Three-Day Weekend: Quebec City
I’m walking the streets of Quebec City with a red feather clipped into my hair, a fluffy layer of petticoat-like cushions, a large (and surprisingly heavy) red and gold skirt layered over them, and a rather snug matching long-sleeved corset top to bring the outfit together. My father, John Conforti, who accompanied me on this weekend getaway, is smiling ear to ear, dressed as a dashing French nobleman, hamming it up for the camera. He declares that he’s never felt more like a musketeer in his life.
There’s something special about a place that throws a five-day bash to celebrate its heritage by donning period costumes and partying like it’s 1699. Quebec City’s New France Festival, held each summer, commemorates the anniversary of the 1665 siege of Quebec, in which 500 French Canadians defended the city against the British army. I quickly discover that the people here are warm and welcoming, speaking French or English depending on your reaction to their friendly, “Bonjour, hello!” At times it feels like I’m strolling along a pretty Parisian promenade, but have to remind myself that it’s the St. Lawrence River I’m fawning over, not the Seine.
Of course, the biggest perks here are the prices—everything’s a bargain thanks to the strong dollar—and the fact that I’ve flown only 90 minutes from New York City to get here. Here’s why you should visit, too.
PICK A FESTIVAL, ANY FESTIVAL
Quebec City may be best known for the world’s largest Winter Carnival. It’s returning January 29 to February 14, 2016, and you’ll find everything from snow sculptures to ice skating and tons of winter wonderland fun for the whole family (the official Carnaval Effigy pin is your entry to all festival events and activities, about $11). Visit during the summer to see Macy’s-level fireworks shows every Wednesday and Saturday night, or in early August for the New France Festival, mentioned above. Get in on the fun by making your own costume or renting one at Costumier Lépoque from $60 to $160 each, depending on how intricate you want your outfit to be). An $8 festival medallion gives you access to all festival venues and activities. If music festivals are more your style, check out the Quebec City Summer Festival, an 11-day event featuring 300 shows on 10 stages. The Rolling Stones, Foo Fighters, and Keith Urban all headlined this year (tickets from about $74 for the 11-day festival).
STAY IN THE CENTER OF ALL THE ACTION—FOR LESS
Charming Hôtel Château Laurier Québec is a 10-minute walk from the heart of Quebec City’s Old Town—you’ll know you’re there when you reach the impressive-looking ramparts (from about $129 per night). The hub of the city’s nightlife is around the corner along Grand Allée, with an artsy vibe and food scene happening on nearby Cartier Street. For a non-traditional traditional stay, try Le Monastère des Augustines, once a cloistered monastery for the Augustinian Sisters, now a newly renovated hotel in the center of the Old City (breakfast and access to the museum and heritage site included, historical-style single rooms from $95 per night, traditional-style double rooms from about $110 per night, and contemporary double rooms from about $141 per night). Hilton Quebec is also lo- cated just outside the ramparts and offers rooms overlooking the scenic city below (from about $135 per night).
GET AROUND TOWN BY BUS—OR SEE THE SIGHTS FROM THE ST. LAWRENCE RIVER
It’s wonderful to just spend time wandering the colorful streets of Quebec City, taking in views of the St. Lawrence River from the historic Promenade Samuel-De Champlain. For a different point of view, take a ride up and down the Funicular between Upper Town and Lower Town (about $2 per person). If you’re short on time, opt for a hop-on-hop-off city tour from Old Quebec Tours to see the sights (about $27), or better yet, take in the city from the water with a 90-minute cruise down the St. Lawrence River, operated by family-owed company Croisières AML (from about $26).
