We’ve spent the past two days in Quebec, enjoying the history (and cuisine) of “New France.” My original thought was to drive as quickly as possible across Quebec to get to Nova Scotia (home of my heart), waving to Montreal and Quebec City as we passed by. I was, fortunately, overruled by my husband and oldest daughter, who wanted to see some sights and eat some croissants. To that end, we spent several hours on Thursday in the historic district of Montreal and spent yesterday morning in Old Town Quebec City.
We spent Wednesday night in a Super 8 Motel in Cornwall, Ontario. It was, unfortunately, over priced, and the woman at the front desk was shockingly rude, but they had clean rooms and good WiFi, so I was able to do some work. We slept well and set off for Montreal fairly early the next morning.
Montreal was rainy and beautiful. We drove along the waterfront parks, winding our way towards the historic district. Parking was a huge challenge, but we finally found a paid lot with several spaces available alongside a curb. It is very difficult to park the truck and trailer in cities. It’s even more difficult to park them in cities with narrow, one-way streets and lots of construction, which was the case in both Montreal and Quebec City! Fortunately, we did find appropriate spots, in large public lots, adjacent to the historic districts of both cities.
In Montreal, a short walk in the rain brought us to beautiful old buildings and stone streets. We found the Chateau de Ramezay, a museum built from the original governor’s house in 1708. In spite of the rain, we enjoyed the outside garden, built in the old French style. It was divided equally between a kitchen garden, pleasure garden, and orchard. Inside, we bought tickets for the self-guided tour of the home. Rooms on the first floor displayed art and artifacts representing the history of New France, while the basement rooms were designed to model different rooms of the house from the period, including formal dining room, bedroom, cellar, and kitchens. Our favorite part of the museum was the interactive screens in each room that told stories of Montreal and the governor’s house from different perspectives and time periods, including the French-appointed governor who had the house built, the governor’s wife, the architect, servants, fur traders, and later occupants of the home such as British officers and Hudson Bay representatives who used the building as their headquarters. These first-person explanations were informative and fun.
After enjoying the museum, we walked to the recommended Bar a Beurre down the street. It was a great sandwich and pastry shop with a charming, casual atmosphere and delicious food. We were a bit intimidated by the menu, which was written fully in French, but we managed to find perfect sandwiches- ham, Brie, and pesto for me, grilled cheese and bacon with caramelized onion for Jon, plain grilled cheese for Daisy, and a smoked salmon wrap for Mic. Of course, I had to order an Orangina as well, once I saw it in the refrigerator. Everything was fabulous, and we managed to spend a small fortune on pastries to go. The chocolate croissants were amazing, and everyone was happy!
As we drove away from Montreal, I was disappointed that we hadn’t had more time to spend there. We decided to drive the short distance to Quebec City and just stay there for an evening so we could explore in the morning and then head towards Nova Scotia. Though the Hotel Le Voyageur appeared more rundown than our previous night’s lodging, Booking.com did not lead us astray on this one! Our room was clean and spacious and the environment of the hotel was comfortable; plus, at $55 it was about half the price of our previous night’s room.
On a Friday morning, after a solid, complimentary, buffet breakfast, we drove into Old Town Quebec City. While we again struggled with the parking situation, we finally found a decent spot to park near the Citadel and the historic district. It was breezy and overcast, and quite chilly, but the sun peeked out occasionally and it was a lovely walk around the grassy site of the former battlefield and fort along the St. Lawrence River.
We connected with Lighthouse students via FaceTime from a plaza. We took them from the St. Lawrence River through the plaza, stopping to check out the statue of Samuel de Champlain, and then through a few streets of Old Town. After talking with the students, we looked for the perfect lunch spot to conclude our time in Quebec, since dinner would be in New Brunswick. We found La Buche, Cuisine Québécois and settled in for a variety of French-Canadian menu items, including crepes (both sweet and savory), braised rabbit, waffles with Nutella, and poutine. We covered a lot of bases with that meal!
The sun shone on us as we walked back to the truck after our three hours in Old Town Quebec City. We were a little relieved to be back on the road, leaving Quebec to head into New Brunswick. We thoroughly enjoyed our experiences, but there was a bit of stress around being in a place where we didn’t speak the language. We were all somewhat intimidated and I felt a lot of responsibility being the only one in my family with any knowledge of the French language. I’ll need to practice my French much more for future travels!