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A Tale Of Three Cities
Montreal , Toronto , and Quebec City brim with treasures and pleasures
    By Jack McGuire

Just because Dorothy seemed to favor the scarecrow---or was it the cowardly lion?--doesn't mean she didn't love all three companions on her journey to Oz along the Yellow Brick Road . The same is true of eastern Canada 's trio of great cities-- Toronto , Montreal , and Quebec --each with its own personality and endearing charm.

What these vibrant cities do have in common is a plethora of fascinating sights, inviting restaurants, great shopping, and cultural, sports and outdoor activities.

MONTREAL MAGNIFIQUE. Chances are, no matter when you time your visit to Canada 's second largest city, Montreal will be in the midst of a major, one-of-a-kind special event. The "City of Festivals " celebrates the joy of life on a non-stop schedule.
One of North America's oldest cities, Montreal is the largest French-speaking city in the world after Paris . Still, even though French is the official language of the province of Quebec , English as a first or second language is spoken by half the population of Montreal . And with 80 different cultural communities in this cosmopolitan metropolis, expect a polyglot of other languages as well.
Montrealers are passionate about eating and boast of some 4,000 restaurants, cafes, and bistros to prove it. What's your pleasure? Spicy-hot Mongolian-style food? Or maybe you're more tempted by tempura. How about classic French fare? Or perhaps you harbor a fondness for fondue. Table-hopping in Montreal is like traveling the world.
It's virtually impossible to see everything Montreal has to offer, even on a week-long vacation. But if you do nothing else, be sure to explore Old Montreal. To do it justice, set aside at least three hours, or better yet, half a day. A pair of sturdy walking shoes is a must for a stroll along the twists and turns of its narrow cobblestoned streets.
The huge, tree-lined public expanse of Champ-de-Mars is a good place to start your tour. The ancient military parade grounds are evidence of a once fortified town and offer a splendid view of downtown Montreal . Head next for Rue Notre-Dame East to view the elegant Montreal City Hall , built between 1872 and 1878. The museum in the nearby Chateau Ramezay, built as the home of the governor in 1705, spotlights the city's colorful history.
Check your map of the historic quarter to locate the impressive Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel. There's a museum connected to the chapel that displays a number of interesting archaeological discoveries. Another jewel in Montreal 's heritage crown is the Bonsecours Market, a neo-classical gem inaugurated in 1847 and recently restored into a bustling marketplace with shops and exhibitions.
Built in the first half of the 19th century, Place Jacques-Cartier is a square buzzing with visitors, street artists, and roving entertainers. Saint-Paul and de la Commune Street , a harborfront section of restored 19th century warehouses, invites visitors to its crafts boutiques, art galleries, and fine restaurants.
In Old Montreal, also check out Rue Saint-Jacques, the city's version of Wall Street, lined with magnificent old office buildings with ornate facades and imposing lobbies; Notre-Dame Basilica, a masterpiece of neo-Gothic architecture; and Boulevard Saint-Laurent, with its offbeat bars, cafes, and ethnic shopping.

BONJOUR , QUEBEC . The welcome mat is out for visitors to Quebec City . Residents of this French provincial town are most anxious to share their rich heritage with their neighbors south of the border. But it wasn't always that way.
Back in 1775, a couple of American generals, Richard Montgomery and the infamous Benedict Arnold, took a shot at capturing the city but were defeated by the defending Brits and the walls and fortifications that surrounded the city. The Quebecers expected more Yankee incursions, but none came. That is, until many years later when the city was invaded by American tourists.
Today, Quebec bills itself as the only fortified city north of Mexico and readily promotes its ramparts as an important attraction. The cradle of French civilization in North America , it's like no other city on the continent.
A good way to start is with a tour, by bus or in a horse-drawn carriage. Even better, set out on foot and explore Quebec City on your own, street by street. Along its maze of winding cobblestone lanes, you'll find some interesting buildings in an engaging blending of classic and modern architecture.
As you stroll along, take time to stop off at one of the many outdoor cafes. A croissant and cafe au lait are considered de rigueur on such an occasion. At many of the restaurants you'll find the menus printed in French, and although they'll translate them for you, it's fun to order in the language of the land. So, before you go, brush up on your high school French.
The high point , literally, of a tour of the upper town is the famous landmark, the Citadel. The early 19th century fort, featuring several tiny museums in various buildings that trace its colorful history, is the site for a changing of the guard ceremony conducted daily by the Canadian army on the Citadel's parade ground.
Dominating the scene is the Chateau Frontenac, one of the world's most famous hotels, perched like a castle on the clifftop. Terrace Dufferin, the boardwalk next to the Chateau, is the provincial capital's favorite promenade and affords an incomparable view of the St. Lawrence River below.
The nearby Plains of Abraham offers a brush with history. Also known by the locals as Battlefields Park , the great green expanse is the site of an eventful battle in 1759, when control of Canada passed from the French to the British.
Stairs or a funicular lead to the Lower Town , Place-Royale, and the adjacent Petit Champagne quarter with an intriguing collection of arts and crafts boutiques, cafes, and bistros. At the old harbor, Vieux Port ( Old Port ) is a redeveloper section of the waterfront where cruise boats offer an entirely different view of the historic city.


If your Canadian caper takes you to Toronto , you've hit the big time! To start with, it's Canada 's largest city (population 2.3 million), the capital of the province of Ontario , and according to its boosters, "the world within a city." Some quick facts to back up their claim:

* One hundred diverse cultures call Toronto home.

* Ethnic enclaves (including two Chinatowns with immigrants from Hong Kong , Vietnam , and Singapore ) transport the sights, sounds, and tastes of their distant lands to this cosmopolitan metropolis.

* Starting in Chinatown and within the span of a 10-block walk, you'll discover the foreign market-style shopping of Kensington Market, the exotica of Little Portugal, and the delights of Little Italy.

* Toronto 's 5,000-plus restaurants serve up an international potpourri of cuisines tough to match in any other North American city.

Among the endless list of things to see and do, here are some of the most popular: Starting downtown, after a visit to the previously mentioned Kensington Market, Little Portugal, and Little Italy, look for the CN Tower, the city's most notable landmark. You can't miss it. The world's tallest freestanding structure dominates the skyline. A glass-faced elevator ride to the observation deck is rewarded with a panoramic view.

Head south toward Lake Ontario and you'll soon be at Harbourfront. Once a warehouse wasteland, today it offers promenades, neat little shops and cafes, an entertainment center, and an antique market. Downtown is also the location for the impressive Art Gallery of Toronto, the city's largest with more than 15,000 paintings.

Toronto's eclectic collection of museums includes the Royal Ontario Museum, Canada's largest, featuring history, art, and natural sciences; the Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art; the Design Exchange, a center for innovative design located in the former Toronto Stock Exchange; the Museum for Textiles with more than 8,000 garments; and for something really different, the Bata Shoe Museum, devoted to footware fetishism that even includes a pair of shoes worn by Princess Diana.

And finally, a shrine to Canada 's national sport, the Hockey Hall of Fame. If the love for hockey borders on obsession in the rest of the country, in Toronto it's a religion. Skates, sticks, and masks used by stars of the ice are on display, along with the famed Stanley Cup.

For information, contact Tourism Toronto, (800) 499-2554, www.; and Tourisme Quebec , (800) 363-7777, www.

COPYRIGHT 2000 World Publishing, Co. ( Illinois )
COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group


Article from Travel America

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