What a vacation! Wow, everything people have told me about Quebec City is true! What a simply beautiful city! Quebec City has some of the most beautiful shopping malls that I've ever visited!
A trip to Quebec City has to begin with a trip to the incredible Place Fleur-de-Lys. The first thing that you'll notice about this mall set on the scenic suburban plains of Boulevard Wilfrid Hamel is the beautiful, neo-classical architecture. The lines, the spiraling, the door construction, the usage of big windows, it all shouts Gustave Montfort, the Swiss legend who was commissioned to re-design the mall in 1996.
The largest shopping mall in the Quebec City area, Place Fleur-de-Lys offers tourists 250 stores and boutiques from which to choose, including uniquely Canadian department stores like Future Shop, Zeller, La Baie, as well as American-as-apple pie Sears, not to mention the other outlets of large corporations that just ooze with character and charm, or the supporting cast, as I like to call them! There's also a few stores with strange names you've probably never heard of that offer some of the most peculiar retail experiences you'll ever enjoy, like La Boutique des Cravates; a store dedicated exclusively to ties. Honest, that's all they sell! Crazy, isn't it? Are you sure we're on the same continent?
Bring the kids along! This shopper's paradise proudly proclaims itself as the most child friendly shopping centre in Canada. Every June, it's host to North America's largest competitive musical chairs competition, with eight different age categories for children up to 18. Not only that, but there's child-care available if you want to spend some time alone with that special someone at one of Place Fleur-de-Lys's seven lingerie retailers, (naughty naughty!) group activities for kids like gift wrapping and coat checking, and breast feeding is welcome and encouraged throughout the mall! What a liberated society in which these people live! Vive le Québec libre indeed!
Place Fleur-de-Lys also has a recently renovated food court (also done by Montfort) featuring the finest of mall cuisine, including Subway, McDonald's Express and A&W, to name but a few. Be sure to try 'poutine,' a Quebec delicacy composed of french fries, cheese curds, covered in gravy-fattening but delicious! Hey, you're on vacation, live it up! Bring a fresh credit card with a big limit, and maybe a debit card to boot when you go to Place Fleur-de-Lys!
Our next stop was the Les Galleries de la Capitale. In the French language spoken in Quebec, I learned that it is common for their shopping malls to be called 'Galleries.' And how appropriate that is! A classical, understated shopping environment in the West end of the city, Les Galleries de la Capitale is a throwback to simpler times, possessing small mall ambience in a medium-sized mall setting.
Here, you're not just viewed as a number or a wallet, but as a human being. You can just tell that the clerks serving you truly care about their work. Shoeing tourists isn't just a paycheck, it's a calling for these people.
Aside from the diverse stores and services, Les Galleries de la Capitale has one of the finest food court areas in terms of both selection and quality of fare that I have ever seen in a mid-range, 120-150 store mall. A highly recommended dining experience is to stop by Nickels, a 50's-themed diner at the far end of the food court that I was told by my delightful waitress Melanie is a chain throughout Quebec. Nickels is in fact part-owned by pop diva Céline Dion, who originally is from Quebec province. (I had no idea she was of French-Canadian ancestry, I always thought she was a native Floridian.) I could go on, but see Les Galleries de la Capitale for yourself!
Forgive me for my repeated usage of the word 'beautiful,' but Place Ste-Foy in the West-end suburb of Ste-Foy is a shopper's mall. Clean, orderly, well organized-what you see it what you get. No gimmicks, no flash, just plenty of parking and pure unadulterated shopping. This is how malls were meant to be. To top it all off, Place Ste-Foy is actually attached to the Hotel Québécois, so you never have to venture outside of air conditioning in the humid Quebec City summer. You step out of your room, and you're literally right there, in time for the store openings first thing in the morning!
Although the dominant language in Quebec City is French, there is no language barrier when shopping in the malls of Quebec City. Once you've proclaimed in no uncertain terms that you can't speak French (it might take a couple of tries-be sure to be excessively loud) and the staff realize you're not Canadian, you'll have no problem getting served in English, especially when they see all of those U.S. greenbacks.
Speaking of which, with the Canadian dollar trading at an all-time low against the U.S. dollar, the exchange rate is phenomenal for Americans. For example, after doing the math, I figured out that the Whitney Houston CD that I purchased cost me only 87 cents U.S.! What a bargain! When I'm back in Canada, I'm going to pick up every Kenny G CD that's missing from my collection.
I can't wait to go back to Quebec City to hit all the malls that I missed, but duty calls! Make way for Melva!
Next Week: The Shopping Malls of Rome
Melva McClintock is the Editor of Shopping Mall Tourist Magazine, based in Orlando, Florida.