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New France Festival in Quebec and City Pleasures

Multitudes of parade-goers line the streets at dusk on a warm summer evening, as anticipation fills the air. A rustle of taffeta skirts and the distinct sound of a drumbeat draw the crowds' attention. All eyes are focused on the elaborate and artfully dressed festival marchers attired in 17th and 18th century costumes that begin the exciting New France Festival.

Québec City, located in Canada's eastern province of Québec, reflects its unique and proud heritage of French, Amerindian and British roots. The fascinating culture and history of the region is visible in the provinces' architecture, cuisine, language and the friendly Québec residents. With its spectacular attractions, scenic beauty, festivals, outdoor activities, shopping and sites, the city is an enticing and unique draw throughout the year.

New France Festival: Going Back Into History Has Never Been More Fun

Grand festivals take place for every season in the city. In winter, (late January to mid-February) Québec Winter Carnival or Carnaval de Québec emerges as a crystalline wonderland of ice sculptures and playful activities in the snow. This marvelous celebration is presided over by the king of the festival, the charming Bonhomme. In summer, the long warm days are a perfect environment for the city's New France Festival.

This heady celebration focuses on Québec's history with elaborate costumes from the 17th and 18th century, exciting parades, presentations and a host of music and cultural revelry. Moreover, a large portion of the old city is transformed into a historical setting where the city's residents, as well as festivalgoer's and staff dress in authentic period attire. Visitors catch a glimpse of what life was like during Québec's formative years and are excited by the visual and physical immersion of the atmosphere.

The festival is now in its 15th year and has doubled in size. The events start with over 600 participants in a grand parade at dusk along the streets of the picturesque old city and St. Lawrence River. A battalion of parade attendees marches through the streets garbed in period clothes that represent their historical specific group. You will see amazing statue giants that stand 15-feet tall, an effigy of kings, queens, first nations' chiefs and commoners.

Groups of elegantly dressed noblemen and ladies meander by, followed with New France-period militia marching bands, crazy-tall stilt walkers, fire-eaters and even pirates. The parade is a blast and is proceeded by lively musical concerts of French fusion blue grass, folk, rock and Cajun, in outdoor ale tents with frothy cups of beer, wine and a zesty epoch ambience.

Throughout the weeklong revelry, numerous historical characters wander about the city and interact with stories, French families and tales about Québec's past. Events run day and night to lead to the most exhilarating occasion, the New France Festival in the public market. Located in the lower part of the old city, with beautiful shops, outdoor cafes and lovely cathedrals, the festival public market takes place throughout the area.

For delicious fare, visit the carts and tents to savor scrumptious crepes, jus de cider (apple cider), corn-on-the-cob, roasted meats and of course, a beer and wine area with live traditional music. After your libations, sit and watch humorous actors perform an outrageous scene from Québec's past. Or, stroll about taking photos and watch grand ladies and gentlemen wander by, as well as pirates flirting with comely tavern wenches before indignant costumed priests.

And, if you're curious about how the Québécois lived centuries ago, period actors demonstrate a variety of daily activities, such as how tools were made and how citizens lived. In addition, do you have New France or French heritage? Go to several booths where you can find out information about your heritage via your last name.

Do you want to participate? Join a parade dressed in your costume; visitors can rent costumes in town or make their own. Visit the New France Festival website to learn how to build a costume inexpensively and join local residents from the city and other villages in fun parades, contests or just be part of the festival.

Performance Art Across the City

The vibrant and party atmosphere of the New France Festival is contagious and the numerous exciting activities will keep you busy day and night as you join Québec revel in their spirited and lively cultural heritage. For additional information, visit www.nouvellefrance.qc.ca.

With so many activities and attractions in Québec City and the surrounding areas, visitors will have no trouble finding things to do and see. In fact, due to the investment by the provincial government and the residents, art and performance art plays a large role in the city.

An example of the performance art takes place in the summer evenings by Cirque du Soleil. They have created a street performance exclusively for Québec City. The magnificent show mesmerizes audiences and is unveiled under a large bridge. The show is entitled Les Chemins Invisibles (The Invisible Paths) and is one of Cirque duSoleil's finest. The bold, colorful costumes, breath-taking acrobatics, and scintillating music are exhilarating. Best of all this fabulous show is free (special seats have a ticket fee). Check with Québec Tourism to find out scheduled performances.

Another incredible show takes place at the grain silos of the Québec Harbour. The Image Mill 3D is a spectacular 40-minute visual and audio film projected on the Bunge grain silo. The screen is over 600 meters wide and 30 meters tall or the equivalent of 25 IMAX screens. The production is a unique and creative presentation that features four centuries of Québec City's history by segments of waterways, road building, rail expansion and air travel in a non-verbal format.

Music and sound effects are the only audio for this fascinating show that morphs from one moment in history to the next in a seamless tale of the city's history. It is an important piece of work as well as an art medium, due to the nature of thought provoking historical subject matter.

The 3D visuals add a fantastic dimension to this renown production that moves swiftly from development to controversies and ultimately to explore how Québec's current culture evolved. The show is free; however, reserved seating ticketing applies. For additional information on the Image Mill 3D production and Québec City, visit Quebec Region Tourism.

Patrice Raplee is an experienced travel photojournalist and editor of Travel Excursion and Seattle Spotlight for Positively Entertainment magazine. In addition, she writes a monthly travel column for the award-wining site Offbeat Travel and is a regular guest on Travel radio talk shows. She is a member of North American Travel Journalists Association (NATJA), International Food, Wine & Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA) and the Recording Academy. Her photographs and articles have appeared in numerous international publications, as well as NW newspapers such as the Seattle Times, the Stranger and Seattle Weekly. Patrice travels the globe to cover destinations that feature fascinating culture, art, culinary, history and soft adventure. Photos courtesy of Patrice Raplee.

© 2011