Difference between revisions of "Quebec"
Revision as of 14:00, 10 March 2011
For the city bearing the same name see Quebec City.
Quebec  (French: Québec) is a province of Canada, the largest in size and second to Ontario in population. Predominantly French-speaking (French being the official language), Quebec is located in the east of Canada and is situated east of Ontario; to the west of Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island; finally, to the south of the territory of Nunavut. The capital of Quebec is Quebec City, its largest city Montreal.
Québec is unique among tourist destinations. Its French heritage does set the province apart, and it is one of the only areas in North America to have preserved its Francophone culture. Its European feel and its history, culture and warmth have made Québec a favourite tourist destination both nationally and internationally.
There are four distinct seasons in Québec—spring, summer, fall and winter offering a wonderful view of the nature and variety of activities.
Canada is officially bilingual, meaning that most federal government official documents, signs, and tourist information will be in both French and English. Staff at retail shops, restaurants and tourist attractions will often speak English, especially in Montreal. Smaller establishments, especially outside Montreal, may not offer services in English but try their best to accommodate travelers. About 8% of the province's residents speak English as a mother tongue, and an additional 31% consider that they can get by speaking it.
The official language of Quebec, however, is French. Provincial government signs (highway signs, government buildings, hospitals, etc.) generally post in French only. Tourist information is offered in English and other languages. The visibility of commercial signs and billboards in English and other languages is restricted by law (except for English-language media and cultural venues such as theatres, cinemas and bookstores). Most businesses will not have signs in English except in tourist areas and localities with a large English-speaking population. Language is a very sensitive subject politically, particularly in Montreal. If you cannot read a sign in a store or restaurant, most sales people will be sympathetic and help you find your way. Most restaurants in tourist areas will supply English menus if asked.
82% of Québec’s population is francophone, but English is also commonly spoken, particularly in the province’s major cities such as Montréal where the percentage is 24%. For French-speaking people from elsewhere, the French spoken in Québec is often difficult to understand. Books have been published on Québec expressions, and these may be worth consulting if you are planning to stay in Québec for any length of time.
Isolated from France for centuries, and unaffected by that country's 19th-century language standardization, Quebec has developed its own "accent" of French similar to the one in France in the 16th century, a kind of time capsule. The continental variety--called "international French" or français international here--is well-understood, and something closely approximating it is spoken by broadcasters and many businesspeople. While Quebecers usually understand European French, European tourists may feel lost until they grow accustomed to the local accent(s).
There are a few main differences between Quebecois French and continental French-from-France. One is that in Quebec it's relatively common to tutoyer (use the familiar tu second-person pronoun instead of vous when saying you) for all, regardless of age or status (though there are common exceptions to this in the workplace and the classroom). In France, it would be considered impolite. The unrelatedinterrogative particle -tu is used to form yes-or-no questions, as in On y va-tu? "Shall we go?" Finally, there are a number of vocabulary words that differ, particularly in very informal contexts (for example, un char for a car, rather than une voiture), and some common expressions (C'est beau [literally It's nice] for "OK" or "fine"). Overall, however, pronunciation marks the most significant difference between Quebec and European French.
Probably the most puzzling difference in Quebec's French is that one will often sacrer (blaspheme or swear) rather than using scatological or sexual curse words. Terms like baptême (baptism) or viarge (deformation of vierge, virgin) have become slangy and taboo over the centuries in this once fervently Catholic culture. Hostie de tabarnac! ("communion wafer of the tabernacle!") or just tabarnak! is one of the most obscene things to say, and more polite versions like tabarnouche or tabarouette are equivalent to "darn" or "fudge!"
Although sacre may seem funny, be assured that Quebeckers, particularly the older generation, do take it seriously. Don't sacre any time you don't really mean it! But be sure that younger Quebeckers may be fond of teaching you a little sacrage lesson if you ask them.
English-speaking Quebeckers are generally bilingual and reside mostly in the Montreal area, where 25% of the population speaks English at home. Aside from the occasional borrowing of local French terms ("dépanneur" as opposed to corner store or convenience store), their English differs little from standard Canadian English, including the occasional "eh" at the end of the sentence; accents are influenced heavily by ethnicity, with distinct Irish, Italian, Jewish, and Greek inflections heard in Montreal neighborhoods. Conversations between anglophones and francophones often slip unconsciously between English and French as a mutual show of respect. This can be confusing if you're not bilingual, and a look of puzzlement will generally signal a switch back to a language everyone can understand.
Although English-speakers will usually greet strangers in French, it is considered pretentious and overzealous for a native English-speaker to continue a conversation in French with other English speakers (though two francophones will easily converse together in English when in a room of anglophones). Local English-speakers may also refer to street names by their English names as oppose to the posted French names, but this is getting rarer (for example, Mountain Street for rue de la Montagne, Pine Avenue for avenue des Pins).
Some French-language radio stations, including those with "classic rock" may formats play English language music.
