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Québec, Une Ville Magnifique

CANADA | Wednesday, 8 February 2017 | Views [316]

Au Canada! I cannot believe that I have never visited your beauty before this trip despite living so close to your border!

After doing some research and wanting to travel to Canada for awhile, 2017 is the perfect year to visit. Lonely Planet named Canada one of their top picks for 2017 and from what I can tell it's a big celebratory year for Canada itself (150th birthday! as well as Montréal (375th birthday!!!). Plus most cities are celebrating winter festivals in early February! So on Friday evening when I saw a flight notification appear for over $700 cheaper than normal prices (and a solid $800 less expensive than any of the other flights on the same day with the same airline) I booked a Sunday, February 5, 2017 10:30am flight from Columbus to Québec City via Newark!!

My flight was pretty smooth, though we did circle for awhile due to the snow storm that had come through and visibility was low. **Though my Uber driver who picked me up said that AirCanada pilots don't have this problem since they're used to the weather.** I was giddy when I saw the snow once we landed! The airport has wifi and an ATM at YQB airport, so it was very easy to get some Canadian dollars and request an Uber driver. He spoke both English and French.

I usually check out Hotwire, AirBnB and Google for accommodations, and this time Hotwire was the winner for best deal. I stayed at the Best Western PLUS in Centre-Ville, which is in the St. Roch area of Québec. I usually prefer something a little more local, but truthfully this was perfect. It's walking distance to everything: 15-20min to Vieux Quebec/Old Québec, right in the center of town, directly in the St. Roch neighborhood known for local delicious restaurants and breweries. Plus the concierge was able to whip out a map and share some of her personal favorites with me.

SUNDAY evening I set out just to explore the city since it had snowed a good foot that day, and my wanderlust was in high gear! I walked from my hotel toward Vieux Québec, stopping at the St. Louis Gate/Porte St. Louis, where a picturesque ice skating rink and beautiful lights immediately made me swoon. A couple of American guys from Maine asked me to take their photo, and Aaron gave me his Carnaval de Quebec effigy, which is $15CAN and required for entering some parts of the winter festival. Important to note is that the battery life on an iphone is crazy when the cold takes over. At first it said I had a fully charged battery and the next minute said I had 6% left, which was not true. Nonetheless, I decided to just walk throughout Old Quebec at night taking in the sights without photographing it, just smiling :) It was Poutine Week in Québec so I had to get poutine. Of course! I forgot that it was Super Bowl Sunday and for some reason didn't expect places to be so crowded, but I ended up at Pub du Purvais near my hotel and sat at the bar. It's a cozy local pub with local beers and decent food. I had a great time chatting with Antoine, my bartender, Alexandre and Sylvain, who sat next to me at the bar. Sylvain was particularly enamored by me since he lived in Arizona for 8 years and was friendly and excited to talk with an American but maybe a bit too excited... I had to shut him down. Also he was pushing 40 probably sooooo no thank you.

MONDAY morning I was full of excitement! I dressed with some insane layers and set out for the day in the -13C degree weather with a windchill making it feel like -13F instead! I went to the local cafe next to the hotel, ordered a chocolat chaud et pain au chocolat aux noisettes and read the local newspaper, which dedicated a significant chunk to world news including a 3-page spread on Donald Trump's latest actions. Then, I walked up a massive snow-covered hill (on the sidewalk) to Vieux Québec. I walked for a good 2hrs before seriously needing some warmth, so I took a 40min tour of l'Assemblée Nationale du Québec, where I totally nerded out and ended up watching a press conference with some of hte heads of the Quebec Province government. I could write an entire post simply on the fascinating aspects of the Canadian and Québec governments, but I'll save that. Next, I wandered through some of the Carnaval de Quebec to see the international award winners for snow sculpting, saw the Fairmont - Le Chateau Frontenac before aimlessly wandering around. I came to a massive space with a bunch of people jogging, cross-country skiing, and walking. The Plains of Abraham is one of the largest urban parks in the entire continent of North America, and it was gorgeous!! Despite the incredible wind, I walked along the Promenade des Gouvernors, whcih the city dedicated to the people. After taking a brief nap since walking for 9 miles in snow and wind up major hills is exhausting, I headed back out into the cold to le Pétit Quartier at the base of the city below Vieux Québec. It is absolutely picturesque with the winter decorations, lights, ice sculptures, and store fronts that look straight from old European charm. Monday night I ate at Poutineville, because well it is known for its poutine and it was the last day of Poutine Week! Another delicious local beer - Le Cheval Blanc

