We took this trip in the summer, beginning with a one-night stay in Augusta, Maine, then taking a scenic drive along Route 201, through the Rangeley Lakes, to arrive in the very European city of Quebec. Quebec Province is largely French-speaking, although there are, of course, many who also speak English. However, it is certainly advantageous to have a French phrasebook handy — the Quebecois really appreciate those who attempt to converse in their language (much as Europeans do).
Quebec’s Old Town is absolutely charming, with cobblestone streets and 17th century architecture. The dominating feature of the Upper Town is the famous Chateau Frontenac, which sits on the edge of a cliff above the St Lawrence River. Even if unable to afford to stay here, at least have a drink or maybe lunch on the terrace with its commanding views.
Other sites in the Upper Town include the Citadel, the imposing gates into the city, and National Battlefields Park which commemorates the famous battle between the English (Wolfe) and French (Montcalm) for control of the city. Note the elegant Parliament Building with its attractive and manicured grounds nearby. Also be sure to walk the Dufferin Terrace, a boardwalk along the cliff face.
The Lower Town is even more charming because there is less traffic (many of the streets are pedestrian-only) and less accessible. Walk down the stairs, then return after your visit via the funicular. Be sure to wander through Place Royale, where there are often events taking place, and then down to the harbor to get the view looking back to the city from the water. There are buildings, such as the Eglise Notre-Dame to explore as well as myriad shops and restaurants.
A short excursion from town brought us to Montmorency Falls, Quebec’s puny answer to Niagara Falls. Actually, the falls are pretty nice — they just shouldn’t try to compare them to one of the most spectacular places on earth. In the same vicinity is a popular pilgrimage church, the Basilique de Ste-Anne-de-Beaupre.
After 3 nights, we left Quebec and headed southwest along the river to Montreal, a much more cosmopolitan and much larger city. Even here, though, there are touches of the area’s European past. We wandered the cobblestone streets of Vieux Montreal (Old Town) and were impressed with the architecture and ambience. Place Jacques Cartier is a delightful square with several outdoor restaurants and shops.
One of the most beautiful sights in the city is the Basilica of Notre-Dame-de-Montreal, with its glorious, blue interior — a truly magnificent house of worship. Montreal is a center for higher education in Canada, and the area around Mc Gill University is a wonderful place to stroll because of the vibrancy and enthusiasm of the people here and the many shops and restaurants. Just southeast of the University, on a side street of Rue Sherbrooke, is an interesting and somewhat controversial sculpture, The Illuminated Crowd.
We happened to be in the city during the time of Montreal International Jazz Festival and were treated to several outdoor concerts. Because Montreal is an important center for Arts, there are a number of similar events throughout the year.
Away from the downtown area is Olympic Stadium and Olympic Park, which was the location of many events during the 1976 Olympic Games. Go to the top of Montreal Tower for great views of the city and surrounding area. Nearby is Montreal Botanical Gardens which are extensive, attractive, and offer solitude and escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. Also nearby is the Biodome, designed by Buckminster Fuller, which displays several ecosystems in an environmental showcase.
We returned to the United States via upstate New York, and traveled down Interstate 87 through the scenic Adirondacks. We stopped at Lake Placid, the scene of several Winter Olympics, and strolled the cute, but touristy village along the lake, but, unfortunately, were forced to bypass the Whiteface Mountain Memorial Highway because of time constraints.