http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/artic ... -City.html
Bienvenue en Quebec! As William and Kate arrive in Montreal, we explore the region that does French better than France
By Jo Tweedy
Last updated at 4:46 PM on 1st July 2011
Where to take the world's most famous newlyweds for an early lunch?
Let me humbly recommend that the new Duke and Duchess of Cambridge save the starched napkins, gleaming cutlery and penguin waiters for another day (after all, they've had enough pomp and ceremony for one year) in favour of something, more, well, proletarian?
‘We’ll get three smoked meat sandwiches. Medium on the fat. With fries, 'slaw and cherry cola.’
Prince William and wife Kate
Second honeymoon? William and Kate's 11-day Royal Tour of North America will see the newlyweds visit western Canada, Quebec and California
If our guide in Montreal, Annique, was tasked with peeling back the layers of this French Canadian city for William and Kate during their Royal Tour, she'd start by taking them to Schwartz’s Montreal Hebrew Delicatessen (www.schwartzsdeli.com), first opened in 1928, for brunch.
There's a famous French proverb that says 'gluttons dig their own graves with their teeth'. It's not yet 11am and I feel like I'm about to gnash through a few years of my life in one sitting.
I follow Annique, slip-sliding across a greasy floor, bypassing a small mountain of heavily-seasoned meat - piled up like logs for a fire - to a seat at the back of the cafe.
I get further than I thought with the smoked meat - reputations like Schwartz's don't come from serving bad food - and, an hour later, this carnivorous diner spits us back out onto St Laurent Boulevard again. Now lunchtime, a steady queue is already beginning to form outside.
Jo Tweedy at Schwartz's Deli on St Laurent Boulevard
Brunch munch: Cherry cola, smoked meat and fries...all served before midday are the speciality at Schwartz's Deli on St Laurent Boulevard
William and Kate have just landed in arguably the most surprising destination in North America.The Quebec region of eastern Canada is just a seven-hour flight from UK airports. Comprising ten provinces and two major cities, Quebec City and Montreal, it is three times larger than France, its founding country.
The language disorientates. Outside of Montreal, resolutely bilingual, French dominates. The architecture is a collision of cloud-skimming towers that this continent provided the blueprint for and older, European-style buildings, all winsome curves and curling wrought iron.
In parts, it can feel like you've crossed the Channel, not the Atlantic. Pâtissiers in Quebec City, 270km north of Montreal, battle it out to bake the best croissants in town...and farmers choose to preserve their French heritage by producing crème de cassis - France's favourite blackcurrant tipple - in a country that is more famous for sapping syrup from maple trees.
A diplomatic word of advice for William and Kate though, don't point out too many parallels between Quebec and France because while this region strictly adheres to the European country's joie de vivre, there's also a healthy disregard for the French.
‘We’re so much better at preserving French culture than they are!' Annique exclaims. 'They can be so intolerant of other cultures...and I can't even remember the last time a president of France came to visit.' Take note Monsieur Sarkozy.
View of Montreal from Park Mount Royal
Worth the hike: Head up to Mount Royal, Montreal's green lung for the finest views of the city
Blooming lovely: Old Montreal is a vision of European architecture and - in summer at least - pretty flowerbeds
There is a serious ongoing campaign to cleaver this unique portion of Canada away from federal rule. However, two previous referendums on independence haven't succeeded and the prospect looks unlikely.
Will Quebec ever be a country in its own right, I quizzed a local. ‘I don’t think if it’ll ever happen,’ came the reply. ‘Being a new country is hard and although people say they want it, when it comes to the referendums, they can’t quite vote in favour of it.’
Montreal, like many east coast cities in North America, is propelled forwards by multiculturalism. What began as an outpost of piety - effectively a religious colony - in the mid 17th century is, in 2011, home to around three and a half million people.
It's a beguiling city for both camera-clad tourists and those who simply want to blend into a destination that knows how to have a good time.
Montreal is defined by its seasons. A Nordic City, winter temperatures can dip as low as -20. There's a stoic attitude to the bone-chilling portion of the calendar; residents simply negotiate their frozen metropolis using a 20-mile network of subterranean pedestrian tunnels - lined with 1,700 shops and 200 restaurants - known as Underground City. An official Lighting Plan means that everything from traditional bulbs to LEDs and fibre optics are used to keep the most majestic buildings shining when winter's cloak of darkness descends.
