Viva Varun: In Quebec City!

Answer to “Where am I?”: Québec City, Québec Province, Canada

Château Frontenac dominates the skyline of Québec City. Built specifically as a luxury hotel, the property opened in 1893. Its owner,Canadian Pacific Railways, also commissioned Château Lake Louise, Banff Springs and a couple of other truly iconic Canadian luxury hotels.

Situated atop the Cap Diamant peninsula and set in the heart of the Old City, the Château boasts unparalleled views of the magnificent St Lawrence River.

I love Canada. It is one of the two countries in the world where I would seriously contemplate emigrating to.

In 2010, we filmed in Vancouver over in British Columbia to the west and this year we headed to Québec – both the city & province as a whole – in the east of the country.

The history of Québec in a nutshell: for hundreds of years First Nations people (AlgonquianIroquoian and Inuit) lived in this part of Canada. The French explorer Jacques Cartier ”discovered” the area in 1534 but Samuel de Champlain ”founded” Québec in 1608. Kebec (Québec) is the Algonquianword meaning “where the river narrows” … the river being the St Lawrence of course. The Province of Québec was founded in the Royal Proclamation of 1763 after the Treaty of Paris formally transferred the French colony of Canada to Britain after the Seven Years’ War.

While Canada is still part of the British Commonwealth, French-speaking Québec has “special status” and actively seeks independence from the rest of Canada. Québec is the largest province in Canada at just under 1.5 million square kilometers in area. Most of the province’s 7.5 million inhabitants live in Montreal and capital – Québec City where my latest Canadian adventure began.

It was just a twenty minute drive from Jean-Lesage de Québec airport to the Old City and the Auberge (Inn) Saint Antoine. This is a magnificent contemporary hotel sits inside a historic sleeve that dates back to the 17th century. The hotel faces the St Lawrence River. In winter, the river ices over but during my summer visit, I could see over to the other side and the city of Lévis.

I spent a few wonderful days exploring the city, annoying the locals with my pidgin-French and the highlight was taking a trip to Wendake, an authentic First Nation village.

From there, via the Chute Montmorency (a waterfall which at 83 metres is 30 metres higher than the Niagara Falls), I drove the 3 hours to Baie Saint-Paul, a gorgeous town that reminds me of Santa Barbara and Laguna Beach. There are loads of art galleries and restaurants. It’s a really NICE looking town!

I was now in Charlevoix – one of Québec’s regions. Here I chartered a Zodiac and headed into the magnificent St Lawrence River. The river is 1200 kilometres from the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocea and is filled with whales! It boasts Blue, Beluga, Minke, Killer, Fin and Humpback whales. The latter put on a show for me just five metres from the boat. It was breathtaking.

From here I took a seaplane and flew the one hour to Saguenay Lac St. Jean.  After the briefest of car journeys,  I ended up at Val-Jalbert. It was a real industrial town that dates back to the very early 1900′s and is now an authentic 1920′s mining town/luxury holiday village.

My final expedition in the province was to Zoo Sauvage where I fed some polar bears (oh dear, I sound so blasé).

My whole trip to Québec lasted a week and I have condensed it into less than seven hundred words – I could have easily written seven thousand. I met some truly lovely people, ate sumptuous food, drank superb ice wines and was in awe of magnificent & unforgettable sights…

J’AIME QUEBEC! I LOVE CANADA!

-Varun Sharma

Varun Sharma is the host of Inside Luxury Travel – a television show that focuses on high-end travel. The show airs in over 160 countries, in 18 languages and is beamed into 390 million homes worldwide. He has now stayed in over 500 luxury hotels & resorts … and has in the past year flown in a fighter jet, gone diving – without a cage – in Tiger Shark infested-waters, had dinner with a dingo and has cooked with over 50 Michelin-starred chefs! He likes nothing better than playing a round of golf with his pooch Gemima by his side, cigar in mouth and flask of single malt Scottish whisky to hand!