We visited Quebec two winters ago to visit McGill University where my daughter applied to for college. I had been to Montréal and Quebec before, but for those who visit for the first time, it’s like visiting Europe, except the plane flight is much shorter. The capital of Québec is Montréal, which sits on an island in the wide St. Lawrence River. One of the oldest cities in North America, Montréal was founded in 1642. The European vibe comes from the French-speaking population, known as the Québecois, or in Montréal as “Les Habs,” short for the French word “les habitants” or “the locals.” They also affectionately call their beloved Hockey team (the Montréal Canadiens) the “Habs” as well, even the English-speaking residents.
Visiting the region in the winter is an experience in and of itself. I have lived in Russia and have visited Japan’s snow country (more on that for a future blog), but the coldest I have ever been was on the banks of the St. Lawrence River, in the dead of winter, in Montréal. The city has marvelous wide avenues (as does any French-speaking city), and graceful architecture, some of it dating to the days when the region was ruled by the king of France.
The best views are from the top of Mt. Royal, for which the city is named. It is a hike to get to the top, but well worth it. Although Montréal is famous for its French heritage (amazing restaurants abound there), it is also one of Canada’s top destination for emigrants. You hear Polish and Ukrainian spoken on the streets, and African and Asian languages, as well as lots of Spanish. All these ethnic groups add to the smorgasbord of cuisines in the city.
We traveled into the interior of Québec to the town of Tremblant for skiing. In the countryside, the French influence is even deeper, and it is rare to hear English spoken, even on the slopes of the mountains. The countryside is pristine, as there are very few towns in the interior the farther north you travel. The snow accumulation is prodigious and the views from the mountain top were stunning. Québec and the city of Montréal are well worth visiting. You get as good of food and as much culture as you get on a trip to any European city, at a much lower price.