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anna_moon Quebec - A travel report by Polly
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Quebec,  Canada - flag Canada -  Quebec
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anna_moon's travel reports

Québec City, Winter Wonderland

  12 votes
Page: 1 2
Our original plan was to visit Québec City in the summer. The prospect of visiting a European-style city with an imposing skyline without having to bother with an overnight flight sounded great.

The city walls
The city walls
As we began to search for places to stay, it became apparent that many people had the same idea, this being the city’s 400 anniversary. So we changed the dates of our trip Easter weekend instead. Soon my mother was second-guessing our choice. She kept reminding us of the average March temperature (freezing – literally) and snowfall. But the extended weekend came, and we headed north, regardless.

Crossing into Canada from Plattsburgh, New York, the line going into Canada consisted of about three cars. The lines going out? There were three of them, each about ten cars deep. We asked the man at the visitors center about the disparity, and were told lots of Quebecers head to New York City for Easter weekend to shop. We cringed a bit at the exchange rate as we changed our bucks to loonies.

We arrived in Québec City mid-afternoon, a bit worn out after braving wind and snow drifts, confusing directions, and road signs in French (which I have trouble pronouncing, much less understanding). While many residents speak English as well, French is the official language of Quebéc, and you hear it and see it printed everywhere you go. Québec City is also unique as the only walled city north of Mexico in the Americas. The language, steep, narrow streets, and old buildings made it seem a world away from the rest of Canada, and the staggering amount of snow only enhanced the fairy-tale feeling.

Favourite spots:
Rue du Petit-Champlain, lower city
Rue du Petit-Champlain, lower city
As we learned, the old city is basically divided into two parts – the upper town and the lower town. The walled upper town is great for food and shopping, especially along Rue Saint-Jean and Saint-Louis. We stopped by the Crocs store – the rubber shoes were first made in Québec – and my mother bought a comfy lined pair. We walked up to the Plains of Abraham, the site of the battle where France lost Québec to the British (though you wouldn’t know it today). We were going to check out the Citadelle, the fortress at the highest point of the city, but it was exceptionally cold and windy up there, and tours didn’t start until the afternoon. After walking around, we headed for the Château Frontenac, the hotel that dominates the city skyline. The exterior is more impressive than the interior, but we saw costumed guides leading groups around. Mom mailed a postcard as we thawed out a bit. We stopped by the Notre-Dame de Quebec Cathedral and a few shops before lunch.

What's really great:
Notre-Dame de Victoires at Place Royale
Notre-Dame de Victoires at Place Royale
After lunch, we walked down to the old city, by way of the casse-cou, or break-neck staircase. While it’s no longer as treacherous as the name implies, it’s great for the views of the street below. Rue du Petit-Champlain is also great for food and shopping. We stopped by a candy shop, which had out-of-this world chocolate and maple candy. Down the street, a guy in a red and black lumberjack-style coat was rolling sticks in maple syrup, kept together by the snow spread across his wooden worktable. A few blocks away, we found Place Royale, the oldest city square. In the snow, it looked like a little ceramic Christmas village blown up to life size. There’s also a wonderful Trompe L’Oeil mural just around the corner, which depicts city architecture and various figures of local importance. After wandering around for a good while (and running into a surprising number of tour groups, making us glad we’d decided against a summer visit), we took the steep funicular back up to the walled city.

Château Frontenac at night
Château Frontenac at night
We saw pretty much everything we’d wanted to see in a day. The only sight I’d been familiar with before we started planning this trip was the iconic Château Frontenac, perched on a bluff overlooking the Saint Lawrence River, but I was delighted to discover famous places I’d never heard of as well. As mentioned above, the must-sees include…

Place Royale and Notre-Dame des Victoires
Escalier Casse-Cou and Rue du Petit-Champlain
The Château Frontenac and Dufferin Terrace
Rue Saint-Louis and Rue Saint-Jean
The city walls and gates, especially Porte Saint-Louis and Porte Saint-Jean
The Citadelle and Plains of Abraham (in better weather)
Notre-Dame de Québec

Ice skating at Place D’Youville
Ice skating at Place D’Youville
We often stay at Marriott for the points, and have always been pleased with the hotels and service. Their Residence Inns are usually a bit more basic than their other hotels, but the one in Quebec City was anything but. It’s wonderfully located at Place D’Youville, right outside the city walls. It took a while for a doorman to appear when we pulled up, but later I realized this was probably due to low number of guests arriving and the cold. We didn’t see many other guests our entire stay, which was wonderful – the hotel was quiet, and the people at the front desk remembered our names.

Dinner at Le Patriarche
Dinner at Le Patriarche
Le Patriarche – Amazing and expensive (for us) – Québec favorites fixed as haute cuisine. Each serving was small, but by the end of three courses, I couldn’t finish my desert. I had wild game consommé, mushroom risotto, and for desert, a sugar dome with clementines and Morello cherries. We ordered a bottle of wine from Québec called L’Orpailleur that smelled heavenly and tasted pretty nice as well.

D’Orsay – Good location near the Château Frontenac, this little pub is not a bad place for lunch. I had an unremarkable chicken Caesar wrap but I also finally got to try poutine –fries/chips smothered in brown gravy and cheese curds. Yum.

Aux Anciens Canadiens – While still a bit expensive, the food was heartier than Le Patriarche, and the decoration and service unpretentious. We each had the traditional yellow pea soup, split a Québec Meat pie, and chose our own deserts. I ate half of an enormous slice of maple syrup pie, which was to die for (and rich enough to chance it).

Other recommendations:
Entry of the Hotel Glace
Entry of the Hotel Glace
On the advice of almost everyone we asked, we drove about 45 minutes out of town on our way back home, and visited the Hotel Glace. I’m glad we went, in part because now I know I could never, ever stay in an ice hotel overnight – it was 9°F (-13°C) when we returned to our car, and our faces, feet, and fingers were pretty numb. But a visit was fun. While the different rooms were neat, the bar, the chapel, and the entry hall really stood out. By the chapels, there were little igloos, filled with pine boughs that smelled wonderful. I crawled in one, thinking it felt a lot more snug than sleeping on a bed of ice, furs and heavy blankets or not.

Published on Saturday April 26th, 2008

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Sat, May 10 2008 - 02:13 AM rating by marianne

a pleasant read illustrated by nice photos

Thu, May 01 2008 - 06:44 PM rating by brucemoon

Sort of nice and personal, but would I go there on the info? Probably not.

Mon, Apr 28 2008 - 01:25 PM rating by bootlegga

I found your trip to Quebec amusing, simply because many Canadians have difficulty understanding the Quebecois too. A very good report, that with more information would be five stars.

Mon, Apr 28 2008 - 12:20 PM rating by jorgesanchez

Very useful and very pleasant reading.

Mon, Apr 28 2008 - 03:03 AM rating by murrayskinner

Quebec City is a wonderful place. It retains a European flare that in some ways seems more European than many cities in Europe. Great report!!

Mon, Apr 28 2008 - 01:45 AM rating by davidx

Great on information and you confirm my desire to see it - but the travel insurance - -

Sun, Apr 27 2008 - 04:39 AM rating by krisek

My kind of writing :) I like your report. I am still to visit Quebec and it is high on the list, but I never considered winter for the visit. It would be nice if you could give some hints regarding handouts and nightlife. (4.45)

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