See also: French phrasebook
There are flights to Québec from major cities in North America, Europe and Asia. Montréal is a 70-minute flight from New York and is less than 6 hours and 45 minutes by air from London or Paris.
Montréal has two international airports: Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport, located on the island, about 30 minutes from downtown, and Mirabel airport, located on the North Shore, 40 minutes from downtown. Mirabel is no longer in use.
Air Canada serves many U.S. and European cities with departures from Montréal. There are daily flights to Paris, London and Frankfurt. Some flights also serve Québec City (flights to Paris every Saturday).
Air France operates three daily flights between Paris and Montréal during the summer and two flights during the winter.
Low-cost flights (charters) are available at Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport.
You can also fly directly to Québec City. Air Transat is by far the least expensive airline company flying from Europe to Quebec City. It’s often simply a matter of getting information from a travel agency or carrier. While Paris is the only European city linked with Québec City, there are regular flights from Toronto, New York (Newark), Chicago and Detroit.
The days when immigrants arrived in Québec by boat are long over, but visitors with a bit of time can enjoy any one of the many cruises available along the St. Lawrence River.
Numerous cruise lines offer routes that sail the Saint Lawrence . Cruise companies include these routes in their Canada & New England destinations. The port of embarkation and debarkation for most of these itineraries are New York, Boston, Montréal and Québec City. Depending on the individual cruise, their itineraries include stops in Montréal, Québec City, Trois-Rivières, Saguenay, Baie-Comeau, Havre-Saint-Pierre, Sept-Îles, the Gaspésie, and the Îles de la Madeleine.
From the US, the Amtrak  "Adirondack" runs from New York City several times a day, with stops connecting to bus routes serving upstate New York. The trip is a scenic 6 hours along the Hudson River, but be prepared for delays at the border that can tack on 2-3 hours to the trip.
VIA Rail Canada (www.viarail.ca), the federal passenger railway, operates numerous trains daily from both Toronto and Ottawa to Montréal, with multiple connections to Québec City. They also run a daily train from Halifax, Nova Scotia, stopping in Moncton, New Brunswick into Montréal. A more scenic route follows the Gaspe Peninsula. Significant discounts are available to youths and to university students carrying as ISIC Card (International Student Identity Card).
Tshiuetin Rail Transportation operates two trains weekly from western Labrador (Newfoundland) to Sept-Îles, Qué. and Schefferville, Qué.
Coach Canada  operates frequent motorcoach service from Toronto into Montréal. Voyageur , an affiliate of Greyhound Canada , operates hourly motorcoach service from Ottawa into Montréal. There is also limited transportation service from Ottawa into Grand-Remous, Que. via Voyageur , as well as from North Bay, Ontario. into Rouyn-Noranda via Autobus Maheux .
From Toronto, there is only one option: highway 401 (six hours by car). From the United States, visitors can arrive from New York City (six hours by car), or from Vermont. Acadian Lines  operates two trips daily by motorcoach from Halifax, N.S. and Moncton, N.B. into Rivières-du-Loup, Qué., and then continuing onward to Québec, Qué. and Montréal, Qué. Orléans Express  operates two trips daily by motorcoach from Campbellton, N.B. into Rimouski, Qué., and then continuing onward to Québec, Qué. and Montréal, Qué.
Québec has a vast road and air network that makes it easy to travel between cities. You can travel by car, bus, plane, train, bike or boat .
Using air transportation to travel between the different cities in Québec is not recommended. But air travel is indispensable for getting around northern Québec (except for the Baie-James region, which is served by a paved highway), because there are no highways or railways serving these remote areas.
VIA Rail Canada (www.viarail.ca) is Quebec's only intercity passenger train carrier, while AMT (www.amt.qc.ca) runs Montreal's commuter trains to the suburbs. Trains run infrequently (compared to Europe). There are no high-speed trains in Quebec. Busses are usually cheaper, with more daily connections.
The main way to travel between cities is by bus. The bus network is very well developed, particularly for connections between Québec City-Montréal, Ottawa-Montréal and Toronto-Montréal.
Renting a car and driving around Canada poses no particular problem, even in the cities. However, it is best to arrange the rental from where you are coming. Read the rental contract carefully, particularly the section on insurance. Often, you can rent a car in one city and return it in another without prohibitive costs. Rental companies are Viau  (Montréal), Enterprise .
Québec has a good network of toll-free highways connecting all the main cities and surrounding areas.
A note for European tourists: in Québec, the highway speed limit is 100 km/h (generally tolerated up to 120 km/h when passing a radar).
The Québec highway code is similar to that practiced in most of Europe. A couple of differences are that traffic lights are often located across the intersection, not at the side, and you are allowed to turn right at a red light except on the Island of Montréal or where otherwise indicated. At stop signs, every one advances in turn, based on the order in which the cars arrived at the stop sign. Roundabouts are very rare.
Québec’s regions boast an impressive network of bicycle paths, totalling more than 3,400 km (2,111 mi). This means you can visit several regions by bicycle and find local accommodations near the bike paths (Route verte ).
