I just spent some days in Québec (Canada). We stayed most of the time in Montréal, but we visited the city of Québec and the Laurentians too (les Laurentides).
Overall, we had a fantastic time, and people from Québec are very nice. I won't make a regular trip report but post some thoughts about our vacation.
My pictures : http://picasaweb.google.com/odenim/MontrAlQuBec2007
Arrival at Montréal airport was rather laid-back and it was not much crowded. I found the airport very much people-friendly than the enormous and stressing Paris CDG airport. Well, well...
Montréal is the 2nd largest french-speaking city in the world and it was quite funny and odd at the same time to see everything written in french in north America. In the streets however we heard about 50% english and 50% french.
People from the province of Québec have a nice accent when talking (well I guess i'm the one who had an accent there), but it was sometimes a bit hard to understand them especially in bars and restaurants with loud music in the background. But in the end, I just loved "their" french. I found it probably less formal than french of France, they use more often tu than vous. They say more often salut (hi!) than bonjour (good morning), and they use way less english words than we do. They even translate KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) into PFK (Poulet Frit du Kentucky).
Montréal is a beautiful city with very contrasted districts. The developpement of cities looks very different there compared to Europe. There are a lot of ethnic communities and almost each have their own area. We stayed at Hotel Gouverneur, right at the entrance of Le Village, reportedly one of the largest gay district in the world. The place was cool and we enjoyed the roof terrase of the Sky Complexe.
Places I really loved in Monréal :
- Le Biodôme de Monréal (a kind of indoor zoo, very cool!), the inclined tower close to Le Biodôme is OK but the surrounding area needs some refurbishment IMO,
- The Botanical Garden (WOW! a must see, especially for the chinese garden, we were told it is the most beautiful outside China; I can believe that!)
- The Quartier Latin and Plateau Mont Royal are great places to wander, very beatiful houses and small stores.
- The Mont Royal park is so beautiful too, looks like a real forest inside the city!
- ...and so many other places I appreciated.
Things I liked less there :
- Some parts of the city look depleted and shabby, some parts of the city develops fine but some other look like completely desolate...
- So many beggars, don't get me wrong I don't hate those people and it really saddened me to see so many, but it was just a bit annoying sometimes to be asked for money every 2 minutes.
- Bills. Overall I think that prices are a bit lower than in Paris, but all prices never include taxes and service (in bars and restaurant). In France the price you see is what you pay. Not there in Québec. Not a big issue in the end, you just need to get used to it.
- We visted La Ronde, the local theme park. I absolutely love Disneyland, but I realised I'm really not a theme park fan. We stayed 1 hour there.
Québec city :
It took about 3 hours by coach to reach Québec city, north of Montréal.
The city is very beautiful with some wonderful monuments like the Château de Frontenac. Downtown area is absolutely lovely with nice houses, small streets. Some places really look like France, it was quite surprising!
I think it's a must see for people who visit the province, even if 90% of population we saw were tourists, like us.
The Laurentians (Les Laurentides) :
The Laurentians is an outdoor destination not very far from Montréal, the nature there looks gorgeous (I guess it's even more gorgeous in fall when trees leaves turn yellow-orange-red !!!), with charming villages, hundreds of lakes, ski resorts, etc...
Mountains are not very high there compared to the Alps where I use to go, and the Mont Tremblant is a place I'd really love to visit in winter too! The village is charming and looks a bit like Disneyland. They even have an airport with direct flights to Toronto and NYC.
Back to Europe...
I hope you enjoyed.