05/09/2016

MY QUÉBEC: 3X3 PLACES TO SEE, EAT AND ENJOY


Québec City is many things: the oldest city of North America, the capital of the only French-speaking province of Canada, and my old hometown. There are tons of things to discover in this l'Accent d'Amerique, but there's nothing quite like a local's take on exploring the city. In this post you can discover my 9 shortlisted hotspots for an authentic Melissa's Québec experience!

The 400-year-old Québec City is the capital of the province of Québec, but doesn't exactly give you this urban metropolis vibe as one would expect from a capital city (in other words: if you're into skyscrapers, head to MONTRÉAL). Some even dare to describe my dear Canadian headquarters as boring; sure, Québec can be a hard bite to swallow with its ca. 500 000 inhabitants if you're used to tightly packed cities like New York or London. As a European heading to Québec City you'll also need to be aware of certain attributes typical for most North American cities: the distances between destinations can grow huge. Be ready to rent a car if you fancy a trip outside the city!

No matter what they say, I adore Québec. It took me a while to fall in love with this Francophoneland and its somewhat temperamental people, Québec being fundamentally different to any other city I had ever lived in. But once it hits, there's no way out. Once you come to terms with the occasionally confusing transportation system (no train, no tram, only RTCBUS), settle to walking long distances or give up and decide to rent a car, the city can be a total bliss.

I divided my Québec experience into three colour coded categories:
- 3 attractions to see in RED
- 3 restaurants to eat in GREEN
- 3 locations to stroll around and relax in BLUE.
Click the map underneath to observe our oncoming tour up close. Allons-y!

Click to enlarge! / Map from Google Maps

3 PLACES TO SEE...

1. LA TERRASSE ⎮ PIERRE-DUGUA-DE-MONS


La Terrasse Dufferin, or just "La Terrasse" for locals, is one of my favourite areas of Québec. To put it simply, La Terrasse is a wooden walking promenade attached to the side of the Château de Frontenac hotel (my article about the hotel HERE) in Old Québec. It's a perfect location to stroll around with ice cream or cold drinks while admiring the gorgeous St. Lawrence river or the Petit Champlain district just down the edge. During winter the city also builds a sledge slide on the terrace.

Better than the terrace itself is the hill right next to it. The view you get from climbing on the Terrasse Pierre-Dugua-De-Mons is absolutely breathtaking. It's no more than 100 metres climb at most, and the little balcony to admire the view is located right next to La Citadelle military school. I've climbed on this spot so many times I swear I could draw the silhouette of the mountains in the horizon by heart... The view is especially magnificent during the night, when the hotel Frontenac is lighted.

This is where I fell in love with Québec, and I hope you will too!




2. CHUTES-MONTMORENCY WATERFALLS


Québec, as Canada in general, is all about outdoors and breathtaking nature. The Montmorency Falls are fairly easily accessible with a 30-minute bus drive on bus 800, and is the perfect getaway from your city holiday. It's the spot where I've dragged all my friends and family members who came to visit me, and for a reason: there isn't an easier way to demonstrate just how stunning and close to Canadians' everyday life the local nature can be.

The Montmorency Falls rise to an impressive height of 84 metres. It's possible to admire the falls from multiple angles: there are various viewpoints and paths on both sides, and even a tension bridge to cross the water from up close and personal. (Not for the faint-hearted!) If you fancy a physical contact, it's even possible to climb the stairs all the way down to the bottom of the falls and get soaked by the mist.

Admission to see the falls is free, but parking costs 12 dollars. Multiple other activities are also available on the site, such as via ferrata and rock climbing.




You can get around the falls by following these wooden paths attached to the rocky wall. Walking all the way to the other side of the falls also offers you a beautiful skyline of Québec City:


EXTRA TIP! Did you rent a car to go and see these falls? An easy way to extend your excursion to the wonderful landscapes around Québec City would be to cross the bridge right across the highway from these falls, and head to the Île d'Orleans, a rural island right on the side of the city. You can drive around the island in an hour or so while stopping by local food producers (black currant wine is a must!) and admiring the endless fields of corn growing along the road. Île d'Orleans is also the locals' hotspot for picking apples in autumn!


