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Québec City's alluring setting atop Cape Diamond (Cap Diamant) evokes a past of high adventure, military history, and exploration. This French-speaking capital city is the only walled city north of Mexico. Visitors come for the delicious and inventive cuisine, the remarkable historical continuity, and to share in the seasonal exuberance of the largest Francophone population outside France.
The historic heart of this community is the Old City (Vieux-Québec), comprising the part of Upper Town (Haute-Ville) surrounded by walls and Lower Town (Basse-Ville), which spreads out at the base of the hill from Place Royale. Many sets of staircases and the popular funicular link the top of the hill with the bottom. Cobblestone streets, horse-drawn carriages, and elaborate cathedrals here are charming in all seasons. The Old City earned recognition as an official UNESCO World Heritage site in 1985, thanks largely to city planners who managed to update and preserve the 400-year-old buildings and attractions without destroying what made them worth preserving. The most familiar icon of the city, Fairmont Château Frontenac, is set on the highest point in Upper Town, where it holds court over the entire city.
Sitting proudly above the confluence of the St. Lawrence and St. Charles rivers, the city's famous military fortification, La Citadelle, built in the early 19th century, remains the largest of its kind in North America. In summer, visitors should try to catch the Changing of the Guard, held every morning at 10 am; you can get much closer to the guards here than at Buckingham Palace in London.
Enchanting as it is, the Old City is just a small part of the true Québec City experience. Think outside the walls and explore St-Roch, a downtown hot spot, which has artsy galleries, foodie haunts, and a bustling square. Cruise the Grande-Allée and avenue Cartier to find a livelier part of town dotted with nightclubs and fun eateries. Or while away the hours in St-Jean-Baptiste, a neighborhood with trendy shops and hipster hangouts.
Just after visiting Saguenay, the wonderful Saguenay River pours into the massive St. Lawrence River. Before then, however, it slices through one of the world's most southerly fjords and dense forests of towering pine trees. The nature watching here is nothing short of sublime, with outdoor spots like the Parc National du Fjord-du-Saguenay offering panoramic vistas and sandy river-beaches. Island-sized blue whales cruise through the waters of the mighty rivers, and flick gallons of water into the air effortlessly with a single swish of their colossal tails.
With hiking, kayaking and cycling opportunities inviting you to explore the spectacular scenery - you'll find endless ways to fall in love with this majestic outdoor escape. In fall, gorgeous colours ripple through the foliage, and in doing so, they provide one of nature's greatest performances.
Like many of the surrounding communities, Gaspé is quite unremarkable except for one thing—the Forillon National Park lies wholly within the city limits, giving it a cachet that few other cities can claim. The fact that French explorer Jacques Cartier landed here on his first voyage across the Atlantic in 1534 has earned the city the title "Birthplace of Canada." By the mid-1700s it was an important cod-fishing center; later it hosted a duty-free port attracting European and American ships. It was also a military base in World War II, but it wasn’t until 1959 that Gaspé finally gained true city status.
Surrounded by natural treasures and glorious seascapes, Halifax is an attractive and vibrant hub with noteworthy historic and modern architecture, great dining and shopping, and a lively nightlife and festival scene. The old city manages to feel both hip and historic. Previous generations had the foresight to preserve the cultural and architectural integrity of the city, yet students from five local universities keep it lively and current. It's a perfect starting point to any tour of the Atlantic provinces, but even if you don't venture beyond its boundaries, you will get a real taste of the region.
It was Halifax’s natural harbor—the second largest in the world after Sydney, Australia’s—that first drew the British here in 1749, and today most major sites are conveniently located either along it or on the Citadel-crowned hill overlooking it. That’s good news for visitors because this city actually covers quite a bit of ground.
Since amalgamating with Dartmouth (directly across the harbor) and several suburbs in 1996, Halifax has been absorbed into the Halifax Regional Municipality, and the HRM, as it is known, has around 415,000 residents. That may not sound like a lot by U.S. standards, but it makes Nova Scotia’s capital the most significant Canadian urban center east of Montréal.
There's easy access to the water, and despite being the focal point of a busy commercial port, Halifax Harbour doubles as a playground, with one of the world's longest downtown boardwalks. It's a place where container ships, commuter ferries, cruise ships, and tour boats compete for space, and where workaday tugs and fishing vessels tie up beside glitzy yachts. Like Halifax as a whole, the harbor represents a blend of the traditional and the contemporary.
The largest city in Maine, Portland was founded in 1632 on the Casco Bay Peninsula. It quickly prospered through shipbuilding and the export of inland pines which made excellent masts. A long line of wooden wharves stretched along the seafront, with the merchants' houses on the hillside above. From the earliest days it was a cosmopolitan city. When the railroads came, the Canada Trunk Line had its terminal right on Portland's quayside, bringing the produce of Canada and the Great Plains one hundred miles closer to Europe than any other major U.S. port. Some of the wharves are now occupied by new condominium developments, with the exception of the Customs House Wharf, which remains much as it used to be.
