Quebec City - Tres Magnificent!

For me, visiting Quebec City was like taking a trip to Europe without the hassles of a passport or foreign currency.

The city is a wonderful mix of European ambiance and Canadian history, all rolled into one compact and easily explored package.

Quebec City - Tres Magnificent!

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Re Carroll on August 17, 2002

Old Quebec City is a UNESCO heritage site and the only city in North America that still has its original defense walls. I spent much of my time within the walls of Haute Ville (Upper Town). Many of Quebec City’s historic buildings have been converted to hotels, restaurants and shops which makes it a joy to explore. Chateau Frontenac looks like it belongs in France’s Loire Valley. It is the most well known part of Quebec’s skyline and one of the most photographed hotels in the world.

To get to Basse Ville (Lower Town) you can walk down a seemingly never ending series of stairs or take the funicular. I enjoyed the walk down but going up was a different story so the glass walled funicular came in handy and offered panoramic views as an added bonus. Basse Ville is filled with picturesque streets such as rue Petit Champlain with its many shops, galleries and restaurants. Nearby, Place Royale contains the site where Samuel de Champlain founded Quebec in 1608.

Quebec City was as enjoyable and picturesque as I had expected and I can’t wait to make a return visit to enjoy this picture postcard perfect city. ${QuickSuggestions} ${BestWay} Old Quebec City is small enough to cover on foot. Make sure you have comfortable shoes because of the cobblestone streets.

Centre International de Sejour de Quebec

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by Re Carroll on August 17, 2002

This hostel had two main things going for it - the price of $18 (CDN) per night and its location inside the walls of the old town. It’s a very popular place and was booked solid even in mid April so I was very glad I had a reservation.

The building is old and not particularly attractive: it’s pretty dark and dreary although staff do their best to keep it clean.

My room was similar to the others with 3 bunk beds in a room. The walls and ceiling had cracks in them and the wooden floors were very squeaky. Showers and toilet were down the hall. The faucets for the shower were outside the stall so it was really important to make sure you had the right temperature before you got in. The toilet was in a tiny little cubicle with a rusty sink and even though it was clean, it didn’t look it.

Hostel staff were really helpful - always organizing events like pub crawls, a Sugar Shack visit (a trip to the country to see how maple is tapped from trees) as well as dispensing Band-Aids for blisters, tourist advice and maps. Just beside the reception area was a reading room with Internet access and a small library.

Breakfast wasn’t included but there was a huge kitchen for those who wanted to do their own cooking. There were large floor to ceiling coolers for grocery storage as well as three microwaves and lots of stove top burners. Beside the kitchen was a pool table and a TV/conversation area so it was a fairly lively place.

The hostel is open 24 hours a day for check in but they have a "no noise" policy after 11 PM for the dorm floors which seemed to be enforced because it was very quiet.

It’s located in an area filled with older hotels and private apartments and felt very safe at night. It’s about a 5 minute walk to Chateau Frontenac and Terrace Dufferin and there are lots of restaurants within a few blocks.

The cab ride from the train station was under $6.00. A city bus stops a few blocks away but the uphill walk to the hostel could be a nuisance depending on how much luggage you have.

The hostel is a good place for those on a tight budget or like me, those who will do a couple of very cheap nights in order to splurge later.

Auberge Internationale de Qubec-Hostelling Quebec
Quebec City, Quebec
(418) 694-0755

Chateau Frontenac

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Re Carroll on August 17, 2002

Staying here was something I’d always wanted to do and was the highlight of my trip to Quebec City. The hotel was built in 1893 and was the second of the railroad hotels (the first being Banff Springs in Alberta) built across Canada to provide luxury accommodations for travelers.

A tour guide told me that it is the most photographed hotel in the world and I can well believe it. It looks like something you’d find in France’s Loire Valley. Its location is spectacular - seemingly perched atop the city walls with the St. Lawrence River practically at its doorstep.

My room was in the original part of the hotel and had a view of the courtyard. All of the 621 guest rooms are decorated differently and my queen size bedroom was done in blue and cream. The room was cozy with a large desk and chair as well as a small table and chair beside the dormer window. The mini bar had the usual selection of alcohol, soft drinks and snacks. A very welcome addition was complimentary milk and cream for the coffee maker (none of the horrid powdered creamers - thank God).

