Closest thing to France on this side of the Atlantic

QUEBEC, CANADA

Overview

Bonjour! Merci! Tres bien! That’s about all of what my one year of French in college left me with…Regardless- ‘Language Of Love’ is pleasant to listen to and you will hear it all over Quebec, Canada. Don’t let that scare you- Canadians are very friendly neighbors and every time we go to Quebec (soon will be our fourth time), we find it easy to communicate and get around.

We have been to Montreal several times and kept hearing how we must visit Quebec, because of it’s European feel. From the first time in this charming city, we were in LOVE!

The cobble stone streets of the Old Town, the outdoor cafes and restaurants, even the fashion reminded us of Europe. We discover new things every time we go back. It became a tradition to drive up to Quebec on Friday, Memorial Day weekend (last weekend in May) and get back Monday night. Because we have been there several times, we usually visit our favorite restaurants/shops and add some new activity each time we go. I will go over just that- sights, activities and food. When you go (because you MUST go 🙂 ), just pick what seems the most appealing/convenient at the time.

OLD TOWN

If you have limited time, Old Town of Quebec is something you certainly don’t want to miss. There are a few ways getting to this city. If you’re flying in, obviously it will be through the airport. If you are driving, there is a way getting in over the bridge OR taking a ferry. We did both and that was two fun and different experiences.

Getting in with the ferry allows you to see Quebec from the distance. Either way, one of the Old Town sights you won’t miss is Chateau Frontenac. It is huge castle hotel visible from far away.

Chateau Frontenac is one of the most photographed hotels in the world and you can see why. It is beautiful from every angle. As you are near the hotel, make sure to take a stroll on the Terrasse Dufferin- beautiful walk along the St. Lawrence river.

While in the Old Town, visit Basilique Cathedrale-Notre- Dame-de- Quebec – magnificent church in Quebec City.FullSizeRender (15) There is a small donation to get in, but it’s worth it.

There are two sections of the Old Town- Lower Town (Basse-Ville) and Upper Town (Haute-Ville).

The fun way to get from one to the other (unless you want to simply take the stairs) is the Old Quebec Funicular (Funiculaire). IMG_5536It’s a short, but spectacular ride that will give you the view of the Lower Town, the river and beyond.

The Upper Town is where Chateau Frontenac and Basilique Cathedrale Notre-Dame – du Quebec are. It has plenty of restaurants, pubs and shops. If you are looking for stylish and not overpriced clothes, visit Simons– huge clothes store for men and women right in the heart of the Old Town Quebec. For a great quality men’s fashion right near by is Ernest Boutique. Extremely knowledgeable staff will help you pick out the suit/jacket/shirt- anything you might need and will tailor it for you in a couple of hours! Don’t want to carry it back home? They don’t have the color you need in stock? All your measurements will be taken, put in their system and your order will be delivered to your home! Shipping a tailored suit and shirt to Boston cost us $11 USD!

As you are in the Upper Town, check out the Montmorency Park National Historic Site. FullSizeRender (26)It will give you a nice view of the city and the river again. Had enough of the Upper Town? Walk/take Funicular back down to the charming Lower Town of Quebec. It’s full of the art galleries, boutiques and restaurants of course!IMG_7262IMG_5463FullSizeRender (30)

Wander around Place Royale or take part of the hustle and bustle of the Quartier Petit Champlain. As you turn a corner or two, you will come across another charming part of town- Rue du Cul de Sac.

Lower Town has so many little streets to explore!

The Citadelle of Quebec or La Citadelle is also part of the Old Town and is an active military installation and official residence of both the Canadian monarch and the Governor General of Canada. IMG_1361It’s an interesting complex to walk around or watch the changing of the guards ceremony.

Right next to La Citadelle there is a historic area of Plains of Abraham. It is located within the Battlefields Park in Quebec city and is nice for a relaxing walk, run or a picnic. Also good for some yoga 🙂 .

Whenever you decide to venture out of the Old Town, you will have to go beyond the walls.

Fortifications of Quebec reminds us of the city’s military past and marks the end of the Old Town district.

BEYOND THE WALLS

As you leave the Old Town, immediately west there is Saint Jean Baptiste neighborhood known for it’s shopping and restaurants.

Just outside the Old Town, part of the Cap Blanc district, there is a Parliament Building of Quebec.

If you already strolling past it, might as well stop by. Laying down on the ground for the better photo angle is optional 🙂 .

Looking for a night life, bars, more restaurants and shopping? Walk straight down the Grande Allée Est- you will find it all lining both sides of the street. Maurice nightclub is where we usually end up dancing our Saturday night away.

Cartier street has more hip restaurants and boutiques for shopping.

Cartier street is just off the Grande Allée Est and can be easily recognized by the funky colorful lamp decorations.

MONTMORENCY FALLS

Maybe you have some extra time or want to get a feel of nature and get away from the city for a couple of hours? How about a waterfall? Only a short 15 min (12km) ride away is Parc de la Chute-Montmorency. Or simply Montmorency Falls.

It’s a large waterfall on the Montmorency river in Quebec. Once you get there, you have an option to take a ride up in the aerial tram or walk up the stairs . You can cross the suspension bridge and see the falls from the various points. If it’s a hot summer day and you want to cool off- get right near the waterfall below and the cool mist will refresh you- guaranteed!

This side trip can take a couple of hours or you can spend the whole day at the park. There is even a zip line over the falls for the thrill seekers! We didn’t get to do that, just walked up, down and over. Maybe next time!

SIBERIA STATION SPA

We all know traveling can be stressful. Long drive or flight might cause aches and pains. Well, stress no more once you arrive to Siberia Station Spa – oasis just 15 min drive from Quebec City center.

