Visiting the neighbors Vol. 2

QUEBEC, CANADA

Overview

Fourth time in Quebec! I’d say this trip was somewhat spontaneous. We knew we had a long Labor Day weekend coming up and neither of us wanted to spend three days off in Boston. Weather forecast was not too promising for the beach, so we figured- why not go back to Canada? We love the charming Quebec streets, food is great and shopping is reasonable. Usually I prefer exploring something new, so that was my one condition for going back so soon (our last trip was in May- see Closest Thing to France on this side of the Atlantic post)- that we try new places and do different activities. We made a point to stick to that. Exception being Bistro L’Atelier, Siberia Station Spa and iX Pour Bistro. These were the only places we returned to.

We tried a lot of new restaurants, hiked a mountain and saw Quebec from above. There were several different festivals going on at the same time during this weekend as well. I will break this post up in three parts- adventure, food and fun. If you go to Quebec, you may want to pick and choose what appeals to you and mix and match with the suggestions from my previous post about this extraordinary city.

ADVENTURE

The drive to Quebec on Friday took wayyy too long. We were in the car for 8 hours. So when we saw that weather is going to be nice on Saturday, we had our outdoor activity picked- we are going to Jacques-Cartier National Park! Yes, we had to drive a little again, but only 30 min north of the city. Just as we were approaching the park, we could already see the mountains.

We called ahead and checked what activities are available. There was an option for white water rafting, but when the girl told me that about 10 min into the excursion we would be wet, we decided to pick something drier. Like a calm shared canoe ride! Except calm was not really the word I would describe it as. Maybe slightly erratic? Or frustrating? Well, let’s say it was a mini test for the communication skills in our relationship 🙂 .

 

Sean was sitting in the back and I wanted to paddle and get a workout in. His strokes were obviously stronger, I could not catch up and we would spin around…Over and over again 🙂 . We made it work eventually and joined forces going up the stream. The nice views helped to de-stress and on the way back we were totally in sync.

 

It was a good activity to start our adventures and a great upper body workout.  Time to get some leg action!

Canoe rental was at kilometer 3 once you enter the park. Visitor Center and many of the trails begin at kilometer 10. Park is very well organized, trails are marked and it’s pretty much impossible to get lost there. There was some traffic near the Visitor Center and we were directed to park in the parking lot near by.

 

The staff also informed us that for any trails starting after km 10 we would need to take a free shuttle bus. There is simply not enough parking available for all the visitors on this nice sunny day.  It was brilliant! Instead of sitting in traffic, we got into the school bus and were dropped off at km 16- Les Loups trail.

 

It was listed as an advanced hike with two options- 5 km (2 hr) round trip to the 1st Observation Deck, or 11 km return trip (3.5 hr) to the 2nd Observation Deck.  We started with no clear decision how far we’ll go. Sean hurt his back a few weeks ago, so we were going to see how he does before committing to a nearly seven mile hike

 

The paths were clear, some places had steps made out of stones- it was much easier in comparison to the hikes we’ve done in New Hampshire! It took us only 45 min going fast pace until we reached the 1st Observation Deck. The view was nice but the area to actually see it was very small. We had to wait to take pictures and the view was less majestic than I envisioned. Sean was hesitant to continue on another 2.7 km, but it seemed wrong to turn around now. It felt like the view was not rewarding enough, so we decided to keep on hiking.

 

I’d say the second part is not as steep. It had good flat stretches and I took photos of some local flora of the forest.

 

I was really hoping to see a moose, but instead all we got was a few birds, a mouse and a chipmunk 🙂 .  The view up top though was priceless! It was totally worth the extra hour hike.

 

If you chose to do this trail, make sure hike it all the way to the top, it’s gorgeous! It took us just around 3.5 – 4 hours, but we spent at least 45 min enjoying the view, resting and eating our croissant sandwiches. The shuttle took us back to the visitor center, we got our car and half an hour later were back in the city. Just in time for dinner! This park is perfect for a fun day adventure outdoors. And we only did one trail. There are many, some longer than 5 hours. It might be a place to come back to in the future!

FOOD

We ate A LOT on this trip. It’s hard not to when the food is so good 🙂 ! We made a point to try new places, but for dinner on Friday ended up at Bistro L’Atelier. It was our second time there,  previously we only stopped at this fun place for drinks. After the long drive from Boston and checking into our AirBnb it was after 11 pm. There were a lot of bars open, but in most places the kitchen was already closed. L’Atelier had service up until 2 am so it was an easy decision. The food was surprisingly great! We did not expect that quality from a lounge that is open until three in the morning.

 

I had a fun cocktail, we shared a tuna tartare with pineapple (L’Atelier is a cocktail and tartare lounge, get one of each for sure!) and creme brulee for dessert. Their crispy chicken sandwich was amazing and salmon salad was pretty good too.

For breakfast before the hike on Saturday we wanted to try a new croissant place and there just happened to be one right on our Saint-Jean street – Panetier Baluchon. We got a plain croissant with jam on the side, the almond croissant and a couple of sandwiches to go for our lunch for the hike. IMG_0749Both were very good and I’d say beat out previous favorite croissant place Chez Temporel. It also opens early in the morning, so you don’t have to wait till 10-11am to have breakfast and can start exploring early.

