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Is Quebec City Worth Visiting?

So having tasted a bit of winter weather in the Rockies, it was nice to head to Quebec City for a bit of sun.

Like every journey we’ve taken on this trip, moving from one place to another has taken long days with long stopovers in airports or stations. For QC, it was up at 4 for arrival at the airport at 5.30, for a 7am flight. Add in a couple of time zones and a long wait in Montreal for our last flight and Voila! The whole day is gone and we are looking like warmed up slop!!

But we were very happy with our accommodation in Les Lofts St Joseph in Saint Roch, a gentrifying suburb just outside the ramparts and the old town. The apartment was large and lofty and very comfortable. It even had a little roof garden with a panoramic view of the city which was lovely for a late afternoon drink after a warm day’s touristing. The supermarket was at the end of the street, restaurants down the road, and the Vieux Port and Old City not far, as the crow flies. But HOLY MOLY was it a hefty hike up those ramparts!

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Originally the city was a fort/citadel high above the St Lawrence river. It’s the old town that is of most interest. Overall though we found Quebec City a little too staid and conservative for our tastes. While clearly I knew this was French Canada, I didn’t know that Quebec City only speaks French. Many of the people have little English unlike in Montreal which is far more of a dual language city. All signs are in French, no secondary English or concessions. This is the epicentre of French Canada in so many ways.

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There was nothing wrong with it just nothing very exciting about it. It certainly didn’t have the interesting vibe that Montreal or Vancouver has, or even the vibe in some provincial French towns.

But the foooooood was gooooood!

Our first night after the torrid journeys of the day, it was great to eat about 400 metres down the road at Les Sale Gosses. Staff who knew their food well and had enough English to cope with tired Aussies. The next night ended up with us sharing our yummy French cheeses and pates (bought that morning at the market) with a couple from the same apartment building whom we met on the roof garden.

Our best meal of the trip so far was at a VERY nice little place called Le Saint Amour. We shared a platter of foie gras served 5 different ways, and was like a journey through styles of innovation in serving this yummy dish. Tiny delicate aspic cubes and sweetish and sourish accompaniments! Even a foie gras brulee! Phil had steak and I had Red deer as our main courses, both of which were sublime. Just a fabulous night! And at least there, they didn’t call the first course “appetisers” and the main course “entrée”! That’s driving me crazy, everywhere we go! And makes NO SENSE. And if you say main course they look blank until you tell them that’s what you want for “entrée”, or even correct you with “you mean entrée”! How on earth did that get into the language?? Quite farcical.

Interestingly despite the conservatism, we found some interesting public art, a terrific trompe l’oeil depicting some of the historical scenes of the city and a few bits of street art around. So all was not totally lost. We also stumbled upon a game of petanque being played on a piece of dusty ground on the street. Very French moment! However Phil was deeply disillusioned at the fact that there were no door knockers on these old buildings. I was a bit sad about that too, because I like them, but seeing there were also no gargoyles I was truly grateful! Note to self, must check Dr Google to see if these obsessions of his qualify for treatment!

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Montreal on the other hand was a short overnight visit, so we could be in time for the train the next morning. However, we had enough time after our arrival to go and see an exhibition of Canon International Press Photography winning photos. It was both beautiful and intensely saddening a lot of the time with so many press photographs focusing on disasters, poverty, and other seemingly unchangeable situations.

Despite that we were able to go and have another good meal and sleep in another sweet hotel at confirming for ourselves that we had boo-booed badly by putting the time into Quebec City and not Montreal.

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Next we're in New England!

Posted by OwenGadflies 00:53 Archived in Canada Tagged montreal quebec_city canada Comments (0)

And So To Canada

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Ohmigawd!!! Am I BEHIND on keeping you up to date?!

It’s been just over 2 weeks since we left the ship in Vancouver and that’s 2 weeks of catching up to do.

