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Quebec: la Ville Festive

Quebec: La Ville Festive

by Sharon Spence Lieb

If I am missing, "ne vous inquietez pas mes amis,' don't worry my friends. I've run away to Quebec, and am living at Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac. This romantic Canadian hotel has everything a woman desires: an exquisitely furnished bedroom overlooks the glittering St. Lawrence River; the indoor lap pool is complemented by a heavenly eucalyptus steam bath. The sixth floor sun terrace invites you to settle into a comfy chaise lounge with the latest issue of French Vogue. Lobby shops lure with emeralds you could skate on, chic mink jackets, and maple leaf shaped chocolates. As the Quebecois murmur in their impeccable French: life at Le Chateau is "merveilleux..."


Since 1893, Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac has hosted numerous VIPS from Charles De Gaulle to Francois Mitterrand, Prince Andrew, Charles Lindbergh, and Alfred Hitchcock. The hotel owes her name to Louis de Buade, Count of Frontenac, a flamboyant French Governor who guided the destiny of New France from 1672 to 1698. The Count's coat of arms is embedded on Le Chateau's dramatic entry arch.

Despite the hotel's exquisite comfort, travellers must be warned. Executive Chef Jean Soulard's cuisine features only the most delectable cheeses, cream, and butter. Resisting his hearty soups, rich sauces, buttery breads, and decadent desserts is quite impossible. Outside of the kitchen, look for Chef Soulard in his secret hotel garden, tending the fragrant herbs which enliven his gastronomic delights.

At the hotel's Le Cafe de la Terrasse, one buffet will erase a month of gym workouts. Tuck into sirloin in red wine, scallops with lobster cream sauce, and halibut in flaky puff pastry. Then face greater temptations: rich pecan pie, warm chocolate chip cookies, and fruit charlotte in whipped cream. Mon Dieu, I confess: I gorged. And so shall you, "mes amis."

If you call room 1010 and I do not answer, I am out exploring historic Old Quebec.
Winding cobblestone streets and quaint town squares trace their roots to 1608. Old Quebec is renowned for her European charm, architectural beauty, and outdoor cafes. Known as "the cradle of French civilization in America," UNESCO pronounced the city a World Heritage Treasure in 1985.

Quebec is "La Ville Festive," city of joy, year round. In summer, street performers entertain on every corner. One daredevil somersaults through a wheel of flaming knives. Another saucy pyromaniac undulates ropes of fire around her lithe body. "Come closer," she implores, "Feel these flames!" Astonished at her skill, we pray she won't burn to death. But our fire dancer is there courageously, night after night. Couples stroll Le Chateau's famous Promenade, pushing strollers, licking ice cream cones, throwing coins into proferred velvet hats. We fantasize about running away to become fire dancers, stilt walkers, and gold faced mimes. Must we return home to our desks and our mortgages?


One evening we are hypnotized by "Les Grands Feux Loto-Quebec," a musical fireworks competition bursting over Montmorency Falls. I return the next day to walk the suspension bridge across the cascade, which I learn is 100-feet higher than Niagra. Author James Macpherson Lemoine wrote "When the sun lights up its brilliant prismatic colors, the undulating mass of foam, rainbow-tinted, assume hues of marvellous brightness." True, and there in the cascading water is a shimmering rainbow just for me. Celebrating my good luck, I skip down 487 steps along a rock wall to Manoir Montmorency, one of Quebec's most picturesque and popular restaurants.


Executive Chef Marie-Chantal Lepage is the resident artist at Manoir Montmorency, creating innovative dishes like fresh tuna in cherry/champagne sauce, venison with portabella mushrooms, and creme brulee with lavendar sugar. Working in the field of cuisine since age sixteen, this native Quebec's talent has catapulted her to worldwide acclaim. Chef Lepage has represented Quebec at culinary festivals in Japan, Mexico, Lebanon, Chicago, and San Francisco. The only female chef in the Quebec City area, she has won numerous culinary awards and prizes, including Regional and National Chef of the Year.

"Do you consider yourself a French chef or a Canadian chef?" I inquire. "I'm a Quebecois Chef, who speaks French!" she answers dramatically, dark eyes twinkling. "I've worked hard to showcase our wonderful local products-venison, lamb, rabbit, duck, blue pototoes, raspberries, blueberries. Like France, we Quebecois love authentic food that is simply prepared, delicious, and beautiful."

If I am missing, "ne vous inquietez pas mes amis." I have run away to Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac. I'm practising my fire dance and gorging on Chef Marie-Chantal's lavendar creme brulee, every night.



Where to Stay-

Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac, 1, rue des Carrieres, Quebec, QC, Canada G1R 4P5.
Reservations: 1-800-441-1414. www.fairmont.com.
Auberge Saint-Antoine, 8, rue Saint-Antoine, Quebec G1K 4C9. Tel: 418-692-2211.

What To Do

Quebec hosts festivals year round, such as The New France Celebration, The Quebec
Winter Carnival, and Fete Noel, at Christmas. The city boasts an impressive
number of historic and fine art museums, plus excellent shopping and dining. Travel
information: www.quebecregion.com and www.bonjourquebec.com.

Quebec native Louise Martineau invites you to study traditional and contemporary
French cooking at Les Artistes de la Table. 105, rue Saint-Pierre, Vieux-Port de Quebec, Quebec G1K 4A3. Tel: 418-694-1056. www.lesartistesdelatable.com.

Taste the flavors of Quebec on the I'ile d'Orleans, a serene agricultural island near downtown.
Known as "the garden of Quebec," the Gourmet Route will take you to fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as bakeries, chocolate shops, vineyards, cheesemakers, and a bison farm. www.iledorleans.com. or www.gourmetroute.com.

Canoe, kayak, hike, camp, and overnight in rustic cabins in Jacques-Cartier National Park. Just 45 minutes from downtown Quebec, this serene park showcases Quebec's spectacular
natural beauty. email: parc.jacques-cartier@sepaq.com.

Sharon Spence's bio

Sharon is the author of guidebooks on Seoul, London, Chicago, Santa Fe and Florida.
She teaches travel writing in Charleston, South Carolina for The Citadel and Center
for Women. Email her: sharonspence@cs.com.