Our first stop in Canada- Quebec City, QC. Scott had been there in February a few years ago for a business trip and even in the dead of winter he thought it was a beautiful city. This is the closest to a European city as you may find in this hemisphere.
Quebec City is basically an old fort that was built into the side of a cliff overlooking the St Lawrence River. The Citadel sits atop the cliff at the very top and it’s about 273 ft above sea level. Our hotel was -4 ft above sea level. It honestly feels like you are always walking uphill! There are two major sets of walls that you have to climb over to get to the old section of town. You can take the stairs, walk down up the street or take an elevator (which we didn’t realize we could take until after we climbed the ridiculous flight of stairs)
The base of the stairs to get over the first set of walls. There were about 6 flights to get to the top.
Dillon and Casey at the top of the stairs. Look how far above the city they are at this point.
After the first flight of stairs, we headed to the Chocolate Museum, which was basically a chocolate shop with a small room full of historical items and descriptions, most of which were in French. We did get to try different kinds of chocolate in the “bubblegum” machines. It was a welcome break after climbing all those darn stairs. And we had not reached the peak of where we were going yet.
We headed up another steep hill to get to the Parliament Building. It was definitely worth the walk because it was gorgeous. There’s a beautiful fountain in a circle in front of the entrance to the building. (See picture above) They have gardens and statues surrounded the building and the building itself is beautiful. It was a gorgeous day, low humidity and about 70 degrees, perfect for walking around.
Just when we thought we’d reached the top of the city, we walked up another very long hill next to the Citadel to reach the walkway that takes you along the cliff overlooking the St. Lawrence River. It leads to the Terrase Dufferin, which is a long boardwalk that ends at the Chateau Frontenac. We started at the top and walked our way down for once. If you start on the boardwalk and walk the other way, it’s 327 steps up to the top. After all that hill climbing, I was glad we were finally headed down.
Walkway along the St. Lawrence from the Citadel to the Terrase Dufferin.
Chateau Frontenac from the gazebo on the Terrase Dufferin.
The neat thing about Canada is that they seem to encourage street performers and buskers. There are several spots set up in the busier areas that have bleachers where you can sit and watch the performers. We stopped and watched a guy juggle fire and knives on a unicycle. He did a mutli-lingual performance, and when he spoke English, he had a strong southern accent. Halfway through the show, he told us that was because the person who taught him English was from Alabama! It was the funniest thing to hear.
After we watched his show, we wandered aroudn the streets below the Chateau Frontenac and did some window shopping. There are several cobblestone streets with shops and restaurants that you can wander through.
After the first night, we were exhausted from walking nearly 10 miles all over the city, a lot of which were straight up, so we took an Uber to our dinner choice for the evening. We went to Macfly Bar Arcade over by our hotel. It is an old time arcade that serves alcohol and grilled cheese. While you eat there, you can play the arcade games for free. They have several different types of grilled cheeses to choose from. An important thing to note, if you are taking small children with you- the drinking age in Quebec is 18 but you have to be 18 to go into a bar, even if it is also a restaurant, even if you are with your parents. So that will limit your choices for dinner, as many places sell beer and alcohol. We were lucky enough to be traveling with kids that are nearly 6ft tall and over 6 ft tall, so it wasn’t really an issue. They also weren’t drinking, so they only got asked how old they were in a few places.
We stayed in a beautiful hotel just outside of the old city section of town and I’m glad we chose that because there were tons of places to eat nearby. We had breakfast at the place in the hotel called Table. It had good food and that’s the first time we discovered that in Canada, they don’t rush for anything. Breakfast took a while to be seated (even though there were a ton of empty tables) it took a while to get our order taken and a while to check out once we were done. We’d notice this at most of the other places we went throughout our trip too. They don’t churn over tables like they do in the US and if you are still talking and laughing, they don’t even bother you for the check. It was nice but sometimes annoying because you wanted to get out of a place. We got accustomed to putting our silverware on our plates and getting real quiet as a sign we wanted the check.
Also, patios and deck dining is a big thing there. They will shut down roads and make it pedestrian only and all the restaurants will have outside tables set up. It’s really nice that time of year.
The view from our hotel room! St. Jean the Baptiste Church.
Casey sitting inside at Noctem, since there were no more outside spots. They had the whole place open to the outside though, so it was still nice inside.