Arrive in summer however and you'll find a destination reborn under the sun. The mercury can bubble up to around 26 degrees and Montreal duly dons its sunglasses and gets outdoors. The dining goes al fresco, the festival calendar ignites and Montrealers unfurl their picnic rugs and take the calf-pulling walk to the summit of Mount Royal - more of a hill than a mountain but still blessed with formidable views of the city. The surrounding greenery bears the handiwork of Frederick Law Olmsted, who designed New York's Central Park.
Enlarge William and Kate's packed itinerary
Second honeymoon! William and Kate will spend 9 days in Canada on their first official Royal Tour
In fact, Montreal has much in common with its American cousin. Its more bohemian, residential quarters - Plateau Mont-Royal, The Village and Little Italy - are a French twist on the likes of Williamsburg, Nolita or Tribeca in New York.
Most tourists make Old Montreal, keeper of the city's past, their first stop. Overlooking the St Lawrence River, it was here that Montreal first sprung to life in 1642. Once walled, the cobblestone streets now run into the rest of the city and the grey-stone architecture is packed with boutique hotels, cafes and shops.
At its heart is Place d'Armes, where 17th, 18th and 19th century buildings - including the city's first skyscraper - sit cheek by jowl, telling Montreal's story. Dominating it is the gothic revival Notre Dame Basilica which dates back to the 1820s and is as pristine a religious building as you'll see anywhere in the world. Stepping inside is like ducking under a twinkling canvas of stars; a celestial sky is painted on the blue vaults and ceiling.
The city also has an appetite that seems to know no bounds. Brunch - outside of Schwartz's at least - often revolves around the bagel. This ring of dough - smaller and thinner than it's plump Big Apple equivalent and scattered with sesame seeds - is a Montreal staple. Head to St Viateur Bagel (www.stviateurbagel.com) on Mont Royal Avenue East and pick up warm bagels to go or linger a while at one of the bistro-style table.
Come the evening, Montreal can hold its own on the culinary world stage. There are chi-chi BYO bistros, gastro-pubs serving earthy, seasonal courses and a vast array of ethnic restaurants.
There are also fast food establishments aplenty. And they serve up a delicacy you're unlikely to see outside of the Quebec region. Poutine, fresh French fries covered with gravy and cheese curds, is the comfort food of choice in these parts. I can't imagine the French managing it but, served on a polystyrene tray with a fork, it might go down well on Britain's seaside piers.
Fast food French Canadian style: Poutine - fries, cheese curd and gravy - is the snack of choice in these parts
With a week to enjoy Quebec, our plan was to begin in Montreal before hiring a car and trailing the St Lawrence River north to Quebec City, with a short stop somewhere in the middle.
I'd be leading you up the garden path if I described it as a road trip though. Highway route 40 from Montreal to Quebec City is as visually mundane a carriageway as they come but it is at least mercifully quick - taking under three hours.
You'll find the region's capital at the narrowing neck of the St Lawrence River - a strategic hotspot from which settlers realised they could control the rest of the waterway. This cerulean expanse of water flows down from Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, a natural gateway to the Atlantic.
That the Quebecois people are speaking French at all is largely down to the fur trade, the success of which doused out a previous lack of commitment from France to the New World and saw Europeans settle here permanently.
Step back in time: Regal Quebec City - packed with boutique hotels and fine restaurants - is a pristine place to spend a few days
If Montreal is French Canada's creative, hip, progressive urban offering then Quebec City is its perfectly preserved foil. With cap firmly doffed at its 17th century forefathers, this city's residents have worked hard to sustain - and in some cases recreate - its erstwhile beauty.
The bijoux streets that have made this a UNESCO World City are not immediately obvious. The paper mill which billows great white puffs of steam across the city offers a more industrial portrait although its days may be limited; residents suspect it will soon grind to a halt as technology rampages.
Jo Tweedy at Montmorency Falls, Quebec
A blue sky day at Montmorency Falls, the 84-metre high waterfall that lies 12km from Quebec's old city
Somewhere over the rainbow trout...
Lac-à-l'Eau-Claire, Quebec, Canada
Lac-à-l'Eau-Claire (literally, Clearwater lake) in the more remote western portion of the Quebec region is home to some 150,000 trout.
And at the 25-room Auberge du Lac-à-l'Eau-Claire, a fishing farm turned self-catering family holiday destination, you can have a go at hooking one for yourself.
The main attraction is the lake, 42km in circumference and complete with its own island - L'ile Margaret. Whether you simply stand and stare at your reflection or actually venture out onto it, you'd be hard pressed to find a body of water as clear anywhere.