ADMIRE WATERFALLS AND ART ON A DAY TRIP TO THE CÔTE-DE-BEAUPRÉ COAST AND ÎLE D’ORLÉANS
No car? No problem! Old Quebec Tours offers half-day guided trips from Quebec City. You’ll visit the Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré Shrine—a stunning neo-Roman basilica known for being the oldest pilgrimage site in North America—Montmorency Falls, an impressive waterfall 1.5 times higher than Niagara Falls, and Île d’Orléans, home to quaint country villages (about $38). If you decide to rent a car to better explore the region, don’t miss a trip to Canyon Sainte-Anne, a gorgeous waterfall complex surrounded by family-friendly hiking trails (about $10, open seasonally between May and October). Art lovers should stop by the Albert Gilles Copper Art Museum for a look at 50 beautifully embossed panels that depict the life of Christ, a masterpiece that took artist Albert Gilles more than 15 years to create (free). On your way back into town, treat yourself to lunch at La Monnaguette restaurant, part of Cassis Monna & Filles, on Île d’Orléans, where you can taste delicious, locally made black currant wines and other farm-to-table specialties (entrées from $10).
EAT WHAT THE LOCALS EAT
Don’t forget to try every Québécois’ favorite dish, poutine, an intriguing yet deliciously filling combination of French fries, brown gravy, and cheese curds—several locals told me the best poutine in town can be found at Chez Ashton, a popular chain restaurant offering heaping plates of piping-hot poutine (from $7).
THE BEST PART: IT’S CLOSER THAN YOU THINK
Yes, you will need a valid passport if you’re traveling from the U.S., but great news: Quebec City is super-accessible thanks to planes, trains (VIA Rail Canada, anyone?), and automobiles—catch a nonstop flight from many cities within the U.S. and Canada via Delta, United, WestJet, Air Canada, and Porter Airlines (round-trip flights from $323 in mid-December on Porter Airlines from Newark to Quebec City with a stopover in Toronto). Feeling adventurous? Make it a French-Canadian road trip from Montreal to Quebec City (roughly a 2.5-hour drive), and continue another hour north to Le Massif de Charlevoix for a Canadian skiing adventure you’ll never forget (half-day lift tickets about $44).
Are Airline Passengers Subject to Racial Profiling?
Have you ever been questioned or asked to de-board a plane because of your physical appearance or the language you speak? Southwest Airlines is under media scrutiny for two reports last week that it may have singled out passengers who were Muslim or of Middle Eastern background. (In addition, just last night, Southwest diverted a flight because of what it termed “unruly behavior” by three passengers, who appear to have been removed from the flight.) The two incidents last week happened at Chicago’s Midway airport. On Wednesday night, a Philadelphia man and his friend were reportedly asked by a Southwest gate agent to step out of the boarding process because a fellow passenger said they were fearful of flying with the men because the men spoke Arabic. Believing he had been racially profiled, the Philadelphia man called the police and he and his friend were eventually allowed to board the plane. A second Southwest flight out of Midway was delayed on Wednesday when passengers complained about the behavior of six Middle Eastern men; the men were reportedly removed from the flight. We have long admired Southwest for its exceptional customer service. And we fully understand that boarding a plane provokes anxiety in many passengers for a wide variety of reasons. It’s too soon to say whether these incidents represent a new trend for Southwest (or, for that matter, U.S. carriers in general), but we feel that bringing them to light and discussing them openly is essential to keeping air travel accessible to our audience. TALK TO US! In your travels, have you ever been treated differently because of your physical appearance or the language you speak?
If You Could Ring In The New Year Anywhere, Where Would It Be?