Numerous cruises are also available on the St. Lawrence River, one of the world’s biggest waterways .
With AmigoExpress, Allo-Stop or Quebec-Express
For people travelling in small groups and wanting to keep their costs down (primarily students), Amigoexpress , Allo Stop  and Quebec-Express  are a great alternative to any of the transportation methods mentioned above. They are ride-sharing networks serving most of Québec’s major cities. To access this service, simply register online (or at one of the offices (registration costs $6) for Allo stop). Then you can reserve your spot in a car belonging to someone who is travelling to the same destination as you—sometimes for up to half the price of the bus. The only inconvenience with this system is that it doesn’t serve every city, so some areas are not accessible using this method.
Québec’s winding, scenic secondary roads are ideal for a motorcycle ride. However, in southern Québec, the best season for travelling by motorcycle is limited to between May and October. In remote areas, the nicest season is two months shorter than that, running from June to September. In the last few years, taking to Québec’s roads by motorcycle has become increasingly popular. The province boasts several motorcycle clubs , and visiting tourists can rent motorcycles.
Québec’s motorcyclists share a special fraternity and team spirit. If your motorcycle breaks down, you certainly won’t remain stranded on the roadside for long before another motorcyclist stops to help. So don’t be surprised to see other motorcyclists wave to you on the road or spontaneously engage in conversation at a rest stop.
VIA Rail  offers train service along the St. Lawrence river, up the Saguenay and in the Gaspé Peninsula.
Within cities, public transit tends to be good by North American standards, though showing the signs of funding cuts in recent years.
"La route verte"  comprises 3,600 kilometres of bikeways linking the various regions of Québec.
Québec offers many activities including sports and outdoor recreation, cultural and natural sites, festivals and events.
Sites and attractions
Québec has a number of sites and attractions.
Festivals and Events
Quebecers are known for their festive spirit and taste for celebration. This explains the close to 400 festivals held each year in Québec. . Québec’s events are varied, from sports to cultural events and festivals, and attract visitors from around the world.
For all Québec events and festivals, check here: .
To truly get a feel for the “authentic” Québec, take one or several of the tourist routes that run alongside the St. Lawrence or criss-cross the countryside not far from the major axial highways. Clearly indicated by a series of blue signs, these routes are designed to showcase the cultural and natural treasures of their respective regions.
Legal drinking age in Quebec is 18.
Quebecers’ favourite alcohol is beer given the high taxes on wine. The province boasts several very good microbreweries. Here is a list of the best brew pubs in Québec by region. In Montréal, there is Dieu du Ciel!, L’Amère à Boire, Le Cheval Blanc and Brutopia. In Québec City, there is La Barberie and L'Inox. One of the best is Le Broumont in Bromont, near the foot of the ski hill. If you visit Sherbrooke, be sure to stop in at the Mare au Diable. In the Mauricie region, there is Le Trou du Diable (Shawinigan) and Gambrinus (Trois-Rivières). For anyone wishing to visit the stunning Charlevoix region, there is the Charlevoix microbrewery in Baie St-Paul. Liquor and wine are sold mainly at Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ) stores, but beer and wine (often of a lesser quality) can also be found at supermarkets and convenience stores. In the country, good quality wine and liquor can be found at the grocery store. The sale of alcohol is prohibited after 11:00 p.m. at convenience stores and supermarkets, and may not be sold to anyone under the age of 18. Bars are open until 3:00 a.m. (except in Gatineau where they close at 2:00 a.m. to avoid an influx of partiers when the bars close in Ottawa).
Beer and a so-so selection of wine are available at most grocery stores and depanneurs (corner markets), but by law distilled spirits are only available at provincial stores called the SAQ  (pronounced "ess-ay-cue" or "sack"). The SAQ also has a higher-quality selection of wine, mostly European, Australian, or South American-- there's a peculiar blind spot for California vintages, though British Columbian wines are plentiful, unlike in Ontario's LCBO stores. Although closing time in bars is 3AM, most SAQs close between 6 and 9PM (some Express SAQ may close at 10 or 11PM) , and sales of other alcohol are banned after 11PM.
Quebec is blessed with some of the finest beers on the North American continent. As in the rest of Canada, they are higher-proof than in the US; alcohol content starts around 5-6% but 8-12% is not unusual.
Quebec offers the usual range of North American accommodations including hostels, chain motels, and high-end resort hotels. Particular to Quebec are Auberge, literally "Inn" but range from faux-lodge style motels to large B&Bs and Gites, guest houses, sometimes with only a single room for rent.
Quebec is generally a safe place, with the exception of a few "bad" neighbourhoods of Montreal and Quebec City. Visitors should use common sense when traveling, as they would anywhere else.
Most hotels and hostels offer internet access and many have onsite computers for guests to use. Montreal has a free WiFi program called Ile Sans Fil (Wireless Island), look for the sticker in cafe and restaurant windows.