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Quebec Canada: Pleasure of Islands, Waterfalls, and the Wendake Nation

The early fall air is crisp, yet the sun's soft golden light illuminates the reds, golds, and burnt umbers of the apple orchards. Deep-hued apples, shiny and ripe, send their heady and fragrant aroma across the island, signaling to the locals that harvest time is near on Ile d'Orléans. The beautiful and rural island of Ile d'Orléans is located in Québec, Canada about 15 minutes from Québec City. This predominantly agricultural island is an ideal location to visit with a pristine environment and numerous produce, art, cheese and wine shops as well. In addition, there are several communities, outdoor recreation and sites that are located about 20 minutes away from Québec City, such as the Huron Wendat community and the striking Montmorency Falls; and of course the attractions and architecture of the city itself.

Ile d'Orleans: Bucolic Paradise

Ile d'Orléans population is only 7000 in winter and 11,000 in summer on this 20-mile long and five- miles wide bucolic paradise. The island is a peaceful respite for visitors to explore in all seasons; however, the long days of late spring and the colorful fall are what truly make this island a special destination. In fact, one of the best places to visit for fall apples, cider and apple butter is Cidrerie Verger Bilodeau, located on 2 200 Chemin Royal, St-Pierre. For 30-years, this family business has produced some of the best apples (U-pick) cider, preserves, mustards and apple butter on their six-acre orchard. The main shop imbues a sense of warmth and comfort with pinewood walls and floors accented with ornate wrought-iron bistro tables and chairs. Take a seat at one of the quaint tables and begin a tasting of Bilodeau's delicious ciders that run from very dry to crisp, with their sparkling cider tasting like fresh apple champagne. Their ice wine is equally divine, made with honey crisp apples that are delicate and lovely on the palate.

Cider is just one of the specialties that Bilodeau produces; their apple butter is made with a light touch of real butter in a scrumptious smooth and creamy soft puree that is superb on a piece of cheese and bread or pancakes.

The growers on Ile d'Orléans produce some of the best fruit and berries in the world so naturally, the island has excellent wineries, such as Cassis Monna & Filles, located just down the road from the Cidrerie, at 721 Chemin Royal. This award-winning establishment is family owned and run by Bernard Monna and his two beautiful daughters Catherine and Anne. Monna established the winery in the 1970s and passed on to his daughters the art and skill of making high-end liquors and wines from black currants or gadelle noire.

Today, Cassis Monna & Filles use exacting standards to produce their renown luscious black currant products that are absolutely celestial. Try their array of crème de cassis, wines, cassis liquors (Kir Royal), preserves and black currant syrups for a rich, full-bodied flavor you won't find elsewhere.

Visitors are also invited to enjoy free tastings of Cassis Monna & Filles' liquors and products in a serene and picturesque setting of vineyards and farmlands.

One of Québec's most spectacular historical and natural sites is Montmorency Falls Park, located just a few minutes from downtown Québec. The falls are magnificent and actually 30 meters higher than Niagara Falls. In addition, The Montmorency Falls was the first water fall in North America for hydroelectric power.

There are two ways to ascend the falls for awe-inspiring views; the cable car or if your game, by foot, 484 stairs. However you reach the top, be prepared for a gorgeous, panoramic view from a bridge that straddles the top of the falls. This site is photo-op heaven and a great place to enjoy the beauty of the surrounding countryside and the majesty of the powerful 83-meter high falls.

Wendake Village

To explore Québec and understand its history, visit the Huron Wendat community (Wendake Village), located 20 minutes from the city centre. The Wendat Nation was the first inhabitants of the Americas. In 2006, the Huron Wendat Nation set up a non-profit organization to promote Tourism Wendake, which promotes the Native Culture, activities and historical representation and cultural museum.

Guests can visit the village and take a fascinating walking tour that features the cultural history of Huron Wendat, their art forms, daily living, beliefs, as well as tool making and society. And, guests can stay in the tremendous new Hôtel-Musée that is located in the village as well. The hotel is a fantastic 4-star property and museum that is situated serenely next to the Akiawenrahk River and wooded terrain. Guest rooms feature French balconies that overlook the river; all of the rooms and public areas feature First Nations artwork as well. In addition, the hotel's restaurant the brilliant La Traite, features gourmet cuisine inspired by the First Nations tradition. The unique menu proffers dishes prepared from local and fresh ingredients that are luscious and a culinary delight to experience.

The Hôtel-Musée museum, located within the hotel, is truly captivating with aboriginal artifacts and a comprehensive time-line of the First Nations people. After a visit to the museum, take a stroll around the village to view numerous historical sites and events, such as concerts that take place in the village. Moreover, visitors can also rent kayaks and canoes from Canots Légaré to explore the St.Charles River privately or with packages and tours.

Quebec City

After exploring surrounding communities and sites, discover the splendor of Québec City's intriguing attractions, shops, history, architecture and cuisine that make this exquisite city one of the most popular in North America.

To start your adventure of discovery, start with booking a stay at the elegant Fairmount Le Château Frontenac, located in the historic part of the walled city. The hotel was designed in the late 19th century by American architect Bruce Price, and built from funds by William Van Horne, President of Canadian Pacific Railways. This magnificent chateau is situated on top of a hill overlooking the St. Lawrence River and lower area of the city.

The Château Frontenac is not merely a grand hotel with gorgeous rooms, chic restaurants and a collage of sumptuous boutiques, but a bastion of time and history melded into an ongoing story. It grows in complexity and richness each time a guest stays and adds their own unique narrative to the tale. Indeed the history of the hotel seems to whisper from every ornamental hallway and beautiful room to the photos and artwork that line the walls.

Guided tours of the hotel are scheduled each day; or, if you wish a more personal exploration, guests of the hotel can stroll the hotel and gather their own impressions of this intriguing and lovely chateau.

From surrounding communities, historical stone churches, museums and fabulous cuisine to exciting shops on St-Jean Street, Québec City will entertain and inspire you with attractions, charm and a friendly culture.

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