3. QUÉBEC OBSERVATORY


Québec is a gorgeous city seen from street level, so why not check it out from a bird's eye view? Québec's Observatory offers you a truly tremendous perspective on the capital: you'll have a 360-degree landscape opening in front of your eyes all the way to the mountains on the horizon. If you ever felt like Québec is a small city, you might want to think again after seeing how far the outskirts of the city can stretch. The observatory reaches a whopping 221 metres and is located on the 31st floor.

The below picture presents some very quebecish features: a protest in front of the parliament building (the square with a grey roof on the bottom-right), the ongoing construction for the Red Bull Crashed Ice skating race even when there's no snow in sight, the fortified part of Old Québec standing on the edge of Cap-Diamant hill, looking over the vast St. Lawrence river. This is the picture that makes me let out a deep sigh and daydream of my days in Canada. Sigh!

Website: OBSERVATOIRE DE LA CAPITALE
14$ for adults, 11$ for students. Children 12 and under for free.






3 PLACES TO EAT...

4. TORA-YA RAMEN


I have eaten in countless restaurants in Québec, but Tora-Ya Ramen is my absolute favourite. The restaurant being close to my old workplace, I've spent hours upon hours savouring through their menu from ramen to desserts and bottles of sake. Their portions are big and fairly cheap (ca. 13 dollars per bowl). This place is incredibly popular though, so make sure to arrive right after their opening time, 5pm. 15 minutes later you'll have to be ready to queue for a table, as the place is really small and the space is limited.

Their main specialty is obviously bowls of ramen in different styles (Tokyo/Sapporo), but Tora-Ya Ramen also serves other Japanese dishes. I recommend you try the Kimchi Ramen if you're anything like me and want to taste everything at once (photo below). And don't get scared: the staff will greet you in Japanese when you step in! After that French or English will do just fine.

Website: TORA-YA RAMEN



5. HOSAKA-YA SUSHI


Yes, I have a thing for Asian food. Sushi chains are easy to find in Québec (Sushi Shop, Yuzu Sushi), but after ramming through most of them, the small Hosaka-Ya sushi remains my number one. The restaurant is so tiny you might miss it the first time you walk past it, and it's hard to stuff in if there's even a slight queue to the counter. It's all part of the charm!

The sushi is of excellent quality and definitely worth the wait. I often rely on the chef's combinations, as I'm really bad at choosing.

Website: HOSAKA-YA SUSHI


6. PLANÈTE POUTINE


My number 6 hotspot is, at the latest, the spot on my list where every quebecer reading this will turn to look at me and say: "Really, Mel? Planète Poutine?" However, I think you haven't properly experienced Québec before you've tried one of their special culinary gems. Poutine is a fast-food dish distinctive to French Canadians: french fries, soft cheese (goes by the name "squeak squeak") and brown beef gravy. You won't have hard time finding restaurants serving poutine in Québec, as there are multiple chains all around the city - Chez Ashton and Poutineville to name a few.


I picked this Planète Poutine in Sainte-Foy district specifically for their large selection of poutines in different styles, good quality and personal attachment (I used to live within walking distance). Poutine is the kind of food every quebecer desires while being drunk, hangover or just plain lazy, and this specific Planète Poutine restaurant was my destination whenever I suffered from any of the aforementioned states. My own personal favourite from their menu is the Chop Chop poutine with sour cream and spicy sauce.


Beware of portions sizes when ordering poutine: you might think "it's just french fries", but one bowl of this delicacy will surely be ale to fill even the hungriest man. I would never order anything more than XS or S-sized poutines. My small Chop Chop photographed below!


EXTRA TIP! Fancy something more classically Canadian? Try one of these restaurants:
RESTAURANT AUX ANCIENS CANADIENS
RESTAURANT LA BUCHE
RESTAURANT 1640
All three serve classic Canadian food: game, maple syrup and fat. Yum!


