Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Quebec City - So Europe, So Close

After using up quite a bit of my 2014 vacation time with a February trip to Europe, an April trip to Florida and my final week tied up for a December destination wedding in Punta Cana, I was excited when an opportunity arose for a little weekend getaway in Old Town Quebec City. 

I knew very little about Quebec City prior to arriving, other than that it was one of the oldest cities in Canada, the only North American ‘walled city’ north of Mexico and also the holy grail of French culture in the country.
Upon pulling up to our hotel (Le Manoir d’Auteuil) within the fortified walls of Old Town, we were quickly immersed in shades of our European adventure a few months earlier. Old Town Quebec is split into two historic segments, Haute-Ville (or Upper Town) and Basse-Ville (or Lower Town). The Upper town sits atop a plateau overlooking the region and the majestic St. Lawrence River, with Lower Town down below. Both parts of Old Town are quite interesting, historic and worth exploring. 
We began our time here with a walk down Rue St. Jean, a tourist hub with a variety of restaurants and shopping. The main part of the street was blocked off from traffic which turned it into a European style pedestrian zone which was pretty cool. When we were done wandering we set in for some good pizza eats at Mille Et Une Pizzas. The thin crust pizza was excellent and on par with one of my favorite Toronto Pizza restaurants, Pizzeria Libretto. As night was approaching and we were tired from the travel we decided to settle in for some gelato and catch a (fully bilingual!) street performance in a city square in front of the historic Notre Dame de Quebec cathedral. 

Bustling Rue St. Jean
Street Performer in the square

Saturday we were up early and first headed to the Citadelle, a military fortress just outside of the walls of Old Town. While it may have been interesting to walk around the Citadelle, we were not prepared to pay $16 per person to enter its main core. We got there just in time for the ceremonial “changing of the guard” (10am) and were able to see some of the action from the common areas outside of the paid center. 

'Changing of the Guard' underway at the Citadelle

From there we ventured to the neighboring Plains of Abraham. A formal battle site turned public parkland. We strolled across some of the many different paths weaving through the rolling hills. There isn’t all that much to see here, but a visit to the south edge of the park which overlooks the St. Lawrence is a must. 

Finding our way at the Plains of Abraham

After taking in the views we decided to head down a massive wooden staircase to Lower Town. These stairs were unlike anything I had been on before and seemed to go forever. If you are nervous about heights then I would definitely avoid them as they are quite steep and imposing. Once we (finally) reached Lower Town we were able to walk alongside the river bed with some nice views, cool old houses and plenty of other walkers, runners and cyclists. We eventually reached Rue du Petit Champlain, a narrow pedestrian zone street with plenty of souvenir and boutique shopping along with a slew of restaurants. This was a charming area, if you can get past the thick crowds. Upon reaching the end we choose to skip the pay-per-ride funicular back to Upper Town and instead took another set of lengthy, however less imposing, stairs back to the top. 

Cool looking homes along the river-front
View of Rue Petit Champlain

Our next stop back in Upper Town was the centerpiece of Quebec City architecture, the Chateau Frontenac Hotel. This towering giant of a building can be seen from all over the city and we spent some quality time walking around it’s perimeter as well as the surrounding area known as the Dufferin Terrace. We were able to enter the hotel and explore the lobby areas, but felt the views from outside were much more impressive. 
The beautiful Chateau Frontenac
View of the St. Lawrence River from the Dufferin Terrace

While in that area we stopped for lunch at Le Chic Shack. A trendy little quick-service spot which specializes in burgers and poutine. We were impressed with the food although felt it was a bit overpriced for a quick lunch. Afterwards we headed back to Rue St. Jean and enjoyed some sunshine on a patio with a beer. While the beer and people-watching were nice, the service was terrible so we quickly left and had a 2nd drink on our hotel’s patio. 

Smoked meat poutine from Le Chic Shack
Ice cold Boreale on Rue St. Jean

Dinner that night was spent at La Pizzalo, the top-rated Pizza spot in the city. While the pizza was unique and service excellent, we agreed that their signature cheese overflow was a little much for our tastes and made their paper-thin crusts almost disappear. 
Our final evening saw us grabbing a drink on Rue Grand Allee, a hotspot of nightlife with several bars/restaurants in a row all with jam-packed front-facing patios and music pumping. Definitely the spot to be if you’re looking to party in Quebec City.

Mike @ Palms & Pints 


No comments:

Post a Comment