The light in the closet came on automatically when the door was opened - I had to play with it a few times, just for fun. The bathroom countertop was marble and there were lots of towels as well as an assortment of toiletries including bubble bath and full size bars of soap rather than the tiny "sample" size. I especially liked the large wall mounted magnifying mirror on a swivel stand which was great for applying makeup.

If there was any draw back it was the fact that both elevators were at the other end of the floor so I had quite a long walk to my room. The hallways seemed a bit dull because of the dark wood and wall sconce lighting but it fit with the atmosphere of a turn of the century hotel.

The fitness area, on the 6th floor, had a large pool, separate hot tub and full size gym including treadmills, bikes, step machines, weight machines and a good selection of free weights. My favorite part was the mentholated steam sauna and I had it to myself early one blissful Monday morning.

The hotel has a gigantic lounge with views of the River, a couple of restaurants and many shops and gift stores with a wide assortment of elegant but expensive items.

I took a 50 minute guided tour of the hotel and learned much about its history as well as viewing some of the rooms and conference areas. Cost of the tour was $6.50 per person and the guides were dressed in period costumes.

Room rates at the hotel start at about $200. (CDN) and increase according to the view with river view rooms being the most expensive.

Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac
Quebec City, Quebec, G1R4P5
418 692-3861

Cafe Crepe Breton

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Re Carroll on August 17, 2002

This restaurant is extremely popular with tourists and locals alike and there is often a line up at the door of people waiting for a table. The interior is filled with dark wood and slate rock walls and has a real homey feel to it. It is divided into a couple of small rooms with tables and/or booths.

I chose to sit at the counter in the main room because I didn’t want to wait nor did I think it was fair for one person to take up a table when there so many groups and couples waiting. The best part about counter service was watching the cook making crepes on the griddle and boy, did she work hard! She was constantly in motion as she poured the batter in a thin stream onto a round stove top griddle and then used a wooden tool to spread the batter in an ever widening circle until it covered the whole of the griddle. While those cooked, she was busy making thick sliced French toast, eggs, etc. She could have used help but there wasn’t room for two in the small cooking area and the waitresses were run off their feet anyway.

The menu wasn’t large - soups, sandwiches, salads, omelets and of course, crepes. These are the star attraction and are made to order and priced according to the number of filling ingredients - usually between $4.00 and $6.00. Choices include peppers, cheese, ham, onions, spinach, mushrooms, asparagus, tomato sauce, etc. There are also dessert or fruit crepes including fresh banana, strawberry, blueberry or raspberry. I had a delicious cheese and mushroom crepe that was very filling and cost $3.85 (CDN) - definitely a bargain.

The restaurant is licensed for alcohol but since the morning air was cool, I ordered a large cafe au lait. It was served in a bowl so did double duty - my morning caffeine as well as a hand warmer.

The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Credit cards are not accepted but they do accept automatic bank debit cards.

Cafe Crepe Breton
1136 rue St. Jean
Quebec City, Quebec
(418) 692 0438

Les Voutes St. Louis

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by Re Carroll on August 17, 2002

This restaurant is on one of the main streets in Vieux (Old) Quebec and is only a couple of blocks from the Chateau Frontenac. It is located in an old building with walls that have been stripped of stucco and feature bare stone and cement - very atmospheric. The entrance is a few steps below the street and there are two levels with tables on each. Small tables with candles flickering in red glass holders and antiques scattered throughout as well as easy listening jazz and contemporary music help to set a relaxing tone.

Some of the menu items were poached salmon, seafood, coq au vin, brochettes , etc. They also featured Table D’Hote - a 4 course meal, including tea or coffee for one set price. This is pretty common in many of Quebec City’s restaurants and is a very good value.

Except for the soup, there was a choice of at least a couple of items per course. As an appetizer, I had a choice of smoked salmon, escargots or a baked brie croquette. I chose the croquette and it was served with a small mixed green salad and raspberry vinaigrette dressing. Next came cream of turnip soup (it might sound strange but its mild flavour and creamy texture made it a winner in my book) and a basket of warm herb rolls. Main course choices included pork, poached salmon, chicken in wine or beef. I chose boeuf bourguignonne, tender chunks of beef with pearl onions and sliced mushrooms in a rich gravy. It was served over fettucine noodles and accompanied by steamed vegetables. The noodles were a bit starchy but the bourguignonne was so good that it made up for it. For dessert, I had maple mousse cake and a pot of tea. Not only was the meal delicious but it was attractively presented and very reasonable - $30.00 (CDN), including taxes and tip.