3 PLACES TO ENJOY...

7. QUARTIER PETIT CHAMPLAIN


When it's time to think of your crew back home and shop for souvenirs, you want to head to the Petit Champlain district. Québec just doesn't get any cuter than this! Just down the hill from La Terrasse and Frontenac you get to sink into this picturesque little labyrinth of alleys and craft shops. Whatever souvenir to bring home you desire, they will have it in Petit Champlain. That funny miniature moose warning sign? They have it. Plaid-printed overalls? They have it. Keychains made from caribou antlers? They have it. An apron with a print of a naked female body with marijuana leaves covering all critical parts? They. Have. It.



It doesn't matter if you visit Petit Champlain during summer or winter: the atmosphere is different, but the charm stays the same. The district also has a solution in case all the shopping has worn you out and climbing back to the upper city feels impossible. You can hop on the Funiculaire, a little elevator that brings you up and down to La Terrasse (seen in pictures below). The entrance to the elevator is inside a little convenience store, and with 2 dollars you'll get a pretty nice last glimpse of the Petit Champlain district from above.




EXTRA TIP! Since you're down there, why not take this whole Québec thing a step further and go see it from the other side of St. Lawrence river? You can hop into a FERRY from the Old Port (upper right corner in the above picture) and cross the river to Lévis, Québec's friendly rival city. Just between us: quebecers like to say the best thing about Lévis is the stunning view they get of Québec... In my opinion the best thing to do in Lévis is to visit the original CHOCOLATS FAVORIS, an amazing ice cream parlour where they dip your cone to whatever chocolate you choose.


8. PLAINS OF ABRAHAM


Because Québec wouldn't be a serious historical city without a real battle field, right? Originally the site of the battle where the British empire beat the French in 1759, the field is now converted into a national park (designed by the same man who designed Central Park in New York!). This park is a perfect location for any picnic, Sunday stroll or even a music concert - the annual Festival d'été de Québec takes place on the Plains.

I used to come here during summer to study French under the trees, sneakily listening to passers-by's discussions to see if I'm able to catch a word or two. Later on I started jogging there too - once I got lost and ended up wandering around the plains for solid 2 hours before finding my way back home. Can't recommend that!

P.S. You must be wondering who this Abraham guy was. It happens that he was just an everyman who used to keep his cows on the plains, practically a no man's land as it was, so locals started to call the plains "the plains of Abraham".



EXTRA TIP! Looking for a place to have a night out? A street called Grande Allée is your spot. Located just next to the Plains, Grande Allée is home to a wide range of bars, bistros and nightclubs. There's something for everyone: LES 3 BRASSEURS for beer tasting, L'ATELIER for fancy cocktails, and nightclubs like MAURICE and DAGOBERT if you really feel like losing yourself.



9. 3RD AVENUE ⎮ LA CITÉ-LIMOILOU

I've been dragged back and forth this avenue so many times there was no way I wouldn't include it in my personal Québec exploration list. Limoilou is a funny little district north of city centre: the streets are only named by numbers, so getting lost is practically impossible if you know the number of the street you're heading to. There are rues and avenues though, so make sure to check which one it is that you're trying to find!

The 3rd Avenue of Limoilou is one of the main streets of Old Limoilou, pulsating with life and community culture. Small restaurants, breweries and specialized grocery stores surely have something for everyone's taste. During summer they bring out an old yellow piano, available for the public to play. 3rd Avenue also frequently hosts small community music concerts, when the street turns into a tiny festival area.

My favourite sushi place Hosaka-Ya, mentioned as the 5th hotspot on this list, is also located on the 3rd Avenue.


Have you ever been to Québec? Is there something you would have added to the list? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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2 comments:

  1. A great post with gorgeous pictures! I'm sure to look for this post again when my tour de Canada is a bit closer (we're talking June next year, oh why so far away...) :)

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    1. Thank you! Québec makes it really easy to take gorgeous pictures, since it's such a stunning place to photograph. :)
      Wow, your travel plans sound great - I wish I was going on a tour through Canada too! If you need any tips on transportation or travel in Canada in general, I'll be happy to help. :) I was actually planning on writing similar posts on Toronto and Ottawa too when I find the time! (they've been in my drafts for 6 months now, hmm.....)

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