From Our Perspective
Quebec City and Montreal
Updated: Sep 18, 2018
July 4th, what a better way to celebrate our independence than leaving for another country. We departed for a random trip we kind of threw together last minute. The travel bug was itching and we knew we didn’t have weeks to travel, because we knew we would book something for September. After looking at possible places near us, and feasible, we booked a quick four days in Quebec and four days in Montreal. Spoiler, this trip was a good one.
Quebec City -
What an amazing little city. Years ago Elizabeth and I traveled to Boston, MA and to this day we still joke about the trip. I wanted to do everything there was to do there in just a few days, and we did. For reference, we walked the city, took a 4 hour whale watching tour, and then a Red Socks/Yankees game, IN THE SAME DAY! Quebec/Montreal would be the same, but if we could find a moose and make Elizabeth’s lifelong dream come true that would be amazing.
Quebec City is a French speaking city in the province of Quebec Canada. Yet because it is a Canadian province, and a large tourist destination almost everyone speaks English. It is also considered to be one of the most European cities outside of Europe, the other one would be Montreal. A quaint city situated on the Saint Lawrence River, and the only fortified city north of Mexico. There are only four ports into the walled portion of the city and we stayed just outside the walls at the Hilton Quebec City. We didn’t rent a car as you could easily walk the city as it is only about a half mile wide by half a mile deep within the walls. We walked 55 miles total this week according to my Fitbit. There wasn’t a street in Quebec City we didn’t walk up or down at some point.
The heat wave hit Quebec City hard the first couple of days while we visited. On average Q.C. has a daily high of 77F in July, we landed to 105F. The heat was so bad, 70 people lost their life due to the heat. In July the Festival d’ete de Quebec, is an outdoor music festival and a full swing. There are 8 stages setup around the city where most of the artists are playing for free. Because it is an outdoor event all but the main stage are accessible in and around the stage. So Elizabeth and I went to the stage near the hotel couple of times, climbed the wall and sat and listened to music. Big names play this festival as well, Foo Fighters and Neil Young were playing while we were there.
To continue the walking theme for the week, I had read about cool Montmorency Waterfalls just outside of town. We found later that the big hill near our hotel was where they were. We took a quick 15 minute taxi out to the falls. The falls are beautiful and are 100 feet taller than Niagara Falls. But Niagara 85,000 cu ft/s flow rate makes these falls feel tiny. We arrived and took the cable car up to the top of the falls, walked around the grounds, across the suspension bridge over the falls, and then back down the 487 steps back to the tour center. This just also happened to be the way the website describes how you should visit, but we did it that way because who in their right mind wants to walk up 487 stairs? While here we also took a walking tour of the city, in that for a couple of hours you learn about major and sometimes cool little facts of the city. I couldn’t recommend this enough. We do it a lot in other cities to get familiar with the city but we are also big time nerds.
The food in Quebec City was hit or miss. We had some really good food and some not so. The crepes and oatmeal at La Buche, were really good. We ate here twice because it was so good. There were a few not so good too. Cochon Dinque menu wasn’t the one we searched and didn’t have anything on the menu we could eat.
But the worst meal we have had in a long time, is by far Le Café De Paris. This meal was so bad from the very beginning. We were walking around attempting to find some grub. We stumbled upon this place, and assumed by the menu and pricing it could be ok. We did not do any research prior to being seated. Mistake. We should have known something was not right when the Hostess, Server, Busboy, and Owner are all the same people. The other clue was the straight from the 80's Italian decor. We are talking the borderline racist type decor. But the emptied bottle of Chianti with the 11 inch candle dripping all over the place, was the tell tale sign we should have gotten the hell out of dodge. We didn't.