For dinner on Saturday we did not have any reservations made, so we looked up a few places and again settled on the one right on our street- Le Billig. It had great reviews, tables outside (we had warm clothes on, so we did’t mind the chilly weather) and the food was delicious! This place specializes in crepes, so we tried two different kinds and both were great! Chorizo app was huge and also very tasty.

 

Crepes came open- I am used to them being wrapped or folded, but this was a different way of serving them, which was interesting and something new to try. For a dessert with a view we went to yet another new place- Ciel. It’s a rotating restaurant with amazing views of the city

 

Their cream puff came with toasted marshmallows and maple syrup on top- pretty incredible!

New day, new breakfast place! I was kind of done with sweets (for a brief second 🙂 ) and was craving lox on a bagel. So I did my research and found a local bagel place with great reviews – Bugel Fabrique de Bagels Enr. It was a little walk from our AirBnb but it was SO worth it!

 

Cute little place in the residential neighborhood, no lines, not many tourists. We sat outside and I had my lox, while Sean enjoyed his au gratin – sort of like a pizza bagel. It had all the ingredients on top of an open bagel and then was heated in the oven making it crispy and melting the cheese- yummm! Bring cash- they DO NOT take credit cards.

Sunday we went to the Siberia Station Spa, so lunch was there- grilled cheese with tomato soup- always a favorite on the cool day! IMG_1064

At the spa we were given a coupon for free beers at the Archibald Microbrasserie- the brewery/restaurant a couple of streets down the road. It had a very cabin- like interior and  good local beers. Worth checking it out!

 

Dinner was our favorite iX Pour Bistro again. We had to come back for this place. And once more it did not disappoint. I tried a new dish- duck and a new app- scallops. Sean stayed with his favorite- Boston Butt and french onion soup. We shared foie gras dessert. Just as amazing as we remembered.

 

As mentioned in my previous Quebec post- make reservations for this place as much in advance as possible. There are only two people working there- chef and the host. They only serve twenty people per day, so email them for availability if you want a special night out!

For our last breakfast on Monday we got sucked into the touristy destination – Le Casse-Crepe Breton. We were determined to keep on trying new places and this one had incredible reviews. So we went for it and I have to say I will not return. The place is on a busy old town street and even though there were plenty of empty tables, we were told that we will be seated in about 20 minutes. It probably took about 10 and we had the table. Ordered crepes and waited. Then waited more. Then the table next to us that came in later got their food and I was hangry. Finally our crepes arrived and my buckwheat one was pretty dry.

 

Sean’s apple with ice cream crepe was pretty amazing I have to say. So was the bowl of hot chocolate. But overall, the long wait is not worth the meal there. When we were leaving it was probably about 15 people waiting in line and I wanted to say- go somewhere else! This is a tourist trap. But of course I did not. Just a fair warning if you feel like trying it.

Since we were on a mission for new places, lunch was a new spot as well. And it was in the castle 🙂 ! Bistro Le Sam at Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac was a delight. Apparently it was a burger week in Quebec, when different restaurants serve burgers and compete who makes the tastier one!

 

We did not have any others during our visit, but the burger at Le Sam was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! It was the softest, most tender deer meat I’ve ever had. Their beet salad with goat cheese and the salmon tartare were also incredible. Atmosphere and the view from the window is a treat as well. Definitely recommend to try this place least once!

FUN

Well, the hike was fun and so was the food 🙂 . But there was so much more to do in Quebec on the Labor Day weekend! We did not plan to, but so just happened that we were there during Pride Week.IMG_1139 And a few blocks away from our AirBnb was a fun karaoke bar Ninkasi Saint-Jean right near the Le Drague Cabaret Club, which we visited on Sunday night. Karaoke singers were incredible- we felt like at a free concert- the people signing up to sing were one better than the next.

We got into Le Drague Cabaret towards the end of the performance, but what we saw was awesome! The dances were very well choreographed, the queens were beautiful and so much fun! We stayed for a bit and danced the nice away. Walk back home was only 5 minutes, so why not 🙂 ?

 

Another festival we randomly walked by and decided to check out was Kwe! Meet the Indigenous Peoples. It was right near the Parliament and had arts and crafts and free concerts.

 

Fun time for an hour or two.

Bordeaux Wine Festival was in Quebec at the same time as well! This one right near the Old Port.

 

We made it there in the late rainy afternoon, so instead of $40, they only charged $20 and I got to try four different kinds of good French wine. There were tents with food from the local restaurants and everything we tried was delicious.

I mentioned at the beginning that we got to see Quebec from above. Well, one was Ciel- the rotating restaurant. The other place is perfect for day time views- Observatoire de La Capitale.

 

It costs $14 per person which rewards you with the 360 degree view of the city. You can also read about the sights and get inspired about what part of the city to explore more! There was pretty much nobody there and the sights were amazing. I would highly recommend the visit.

And last but not least- Siberia Station Spa, which I wrote more about in the previous Quebec post. Only 15 min drive outside of Quebec this oasis is something I want to return to over and over.

 

It was a bit cooler temperatures this time, so we got our massages inside, instead of the cabana near the river. Hot jacuzzis though were even more pleasant in the chilly weather. It’s a fantastic way to unwind and relax- whether it’s in a hammock, yurt, sauna or by the cozy fire. Highly recommend.

CONCLUSION

 

Once again our friendly Canadian neighbors did not disappoint.  We walked different streets, discovered new places and fell in love with this city all over again. I hope you give it a try and feel the same way.

 

 

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