The restaurant is open for dinner nightly. I didn’t need a reservation since it wasn’t the height of the tourist season but it might be an idea to make one if you're here during the height of the tourist season.

Voutes St. Louis (Les)
50 rue St. Louis
Quebec City, Quebec
(418) 694- 0182

Tours du Vieux Quebec

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by Re Carroll on August 17, 2002

I wanted to see more of the area but didn’t want to rent a car and try to sightsee while navigating unfamiliar roads so I booked a 4 hour bus trip called "Country Side Tour".

Our first visit was to rural Ile d’Orleans, about 15 minutes away. Once on the island, we could look across the St. Lawrence to the Laurentian Mountains, part of the Great Shield that covered the continent during the ice age. We drove through the small village of Sainte-Petronille and learned that many of the original settlers to Quebec came here to farm and raise their family. I was disappointed that the tour didn’t stop anywhere on Ile d’Orleans but it did provide lots of information on the early years of Quebec City.

Within minutes of crossing the bridge from Ile d’Orleans we were at Parc de la Chute Montmorency. This is Quebec’s answer to Niagara Falls although Montmorency is almost 100 feet higher. We stopped at the Visitors’ Centre just long enough to take a few pictures and then drove to the top of the falls. Nearby is Manoir de Montmorency, built in 1780 as the home of a former Quebec governor. It now houses a restaurant and conference area. A wooden boardwalk leads to a lookout point and further on, to a suspension bridge above the Falls. On the other side of the bridge are lots of walking trails through the woods.

From Montmorency, we drove along narrow, quiet country roads on the way to St. Anne de Beaupre. Some houses were so close to the road that the bus just narrowly avoided hitting a corner of the roof.

We stopped at Chez Marie, a small farm with a bakery and gift store that specializes in home baked bread and maple products including jelly, butter, mustard, chocolates and of course, maple syrup. Our guide mentioned that Quebec produces 80% of the world’s maple and people in Quebec consume almost 50% of it.

Our last stop was at St. Anne de Beaupre, about 40 miles from Quebec City. The main attraction here is the Shrine of Sainte Anne de Beaupre. It is the oldest shrine in North America and dedicated to St. Anne who was the mother of Mary. Many people make a pilgrimage to the Shrine in the hope of curing an ailment or disease. Inside, some of the pillars are covered with crutches and other items left by those who have been cured. As well as the main Basilica, there is a smaller Chapel downstairs decorated with blue and green mosaics and an exact replica of Michelangelo’s Pieta.

Near the Shrine is Cyclorama, a giant panorama of Jerusalem that took six people and four years to paint. None of my group were interested enough to pay the $6.00 admission fee although our guide did tell us that it was a magnificent work of art.

From St. Anne, we took the shorter route to Quebec City via the highway.

Vieux Québec
Rue de Tresor and Grand Allee
Quebec, Quebec, GIR 5B8
+1 418 522 8108

Maison Chevalier

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by Re Carroll on August 17, 2002

Located in Basse Ville, near Place-Royal, this house is part of the Museum of Civilization that is located further down the road. The original house was built in the 17th century and then rebuilt in 1762 after being gutted by fire. Construction was expensive because of the large number of windows and this made it one of the premier houses of its era. It changed hands a number of times and was the London Coffee House Inn for most of the 1800s. It was restored by the Quebec government in 1959 and designated a heritage building.

Currently, it houses the temporary exhibit "A Sense of the Past" although the fellow at admissions said this exhibit is pretty permanent. Each room in the house is decorated with furniture and antiques from the 18th and 19th century as well as pictures of a typical family from 1865 and wooden models of the house and surrounding area as they were during that time. I particularly liked the bedroom with the four poster bed and heavy bed curtains that were used to keep the heat in.

The house is very bright and well laid out and each room has lots of written information although most of it is in French. There is no admission fee although there is a box for donations if desired.

No flash pictures are allowed although they were very understanding when my flash went off by accident. The Museum is open Tuesday to Sunday, from 10 a.m to 5 p.m.

Maison Chevalier
50 rue du Marche-Champlain
Quebec City, Quebec
(418) 643-2158

Choco Musee

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Re Carroll on August 17, 2002

I am a confirmed chocoholic so when I saw the sign advertising a Chocolate Museum, I was sure it had been created just for me.

