Bonjour! The name Quebec comes from the word Kebec which means where the river narrows and refers to the area around Quebec City where the St Lawrence River narrows to a cliff-lined gap. Just thought I’d add a little educational piece into this blog. Don’t worry I’m gonna try not to bore you with too many facts. I’m more of an opinion kind of gal. And I’m gonna start with a bold statement. Dare I say, I may have found my new favorite city! I say may because it could just be the sugar high I’m still on while sitting at the airport typing this. But I’ve got to tell you, this place is truly magnificent. Old Quebec City offers a glimpse of what living in a fortified city several centuries ago looked like. It is a romantic city and an architectural delight. Half of the buildings were built before 1850. There are 30 outdoor staircases in the old city. One of which is called the Neck breaker staircase. I layed off the vodka on this trip due to all these staircases. We did a majority but not all of the must-sees in old town. We probably could have skipped the 2 days outside the city and done them all but I wanted to leave something for a return visit.
We arrived in QC a day later than planned. We should’ve arrived at 10pm on Halloween but due to a 7 hour flight delay and a thunderstorm divert to Cleveland, we missed our connection in Newark. So what was supposed to be an easy 2.5 hour flight to Newark and then a 1.5 hour flight to QC turned into a bumpy all nighter. And when I say bumpy, I mean I nearly puked and I’m not typically a puker. We finally arrived in QC at 10am the following day. The AirBnB I booked exceeded all expectations. It was in the heart of the old city, within walking distance to everything. And since it’s off season, only $50 a night. We were right across from the city hall, sandwiched between a clothing boutique and a coffee shop. The apartment had all the amenities and all the old world charm which included exposed brick walls and those European windows that open out as well as in. I’m not sure what they are called. We had them in Scotland several years ago and there was an altercation between those windows and my old nose (Pre Dr. Branman nose job). Day 1 consisted of a long nap and shower and then we headed out. 1st stop would be the cafe called Baguettes and Chocolate which was right beside our apartment and was frequented several times over the next few days for croissants and coffee. We also visited Le Maison Smith cafe several times because it was home to the maple pecan pie we had for the next 3 nights dessert. Yes, it was that good! After a late lunch of crepes, soup, and empanadas we were ready to explore. It was cold and rainy but that never stops a Steward. I did have to buy a toboggan the 1st day because the wind nearly caused frostbite on my ears. We headed to Chateau Frontenac which is the towering castle that is the centerpiece of the old city. It is beautiful from every angle. We would have taken the funicular which links the upper old town with the lower old town and looks like a gondola on railroad tracks. However, it was closed so we managed going down the neck breaker staircase without any injuries. Coming back up was a bit more challenging. At the bottom of the staircase is the Quartier du Petit Champlain. It’s the area/street you see in all those Christmas photographs and apparently Hallmark movies. Which I can’t confirm because I don’t watch Hallmark. And while there was no snow, it was still lit up and even more charming than I could’ve imagined. We walked that area a few more times over the next few days so that I could always remember it in my head.
Day 2 consisted of an early morning walk. As did all the other days including departure day. I like to keep active. Especially, when my diet’s primary food group is sugar and butter. At lunch we went on a 3 hour walking tasting tour of québécois (yes that’s a word) cuisine which included 5 stops and 9 tastings. The food included: pea soup, pate chinois, maple taffy, macaroni and cheese, locally made wine and gin, croissant, Christmas candy, and of course poutine. The locals let it be known that poutine originated in Quebec and not all poutines are created equal. All of the tastings were great except the gin. I am not and will likely never be a gin fan. It tasted like a mixture of lighter fluid and nail polish remover. Our guide Florence was a delight. She was born and raised in QC and kept us highly entertained with tales of her people. That night we took the ferry across the St Lawrence River to Levis and back. No reason really except to enjoy the beautiful night skyline of the city. After the ferry ride, we went to Sapristi and feasted on French onion soup, fondue with Parmesan and tomato jam, and pizza. I’m a bit of a pizza snob but I have to say this pizza was fantastic. And like I mentioned earlier, there was maple pecan pie to go from Le Maison Smith.
Day 3 we rented a car and explored the island of lle d’Orleans. This is not your typical island, and rather than living the salt life here, it’s more like the farm life. We drove the entire 47 mile circumference stopping and sampling the goods along the way. The island’s food production consists of mainly wine grapes, lots of apples and various other fruits and vegetables. As well as honey, maple, dairy, and poultry. Our focus was the apple products such as cider, butter, jelly, etc…I did purchase a bottle of iced cider and some apple jelly to take home. I was worried about the cider busting in my checked bag but being wrapped in double wool socks did the trick. We also visited Montmorency falls before heading back to the old town. After riding the cable car to the top, we crossed the suspension bridge on top of the falls which are supposedly 100 feet taller than Niagara. Had it been summertime, we could’ve zip lined across the falls. That would’ve been more my speed, just sayin. No big meal to report on this day since we sampled all day and of course I had my nightly maple pecan pie.
Day 4 we were supposed to head out of town again. This time to a Nordic Spa near Jacques Cartier National Park. I just happened to check the website and for the 4th consecutive day the spa was without power. Apparently, power outages happen often. I then went to Plan B which was an alternate spa. It wasn’t in Jacques Cartier National Park but it would have to do. It was called The Serbia Spa. We spent about 3 hours alternating between the sauna and/or hot tub, then the ice cold river water, then we relaxed in front of the fire. I had previously been to this sort of thing in Santorini but it was indoors. This place was outside in the woods beside a river. There were various hot tubs dotted around the premises. As well as relaxing stations with fires and hammocks or loungers. By the time we finished here, we both felt rejuvenated, and we both agreed this needs to be on every last day of our vacations going forward. The rest of the day was spent shopping. I went in as many little shops as I could. It would have probably taken a full 3 days to hit them all. The shopping was a bit overwhelming. There were little boutiques everywhere and it was difficult to figure out what street to hit up because they were all so enticing. I did the best I could with the few hours I had. The last night of vacation in such a magical place demands a fantastic meal. I’ve overindulged every day so far so what is one more meal gonna hurt. We went to La Bûche which is a sugar shack. What’s a sugar shack you might ask. It’s a building where sap from a sugar bush is boiled down to make maple syrup. These establishments serve traditional québécois cuisine. The meal was fabulous. And even though I wanted maple pecan pie again, I ventured out and had a caramel royal sundae from Chocolato. You can never go wrong with ice cream.
It was a short trip but I just know I will be back. I am a lover of Canada. In my opinion, it is an underrated vacation destination. While I have been to Canada a few times, this was my 1st trip to a French Canadian province. QC offers European charm without having to travel across the big pond. While the people do speak French, they also know English. They base their communication on yours and Florence said they appreciate any attempt you make at speaking French. So here’s to you and your people Florence: Au revoir Quebec! Je t’aime!