To honour Canada's sesquicentennial celebration (for those who don't like tongue-twisters, that's 150 years), we are profiling a Canadian province or territory every month in 2017.
In this second installation of our Celebrate Canada series, we tip our toques to La Belle Provence, Quebec!
Capital: Quebec City
Year founded: 1608
NHL team: Montreal Canadiens
Provincial dish: Poutine
Famous Quebec people: Jacques Villeneuve, Celine Dion, Oscar Peterson, William Shatner
Number of national parks: 24
Population: 8.3 million
Area: 1.667 million km²
It's February, so what better month to celebrate a province known for winter activities and romantic pursuits?
Perhaps it's the old-world ambience, sinfully delicious food or European influence that makes Quebec a destination to swoon over. For those who prefer to get their hearts racing by other means, there are winter sports galore.
Strap on a snowboard, skis, skates or snowshoes to conquer Mont-Tremblant's scenic landscapes. Treat your loved one for authentic French fare in Old Montreal. Heat things up at Montreal's Igloofest, dancing to world-class DJs. Wrap the kids up, or feel like a kid again, when you play at Quebec City's famous winter carnival. Luxuriate in a relaxing Eastern Townships spa. Whether you're gazing at falling snowflakes or falling in love, Quebec is the place to be this month.
If you prefer warmer weather, each season in Quebec offers beautiful scenery and exceptional things to do. Tourism is Quebec's fifth-largest industry, which is no surprise. With its variety of landscapes, from isolated Arctic tundra, to lush forest and clear lakes, to historic and modern cities, Quebec is a year-round destination for all travel tastes.
Speaking of taste, regional food plays a big part in the province's unique culture. Canadians lay claim to poutine and maple syrup as our "national dishes", but they are distinctly Quebecois. In early spring, the frozen ice is replaced by flowing sirop d'érable, maple syrup. Quebec produces a whopping 75% of the world's supply. A visit to la cabane à sucre, the sugar shack, is a fun family getaway, where you can watch (and most importantly, sample) the process, from sap to breakfast table, with pork saucissons and fèves au lard added to the latter.
Quebec is also Canada's largest dairy producer, and with that comes a mouthwatering selection of artisanal cheeses. As many a proud Quebecois will tell you, you haven't eaten cheese until you've heard it squeak. Fear not, that has nothing to do with mice! Cheese curds are also known as "squeaky cheese" after the sensation one hears or feels when biting a delicious, fresh piece. Curds are an essential ingredient of poutine but equally enjoyable on their own.
Quebec is a foodie's fantasy, from traditional fare like tourtiere, to innovative and international cuisine. Montreal boasts the most restaurants per capita in Canada and the second in in North America (after New York City.)
Like the wide variety of food choices, you'll find a spectrum of festivals in la belle provence. There's the Montreal Jazz Festival, and Just for Laughs, which hold world records for the biggest jazz and comedy festivals, respectively. Osheaga is an annual August long weekend music festival attracting top bands and performers, and the Montreal Grand Prix is where the well-heeled party during the illustrious race each year. In fact, fun-loving Quebecers love festivals so much, they don't think anything of holding them during the coldest months, as the aforementioned Igloofest and the Carnaval du Quebec, the world's largest winter festival, prove.
While Montreal dominates the festival hosting, Quebec City holds down the (snow) fort with the Winter Carnival. The towering Ice Palace is constructed each year and is a sight to behold. Another significant (and permanent!) building is the iconic Le Chateau Frontenac. It stands at an elevation of 54 metres, offering spectacular views of the city and the St Lawrence River. Opened as a hotel in 1893 after years of of construction, today it remains a luxury accommodation, owned by Fairmont Hotels.
This year, as part of the Canada 150 celebrations, Quebec City will be featured prominently in Rendezvous 2017, when 40 magnificent tall ships and 3,000 crew will gather at its port.
Another distinguishing feature of Quebec is that 80% of its population speaks French, making it the only place in North America to preserve its Francophone identity. Add to that its cultural institutions, exquisite architecture, chic style, particularly the fashion incubator of Montreal, and a general bonne vie and you get a wonderfully unique region of our Canadian tapestry.
Un peu About Quebec
Quebec is Canada's largest province in land size, making up about one-sixth of Canada.
Stretching almost to the Arctic Circle, Quebec touches the North Atlantic, Hudson and James Bays and the St. Lawrence Seaway coasts. Northern Quebec is a pristine wilderness which gives way to the snowy Laurentian Mountains. Quebec City and Montreal are the province's most populous cities, both located in the southern parts of the province, on the banks of the St. Lawrence River. The seaway is a major shipping channel that slices through the southern part of Quebec. It's been a major route since the days of the first explorers, connecting the Atlantic Ocean to Canada's eastern interior. The St. Lawrence River runs almost 1200 kilometres long. Quebec borders Vermont and New York states to the south.
Along with the esteemed title of biggest province, Quebec was also our nation's first settlement, established in 1608. Explorer Samuel de Champlain staked France's claim on the place that is now known as Quebec City. Three quarters of a century after being explored by Jacques Cartier and unsuccessfully colonized by Roberval, de Champlain laid out the foundation of French Canada. The area that modern Quebec now occupies is similar to the original French colony of New France. Quebec City is one of North America’s oldest cities and dubbed its most romantic. The beautifully preserved 17th and 18th century architecture, cobblestoned streets, towering cathedrals and impressive citadel are remnants of France’s rule and reminiscent of Europe’s great cities. You really don’t have to leave Canada to get a taste of Europe. Today, the province remains heavily influenced by those roots, making it an important and distinct part of Canada's heritage.
Why not channel your own inner explorer and make a point of visiting Quebec this year? The spectacularly stunning natural landscapes, vibrant cultural life and fascinating heritage make Quebec a destination even the most seasoned traveller would covet.