Both Montreal and Quebec City remain, at their core, the towns French settlers built almost four hundred years ago, with plenty of joie de vivre. Autumn is the perfect time to explore the long history and exciting contemporary flair of these cities. Strolling the narrow streets of Vieux-Montréal, Montreal’s Old City, on an early autumn evening, it’s easy to think you’ve dropped out of time and place. Surely this is a long-ago evening in France, with cobbled streets and stone buildings rambling on either side. A visitor stops to read the menu outside a little auberge, while another practices lèche-vitrines (window-shopping) as she stands at the patisserie, transfi xed by what a talented baker has done with butter and chocolate. Two children ride by on bicycles, giggling with one another, and in the distance, the smell of fresh, crusty bread fills the air. With a weekend ahead to sample the pleasures of the city, simply walking can be its own reward; there’s a discovery to be made everywhere you look. In the fall, the trees seem to pour rivers of scarlet and gold over the hills. The blaze of bold color is in sharp contrast to the St. Lawrence River’s pewter water and the gray of the old stone buildings. The air is mild but has just enough of a chill to make the homey inns and restaurants even cozier.