TUESDAY was amazing! I went to le Carnaval de Québec (the winter festival). I got the snow maple taffy, which they literally pour a line onto a slab of snow and ice and you take a popsicle stick and roll it up after about 3sec and eat it. DELICIOUS! I also ate a beavertail, which had been suggested to me though I had no idea what it was. I was skeptical, but it's essentially a dessert like a long pastry fried dough with delicious toppings - I had nutella and banana of course, with a side of Caribou, which is the must-have drink of the festival and is sa weet Québécois alcoholic beverage composed of red wine, hard liquor (usually whisky), and maple syrup or sugar which I drank warm. It's small but packs quite a punch! Bonhomme is the mascot for the festival, and I toured his ice palace, complete with paintings and artwork along with ice sculptures and carvings in the walls of the palace. There was massive bowling with people inside or pushing the "ball" at the massive pin, kids playing games, sledding, axe throwing at a target, swingsets made of snowboards, and a bunch of games and hockey. Later, I went back to Le Petit Quartier to see it in the daylight and walked into some of the stores. I also had a local beer - Boreale, which is defintely becoming my favorite local beer brand. I walked to the edge near the river at the port, saw the cannons outside the walled fortress that is Quebec. The Observatoire de Quebec is absolutely amazing! Located on the 31st floor, there are some great facts and lessons about Quebec on the walls and incredible views on all four sides for a 360 degree view of Québec City. Fabulous! Tuesday I decided to treat myself to a delicious French meal at Le Cloche, down the street in St. Roch area. I sat at the bar at one of the only open seats, and a local woman about my age was in the chair next to me. After an awkward few minutes of us not really acknowleding each other more than a smile, she asked me if I had the time. I did, of course because I always wear a watch, and I took that opportunity to strike up a conversation in French. It was amazing!!!! I wish I had done that earlier. We talked for almost three hours in French, and Camille was great! We had good chats about culture, our lives, work, how things are done in Quebec vs France vs USA, and we're now friends on Facebook. I'm so glad I mustered up the courage to talk with her and not to be too discouraged by my French, which was actually a lot better than I gave myself credit for beforehand!!! I did have a humorous interaction with one of the guests who tried to sit next to me while Camille was out for a smoke, but the owner whom I had briefly interacted with earlier came over and told that man to leave and that he was not welcome to disturb me. :) Fabulous. The weather forecast predicted a good 8-15 inches of snow Tuesday night, so I was absolutely giddy after walking out of hte restaurant!!! There was already a good 4 inches of fresh powdery snow on the ground! Camille had invited me to "le spectaclar" at the bar down the street but by 10:30pm I was exhausted from the day so I politely declined. I kinda wish I had gone but I was unsure of how to excuse myself if I didn't like it and was truthfully about to fall asleep. So snow it was!

Wednesday, 2/8/17, I decided to go ahead and book my train ticket for Montréal for the early evening (5:45pm departure) for the 3hr train. I wandered around the city in the snow almost up to my hips from the night before, made  a snow angel, slid down some hills for fun, played in the snow for a bit in a park after checking out and storing my luggage at the hotel. I came across the Morrin Centre, which is an English library in an old prison. It's beautiful! I also took a ferry across the St. Lawrence River to the other side (round-trip only cost $7CAN!) and had some magnificent views of Québec and Le Frontenac from the frozen river. The ice was also pretty incredible!!! I LOVE that the people use sleds to bring their children all over the place - suhc a good idea! And adorable. After eating a fabulous crepe and bowl of hot cocoa (yes, bowl, not a cup) in Vieux Québec, I casually walked back toward St. Roch past the VIA Rail Station (Le Gare de Palais).

C'est tout a Québec ! C'est une ville magnifique !

 

Some thoughts about La Ville Capitale --

The people are genuinely some of the most friendly that I have ever met. As winter sees an influx of anglophones for winter festivals and over 1/3 of the people speak both French and English, they are most happy to speak with you in either language. According to a few people I talked with and a stat I saw at a museum, only 2% of Québécois are anglophones. Most people speak French as their primary and English next, though some people said their schools taught both at the same time in primary school.  All of the signs have French first then English below, but it is an incredibly easy city to navigate if you don't know any French at all. The people really appreciate when you attempt if you do know some French though, so I did even though it had been 5 years since I last truly used my language skills and boy was it worth it!!  The further west into English-speaking land the two languages will flip (such as in Toronto). The people use public transit like nobody's business but also walk everywhere.

One can distinguish between the province and the capital city by the use of "e" vs "é" as in the province = no accent and the city has one. There is, by law, only one official version of each city, so in both Canadian English and French the accent is present when properly identifying the cities (Québec, Montréal, etc.) though obviously we recognize where one is referring in colloquial terms.

There are many one-way streets, and the people are unafraid to drive right up those steep snow covered hilly streets so beware and pay attention! They'll stop for pedestrians crossing even not on sidewalks in some parts of town, but I noticed they don't particularly care about crosswalks or intersection pedestrian signs except at the major streets. :) So just walk if there are no cars coming.

 

Tags: canada, quebec, solo travel, winter travel

 

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