Quebec City – A Short Visit to a Delightful French Canadian City
Quebec City has been on my “list” for a long time. For whatever reason, my husband hasn’t wanted to make the trip, claiming it’s too hard to get to from Denver – well, he’s actually right about that as it took us nearly 14 hours of travel to get there. But what a charming and lovely city it is – so worth the time and effort, even if only for a couple of days like my friends and I had before boarding a cruise ship.When I select a hotel, I focus almost entirely on location, then find something that seems like it’s what I’m looking for in that area. For Quebec City, I highly recommend the Old Port area of the city, which is on the lower ground underneath the imposing Chateau Frontenac which sits on the hill of Old Town above it. The streets are small, mostly pedestrian, filled with shops and restaurants, and it’s simply charming. I had read about the Hotel Le Germain-Dominion awhile back – and now know why it was named the readers’ choice top hotel in Canada a few years back by Conde Naste. Charming staff, lovely breakfast, huge rooms with great bathrooms, and in a fabulous location that you can walk to everything in the Old Port – and as a bonus I found out, walk just one block to the river to board a cruise ship for a cruise down the St. Lawrence River.From the Old Port, you can walk up the steep hill (not an option for me with my still rather new left knee!) or take the funicular for $2. At the top of the funicular, you exit upon the imposing facade of the famous Chateau Frontenac, along the fabulous boardwalk promenade. As luck would have it, the sun was shining and temperatures were mild, perfect for strolling and taking in the sights.If your knees are better than mine, you can climb the 300+ steps up to the old fort for views like this of the entire area and the river beyond.If your knees aren’t up to that, it’s delightful to sit along the benches facing the river – and if you’re lucky, see your cruise ship dock like we did.Once you’re up in the Old Town, you can wander past the quaint buildings, dipping into the many shops and old churches along the way.Or you can wander to the newer part of the city along Rue St.-Joseph Est to find Clocher Penche – a wonderful bistro with the most surprising food. Make a reservation – even at 1:30 on a Thursday it was jam packed. We had a prix fixe menu that started with lobster bisque, then your choice of entree. Three of us split the cippolini onion over lentils and the salmon tartare with roasted beets. Hands down, probably the best meal of our 10 day trip!If you prefer to stay in Old Town to eat, and you can stand the wait (there is always a line out the door it seems), try the oldest restaurant in Quebec, Aux Anciens Canadiens Restaurant. The Salad Chevre Chaud was served with a maple syrup vinaigrette that was sinfully good.The Old Port area is also lovely to stroll through at dusk, taking in some more shops, perhaps stopping for a cocktail before dinner.We actually went up the funicular to the Chateau Frontenac for their happy hour in the bar lounge. Although they do offer some happy hour specials, don’t make the mistake I did. In the drinks menu it said “Champagne…………8”, which I guessed was some happy hour special for a glass of champagne. Turns out that was the table of contents, and champagnes were listed on page 8, and the glass I got actually cost $28! Whoops! My group had a good laugh at this, at my expense!When I travel, I like to take in some dining that is authentic, but having read other bloggers bemoan the Quebec staples like poutine, I figured perhaps rabbit was a better option, and Le Lapin Saute is well regarded, old, cozy, and charming, and just happens to serve some of the best rabbit around.My top dining out tip is to travel with a friend who likes to share things – order two different entrees you’d both like to share and go halves. In our case, we split the rabbit cassoulet and the rabbit in mustard sauce, and both were outstanding.I don’t use travel agents for many things, but I think they are invaluable for booking cruises. They can often get you special deals, my travel agent usually sends a small gift like a ship board credit that can be used at the spa or for beverages, and perhaps most importantly, they can help you select the best rooms on the ship you’ll be sailing on. Many times it doesn’t matter if you are on the starboard or port side, but in our case, had we not been on this side of the ship, we would have missed the setting sun and night shots over Quebec, which were absolutely stunning. I loved Quebec, and plan to return in the winter with my husband even if he protests the trip!
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