There's less talk these days about Quebec becoming an independent country. But for most visitors to the province, it's already a place quite distinct from the rest of North America. Those differences are why people visit.

Language, of course, is the most obvious distinction, but the most enjoyable one has to do with lifestyle. There's a bon-vivant temperament to Quebec that's hard to find in the English-speaking provinces of Canada. Quebecois tend to spend hours talking, drinking and eating. In the cafes and restaurants, servers rarely rush you. And like their counterparts in France, the Quebecois take food seriously: You will eat well there.

One joy of traveling in Quebec has little to do with culture or language: It's simply a beautiful place. The wide St. Lawrence River is the backdrop for many of the province's cities and towns, with mountains rising to the north of the river. In fact, a tour through the St. Lawrence Valley will let you experience picturesque islands, rugged fjords and bucolic countryside. Remote wilderness can be found in the farther reaches of this vast province.

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