Glimpses of quaint Quebec

Quebec is a city geared for tourists. On a spectacular headland above the St Lawrence River, it makes the most of its French origins, stately architecture, and a history of bloody battles fought and won.

The oldest community on the North American continent, and the only walled city north of Mexico, Quebec is north-east of the Great Lakes and a two-hour drive from the American border - 253km north of Montreal and 900km from New York.

Five kilometres of high walls encircle the picturesque old city, which was proclaimed a Unesco World Heritage site in 1985. Narrow streets, quaint buildings, interesting shops, jewel-bright squares and public gardens are dominated by the gothic bulk of the 350-year-old Notre Dame de Quebec Cathedral and the towering hotel Chateau Frontenac.

A favourite street with many tourists is rue Saint-Jean, which starts off beyond the city walls among Asian shops selling clothes and curios, health food shops and historic churches, then through Place d'Youville with its street musicians and hackey-sack players.

Ninety-five per cent of the 600,000 people of Greater Quebec use French as their first language, so it helps to have a basic knowledge of the language. People are generally kind and courteous, but if you forget to tip, or don't tip enough, you may get a glimpse of a Parisian-style hauteur.

If you don't have a car, a hotel within the old city is best. These range from $C70-$250 ($110-$390) a night. Nancy Cawley

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