One of the oldest cities in North America (founded in 1608), with its historic lanes and walls carefully preserved, Québec is also the capital of the province. A Lonely Planet entry summarizes its allure.
Le Duc chose the location; the city is indeed a romantic sure thing, like San Francisco or Barcelona. A suite in a luxury hotel rarely disappoints, especially when your view is this:
The 122-year-old Chateau Frontenac, flashing a $75-million reno completed last year, wears its age as a badge of honour, and shows not a flicker of the wistful desuetude I recalled from our last stay, 28 years ago:
Our living room included a turret, just visible to the left of the (ornamental) fireplace:
Original fittings like the working mail chute are meticulously maintained:
The lobby feels as if the Dowager Countess of Grantham might be in the next chair:
The grand old landmark glows again, like burnished leather. (Those looking for a B and B might consider the gracious old home where we've also stayed, La Marquise de Bassano.)
Le Duc chose the site for his birthday dinner, Le Pied Bleu, a bountiful and boisterous intersection of deeply local dining and happy anarchy, in the spirit of a Lyonnaise bouchon. We were seated in a butcher shop doubling as a top-notch bistro, run by rambunctious crew who see no reason for propriety, from either side.
I sampled five salads, brought to the table to serve myself, à volonté—followed by stewed rabbit; Le Duc had a charcuterie platter (everything made on site, we ate in the shop), and boudin noir.
House-made desserts, shown above, were served with the same "come up and try this!" generosity. (For a closeup of those desserts, see this review, which named the resto one of the ten best in Canada in 2013.)
Here's the birthday boy; he isn't drinking all those digestifs, but the shot shows how they are served: a hamper dropped at your table with a couple of glasses.
The cheque totaled... um, can't remember, except I thought it was fine. It's not in prime tourista stretch, though only a 10-minute cab from the hotel.
The city's amusements extend from museums to music to macarons, but we were there to be together. Le Duc bought a pair of shoes. I have never seen so much good-looking, functional deep-winter wear offered anywhere; this must be the Serious Boot capital of the world.
In Québec, I was reminded that Montréalers do not exactly own the cred for being people of the farthest North. In a restaurant, a table of three Inuit men conversed intently in Inuktitut (the term for the many variants of Canadian Inuit dialects). My ear was tantalized by a language that existed here even before Samuel Champlain founded New France.
Frigid, crystalline air, the sparkling river, the palpable pride of the hotel's staff, the exuberant local cuisine: celebration, nostalgia, romance. The icing on the cake for Le Duc was the unimpeded sighting of a fisher in a snowy field, viewed from the train window.
And we agree we would travel there just to dine again at Le Pied Bleu!
*In Canada, the proper name of the city is, in both French and English, Québec, and in informal English, Quebec City (without the accent). Like New York/New York City, the short form is more common. Québec is pronounced "kay-bec" with the stress on the second syllable.