I want to live in Quebec.
The above sentence pretty much sums up the entirety of my feelings for the city: this post is mainly the why. During this trip, Shiz and I have stayed open to cities that we might someday live in and while we’ve found several that we would be okay living in, we both actively want to live here. It was a physical sensation.
Why? Well, with 800,000 people in the metro area, Quebec strikes the right balance between big city and small town. As one of the oldest European cities on North America, it has been around long enough for some areas to feel like an old European town. The downtown has been dedicated as an UNESCO World Heritage site, the areas outside of that are gorgeous, the food is awesome, and people are really friendly. Top that off with easy access to nature, extremely cheap yet excellent beer, and top-notch French pastries and I couldn’t tell you an item on our checklist that Quebec doesn’t check. It’s just awesome.
Old Quebec – Upper
This is the heart of tourism for the city and where everyone spends the better chunk of their tourism time, and for good reason. Divided into Upper and Lower Old Quebec, the Upper houses the walls, Château Frontenac, historic fort, and numerous alleys for meandering. Most buildings date to the early 19th century, so walking around the city, you are enveloped by history and a sense of awe. It’s tourist central, so everything’s a gift shop or a restaurant, but there’s enough space and other things going on so that it is not oppressive.
Château Frontenac and the boardwalk behind it are must-sees. The view of the city as well as intermittent breaks to show old foundations make for a wonderful and awe-inspiring walk. The boardwalk begins from the main square in downtown and runs Southeast for some time, but most people stay around the hotel and surrounding areas.
The Basilica Notre-Dame de Quebec and Le Petit Séminaire de Québec – a private Catholic school – are right by and worth a visit. Really, though, just wander around Old Quebec for an afternoon or a couple of days and enjoy it.
Old Quebec – Lower
When you’re done with the basilica, a road to Lower Quebec runs right by it to take you down. There is a rail car that runs between Upper and Lower Quebec, but the walk down is wonderful. If you’re going to take the rail car, only do it going up. Make sure to visit Lower Old Quebec, though, because it looks like this.
Marché du Vieux-Port
Most people see Upper and Lower Quebec and call it a day, but we walked Northwest and around the hill on our way back. I cannot recommend doing this enough. It not only takes you through more wonderful buildings, but also the art district ad you can walk by the bay to reach Marché du Vieux-Port, a market filled with tons of excellent local food and goods. It’s a great place to grab lunch or dinner and pick up anything food related that you might desire, be it chocolates, cheese, a snack, or produce.
We walked around town some more before heading home, exhausted but thrilled at this wonderful city. Our walk took us through some of the more modern urban centers that act as the people’s hub to get stuff done. Even here we found some wonderful buildings and interesting art.
We took one afternoon and made the short drive North to Montmorency Falls. The lower parking lot offers some great views of the falls, as do the stairs leading up. The stairs are steep and plentiful, so while most people opt for the gondola, the stairs are where its at. Plenty of people take the gondola up and the stairs down, but we’re a lot cheaper than most people and took the stairs both ways. Honestly, it was fun.
At the top the falls present a sweeping view of Quebec and the river, as well as several excellent views of and from the falls, including a bridge that spans the water right at the top of the falls. A hiking trail up the river is supposedly pleasant and scenic, but we unfortunately didn’t have time for it.
And if you ever happen to visit Quebec in winter, check out the falls for the Sugar Loaf, when mist at the bottom of the falls covers a hill in ice, creating a wonderful slide.
Food & Beer & Cheese
Naturally, we stopped by lots of French bakeries. We found the pastries to be lighter than Montreal (though still surprisingly doughy on average) and found the best pain au chocolat in Canada that we know of.
Also, since we were in French Canada, I tried my hand at ordering all in French. Here’s how it went:
Me: “Bonjour! Un pain au chocolat, si vou plait.”
Clerk: “Yes. Would you like anytihng else?”
Well, at least I tried.
Finally, I must talk about the beer and cheese. On the drive up we saw numerous signs for fromageries and Quebec is known for high-quality cheese, especially on the Ile d’Orleans. I took Fin to a cheese shop where they let him try sample after sample (he was in heaven) and we walked out with a couple superb cheeses. Magnificent.
And then I found the beer place.
There was a market a couple blocks from our Bnb that stocked two walls full of local beer. It was amazing. Lots of Belgian inspired styles with a mix of other styles and very few IPAs (hooray!). Best of all, things were cheap. a 750 ml bottle of excellent beer routinely cost $7-8 CAD. It was hard not to buy tons of beer and the amount that I did buy forced me to drink 2-3 bottles of great beer every night.
Sometimes life is tough, though.