We recently asked several of our staff members to share the places they'd love to celebrate New Year's Eve—here's what they said. "A sleigh ride dinner in the Colorado Rockies under a canopy of stars with my wife and daughters." —Robert Firpo-Cappiello, Executive Editor "London. I'm in awe of photos and videos of the fireworks along the Thames, with Big Ben clanging and the London Eye right in the middle of it all." —Jamie Beckman, Senior Editor "New Year's Eve in Hawaii was always a great time. I'd love to be back celebrating and watching the fireworks on the beach with my friends again." —Kaeli Conforti, Digital Editor "I'm so excited. I'll be in Sydney to celebrate 2016!" —Jennifer O'Brien, Marketing Manager "Brazil. I was told there are huge beach parties and everyone wears white and dances all night. Sounds amazing!" —Rosalie Tinelli, Marketing Associate "Caye Caulker, Belize. I want to bring in the new year with a warm breeze and a cold drink!" —Amy Lundeen, Photo Director "Christmas Island. Rumor has it this Pacific isle is the first place in the world to ring in the new year because of its GMT + 14-hour time zone!" —Whitney Tressel, Photo Editor "In Cambridge, England, with my dear friends, punting on the River Cam and passing under the Bridge of Sighs at the stroke of midnight." —Chalkley Calderwood, Creative Director "Orpheus Island on the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia." —Maureen Kelley Stewart, Advertising Account Manager "Watching the Northern Lights from inside a glass igloo in Finnish Lapland (with a flute of champagne!) —Amy Mironov, Media Relations "Paris. Watching the fireworks on the Champs-Élysées with a glass of champagne." —Elaine Alimonti, President, Publisher "Copenhagen, Tivoli Gardens. It's all about the lights!" —Jo Neese, Neese & Lee Media "Champagne in hand, sky full of stars, floating on a private sailboat somewhere in the South Pacific." —Cathy Allendorf, Director of Digital Media Now it's your turn: We want to know, if you could ring in the New Year anywhere on earth, where would it be? Share it below!
Easy & Affordable Caribbean Escapes!
Hurricane season ends on November 30, and early December is a great time to grab bargains in the Caribbean, before the holiday and winter crowds descend, driving up prices. Here, some tips for booking your pre-holiday escape and some money-saving tips that will last all winter long. NASSAU, BAHAMAS: Ready for conch fritters and a beautiful beach? A family of four traveling to Nassau in early December can expect to pay around $1,700 for round-trip airfare and three nights at a nice hotel on Paradise Island. The same family trying to book a comparable deal in February could end up easily paying 50 percent more! (BT's Digital Editor, Kaeli Conforti, just got back from a wonderful weekend escape to Nassau and shared it in Three-Day Weekend: Nassau & Paradise Island.) CURACAO: If you're the impulsive type, we’re especially fond of JetBlue Getaways, which can often be a bit last-minute. You may have to book it within a day or two, but you’ll have till, say, January to travel. JetBlue's Curacao vacation packages start at under $700 per person for airfare and three nights' accommodations at a cushy resort. GUADELUPE ISLANDS AND MARTINIQUE. Norwegian Air Shuttle is offering $99 one-way airfare to the French Caribbean! Nab a flight to the perfect beaches, beautiful volcanic mountains, lush rainforests, and unique cuisine of Guadelupe and Martinique. Norwegian Air Shuttle is making waves with super-discounted airfares, but of course availability is limited and seats go fast—check Norwegian.com regularly and be flexible with your travel dates.
The Ultimate Obsessive Foodie's Guide to the Caribbean
While dishes like conch fritters and coconut shrimp have come to represent the region on the world stage, these old stand-bys barely scratch the surface of the unique (and underrated) eats available here. In fact, there are nearly as many hyperlocal takes on Caribbean cooking as there are islands—and delicious fish—in the sea. Here, an island-by-island guide to the delicacies that have our mouths watering this cruise season. Dominican Republic Don’t expect light beach fare from this tropical destination. The Dominican take on Creole cooking, with influences from as far and wide as Africa, Spain, and the Middle East, is a remarkably hearty affair. For proof, look no further than the typical breakfast los tres golpes (or “the three strikes”), which includes fried cheese, fried salami, and fried eggs, plus a heaping scoop of mangú (mashed, boiled green plantains). And if you somehow have