This is a place for total zen and relaxation. We made an appointment for the couples massage in the outdoor cabana near the river a few days ahead and had great experience. I would recommend spending at least 3-4 hours there to unwind and relax. Surrounded by nature, Siberia Spa has multiple hot and cold water pools (you can also jump in the river near by), they recommend going into hot first and follow with the cold. There are saunas, a yurt, steam and ice room, hammocks outside (we fell asleep in one).

And best part of all- it is quiet. Silence is required in most parts of the spa and designated areas are for people that want to chat and catch up. There are no kids (unless they have certain times, which we did not happen to witness). They also have a cafe with healthy and delicious lunch/snack options. The cost with the one hour long massages in May 2017 was $90 USD per person. Nothing like this even exist in Boston! We cannot wait to go back.

FOOD

Yes, there has to be a special section related to food. Not just because we are foodies. But also because the food in Quebec is too good to just blend it in throughout the post. As we have been there three times now, we have our favorite places and adding new ones with each trip.

One of the newest additions to our restaurant list and certainly the best one is iX Pour Bistro. No surprise there, it’s #1 rated restaurant on TripAdvisor in Quebec City. This place is like nothing I have been to before. Judging from the simple outside and the residential area of Quebec where it’s located- it would be something we would walk by and not even notice. Well, not that you can get in there without reservations anyway! The place is run by two guys. Literally that’s all of the restaurant staff- the chef and the host/server. They only serve 20 people per evening and the way reservations are staggered they will never seat everyone all at the same time. Basically, the table for two that we had booked was only for us that day.

This type of setting allows the chef to prepare the meals without rushing and with detailed attention to each customer. The host also has time to go over each menu item, help with wine selection and answer any questions that you may have about the place, food or Quebec in general. Because they “want to have a life too”- the restaurant is closed on Fridays and Saturdays in the summer months! They are at full capacity for the rest of the week nights, so they don’t see the need to sacrifice their summer weekends that can be spent with family and friends. Moral of the story- book your reservations EARLY. As we were there in May, they were already booking for September and some people even put their names down for December! The best way to reach them is email. They are very responsive in confirming availability. Tried calling – not so much luck 🙂 .

We each got an app, a main course and a desert.

If it was not considered socially inappropriate, I would’ve licked my plate clean at the end 🙂 . French onion soup, gnocchi, pork belly and a beef dish were delightful- you could cut the beef with the fork – it was that tender! And then came the dessert. Chocolate lava cake was amazing. But the absolute (and very unexpected) winner was a foie gras dessert! We were hesitant to order it- who puts foie gras and dessert in a same sentence?? But so glad we did. It’s vanilla/flan dense texture and the shaved foie gras on top added a delightful and unexpected flavor. The host said one of the customers described this dessert as ‘unicorn tears’ 🙂 !

As for the old and trusted places we always return to, I have to mention the charming breakfast/lunch spot- Chez Temporel.IMG_7234 Besides the street looking oh so French, the place also has the best croissants in North America 🙂 . In my opinion of course. Well, not for nothing, but they have their croissant dough shipped from France and then bake them locally.

Usually we have a savory sandwich like ham, egg and cheese and then croissant with jam.

Because we can’t chose just one. And why should you? Add some hot cocoa or iced coffee and your day has started just right!

A great spot for a flavorful Thai/Cambodian dinner (usually we have it as soon as we arrive on a Friday night as it’s close to the Best Western Hotel where we stayed at a few last times) – Bati Bassak. We never make reservations far ahead, just call while we are driving up and so far we were able to get a table for two with no problem. My recommendation- get their Amok dish. IMG_7317Coconut milk, fish, rice and whatever magic they sprinkle in it- warms up your stomach and the soul.

Also in the Saint-Roch area, close to our hotel is amazing coffee shop Brulerie Saint Roch. IMG_5657Whether you want a pick me up coffee or craving something sweet- it’s a perfect spot. Clearly you can tell we have some sweet tooth issues 🙂 .

For brunch, you can try Pied Bleu or Le Clocher Penche. Again, they are in Saint Roch area so it was very convenient short walk from the hotel.

Both will have a bit of a wait- don’t expect to get your food any faster than about 45 min. So my advice- either have a snack before, or go on the earlier side of the morning, if you don’t want to be sitting there, smelling all the food and getting hangry 🙂 !

For the chill vibe, good drinks and funky looking bathrooms, check out L’Atelier.

FullSizeRender (19)
Bathroom at L’Atelier!

It’s on the Grande Allee Est street, which is full of restaurants and bars, so if you want to bar hop, I’d say this should be one of the stops.

Another famous restaurant in the Old Town Quebec that we tried was Le Lapin Saute. IMG_5494It is busy with tourists as it’s right on the main Petit Champlain street, but we were able to get the table outside pretty quickly. This restaurant is famous for it’s rabbit dishes, but we tried a few other meals and they were pretty good.

I’m sorry to say they were not iX  Pour Bistro good, but I expected worse from a touristy place.

And last but not least from our Quebec dining experience – Patente et Machin. It’s not your typical restaurant- it’s more like sitting in someone’s kitchen. We sat at the bar and watched the guys cook on the regular kitchen stove tops. Don’t go there expecting white table cloths or high end service.

Go with an open mind and try their always changing dishes. Everything we had was delicious. Save room for dessert- it’s worth the calories 🙂 . You will walk them off later!

CONCLUSION

IMG_5450

Due to it’s proximity, Canadian dollar being weaker (at least for now), great food, shopping and most importantly nice people, Quebec remains on our mini escape destinations list.

We can’t really fly over to France for the long weekend, but we certainly can drive six hours and visit our northern neighbors every time we need a European feel. Not good-bye, but see you soon, Canada!

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