Vancouver was a lovely place. It’s climate was like Melbourne’s, mainly temperate with a bit of this and that thrown in. It’s British Columbia, so it is British Canada not French. It is very multicultural, it is near the water, it doesn’t take itself too seriously. They seemed very comfortable with Aussies, like they ‘get’ us! That felt reassuring. It kinda felt like home a bit, which was just what we needed after the cruise.

Because we had decided by that point that cruising is not our scene! The only kind of cruising I would consider, at this stage, would be river cruising or perhaps Mediterranean cruising. However, it is the IDEAL way to see the vast expanses of Alaska and the beauty that everyone raves about. So we’re glad we did it. But we were also glad not to be herded anywhere!

We stayed in a hotel in the city, which allowed us to walk around a lot and we all know that’s the best way to get a sense of a place. We were high up on the 16th floor which gave us some nice views of the city, but the separate lounge was an internal room with low ceilings and gave me claustrophobia. I HATED sitting there! So we were out a lot!

One of the most delightful times was a walk through Stanley Park and around the sea wall on the perimeter of the park. It was a gorgeous warm sunny day. Just bliss after glaciers, snow and jackets! It was a long weekend Monday and lots of people were out walking their dogs or kids, inline skating or riding bikes (really big in Vancouver!) We also walked through a more wooded and peaceful part of the park and enjoyed the solitude and the quiet immensely! Stanley Park sits at the end of Downtown Vancouver and its 1000 acres, bordered practically entirely by Vancouver Harbour and English Bay, has fabulous views over the bays and the city from various spots in it. They are very spoilt with that beautiful park. It’s a definite don’t miss spot in Vancouver!

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Of course being in a hotel we had to eat out and get some relief from the tedium of the fairly repetitive and ordinary food on the cruise. Oh and what blessings we got! Trafalgars Bistro was a little place about 15 mins out of town that would hold its head very high amongst any good restaurant in Melbs for its use of good fresh produce, well prepared, and served by staff who know their product and like being skilled at their job. We got the last table on a Monday night. Does that tell you how popular it is with the locals?

We’d been told that Granville Island Public markets was a great little spot for foods and arty-farty stuff and so on a quieter day we headed out there on the bus. It was a pleasant meander and Phil got some good photos, so he was happy. And then we ate fish and chips on the dock and looked at the water and the city and chilled some more!

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One adventure we took on in Vancouver was a day trip to Vancouver Island. While we would have preferred to stay there a few days and really explore, like so many options for this trip, we just couldn’t fit it in. So we took a ferry across to Victoria, or actually it only goes to to the eastern side of the Island at Swartz Bay and then took a cab to Butchart Gardens.

These gardens along with Stanley Park and Granville Island were the high-agenda items for Vancouver. In National Geographic’s Top 10 Gardens in the World, they are justifiably famous. While I think they could never hold a candle to Monet’s Garden in Giverny, I know I am biased. However they did remind me of the beautiful Powerscourt Gardens in Co Wicklow in Ireland. It has different spaces in its 50 acres with different styles eg a large Japanese garden, a typically ornate structured Italianate garden, a Sunken garden like a beautiful dell, and a Rose garden that would have sent my mother into spasms of delight.

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It also reminded me a little of Wendy Whiteley’s garden in Lavendar Bay in Sydney. Butchart’s too was reclaimed, like Wendy’s magic garden, by the wife of the Pioneer Quarry’s owner who turned the scarred landscape into amazing beauty back in the early 20th century and while the family still own it, it has become a highlight for Canada.

Another fabulous meal at a great little spot called Lupo – an Italian place fully 50 metres from our hotel!

The next morning it was time to collect our car, a very cute little Fiat 500 with a bit more oomph than it looked like it might have, and we were ready to head towards the Rockies.

More on that next time!

Love Chris

Posted by OwenGadflies 20:32 Archived in USA Tagged canada vancouver vancouver_island stanley_park granville_island butchart_gardens trafalgars_bistro luno Comments (1)

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