TRAVEL Q&A

Quebec's French Side

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By Andrea Sachs
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 19, 2006

Q. My wife and I were married in France and would like to celebrate our 50th anniversary in a French environment. Can you recommend some places to visit in Quebec?

Tony and Christiane Springford, Manassas, Va.

A In the Canadian province of Quebec, Old Montreal and Quebec City smell like baguettes and sound like Catherine Deneuve. "Old Montreal looks like old Paris, with cobblestone streets, horse-drawn carriages and boutique hotels," says Yves Gentil, the New York director of Destination Quebec (877-266-5687, http://www.bonjourquebec.com/ ), the province's tourism office. "Quebec City is like a medium-size city in France."

From Washington, you can fly nonstop to Montreal -- then go directly to Vieux-Montreal, since downtown Montreal is indistinguishable from, say, Minneapolis. Old Montreal dates to the 17th century and has a number of Parisian exports, such as Notre-Dame Basilica and the Bateau-Mouche, which cruises the St. Lawrence River. The area's streets are lined with outdoor cafes, French bistros (try Chez L'epicier) and European-style hotels, such as Hotel Place d'Armes (888-450-1887, http://www.hotelplacedarmes.com/ ). For culture, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts features such impressionist stars as Monet and Renoir, and the Pointe-a-Calliere tracks the city's francophile history. And no Parisian, er, Canadian vacation is complete without stinky cheese from Yannick Fromagerie D'Exception, bread from Premiere Moisson boulangerie and wine from the government-run SAQ liquor stores. Then go to Mont-Royal Park for a picnic with a view.

For even greater French immersion, hop a three-hour train to Quebec City, where "99 percent of the people speak French," says Gentil. The walled city offers great strolling, cafe-lounging and dining opportunities along its Grande Allée and in the Old Port. Learn about French immigrants at the Musee de L'Amerique Francaise, or explore the city in a horse-drawn carriage. At night, take a ghost tour or toast New France with champagne at the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac (866-540-4460, http://www.fairmont.com/ ).

I heard certain parts of Maui are not suitable for swimming because the waves are too high. Our teenagers are average swimmers and would like to try surfing. What parts of the island would be best?

Susanne Graham-Yooll, Derwood, Md.

Maui's wave action depends a lot on what's stirring up in the Pacific that day, or week. Indeed, no beach area has guaranteed swimming-pool conditions, except at a hotel.

Kristin McFarland, owner of the Nancy Emerson School of Surfing (808-244-7873, http://www.mauisurfclinics.com/ ), explains that in winter, winds often roil the North Shore waters but shift to the south in summer. "In winter, there can be great surfing on the North Shore," she says, "but then in the summer, that same spot can be great for snorkeling and flat as a lake." However, she does say that Maui's west side, from Lahaina on up, has the most reliable conditions year-round. In addition, if a storm blows through, only a small patch may be affected -- so you can simply inch a little north or south to find quieter surf.

Before you head to the beach, listen to the morning surf report on the news or check with the hotel's front desk, which should have the daily conditions.

If your children want to try surfing, McFarland says to sign them up for a class, since beginner riders can injure themselves or others without proper instruction. You can find outfitters around the island, especially in Lahaina and at bigger hotels like the Kaanapali Resort. McFarland's company, for example, offers group, private and semi-private lessons (from $75 to $165) to all ages and levels of experience; courses are taught at the Breakwall in Lahaina. For other surf schools and beach info: Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau, 800-464-2924, http://www.gohawaii.com/ .

Can you recommend an inexpensive hotel in Soufriere, St. Lucia?

Shurla Bovell, Hyattsville, Md.

Hotel rates on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia range from $40 to $800, and Soufriere has more high-end resorts than budget properties. For more options, Hortensia Joseph, regional marketing manager of the St. Lucia Tourist Board, says to drive about an hour north of Soufriere. Her suggestions: CoCo Resorts (758-456-2800, http://www.coco-resorts.com/ ; from $95), Tuxedo Villas (758-452 -8553, http://www.tuxedovillas.com/ ; from $95) and Bay Gardens (877-620-3200, http://www.baygardenshotel.com/ ; from $120).

For an all-inclusive, Coconut Bay Resort and Spa is a former Club Med that is near the airport and has low-season rates from $200 for a single or $300 for two. Info: 758-459-6000, http://www.coconutbayresortandspa.com/ .

St Lucia Tourist Board's Web site ( http://www.stlucia.org/ ) also has a search engine that lets you find different types of accommodations island-wide.

Send queries by e-mail (travelqa@ washpost.com), fax (202-912-3609) or U.S. mail (Travel Q&A, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071). Include your name and home town.


© 2006 The Washington Post Company


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