Grand Trunk Station was torn down in 1966 and a revitalization program of this historic section was spearheaded by a group of committed residents. The result was the revival of the Old Port Exchange District with its redbrick streets built in the 1860s following a disastrous fire. The area today features a wide variety of restaurants, specialty and antique shops, and makes for a pleasant place for a stroll. Congress Street and its many side streets are an engaging mixture of culture, commerce and history. Art is everywhere, from the Portland Museum of Art to the many statues and monuments throughout the city. Other points of interest include the Portland Observatory, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's childhood home, several colonial mansions and Fort Williams Park, with the adjacent Portland Head Light. Farther afield one can visit the charming yachting and fishing village of Kennebunkport, also noted as the locale of the home and summer White House of former President George Bush.
Going Ashore in Portland
The ship is scheduled to dock at the Portland Ocean Terminal, a very easy walk to the Old Port District located about two blocks away. Taxis are available at the pier.
A wide range of Maine-made clothing, crafts and imported items can be found in shops along the cobblestone streets of the quaint Old Port Exchange. Small boutiques and numerous art galleries feature everything from paintings, crafts and furniture to prints and photographs. Antique lovers will enjoy browsing through area shops. Bargain hunters may want to visit the designer factory outlet shops in Freeport. On Sundays, most shops are open from 12:00 noon to 5:00-6:00 p.m. The local currency is the dollar.
Portland has the most restaurants per capita, second only to San Francisco. Eating establishments are as diverse as the menus they offer. The fresh catch of the day can be found on most menus, but seafood is only one of many culinary delights. From specialty coffee houses and ethnic restaurants to chowder and lobster houses to elegant dining rooms, Portland makes it easy to please every palate.
Longfellow's "City by the Sea"
Portland is a walkable city, and a good place to start exploring is at the Old Port with its striking buildings comprising a bevy of architectural styles, ranging from Italianate to Mansard, Queen Anne to Greek Revival. The charming streets house an amazing collection of shops, galleries, bookstores and restaurants. Congress Street and the Arts District reflect the changes of 350 years of history, boasting an engaging mixture of culture and commerce.
Portland Museum of Art
The museum's award-winning building is a blend of 1911 Beaux Arts and 1983 post-modernism. It houses one of New England's finest art collections. Don't miss the museum's indoor Sculpture Garden.
Built in 1807, this is a rare example of a signal tower from which signal flags would be flown to identify incoming vessels.
Factory Outlets of Freeport
About a 25-minute drive north of Portland (approximately $35 one way for a taxi), this shopping mecca is crammed with serious shoppers who come from as far away as New York.
Private arrangements for independent sightseeing may be requested through the Tour Office on board.
There’s history and culture around every bend in Boston—skyscrapers nestle next to historic hotels while modern marketplaces line the antique cobblestone streets. But to Bostonians, living in a city that blends yesterday and today is just another day in beloved Beantown.
Established in 1639 by a small band of religious dissenters led by William Coddington and Nicholas Easton, the city by the sea became a haven for those who believed in religious freedom. Newport’s deepwater harbor at the mouth of Narragansett Bay ensured its success as a leading Colonial port, and a building boom produced hundreds of houses and many landmarks that still survive today. These include the Wanton-Lyman-Hazard House and the White Horse Tavern, both built during the 17th century, plus Trinity Church, Touro Synagogue, the Colony House, and the Redwood Library, all built in the 18th century.
British troops occupied Newport from 1776–1779, causing half the city’s population to flee and ending a golden age of prosperity. The economic downturn that followed may not have been so great for its citizens but it certainly was for preserving Newport’s architectural heritage, as few had the capital to raze buildings and replace them with bigger and better ones. By the mid-19th century the city had gained a reputation as the summer playground for the very wealthy, who built enormous mansions overlooking the Atlantic. These so-called "summer cottages," occupied for only six to eight weeks a year by the Vanderbilts, Berwinds, Astors, and Belmonts, helped establish the best young American architects. The presence of these wealthy families also brought the New York Yacht Club, which made Newport the venue for the America’s Cup races beginning in 1930 until the 1983 loss to the Australians.
The Gilded Age mansions of Bellevue Avenue are what many people associate most with Newport. These late-19th-century homes are almost obscenely grand, laden with ornate rococo detail and designed with a determined one-upmanship.
Pedestrian-friendly Newport has so much else to offer in a relatively small geographical area— beaches, seafood restaurants, galleries, shopping, and cultural life. Summer can be crowded, but fall and spring are increasingly popular times of the year to visit.
From Wall Street's skyscrapers to the neon of Times Square to Central Park's leafy paths, New York City pulses with an irrepressible energy. History meets hipness in this global center of entertainment, fashion, media, and finance. World-class museums like MoMA and unforgettable icons like the Statue of Liberty beckon, but discovering the subtler strains of New York's vast ambition is equally rewarding: ethnic enclaves and shops, historic streets of dignified brownstones, and trendy bars and eateries all add to the urban buzz.
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