Red Eye to Quebec City
This summer Mike and I decided to take a spur of the moment trip to Quebec City in, "La Belle Province." Neither of us had been there before and we thought... why not? We had enough Avion points to fly anywhere in the world and there was a fantastic deal at the Hilton hotel which was located within easy walking distance of the old city.
Within the week, we were off on the red eye from Vancouver arriving to a beautiful sunny Quebec morning. After a short taxi ride, we found ourselves checking into our hotel. Believe it or not, we actually managed to sleep a little on the plane so there was no need to waste the first part of our trip recuperating. We put on some comfortable shoes and got ready to log some serious mileage.
Before I go any further... I thought it would be helpful to insert the map below as a reference. It's kind of small, but it does show where our hotel was in relation to the old city. As you can see, we were within easy walking distance to all the sites in both the upper and lower town of old Quebec.
Approaching the main gate, I couldn't help but notice the groups of tourists and locals wandering atop the fortress walls, or leisurely sitting with their feet dangling over the edges. The mid-morning atmosphere seemed so relaxed as people went about their own exploration of this magical place. Once inside, I felt as though I had just stepped back in time some 400 years, with the narrow cobblestone streets and architecturally stunning stone and wooden buildings all around me. This seemed to be just the right place for a truly romantic getaway with my hubby.
As we walked down Rue Saint-Jean I noticed that many of the cross streets were relatively calm with only the odd grocer or tiny cafe to be found amongst the residences. Rue Saint-Jean however, was alive with people enjoying the many unique restaurants, cafes, pubs, shops and its also the street where I discovered my favourite bakery. In the evening, we discovered this street would close to vehicle traffic allowing the pubs and restaurants to expand their seating onto the sidewalk and the street performers to set up on the road. The atmosphere here was always upbeat and festive...simply wonderful!!!
Then there was the magnificent, "Chateau De Frontenac" perched high atop the fortress walls overlooking the St. Lawrence. The huge wooden boardwalk just outside the Chateau allowed for breathtaking views of the countryside and the many church steeples of the town of Levis on the opposite bank. This was also a fantastic location for us to sit and have lunch at any of the small parks nearby.
From the Chateau, it was only a short walk down a narrow street, or a quick tram ride that took us to the base of the fortress in lower town. This too, was equally rich in fantastic restaurants, some even tucked away in little alleys or tunnels, as well as art studios, antique stores and shops of all kinds. Local artists added further interest to this place by installing their art works in the most peculiar of places. During both the day and the evening, I found lower town to be buzzing with activity. The restaurants were fantastic and always busy. It was so nice to have a great meal along the historic St. Lawrence river with locals and tourists from all over the world. The Marche Du Vieux-Port, which is situated along the river is a large indoor farmer's market that has spectacular local meats, cheeses, wine and of course colourful produce.
Lower town is also the place where you can rent a bicycle to ride the 15km to Parc de la Chute-Momtmorency waterfall. We took a taxi to the falls and zip lined across the top... AMAZING!!! We then tried to walk back the 15km in the blistering heat to our hotel... not smart. The trail is pretty remote and parallels a highway for a good portion. You will find little to no shade here... our advice... take a taxi back unless you're on a bike. Lower town is also the place where you'll be departing to take cruises along the St. Lawrence on private sailboats or small cruise ships. We found all of these excursions very reasonably priced compared to similar trips in Vancouver. They were so reasonably priced that we did them all!!!
There is also a ferry that shuttles tourists and locals back and forth across the river to the town of Levis. If you're feeling energetic, you can walk up the steep hillside to the famous Chocolats Favoris ice-cream shop or boutique stores perched atop. If walking doesn't seem that appealing, you can take a rental bike across with you on the ferry and enjoy the extensive biking and walking paths along the St. Lawrence. Levis has a fantastic waterpark for the kids just outside the ferry dock that is always filled with people trying to escape the summer heat.
There is so much more I could and would like say about this incredible place. We didn't even touch on the fantastic parks and other public institutions all around the city. So much well preserved history and culture here... which all just seemed to come alive during our trip. It really is the closest thing to a european experience you can have without leaving the North American continent. So proud to have this wonderful UNESCO world heritage site here in my own backyard so to speak. We loved it so much that we'll be going back next summer with our girls.
To find out more about Old Quebec City, check out their official tourism site.
On a side note, we really did put on some serious mileage logging 98km of walking in 6 days. Fantastic!!!