It is part museum and part store. The retail area reminded me of a Belgian or French chocolate shop. It is filled with a wide variety of handmade chocolates, truffles, cookies and brownies as well as creamy ice cream. The shop is quite small and just a few customers can make it crowded but it’s worth that tiny inconvenience. Among the many products that I’d recommend is rich and creamy dark chocolate with a pear filling or any one of their truffles - heavenly! Even the ice cream cones are topped with chocolate decorations.

In a separate room at the back of the shop is the actual museum. It traces the history of chocolate from the time of the Mayans until present day. There are displays and photos of all the stages of chocolate making - from harvesting the beans to creating the final product. There is a video on chocolate making, samples of different molds and a window offering views into the kitchen where all their heavenly concoctions are created.

Both the museum and the storefront window showcase some very interesting creations such as a chocolate palm tree with desert animals and my favourite, the chocolate clock with a working (metal) pendulum. My husband thought this was so you could eat your way through time - definitely an idea but I’d hate to destroy all the work involved in the clock’s construction.

Although there are no free samples, I didn’t see anyone leaving without chocolate - purchased from the store of course. This was a very smart marketing ploy by Eric, the chocolatier, and one that seems to be paying off well for him. It paid off for me too - in clothing that seemed to be just a little too tight after indulging in some of his goodies.

The museum is located on busy rue St. Jean, about a 5 minute walk from Old Quebec. It is open daily from 10 a.m. and Sundays from noon.

Choco Musee
634 rue Saint Jean
Quebec City, Quebec
(418) 524-2122

Picnicking in Quebec City

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Re Carroll on August 17, 2002

Quebec City is filled with picturesque spots that are just perfect for a picnic or just taking a relaxing break from sightseeing. Even a quick snack becomes a memorable event due to the surroundings.

A picnic means food and there are many places in which to find picnic goodies. A small store near the church in Place Royale sold individual containers of creamy maple yogurt and I found myself making a couple of return visits just for that. Outside the walls, along busy rue St. Jean, almost every block had at least one small bakery/deli or mouthwatering chocolate shop. There was also a grocery store that has been in existence since the 1800s. Prices were high but there was a good selection of imported specialties.

One of my favourite places was Epicerie Richard within the walls of Upper Town at 42 rue Des Jardins. It is just off rue St. Louis, not far from Chateau Frontenac and it is open every day. The store has it all: cheeses, pates, ready made meals (a big selection of Chinese), deli meats, sandwiches, wraps, fresh baked goods, chocolate, alcohol and snacks. One of my favourite treats was chaussons framboise - a large, buttery, raspberry turnover that melts in the mouth and costs less than $2.00. Along with regular sized bottles of wine, they also sell half bottles and individual coolers and beers - just the right size for a picnic.

Getting the food was easy and so was finding a scenic spot to enjoy it since the town is really one big photo opportunity. In Upper Town some of the more scenic places included:

Along Terrace Dufferin on a bench overlooking Lower Town and Levis across the River. Chateau Frontenac is up close and personal which makes this one of the most popular spots in town so don’t expect solitude.

At one of the observation points along the stairway that runs from Terrace Dufferin to the Citadel. I wouldn’t recommend a heavy picnic basket for this one since there are lots of stairs to climb. Good views of Levis and the River.

Anywhere on the grassy slopes of the park located at the top of the stairs and near the Citadel. This is probably the best place to find somewhere semi private since it’s a very big park.

In Lower Town, I enjoyed relaxing with my maple yogurt at Place Royale. This large square doesn’t have any benches but you can sit on the steps of Eglise Notre Dame des Victoires, Quebec’s oldest stone church. Place Royale is filled with restored buildings that have been converted into shops and there is an impressive mural that covers the complete side of a building at the opposite side of the square.

For a quieter, but no less scenic picnic spot, take the ferry across the river to Levis. Terrace Levis is on a hill above town and commands an extensive view of the St. Lawrence River as well as Quebec City’s skyline. Again, pack a light picnic basket since there are a lot of steps to climb or else take a cab from the ferry terminal. The ferry runs frequently, costs $2.00 each way and takes about 10 minutes. Some people take the ferry just for the views of Quebec City and it is definitely worth the few dollars for the return trip.

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