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NY goes QC in a heartbeat

Stressed-out New York urbanophile discovers her inner francophone during a refreshing trip along Québec’s St.Lawrence River.

Enough of the deadlines, the tension headaches, the schedule, the non-stop zipping and zapping to keep up with the world. Enough of conflict, of stress, of fighting battles with (seemingly) the entire populace of Manhattan. Time for this stressed-out New Yorker to get out of Dodge.

I wanted a solitary retreat but nothing off the grid, of course; urban creature comforts, and lots of them, were in order – I needed Canada. Even better, I needed QUÉBEC: a northerly world away with a different culture and a different language, known for its fabulous cuisine, sights and hospitality. The perfect urban-chic getaway right at my own back door. Who cares that my high school French was a long time ago? Québec was the perfect choice.

I decided to hit an already familiar Montréal and to venture for the first time up the St. Lawrence River to the provincial capital of Québec City. Two urban centers, two distinct personalities. 

A six-hour drive got me across the border to my favorite spot in Montréal: the Vieux-Port. A vibrant cosmopolitan scene, Montréal’s Old Port is alive with cyclists, in-line skaters, families, shops, horse-drawn carriages, street artists, festivals and exhibitions. In short, the perfect place to hunker down with your drink of choice at an outdoor café and take in the view of the passers-by and the St. Lawrence River. So that is what I did and ever so gradually, I started to feel better. 

A three-hour drive along the picturesque St. Lawrence coastline later, I entered the fortified walls of Québec City, the utterly European capital of Québec province.  The St. Lawrence River, or le fleuve as they say, is a majestic waterway like none other that I have ever seen. A lifeline of the country, it connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes. Québec City is strategically situated high on a natural citadel overlooking the river at its narrowest point, as historically, whoever ruled the river, ruled the continent. 

I stood upon the Terrasse Dufferin boardwalk beside the prestigious Château Frontenac, surrounded by children delighting in soft-serve ice cream and street performers belting out sunshine standards, and simply gazed out over the river.  Sailboats, cruise liners, cargo ships, personal watercrafts and speed boats were sprinkled along the miles and miles of water visible from this perfect vantage point.   Then an amazing thing happened: my pulse slowed down, my head began to clear, and my breath came more easily. This river had a mystical effect on this uptight, caught-up-in-the-rat-race NY-er: I began to relax.  I didn’t mean to, it just happened.  It was wonderful.