here is Hôtel Le Germain Charlevoix, which was a wooden barn, but has been converted into a hotel famous for its eclectic designs. The precincts of the hotel also include a railway station, a public square, meeting rooms, spa and other facilities.
Charlevoix is famous as the site of a meteorite impact, and the best place to understand this is at the Astronomy Observatory where an expert will explain the phenomenon that shaped the area’s landscape 350 million years ago. Visitors also get a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to touch rare meteorite rocks. A surreal experience on a clear night is looking through the telescope and seeing Jupiter with its three moons. The observatory is supported by the Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu.
One of the tourism highlights of Charlevoix is the Maison du Bootlegger or the Bootlegger’s House. It was a high-end hunting and fishing lodge for American tourists. At that time, Charlevoix was a dry area and to hide from the church and the authorities, liquor was served here for select clientele. The house has false doorways, secret chambers and trapdoors.