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Continent's best birthday fêtes in Quebec City

Quebec City celebrates its 400th year with hundreds of events and the Saint Lawrence River as backdrop and playground. Quebec City celebrates its 400th year with hundreds of events and the Saint Lawrence River as backdrop and playground. (PHOTO/YVES TESSIER/TESSIMA)
By Richard P. Carpenter
Globe Correspondent / May 4, 2008

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One of the least expensive and quickest ways to get a truly foreign travel experience is to visit Quebec City. And what better time than as it celebrates its 400th birthday in grand style.

The look of this walled city is distinctly European, with a French accent, and yet the driving time from Boston is six to seven hours, while flying takes about 3 1/2 hours, with a stop in Montreal or Toronto. Events and festivals are planned throughout the year, and with the US and Canadian dollars close to each other in value, there is no euro shock. Here are some summer packages for enjoying the splendid city that Samuel de Champlain founded:

This romantic city becomes even more so with the Madly in Love package from Loews le Concorde Hotel. Included are a night in an oversize room with a view of the Plains of Abraham; a half bottle of champagne plus chocolate-covered strawberries delivered to your room; dinner at L'Astral, the hotel's revolving rooftop restaurant; breakfast in your room; and gratuities. Rates start at about $269 a night.

Visit, click on Destination, and then Special Offers, or call 800-463-5256.

For lovers of the arts, the Hotel Manoir Victoria has a Cultural Package that features two tickets to either the Musée National des Beaux-arts du Quebéc or the Musée de la Civilisation, a night's lodging, full American breakfast for two, and gratuities on meals. Through Oct. 18, rates begin at about $209 a night.

Visit or call 800-463-6283.

Here's a chance to see a new production of "Les Misérables" at Le Théâtre Capitole while staying at L'Hôtel du Capitole. The package includes the dinner show, a night's accommodation, and breakfast. Prices start at about $204, June 27-Aug. 31.

Call 800-261-9903. For hotel details, visit

The Hôtel Château Laurier Québec offers a Family Adventure package, starting at about $239. Included are two nights for two adults and two children, breakfast each morning, dinner for four at the hotel restaurant, meal gratuities, admission for four to the Musée de la Civilisation, and use of the indoor swimming pool.

Quebec City is most pleasing to the palate. Accordingly, the three-night Enchanting River Package at Le Moulin de St-Laurent begins at about $325 per person and features two gourmet dinners per person with gratuities, plus lodging, continental breakfasts, island products, and an audio guide. Le Moulin is a riverfront chalet on Ile d'Orléans, 20 minutes from Old Québec City.

Visit or call 888-629-3888.

A familiar place to stay is the Fairmont le Château Frontenac, said to be the world's most photographed hotel. A unique package is called It's a Dog's Life, and for good reason. Participants get to walk Santol, a guide dog who has become the hotel's canine ambassador. In addition, for every package sold, the Frontenac will donate $25 to the Mira Foundation, which trains and gives more than 150 people guide dogs every year. Also part of the package are a night's lodging, buffet breakfast, and a welcome amenity.

Visit or call 866-540-4460.

Two websites for information and more offers are and

Atlantic activities

There's a lot to love about Atlantic Canada, which comprises New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador, whether it's scenery and natural wonders, Celtic fiddling, lobster and other seafood, beaches, or the heady mix of Irish, Scottish, English, and French cultures. Maxxim Vacations has a variety of independent and guided trips to Atlantic Canada, beginning at $725 land only and $1,265 with airfare included, for a Nova Scotia Sampler.

A guided seven-night Enchanting Islands Tour costs about $2,309 from Boston and includes round-trip airfare to Halifax, Nova Scotia, accommodations, touring in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and PEI, meals that include a lobster supper, a show, and admissions to historic sites.

Fjords, Bays and Tickles is a six-night Newfoundland sailing expedition for $3,099, including airfare from Boston. Departure dates are Aug. 3, 10, 17, and 24.

Visit or call 800-567-6666.

Encore! Encore!

Although it is not mentioned on its website, the Confederation Centre of the Arts in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, offers an Encore Discount: Save 15 percent if you buy tickets to two shows at a time, 20 percent for three, and 25 percent for four or more shows. This summer's lineup includes the musical "America Strikes Back!", the play "Stones in His Pockets," and "The Ballad of Stompin' Tom," which honors a Canadian music legend. In addition, there is a free outdoor music-and-dance show, which this year salutes Quebec province.

Call 800-565-0278 for the discount, also available at the box office. For information and online booking, visit

To the heights

Canadian Mountain Holidays is celebrating the 30th anniversary of heli-hiking, invented by its founder, Hans Gmoser (1932-2006), with an adventure Aug. 5-8 for about $1,947. The trip, which caters to hikers of all levels, includes accommodations at the Cariboo Lodge in Alberta's Canoe Valley. Participants will ascend alpine ridges, take in fields of wild flowers, mountain lakes, and glaciers, all accessed by helicopter. Several events are planned at the lodge as well, including an anniversary dinner.

Visit or call 800-661-0252.

A welcome fleecing

Austin-Lehman Adventures notes that it is holding fast to its rates, even though the cost of gas, lodging, and meals has taken a leap. In addition, $65 fleece vests will be given to anyone who books a Canadian adventure this month. The company has several five-night journeys in British Columbia starting at $1,998, with child and single supplements available.

Visit or call 800-575-1540.

Speaking of B.C. . . .

"British Columbia Escapes 2008: Vancouver, Victoria and Whistler" details where to stay, dine, shop, and celebrate in those destinations, and "British Columbia Escapes 2008: Adventures and Experiences Beyond Vancouver, Victoria and Whistler" looks at the diversity of the rest of the province. Both are available electronically or on paper.

Visit or call 877-673-4192.

When not included, hotel taxes, airport fees, and port charges can add significantly to the price of a trip. Most prices quoted are for double occupancy; solo travelers will usually pay more. Offers are subject to availability and there may be blackout dates. Richard P. Carpenter can be reached at