Whilst weekend tripping in Montreal, Mr. M & I decided to take advantage of our proximity to yet another Place We’d Never Been Before: Quebec City.
Quebec City came highly recommended from Mr. M’s aunt & uncle, who claimed it was more than worth the 3hr drive from Montreal- although honestly, convincing us to visit somewhere new is about as difficult as persuading Cookie Monster to break his diet. The very mention of a New Place (or a warm chocolate chip cookie, now that I think about it) makes our eyes go all muppet-googly.
Day #11,161: Mr. M & I woke up early & excited (or at least early… I require a bit of coffee before transitioning into full-on ‘excited’) for our Canadian Roadtrip Day.
Like a small child, I admittedly become insufferable on long trips without coffee & snacks. I read billboards out loud. I test out new dance moves and block Mr. M’s driving visibility. I sing along with horrifically bad pop music… although, if we’re being real, I do this with or without roadtrip sustenance.
One pecan brioche, two coffees, and three short hours later- eh, maybe not so short depending on whom you ask, as Mr. M got roped into several sing-a-longs (“Sir Mix-a-Lot!! This is my JAM!!”)- we found ourselves in Quebec City.
Like the Death Star mothership, it’s difficult to ignore the drawing force of Quebec City’s grand dame hotel, The Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac.
Like a European castle, Le Chateau is monumental and stately, presiding over the St. Lawrence River. It also has some pretty nice public restrooms, and we really had to pee after all that road trip coffee-drinkin’.
With empty bladders and restless legs, Mr. M & I decided to head out on a walk. Le Chateau sits on the Terrasse Dufferin, a wooden boardwalk that promenades you along the river down to the Citadel of Quebec.
The Citadel was built after the War of 1812 when Canada was expecting more trouble from those très pesky Américains. It was never really used as a fort- sadly, as whoever designed it did a great job making it Super Stealth.
The Citadel was so stealth that there were a bunch of cautionary signs posted to prevent ignoramuses from walking into the fort’s moat.
The views from The Citadel were beautiful, but it was coooold! I suppose that’s what you get when you decide to visit Canada in the winter.
Old Quebec is the only city in the Americas north of Mexico that’s still encircled by a fortified wall (apparently they really wanted to keep us Américains out after the War of 1812), and today it divides Quebec into the Upper and Lower towns. Because the old city is on a hill, these monikers are quite literal (upper town is up and lower town is… low)- there’s even a lazy man’s funicular right in front of Le Chateau Hotel that’ll whisk you, literally, downtown.
Mr. M & I meandered through the Basse-Ville (lower town) down the Rue du Petit-Champlain- supposedly the oldest street in North America- past all sorts of whimsical little restaurants and cobblestoned streets.
Montreal has the reputation of being a slice of Europe in North America… but quite honestly, Old Quebec City felt far more Parisian in its mingling of monument and quaint charm.
Somehow Quebec City, which I’d never considered as a destination until planning a trip to Montreal, ended up being one of the highlights of our trip to Eastern Canada.
Tummies grumbling from all that cold weather walkin’, we were ready for some warm, hearty vittles and took a table at the Aux Anciens Canadiens (34 rue St-Louis), a restaurant known for traditional Quebecoise fare.
Quebec doesn’t always lend itself to vegetarians (our tour book had a section entitled “Eating Vegetarian in a Land That’s Definitively Not”). Happily, while Mr. M was lunching on his caribou + venison meat pie, I got to try one of Eastern Canada’s most famous eats: poutine, which consists of French fries topped with gravy and melty cheese curds.
The sun was setting as we made our way back to Montreal, but we thought we could pull off one last stop at the nearby Montmorency Falls, which I’d heard were fairly spectacular.
Darn Iguazu seems to have spoiled us for life.
We made it back to L’Hotel in Montreal just in time to order some Canadian ice wine and catch the Brazilian band playing downstairs.
The perfect international end to a perfectly international day.
Details of the Day:
Be sure to stop by the year-round Marche du Vieux Port Farmer’s Market (160 Saint-André Quai). Mr. M & I were overwhelmed with the luscious variety, even in November: blueberry syrups, Parisian macarons, Quebecoise tourtières (meat pies), maple liqueurs… mmm… And public restrooms, which are always helpful.
It’s more than doable to station yourself in Montreal and make a daytrip to Quebec City! It’s a 3hr drive each way, but this just allows you more time to enjoy conversation or car sing-a-longs with your driving mate.
**If you’ll be heading to New York City any time soon and find the concept of road-tripping with me to be somewhat intriguing (minus the sing-a-longs, of course… nobody finds that intriguing)… good news! My Manhattan-based trip itineraries on Unanchor.com (2-Day First Timers Guide to Manhattan and Lower East Side Neighborhood Tour) are FREE through midnight, May 10th. Woo hoo!! Free stuff is the best.
I’ll trade you an itinerary for a review on Amazon. Sound good? Download away! Enjoy, and let me know if you’ll be in my city anytime soon!**