Quebec City has surpassed Vancouver as the most popular tourist city in Canada. Several reasons for this can be found on Canada’s Bucket List:
- It’s walled old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with well-preserved bastions, gates, and fortified structures dating back to the city’s founding the in the 17th century.
- The city has fantastic restaurants and hotels, including the palace-like Chateau Frontenac, one of the world’s most photographed hotels.
- In winter, it hosts the largest winter carnival in the world, a celebration compared to Rio’s Carnaval or Mardi Gras.
All sound, but there’s something more to it. A feeling one gets walking on the cobblestone, an ambiance that greets you under the stone archway of Rue Saint-Jean. Visitors feel they have been transplanted somewhere in Europe, somewhere far more…romantic. That’s the word, and that’s the ambiance. Whether you’re in a T-shirt or bundled up with a cup of steaming hot chocolate, Quebec City wants to hold your hand, give you a spontaneous embrace, and deep whimsical look in the eye.
Picture a young couple in love, call them Peter and Angela, visiting Quebec City for the first time. In Peter’s pocket is a diamond ring, in his heart the nerves of knowing what he has to do with it. But the right moment has to present itself. Old town is small enough for them to explore in a couple hours, popping into galleries and chocolatiers in the beautifully restored Le Petit Champlain, walking past stained old statues and gothic churches. From Lower Town, they take the only funicular of its kind in North America. Opened in 1879, the car slowly ascends as they gaze out over the narrows of the St Lawrence, their hands joined, a memory to treasure.
Peter wonders if he should have waited for winter. That’s when the city builds one of the most unique, and romantic hotels in the world. The Hotel de Glace uses 500 tons of ice and 15,000 tons of snow to create a glittering winter wonderland, consisting of 36 themed rooms and suites decorated with the gorgeous carvings of local ice-sculptors. With ice crystals sparking in the air, they could explore each room, grab a drink in the bar (served in an ice glass, of course). He could propose in the fur-lined chapel, before they spend a memorable night in one of the rooms. Of course, it would be -5C and they’d have to cover themselves head to toe with Arctic-grade sleeping bags. Angela doesn’t handle cold too well, so perhaps it’s a good idea he waited until summer.
They pack a picnic of fine cheese, a fresh baguette, a bottle of Bordeaux and artisan chocolate for a picnic on Dufferin Terrace. To work it off they climb the 310 steps up La Promenade des Gouverneurs, the St Lawrence flowing to their left. There’s summer festivities happening up ahead in the Plains of Abraham, but they return to the Chateau Frontenac to freshen up for the evening’s event. That night, they take a sunset dinner boat cruise on the St Lawrence. The weather is perfect, and their timing is excellent. It’s the final night of the L’International des Feux Loto-Québec, one of the world’s best fireworks competitions. The sky explodes into a pyrotechnic palette of colours. Like millions of spectators around the city, Angela is mesmerized. She turns to Peter to see his reaction, and finds him on his knee. In his hand is a diamond ring reflecting the exploding crimson, gold and emerald overhead.
Ten years later Angela and Peter return to the Quebec City in winter. I meet them in the hot tub outside the Hotel de Glace, as guests warm up for the night ahead. Angela says she would have said yes in winter, summer, spring or fall. As far as wedding proposals, romance in Quebec City is one for the Bucket List.