By Joan Larsen
We’re dreaming of a white Christmas. Streets banked with that glistening white stuff, beautifully highlighted by festive holiday decorations, quaint little markets for that one-of-a-kind gift shopping that will make you the most remembered Santa on earth.
Quebec exudes Old World charm, yet it is enticingly close to home. You are going to feel you are in Europe, but without the transatlantic flight or the jet lag. I promise.
The Christmas season is especially festive, with the Marche de Noel, or Christmas market in Quebec City. You find you have stepped into another world as you wind down to the streets of the Vieux Port (Old Port). The year-round Farmers Market has transformed itself into the Marche de Noel, with 100 beautifully decorated stalls offering food, wines and gift items from artisans of the province of Quebec.
Think every sort of maple items that you haven’t seen on the market at home for years, guaranteed to back memories of our childhoods. Hand-crafted toys that I want to buy for myself, and the hand-knitted woolens, lovingly made, so beautiful that you find yourself snatching them up eagerly. Everything you buy has a story about it, and in most cases, you get to meet the producer.
Take the funicular directly down to Petit Champlain, a remarkably preserved area of the town that captures its romantic feeling. To me, it feels like I am wandering through a village in northern France, full of irresistible restaurants and shops. During the holidays, it transforms into a place of Old World beauty. Absolutely charming!!
Ohhh . . . as we know, every shopper needs fuel. . . and we find ourselves drifting into bakeries from “the old days”. Hot chocolate or coffee just isn’t enough when we see eateries in the old quarter that offer French crepes that are – well – addictive. I call them “my secret passion”, finding them my “fondest of fond” memories of Quebec.
No visit to Quebec City is complete without a stop at the grand and historic Chateau Frontenac, majestically perched on a hill overlooking the city. As a child, it was family tradition to stay there. To me, spending the night in this fairyland castle is still “tradition” that I have carried along to my own children. You can take guided tours of the fabled structure, enjoy a meal or drink. But you must not leave without a stop at the Concierge Desk to pet or have your photo taken with Santol, a cross between a Lab and Bernese Mountain dog – their Canine Ambassador. He loves children.
UNESCO named Quebec City a World Heritage Treasure because of its unique architecture and historical value, and you will find it simply wonderful in any season.
But what better way to wish you all a Happy New Year than to suggest that if you want to have the party of your life, Quebec City is offering the greatest outdoor party on its streets and in its cozy bars on New Year’s Eve, fireworks and all. . . and, we must not forget: one of the best and most yummy breakfasts you have ever had the day after!!!
Writer Joan Larsen has spent a lifetime searching for the most remote places on Earth. But it is the polar regions of our world that she has been drawn back to again and again. She has done research in these lands of ice, and considers Antarctica to be her “other home.”