Big City Tales

The Loveliness of Small Cities in Liechtenstein and Luxembourg

March 1, 2018
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While the monarchies of Liechtenstein and Luxembourg may not garner the same attention as other European royalty, there is no denying the loveliness of the small, yet very regal-like capital cities in their respective countries.

Liechtenstein

Nestled in the mountains between the countries of Switzerland and Austria, Liechtenstein is one of the world’s smallest countries with a total population of under 40,000 people.

Vaduz is the capital city and is located along the Rhine River. The city’s most famous landmark is Vaduz Castle, home to the prince of Liechtenstein and his family. The castle sits atop a steep hill in the middle of the city and is easily visible from all directions.

Every August, the royals host a huge party at the castle to celebrate National Day and the Feast of the Assumption. All residents are welcome to take part in the festivities that includes food, fireworks and festive costumes.

Other points of interest include Government House, City Hall and the Cathedral of St. Florin. Visitors to the city and other parts of Liechtenstein will note that there is a daily mandated relaxation period between the hours of noon and 1:30 p.m. with “quiet time” strictly observed.

Luxembourg 

As the world’s only remaining Grand Duchy (its head of state bears the title of Grand Duke), it seems fitting that Luxembourg and its capital, Luxembourg City, exude old world charm. In fact, owing to the preservation of ancient city quarters and fortifications, Luxembourg City’s Old Town district was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Along with Brussels and Strasbourg, Luxembourg City is one of the designated capitals of the European Union (EU) and is home to the European Court of Justice, the European Investment Bank and other EU institutions.

Some of the popular sights to see in Luxembourg City are the Royal Palace, the Place d’Armes, and the Adolphe Bridge, with its large central stone arch and lovely views of the gorge forged by the Petrusse River.

Outside of the capital region, fans of fairy tales will enjoy the numerous ancient castles that dot the landscape. Vianden Castle, located in northern Luxembourg, has been fully restored to its former glory and is noteworthy for being one of Europe’s largest and most beautiful fortified castles.

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The Magic and Magnificence of Montreal & Quebec City

August 30, 2013
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Quebec Separation

To stay or not to stay…that is the question that has plagued Quebec voters for years.

While the politics of separatism may divide the people of Quebec (and Canada); one thing everyone can agree on is that when it comes to cities in Canada offering a sense of urban chic with a touch of old world charm, Montreal and Quebec City are at the top of the list.  Magic and magnificence abounds in equal measure in these two cities, and it doesn’t take long to fall under their respective spells.

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The altar inside of Notre Dame Basilica in Montreal.

Plains of Abraham

A lively re-enactment of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in Quebec City.

MONTREAL

City of Islands – Situated along the Saint Lawrence Seaway, the city of Montreal is named after Mount Royal, a prominent three-peaked hill first documented by the great French explorer Jacques Cartier. The downtown core is built upon the Island of Montreal, but the city’s borders extend to surrounding islands such as Saint Helen’s and Bizard.

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The skyline of downtown Montreal.

Summer Festivals – Be it comedy, jazz, fireworks or film, Montreal is known for its wide array of festivals and every summer the city is inundated with throngs of people eager to soak-up Montreal’s unique cultural flare. If you’re looking for a hearty chuckle, check out the Just for Laughs festival; or if you want to be amazed with a kaleidoscope of spectacular fireworks displays, the Montreal Fireworks Festival will be sure to dazzle.

Jazz Festival

The annual Jazz Festival attracts internationally renowned performers, and standing-room only crowds.

Olympic Dreams / Sports Dynasties – When Montreal was selected to host the 1976 Summer Olympic Games, it was a major triumph for the city, province, and entire nation of Canada.  Despite soaring construction costs and ongoing maintenance issues with the primary venue, it was a point of pride for organizers that the games were a resounding success and produced some new sports heroes, notably Greg Joy who earned a silver medal in the high jump competition.

Canada may not have many elite track and field athletes, but the country does excel in other sports such as hockey and football and the city of Montreal is home to two heralded dynasties. The Montreal Canadiens are part of the National Hockey League and have won a record 24 Stanley Cups; while the Montreal Alouettes play in the Canadian Football League and have won the Grey Cup a total of seven times. During the 2000s, the Alouettes amassed an impressive win-loss-tie record, eight regular season first place finishes, and three Grey Cup wins.

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Over-budget and plagued by ongoing repairs, Olympic Stadium is still a marvel of architecture!

QUEBEC CITY

Old World Charm – In the historic district of Old Quebec, cobblestone streets and quaint, colourful storefronts are reminiscent of small European towns. Everywhere you look, proprietors are happily at work and visitors share their glee in wandering around at leisure and enjoying the casual, laid back atmosphere. Be sure to sample some sucre a la crème, a traditional Québécois fudge that is especially prevalent during the Christmas season.

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Looking for a taste of Europe? Check out the old world charm in the historic district of Old Quebec.

Winter Carnival – Nothing makes the winter more palatable like a good old-fashioned festival, and Quebec City’s annual offering certainly does its best to chase the winter blues away! Typically held in February, the festival’s star attraction is Le Bonhomme Carnaval, a jovial over-sized snowman who spreads Québécois joy wherever he goes. In addition to a winter amusement park, other attractions include a snow sled slide, ice sculptures and various outdoor shows. When in Quebec City in the heart of winter, a rendezvous with Monsieur Bonhomme is highly recommended!

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Bonjour, Monsieur Bonhomme! Vous etes tres beau, joyeux et plein de fun!

Chateau Frontenac – Sitting high on a hill overlooking the Saint Lawrence River below, the mighty and majestic Chateau Frontenac is a breath-taking sight at any time of day.  Designated as a national historic site in 1980, the hotel is noteworthy for being the most photographed in the world and is truly a wonder to behold!

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The regal and rustic Chateau Frontenac basks in the glow of a clear, bright sky.