Day 1 - May 24
Woke up early to catch the 6AM shuttle to the airport. Getting through airport security was no problem. Had to show ID numerous times. Jm was still stuffy with her cold, and my stomach was a bit off.
The flights went quickly as we slept through most of them. I spent part of the flights and lay-over watching Frodo and the company wing their way towards Mordor.
We arrived in Quebec and hopped into a taxi. Our driver, Gaston, regaled us with Monica Lewinsky jokes and such. A pleasant fellow, he did give us some historical tidbits as we drove through the city.
Arriving at Manoir Victoria, the bellhop managed to snag our bags ahead of me ensuring that he received a tip. We checked in and proceeded to find a place for lunch.
We ate lunch at the Les Frères de la Côte, a small café. We both had the croque monseiur which is French for “toasted ham & cheese”. After lunch, we strolled aimlessly through the old city.
A brief stop at the hotel for a nap turned into a four hour nap. Once we got back up, dinner was secured at McDonalds. As it was late and cold, we went back to the hotel to plan for the rest of the trip.
Day 2 - May 25
Set out in the morning and grabbed a continental breakfast in the hotel’s café. We then embarked on a walking tour of the lower town. While a few turns had to be backtracked here and there, we covered a lot of ground.
Our walk took us through a lot of old buildings, marketplaces, and antique shops. One gem shop in particular caught Jm’s eye.
By the time we completed the walking tour, it was 2PM… time to grab a bite to eat. We stopped into a small Italian bistro called Portofino’s. This choice was looking to be a mistake as our waiter was a bit terse and rude. However, the meal swayed our opinion as we dined on a delicious soup followed by a half pizza and spaghetti (salad for Jm). A small but scrumptious cake and some tea topped off the meal.
From there, we had no particular plans. So, we wandered around town stopping in shops that caught our eye. As the day started giving way to night, Jm’s thoughts turned to pastry. Alas, no decent pastry shops were to be found. We settled for some ice cream and returned to our room to rest and see what the next day would bring.
Day 3 - May 26
Rain… we awoke to a drizzling sky. I also woke up with a sore throat though I naturally did not tell Jm this. Since it was Sun., we decided to head up to the Frontanac for brunch. Jm was nervous that we would not be able to get in since we were not guests there.
We were seated immediately and proceeded to the brunch buffet. Yummy! That best describes the quality of food. And there was quantity to spare. Jm managed to eat judiciously so she could sample the various pastries. I, on the other hand, was too stuffed to partake of the scrumptious looking pastries.
One warning though… the restrooms in the Frontanac are for guests only and require your room keycard. I did not have a chance to test other magnetic strip cards to see if they would work, but the “loiter until someone goes in or out” method seems to work just as well.
After brunch, we rested a bit before heading out on our walking tour of the upper town. As we soon discovered, we had already walked by most of the sites when we arrived on Fri. We still followed the path in our guidebook and enjoyed putting the historical facts to the various buildings.
Once the tour was over, we snacked on some soft-serve ice cream and wandered into various shops along the way. It was then back to the hotel to relax and prepare for our last full day.
Day 4 - May 27
More rain… This time the forecast is not as promising. We splurged and had room service bring us breakfast. After several disconnected calls (intentional or not is unknown) to Grey Line Tours to book the tour in our package, we decided to take our business elsewhere and signed up for a different city tour.
Having some time to kill, we went shopping at an import store that had a lot of Asian goods. Jm bought some nice rice bowls and another wall scroll to decorate our place. I picked up some lucky kitties to keep me company at work and a book on origami.
It was still raining when we boarded the tour bus. Our tour guide Philip was going to take us to many places we had already seen and some places we had not yet seen.
Philip was full of facts about the city and mde the tour enjoyable. On amusing fact concerned an old man bearing a sign that was walking around the Parliament.
Apparently, the man had worked in the asbestos mines for twenty years. Upon retirement, he claimed that the mining has caused him medical difficulties resulting in difficulty breathing. The man apparently is healthy enough though to walk around Parliament every day since the early ’70s in +/- 30°C weather. Parliament and the locals seem to regard him as an amusing old codger. I hope his persistence pays off for him at some point.
The highlight of the tour was our return to the lower town. There was a gem shop there where Jm was eyeing some jewelry there when we stopped previously on our walking tour. I picked up the lapis lazuli necklace she had been eyeing. Jm was happy with her new bauble, and we finished off our tour.
It was then off for more shopping as I wanted to get Jm a nice, new outfit. Success was met at Jacob’s (Jm hopes to find them on the web); she picked out a lovely black top and grey skirt. Now, I have to find a place to take her so she can show off the outfit and necklace.
We decided to end our stay by eating at the Restaurant Le Crémeillè (ask Jm for the proper pronunciation). Our travel package included a $25 per person voucher for the restaurant. Considering our success with the Grey Line voucher, we were not hopeful that it would work.
After some discussion between the waiter and the manager, they honored the voucher. Apparently, they were expecting something other than the voucher I had and kept asking if I had some other slip. I did not and tried to tell them we did not care if they honored it, but they did choose to honor it.
We both decided to try their complete meal. The meal started out with a light and tasty clam & pasta appetizer. The chef followed this up with a delicious and warming soup containing chick peas, scallions, and a few other spices and garnishes we could not identify.
Jm chose for her entree the snow crab in a mayonnaise based white sauce. I tried a bit, and the snow crab was very fresh and tasty. For my entree, I chose the “supreme” chicken in a smooth chocolate and pistachio sauce. The chicken was moist with a little crunchy texture to the cooked skin. The sauce was excellent and left a bitter yet oddly pleasant aftertaste in your mouth.
After finishing our delightful entrees, it was time for dessert and coffee (tea for both us naturally). Jm chose a slice of the apple & cheese cake while went for a slice of the chocolate cake. The chocolate was superb… the chocolate was light, smooth, and rich. The cake sat atop a light, wafer crust. Mmm…
Overall, the service was very attentive, the food was superb from start to finish, and the prices were very reasonable. If you are ever in Quebec, be sure to eat at this fine establishment.
We retired back to our room to pack and have one last night of sleep in Quebec.
Day 5 - May 28
We got up early and had breakfast in the hotel cafe. After packing up the last few bits, we checked out and grabbed a taxi to the airport. Once there, we were able to grab stand-by seats on an earlier flight to Montreal; we both figured we might as well wait longer in Montreal rather than Quebec.
This turned out to be a wise choice as the Montreal airport was a confusing maze of checkpoints just to pick up Jm’s suitcase and get it onto the connecting flight. