If you like an old-world charm, cobblestone streets, tall imposing buildings, and a view over a river, then QC is for you. It is a great place where they have preserved the old city as it was with lovely buildings from so many years ago. A stone wall surrounds this area inviting you into the magical land of yesteryear. With horse-drawn carriages and the sound of live music reverberating down the narrow streets, it is hard not to fall in love.
We live north of Chicago and it seemed to be a simple idea; let’s drive to Newfoundland! So we packed up the car and headed east through Michigan, entering Canada at Port Huron. We hopped onto the very straight, long, and rather boring Trans Canada Highway and began our 3-day journey to Newfoundland where we will hopefully see some Moose on the way.
Our first interesting stop was Quebec City, the Capital of Quebec Province. It is the Second largest french speaking city after Montreal and is one of the oldest European settlements in North America. There is an ancient stone wall that surrounds most of Old Quebec, which was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1985.
We stayed in a beautiful 1938 home the L’Arvidienne Couette et Café, a B&B with a delightful couple, Mireille and Serge as our hosts. The home was filled with beautiful cherry wood and original sliding doors with large beveled glass panes. The original builder was a sawmill owner and he set aside the best wood to build the house. During breakfast, Mireille told us the story of how they bought the house and were ready to move across Canada when they received word that the truck with all their belongings was on fire due to one of the workers smoking, and a cigarette ash had fallen inside the truck. All. Their. Stuff. Gone. We have moved a few times and I just cannot imagine that happening. But they continued on and slowly built up their business with a lovely mix of old and new.
We asked for a recommendation for dinner and headed out. We arrived at Cartier Street where we had a yummy dinner at Au Restaurant Le Graffiti. It was dark outside when we finished and we enjoyed all the lovely street lamps that were lining the street. So unique!
We headed up towards the old city along Rue Saint-Jean. The entrance to the old city was very obvious. There was a huge fortress wall built with several entrances. As we walked into the gate we heard an outdoor comedy show going on. The comedian must have been funny because everyone was laughing but he was speaking in French so we weren’t able to eavesdrop. As we walked further into the city, we noticed how lively it was, from colored buildings, a street lined with restaurants with outdoor seating, and lots of people milling about. We enjoyed the energy, walked around a bit, and looked forward to returning in the morning.
Walking through the town in daylight was just as exciting and we enjoyed the character of the city very much. There are many areas where you can go to different sections by walking up or down stairs. There is a yearly race in town called the Staircase Challenge that guides you up and down all the hidden staircases throughout the fort area and it was going on early in the morning. We arrived at the tail end and many were definitely walking! Tough race.
From our hosts, we learned that Quebec City is a huge tourist area in the summer. There are 200,000 residents and they host 5 million visitors a year. We arrived early but the crowds were picking up. We walked up and down all the little streets and enjoyed looking at all the shops.
One of our stops was inside the large hotel Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, which looks like a castle from the outside. It was started in the late 1800’s as a hotel stopover point for those traveling on the Canadian Pacific railway. Over the years there have been a lot of expansions and changes, but it still retains its medieval and renaissance look, which is very imposing. Overall we really enjoyed Quebec City, inside and out, and would love to return here in the winter.
Some observations on our drive:
Lots of 5th wheel campers
Lots of sports cars
Lots of 3-wheeled motorcycles