Lac-à-l'Eau-Claire, Quebec, Canada
Other activities include cycling, quad biking, kayaking and hiking in summer and ice skating, snoeshoeing and ice fishing in winter.
When you've worked up an appetite, the resort's chefs will rustle up their local speciality any way you'd like it. Trout with almonds, hot smoked trout, gravalax of trout, trout pie...
Some 6,000 people still live inside the city's old walls, the cobbled streets of which are awash with boutique hotels, artists' galleries, chocolate shops and antique shops.
Visitors are well cared for - Quebecois desperately want you to venture this far north and experience what a beautiful city they live in.There are 'interpretation centers' - highly polished tourist information hubs - at all the city's main historical sites.
The lower town, once down at heel, has been turned into an immaculate shopping area. ‘It’s for the tourists,’ our guide tells us, ‘...but it’s so nice that the locals come here too.’
The city's northerly position means winter can last from November until April and it's not unknown for lakes to freeze until May. ‘You’ve gotta like winter to live in Quebec,’ one local put it.
The food, like the architecture, tends to veer towards olde worlde rather than cosmopolitan. There are chic French brasseries with penguin waiters that worship at the altar of nouvelle cuisine, as well as more laid back but equally accomplished bistros. Like Schwartz's in Montreal, Le Cochon Dingue (literally, crazy pig www.cochondingue.com) is a Quebec City institution that first came to life on Bastille Day in 1979.
The fertile plains around the city ensure there is a glut of organic produce on offer. Ile d’Orleans, a fifteen-minute drive from Old Quebec City over a bridge that was built in 1935, has become a shrine to organic produce and a place where family businesses thrive.
We stop at Cassis Monna & Filles (www.cassismonna.com), which turns blackcurrants into award-winning cassis and offers those who stop by tasters of their nectarous pickings. So good are the samples - and the culinary advice 'you can put it on ice-cream too' - that I come away $27 (£17) lighter, the price of a bottle.
This verdant isle has much in common with the vineyard regions of France or California, only there's a rainbow of different produce on display.
Cidrerie Bilodeau (www.cidreriebilodeau.qc.ca), just up the road, is a veritable apple shrine. With six acres of orchards, the family behind the business began selling ten varieties of apple before adding a shop - you can buy everything from cider jelly to apple butter - and a cider farm. The fruit sold here is very red and very shiny...of Disney proportions.
Apples in Quebec
Cider producer, Ile D'Orleans, Quebec
Core business: The Quebec region's apple-growing heritage dates back to the 17th century when the first tree was planted. Today, businesses such as Cidrerie Bilodeau (right) sell everything from apple butter to award-winning cider with hints of maple syrup.
Our third and final stop is at the vineyard Vignoble Ste-Pétronille (www.vignoblesp.com). Owners Nathalie Lane and Louis Denault gave up the rat race to live off the fat of the land, or at least the grapes they can harvest. Lane confesses she's never worked as hard as she has done transforming Vignoble Ste-Pétronille into a viable business but from a bystander's view, this spot, opposite the stunning Montmorency Falls on the other side of the bridge, is a little piece of French Canadian heaven.
A taste for the outdoor life: The owners of Vignoble Ste-Pétronille, a vineyard which is perched on the edge of Ile d'Orleans, have turned their fruit-bearing crops into a tourist attraction
William and Kate, as the modern new face of the monarchy, may prefer the buzzy, New York-esque vibe of Montreal but Quebec City, as its more compact, prettier alter ego, is equally hard to resist. And with just a few hours travelling time between them, you really shouldn't see one without the other.
As inaugural Royal Tours go, the happy couple have planned well...the sun-drenched California coast now awaits...but the memory of this French Fancy on the other side of the Atlantic will linger on long after they leave.
Joanna Tweedy travelled with Prestige Holidays who offer touring breaks to Quebec from £1,997 per person this July. Prices are based on two sharing and include: Air Canada flights to Montreal, private transfers, three nights at the L Hotel in Montreal, four days car rental, two nights at the Auberge Le Vincent and two nights at Lac-à-l'Eau-Claire. City tours of both Quebec and Montreal are also included.
To book or for more information, call 01502 567 222 or visit www.prestigeholidays.co.uk
For information on visiting Quebec, call 0800 051 7055 between 3pm and 10pm daily or visit www.bonjourquebec.co.uk.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/artic ... z1QuZudG5k