I was eating the fattest croissant, standing on a chic tree-lined avenue and listening to a French-speaking person I met at the bakery. He pointed me to his favorite restaurants, culminating in Caffe Un Po Di Piu: “You really have to go! And order the burrata – you have to! ”

But I’m not in France. This is Quebec, where a family stay for 12 nights showed me the perfect blend of European architecture and food fanaticism – and North American friendliness. Gaze at Google Maps confusedly for more than three seconds, and a Montreal commuter volunteered to find the best route or fastest shortcut.

We started in Montreal, having fun through a family bike tour. The kids, aged two and five, fell asleep in the jet lag on a trailer while we navigated some of Montreal’s 350 kilometers of endless – and safe – bike paths. We laughed with the locals as we crossed the finish line of Île Notre-Dame’s F1 circuit (try to imagine Silverstone allowing such jokes), then circled the circuit factories industrial house and stop for a pastry at the Atwater Farmers Market (marchespublics-mtl.com).

Food is a serious problem in Montreal: not because of its obsession with French cuisine or fine dining, but because the city has more restaurants than Manhattan. Those restaurant workers know not only every ingredient on the menu, but also the middle name of the farmer who grew them.

© TQLafond, EASY

Bagels are popular (buy the blueberry fillings at Fairmount Bakery), but we took the advice to visit Caffe Un Po Di Piu (caffeunpodipiu.com) – and its burrata, polpette and bruschette is everything my croissant buddy promised. Dumplings at the vegan Lov de la Montagne (love.com) will convert even the most skeptical carnivore. And we looked down at the ant-sized people so many floors below us while eating large duck and avocado salad at the tower-top Les Enfants Terribles. (jesuisunenfantterrible.com)

After all that food, my own (not so) enfants like to learn exactly what happened to it with perfectly detailed, children’s graphics at the Montreal Science Center. Quebec’s museums are spectacular – the Archaeological Museum, where you can walk through the city’s former sewers, is worth the whole day.

It’s time to rock out in the outdoor jacuzzi of Bota-Bota, a giant old ferry that’s now been designed as a river spa (botabota.ca). Its Nordic thermal circuit and cocoon hammocks offer a more relaxing feel than any boring beige luxury hotel spa.

Steve Deschones

However, there is always noise in Montreal: as one taxi driver told me, “we have two seasons: winter and construction season.” Cranes and diggers were everywhere on our early September trip, masons desperate to get the job done before the harsh Canadian winter began to roll in.

Leaving a lot of high-coverage coats aside, fall or spring is the perfect time to go. As we headed north, the trees began to show off their world-famous colors. A three-hour VIA train (which left Montreal on time) pulled into Quebec City, a tranquil haven that attracts tourists in every way. The very walkable Old Port area is crammed with old-timey shops and eateries, the boats still standing in the way of the town’s history under the French, then British occupation (quebec-cite.com).

QuebecCity © TQFrenette

The three-hour food tour run by local Quebec City is a great sightseeing starter: roll our own fries at La Bȗche shack, eat the area’s most famous poutine (fries with cottage cheese and gravy: the best of the food) and scoffed at the many croissants that beat Paris at Paillard. I’m in love with food and I waddle over to our hotel, the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac (fairmont.com). It claims to be the most photographed hotel in the world, and it’s clear why: its turrets jut out of the skyline like Walt Disney’s dream castle. I was very happy with the perfect breakfast buffet (maple syrup crepes rolled up: load me up) and with little moves like treasure hunts at the children’s hotel, playing with maple trees on pillows and Daphne, the friendly dog ​​of the lobby.

From here, we explored more of the Canadian countryside: cycled 20km round-trip to Montmorency Falls, took the cable car then crossed the 83m-high waterfall on a suspension bridge (sepaq.com). We hiked through the spectacular rainbow-circled Sainte-Anne gorge and lived the lives of local eagles, flying over the canyon at 50km/hr hovering over a rope on an open bench. .

Our trip was also enjoyable: renting a car for a 90-minute drive to Baie Saint-Paul in Charlevoix, where surrounded by mountains, farmland and fresh air, we could reach a friendly farm every 5 minutes. A tour and tasting at Migneron involves a great product combination of wine, cheese and vodka (bonjourquebec.com).

Even our spa hotel, German Charlevoix, has chickens, alpacas and rabbits, fields of lavender and sunflowers. It’s the perfect base for visiting Saint-Joseph-de-la-Rive (they like a hyphen around here) and the Musée Maritime (mmq.qc.ca), which turned the esoteric topic of schooners into a fascinating morning. There are large, preserved ships (including sailor letters and leftovers) to explore without a single ‘do not touch’ sign, along with wonderful wildflower gardens.

On the idyllic Isle-aux-Coudres (where the 1,400 residents all know each other and welcome us like locals), we relax with an Asian tofu salad and a bowl of fresh, locally smoked salmon at La Fabrique de l’Isle (lafabriquedelisle.com). Desserts are apples picked from their groaning trees; then we rented a quad bike to roam (we were overtaken by the octobers) beside the green river and verdant hills.

Québec City & Region © TQ S.Deschenes

The best sights of the trip all involve water, in Quebec’s numerous beautiful national parks. We sailed the calm, captained river on Hautes-Gorges-de-la-Rivere-Malbaie, and kayaked around the cool lake in Yamaska ​​while squinting for deer in the woods.

Only time, on our journey back to the Montreal airport, for a sunny afternoon at the Verger Champetre (vergerchampetre.com), a farm where you can pack a rattan wicker picnic with its full range of products (chicken pie, pumpkin soup, apple juice, date cake) and lounge on the couches Adirondack in an immaculately clean seaside summer house.

New England seduces with European opulence – or as the Quebecois say, de fantastiques vacated.

For more information about Québec, visit quebecoriginal.com. For more information on prominent regions, visit Montréal (mtl.org), Quebec City (quebec-cite.com), Charlevoix (tourisme-charlevoix.com) and the Eastern Towns (abterntownships.org), and Destination Canada: explore-canada.co.uk


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