If traveling to Paris this year is a problem for you, why not try our neighbors to the north? My husband and I found Quebec City and Montreal in Canada to be delightful Paris fill-ins. We didn't have a lot of time, but we did spend several days in each city this past June. Here's a quick account of what we found.
Quebec City was lovely. We stayed in a hotel a bit away from the old city, but found the bus system to be quite good. And after we felt more comfortable we did drive to a couple of our destinations. Quebec City is the oldest walled city north of Mexico. It has both an upper and a lower town inside its walls. After winding our way through many delightful streets we came upon the imposing Chateau Frontenac Hotel. First opened in 1893 this hotel is huge and can be seen from almost everywhere in the old city. In front of the hotel is a long promenade from where you have a panoramic view of the old city's lower town. We took the funicular down to the lower town and were met with even more charming streets filled with shops, restaurants, pubs, etc. The Musee de la Civilisation is also in lower town and it was a great representation of the history of the city and area. On another day we decided to go to the Musee des Beaux-Arts du Quebec. In honor of Quebec City's 400th anniversary, the Louvre in Paris had sent a special exhibition. When we first checked at our hotel we were told that the tickets were all sold out, but when getting tickets to the Museum we discovered they did have tickets available for the exhibit. It was a unique presentation and we considered ourselves quite fortunate to have gotten tickets. We spent so much time in the Louvre exhibit that we didn't have time to check out the rest of the Museum, but it appeared to have some wonderful displays.
Montreal is quite different from Quebec City. It doesn't have the same kind of charm, but is fascinating nevertheless. It is a big city and has the big city feel. The old town and new buildings are often mixed.together, just like Paris. We stayed in a neighborhood apartment where parking was problematic, so we quickly found a spot and didn't move the car again until we left town. We used the metro system to get around and walked to excellent neighborhood restaurants. We visited the Basilique Notre-Dame, Pointe-a-Calliere (Montreal Museum of Archaeology and History) which is built on the very site of whre the colony was established in 1642, and the Centre d'Histoire de Montreal which houses a museum in the original 1903 Montreal's Central Fire Station. A fantastic view of the port is found from the top of the Pointe-a-Calliere. We also spent one day at Jardin Botanique. We found the Chinese Garden, Japanese Garden, Insectarium, the ten large conservatory greenhouses and everything in between these sites to be simply gorgeous.
Canada is officially bilingual, but most residents of Quebec province speak French as their primary language. This gave us an opportunity to practice our few French words, but neverthless it didn't take long for the waiters, hotel clerks, shopkeeepers, etc. to realize we were from the USA and they immediately switched to English. We thoroughly enjoyed our first visit to Quebec City and Montreal and look forward to a time when we can return and discover the many places we didn't have time to see this year.