room for lunch, the iconic la bandera (“the flag”) is comprised of stewed meats, red beans, white rice, and fried green plantains. Just try going back to work without taking a nap first. BE SURE TO ORDER: Sancocho de siete carnes, a stick-to-your-ribs stew of seven meats, including sausage, chicken, beef, pork, and goat, plus an assortment of vegetables, such as corn on the cob, green plantains, yam, pumpkin, taro, and cassava. The finished product, which is thought to be an excellent hangover cure, is served with white rice and sliced avocados. WHERE TO TRY IT: Travesías, housed in a quaint baby-blue cottage with a sprawling bright-white porch (Avenida Abraham Lincoln 617, sancocho artesanal siete carnes $9). The Bahamas The Bahamas is comprised of more than 700 islands and coral reef cays, so it’s only natural that the cuisine here would have a particularly strong link to the sea. Most staple dishes offer well-spiced but simple preparations of locally caught seafood like grouper, conch, and spiny lobster. And at just 50 miles from the coast of Florida, the country also shares a culinary heritage with the American South. Take, for example, the popular johnnycake, an all-purpose bread that calls to mind the cornbread you’ll find beside most soul food meals. BE SURE TO ORDER: Cracked conch (pronounced “konk,” if you please) with peas ‘n’ rice. The mild white flesh of the iconic sea snail is pounded and then deep-fried into a cutlet and served with an extremely popular side dish of white rice cooked with pigeon peas, salt pork, thyme, and tomato paste. It’s just one of the many ways you’ll find conch on menus, including in chowders, fritters, simply grilled, or cured in a ceviche-like salad. WHERE TO TRY IT: Goldie’s Conch House, which has been an area institution for more than 25 years (Arawak Cay, cracked conch with rice $15). Aruba Dutch culture looms large in the ABC islands of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao, which together with St. Maarten, Saba, and St. Eustatius, comprise the Kingdom of the Netherlands. You’ll see this link in the colorful gabled roofs in Oranjestad, Aruba, and Willemstad, Curaçao, and the annual celebration of Queen’s Day (expect lots of orange to celebrate the House of Orange-Nassau). But the Dutch connection is perhaps strongest on the islands’ menus, where you’ll find snacks like bitterballen (fried meaty croquettes) and frikandel (deep-fried sausage)—plus more exotic dishes from former Dutch colonies, such as Indonesian fried rice, or nasi goreng. BE SURE TO ORDER: Keshi yena, which is made by stuffing leftover gouda or edam rinds with meat (chicken, beef, shrimp, or fish), flavored with raisins, grated cheese, olives, and capers. The dish dates back to the Dutch colonial era, when slaves would gather scraps—such as the seemingly unusable cheese rinds—and come up with clever ways to prepare them as a means of survival. WHERE TO TRY IT: The Old Cunucu House, which occupies a traditional farmhouse that dates back more than 150 years (Palm Beach 150, keshi yena $11). Turks and Caicos Unlike lush, verdant neighbors like Jamaica and Cuba, the Turks and Caicos is made up of 40 islands and cays that are arid, sandy, and tiny—perfect for a beach getaway, sure, but not ideal for agriculture. Aside from a few exceptions, such as drought-resistant corn, sea grapes, tamarind, and sugar apples, the cuisine in these parts skews heavily toward the spoils of the surrounding seas, with menus featuring wahoo, grouper, snapper, tuna, and dolphin (the fish, not the mammal!). And it’s no coincidence that the flag of the Turks and Caicos prominently features both a conch and a spiny lobster: They’re two of the island’s tastiest and most prized delicacies (and exports). BE SURE TO ORDER: Spiny lobster, a clawless tropical variety that’s called crawfish by locals. Only legally available in-season from August through March, the prized crustacean is best served simply grilled. WHERE TO TRY IT: Coyaba Restaurant, where lobster is featured in a number of haute creations, like a bisque with sherry and aged rum and lobster thermidor in a dijon-sherry cream sauce (Caribbean Paradise Inn, Grace Bay, Providenciales). Jamaica It’s telling that two of the most popular flavorings in Jamaica are Scotch bonnet peppers and allspice: The cheerful-looking chiles can be almost 150 times hotter than jalapeños, while allspice (the dried berries of the pimento tree) is so aromatic that many home cooks assume that it’s actually a blend of clove, cinnamon, and nutmeg. In a word, Jamaican cooking is bold, with iconic dishes borrowed from its many