Believe it or not, that was all day one in Quebec City. We like to explore! Day 2 we ventured out to Montmorency Falls, about 15 minutes north of Quebec City and easily accessible by car. Parking is $10 unless you want to brave parking in the nearby neighborhood and walking. They have several activites you can do there, such as a cable car ride up to the top of the falls, rock climbing next to the falls and ziplining over the falls.
Since Dillon is a bit of an adventure junkie, he wanted to zipline over the falls. It costs about $20 US to do so and we drove up to the top of the falls to park and dropped him off at the zipline, and headed over to the bridge to see him go across. There’s a really cool, but very wobbly bridge that goes right over the falls. I thought it was awesome. Scott and Casey got halfway across and turned back around, stating that they were trying to get a better view of the falls from the lower observation area.
Dillon zipped across fearlessly and then met us on the bridge over the falls. After we took a few pictures, we decided to go back into town to grab lunch and do some shopping.
After the falls, we wanted to walk down into Old City again and go to Le Rue de Petit Champlain, a little pedestrian street lined with shops and restaurants. We hadn’t gotten a chance to go down there the day before since most of the places closed at 5. Don’t plan on eating dinner down there. Most places were too “fou-fou” for the kids anyway.
We walked down the hill and did some window shopping, and walked down the “Breakneck Steps” which were oddly safer than they sound to the Rue de Petit Champlain. It is a cute street lined with lights and paved with cobblestones. It very much reminded me of being in Brussels. Belgium. There are several places that were selling maple taffy, which is fresh maple syrup poured over crushed ice (snow in the winter) and then rolled onto a lollipop stick. Scott wanted to try it. It is straight up maple syrup, just slightly hardened which was fine, but not my thing. I feel like you have to try it though. It was like $2 US.
Maple Taffy being made
The top of the Breakneck Steps
Le Rue de Petit Champlain
Le Rue de Petit Champlain
After walking what felt like a vertical mile upwards the day before, I was all about avoiding stairs. We took the steps down and took the Funiclaire back to the top of the wall to get back to the upper part of Old City. It’s a tram that runs on railroad tracks that goes up the side of the cliff. It’s $3.25 CAD and worth EVERY penny.
Looking down from the top of the Funiculaire down to Rue de Petit Champlain.
One of the many walls you have to climb over to get into the old part of the city.
The afternoon was rainy and cold, so we went back to the hotel to find some indoor options. We ended up going to a board game cafe near the hotel called La Revanche. They have food and all of the classic and modern board games in both English and French. The cool part about this place was that they have Game Masters that match you up with a new board game and then set it up for you and explain the rules so you can jump right into playing it. We ended up playing 3-4 board games and having a snack. We spent about 3 hours there and finally decided we’d better find a place to eat dinner before everything closed. It was still raining a bit so we wanted to find something close to the hotel. There was a pizza place nearby that was open late, so we decided to take our chance and see what Quebec City pizza was like. The answer is amazing! It was brick oven pizza with fresh toppings and it was quite delicious. It was offered in different crust types. I got thin crust, Scott got the foccacia crust and the boys got traditional. All of us really enjoyed it. We stopped a t a grocery store on the way home to find some local Quebec specialties to bring home with us. We found different types of candy, including “Reese” instead of Reese’s. It was a little bit sweeter than ours and the chocolate was a different consistency. It was a late night and we had to be up early the next day to go on our whaling cruise, so we hit the hay around 11pm.
The Poutine I got for lunch one day. It had smoked meat, which is a Candian specialty, cheese curds and gravy over fries. It was amazing and I only ate about 1/3 of it.
La Revanche, a two story board game cafe with Game Masters that will find you a perfect game and teach you how to play it.
Reese. Not Reese’s. It tasted different too. I like our version better.
Canadians are obsessed with ketchup. Everything is ketchup flavored.
A note about the language. Most places in Quebec City have multilingual menus and most people in hospitality speak some English. That being said, the street signs, the names of places, etc are all in French. The minute you leave the city, the amount of people that speak English declines sharply, as does the English on menus, etc. We used the Google Translate app for menus and signs but Dillon and I do speak a little bit of French. I also started doing DuoLingo about 50 days ahead of our trip and I found that to be very helpful. I would not have remembered enough of my high school French without it. We had some incidents where we didn’t translate properly and some hilarity ensued. Like Dillon thought this place was offering cat cuddling and when we walked in, it was a CVS basically. There were no cats to be cuddled. Ordering food without a certain item on it was considered too difficult for them so they just stuck with the basics. If you are planning on going to Quebec, knowing some French is going to serve you well. Scott and Casey were frustrated with the language barrier pretty fast.