We were seated, given a couple of menus and swiftly were brought a basket of bread products that were all individually wrapped. Imagine civil war tack, wrapped in Italian worded packaging. There was no oil and balsamic either, just small packages of country crock, it was a crock of something. The table we sat at was almost a shared table with the two young ladies next to us. They had been there quite a while as they had about 2 inches left on their Chianti Candle, and were deep into their wine. These young ladies ordered their food as we were seated. I ordered a margarita pizza and Elizabeth a seafood pasta dish. About 30 minutes later the Hostess, Accountant, butcher delivered our food arrived, and still the young ladies food was M.I.A. Have you ever, in your entire life ever needed to salt pizza? Nope. There was no margarita about this Frisbee, the bottom was burned, and the cheese was a cheese crusted cracker with no sauce. COMPLETELY devoid of flavor. I attempted to put some salt on pizza and nothing could resurrect this corpse. Elizabeth tried her water with noodles, containing one mussel, and it was bland and had under cooked noodles. By this point we were passed the mad faze of the meal and it had turned into full disbelief that it could have been so bad.
By this point we had attempted to eat the two bites of edible food we could muster, and the young ladies next to us food had still not arrived. Several attempts to contact the plumber, roofer, server went unnoticed. Low and behold the food for the ladies had finally arrived, as did our check. As Elizabeth and I were brushing off now a very terrible meal, we noticed the first bite the ladies took of their extremely latent food was flavorless. When one of them reached for the salt and vigorously shook salt into their food we laughed to tears. We eventually were able to get the bill paid, and leaving we noticed that the table behind us also ordered the same meal Elizabeth had and was also shaking salt into the bowl. While this was the worst food experience we have had in a very long time, it was also one of the best.
We headed out of the beautiful older city of Quebec and towards the more modern Montreal. We rented a car with the thought that the three hour drive in between the cities would offer nice views and small local towns to visit along the way. Nope. It is a three hour drive reminiscent of the drive from Richmond to Virginia Beach. We didn’t want to keep a car in a major metro area where they have a lot of public transportation, and paying to park the car would have been silly. So we swiftly returned the rental and continued our walking tour of the cities.
Old town Montreal is a lot like Q.C. in that there are a lot of older buildings and shops to stroll through. We stayed in the Hilton in Old Town Montreal, just blocks away from this area. Our first night in town we walked a few blocks down and stumbled into Chinatown. It is a lively area and the local businesses were quite busy. . I got intrigued by a little shop with a lady folding these little white stringy things, that appeared to be covered in flour. She was making clear packages of four, and shouting for passers-by to come try one. Not one to turn down a sweet, I bought two of them. These little white puffy, peanut buttery, and coconut bite sized candies were too much to turn away. They were absolutely delicious, and I do not like coconut. We strolled along and before too long were hungry and found a very tasty Ramen place. The food was good, but the restaurant was a billion degrees inside.
We strolled up and down this city too, the metro made it very easy to get around and for relatively cheap. We bought the three day pass for unlimited rides, and we took advantage. We went out to the old Olympic park, old home of the Expos. We took it to the peel street station and went on another big hike. This hike was up Peel St to the Mt Royal Park, where we walked up 500 plus stairs at an average 30 degree incline to the highest point in the city. We toiled around the grounds, and continued down the trail to other sites before heading back down.
The food in Montreal was good too, and we had read that Montreal was a bagel city. We metro’d out to a bagel place that was all the rage. It was good, but I don’t know that any bagel is ever going to blow anyone’s socks off. Lastly in both cities in we tried Canada’s national food dish. Poutine. We don’t get it. We tried Poutine in what were rated, on several sites, as the places to go for this dish. We tried it the traditional way, Fries, Gravy, and Cheese curds. We also tried it with the fixin’s. Officially Meh.
As we were traveling during the height of FIFA World Cup, and France was doing well, we being in a French city, wanted to find a local bar to watch the matches. We found a local pub that was showing the match to a bunch of excited fans. We saddled up to the bar and ordered a nice light sandwich and well dressed salad. We enjoyed the match as France went on to win the match, and the crow was jubilant.
Amazing. We loved the cities, and the time away. If you happened to know anything about the Hotel Frontenac Q.C. and were wondering why I didn’t mention it. It was built specifically as a tourist trap. There is little history there and a gimmick. We walked around it and it is a very pretty hotel but tourist trap it be. If you’re looking for an introduction to Europe without leaving far from home this is a great start. This place is beautiful, relatively inexpensive, and the food was above average. If you haven’t been you should go, we cannot recommend enough.