immigrant groups: from Spanish Jews, vinegary escovitched fish; from Indians, curried goat; from the British, Cornish pasty–inspired patties; and from West Africans, the lychee-like fruit ackee, which is cooked alongside saltfish to make the island’s most iconic breakfast. BE SURE TO ORDER: Jerk chicken, which gets its fiery and complex flavors from fresh ginger, thyme, scallions, Scotch bonnet peppers, and allspice. In the authentic Jamaican version, the chicken is cooked over the aromatic smoke of burning pimento wood—a practice that dates back to the native Taínos. The jerk style was born when escaped slaves, or Maroons, retreated into the forest and taught the indigenous tribes their method of smoking meat over pits dug into the earth. WHERE TO TRY IT: The Boston Jerk Center in Boston Bay, widely considered the capital and birthplace of jerk (Boston Bay, Portland Parish). Barbados Perhaps the only cultural icon from Barbados more famous than Rihanna is the flying fish—a remarkable species that uses its wing-like fins to propel through the air at distances up to a whopping 1,300 feet. In fact, the island often gets called the Land of the Flying Fish. But it’s not the only species hauled in from the warm waters surrounding the island, which are teeming with game fish, such as marlin, tuna, shark, and mahi-mahi. While much of Bajan cuisine is influenced by rich Indian and African flavors, perhaps the best way to appreciate the sea’s bounty is also the simplest: The cutter is a humble sandwich of deep-fried fish on crusty Bajan salt bread, topped with lettuce, tomato, and pepper sauce. BE SURE TO ORDER: Flying fish and cou cou (made with cornmeal and okra), the national dish—which, not coincidentally, was once namechecked in a Rihanna song. Now often served with a tomato-based creole sauce, the cou cou was once a staple food for African slaves and is still a popular dish throughout the Caribbean. WHERE TO TRY IT: Brown Sugar, a restaurant set in an old home, filled with lush ferns and colorful murals (Aquatic Gap, St. Michaels, flying fish and cou cou $11.50). Trinidad and Tobago The culinary melting pot in this two-island nation skews decidedly East Indian, a holdover of the indentured Indian servants who streamed into the British Imperial colonies starting in the 1840s to provide plantation owners cheap labor in the post-abolition era. These days, more than 35 percent of the population can trace their roots to the Subcontinent—greater than any other ethnicity—which accounts for the intensely aromatic flavors found in dishes like curried goat and roti (flatbread-wrapped sandwiches). BE SURE TO ORDER: Doubles, an inexpensive street food made by filling light, chewy bara (fried flatbread, tinged yellow with turmeric) with channa (curried chickpeas), topped with cucumbers, pepper sauce, mango chutney, and tangy tamarind. Often eaten for breakfast and sold from humble carts, the local spin on the Punjabi chole bhature got its descriptive name when customers in the 1930s demanded that the sandwich’s creator double up on the deliciously crisp bara. WHERE TO TRY IT: Any of the unassuming food carts in the southern Trinidad town of Debe, which many consider to be the capital of doubles. Puerto Rico Perhaps no food better represents Puerto Rico than sofrito, a paste made by frying onions, garlic, green peppers, sweet ají dulce chiles, cilantro, and a local herb called culantro or recao in olive oil or lard. Much like this flavor-packed ingredient, which forms the backbone of many of the island’s most famous dishes, local cocina criolla (Creole cooking) was born by slowly melding together centuries of disparate culinary influences, including West African, Spanish, American, and indigenous Taíno. You can thank this last group for lechón asado (the island’s famed slow-roasted pork), not to mention the term “barbe-cue,” based on their word barabicu, or “sacred fire pit.” BE SURE TO ORDER: Mofongo, made by mashing green plantains with garlic and chicharrones (deep-fried pork rinds). Thought to be a Caribbean update on the doughy African staple fufu, the dish is traditionally prepared with a wooden mortar and pestle, or pilón, which traces its roots to the Taínos. The starchy base can then be eaten as a side or stuffed with a protein to become mofongo relleno, at which point it is often doused in a tomato-based salsa criolla. WHERE TO TRY IT: Café Puerto Rico, where the mofongo relleno can be ordered with a range of different bases (yuca or green or sweet plantains) and fillings, including crab, salt cod, grouper, or shrimp (208 Calle O’Donnell, mofongo relleno from $10).