We crossed the St. Lawrence River, parked the car, dumped the suitcases, and moseyed across the Quai St. Andre to stretch our legs after the seven hour car ride. The sound of live music drew us toward a grouping of white tents, colorful umbrellas, and a few hundred laid-back Canadians. Nice! Within a few moments of our arrival in Québec City, we had stumbled upon Festibière, an outdoor celebration featuring over 500 brews of the province.
As I sampled Unibroue’s Blanche de Chambly, I surveyed the city scene: a long stretching bike path, ancient stone walls twisting skyward, antique shops, sidewalk bistros, and an outdoor market that would prove to be bulging with fresh produce and regional specialties. My son excitedly gestured towards the harbor, chanting “Bateau! Bateau!” I knew at that moment that it was going to be a great vacation.
I was visiting Québec City for five days with my parents, husband, and toddler son. From the moment we parked our little blue Subaru, the car keys lay idle. There was more than enough to see, do, buy, and eat within a 15-20 minute walk from the apartment we rented near the old port.
The streets of Québec are lined with outdoor cafes, but we opted to purchase fresh ingredients from the Marché du Vieux Port each day and prepare our meals in our apartment’s kitchen. We feasted on mussels steamed in white wine, cassoulet, wild mushroom quiche, salad and sandwiches with jambon cru, and dry sparkling cider. As we finished up our dinner at night, we could view the stunning “Moulin des Images,” an artistic representation of the history of Quebec projected onto massive grain silos in the port (apparently the the equivalent of 25 IMAX screens).
One night, we indulged in a delicious meal at Echaudé on Rue du Sault au Matelot, where the menu offered both classic bistro fare and seasonal specialties. My husband ordered scallops (pétoncles) with prosciutto and radicchio; they were cooked perfectly. I had a beautiful veal with carrots, lobster mushrooms in a white balsamic reduction. We relished every bite.
When not eating, we were mostly walking, or rather hiking, the city’s steep inclines. To reach the landmark hotel Chateau Frontenac and the other architectural treasures of the upper town, you must scamper up steep cobblestone streets that wind along the UNESCO designated fortifications. We strolled along the Dufferin Terrace, a wide wooden plank boardwalk with excellent views of the St. Lawrence and watched the street performers under the statue of Samuel Champlain. After learning about the 1759 Battle of the Plains of Abraham at the Musée de la Civilisation, we were motivated to climb even higher, up to the battle site (now a grassy park) and the Citadelle, a British military post built in the 1820’s.
On our last day in the city, we rented bikes to cruise the long, flat, paved path that hugs the river. If you ever visit, I highly recommend it. We only did a short bit, but the trail continues for miles.
Here are a few photos we took while strolling the streets of Québec:
Québec City is so beautiful, and it painted such a contrast to another beautiful spot I recently visited and wrote about for this blog: South Caicos Island. And not just because of the vast difference in climate. The vibrancy found in Québec stems from the depth of its history and traditions, rather than its natural elements (such as the pristine coral reefs, beaches, and mangroves of South Caicos). If the Turks and Caicos Islands are “Beautiful by Nature,” then Québec is “Beautiful by Culture.”
What a great pleasure to have visited both destinations this summer!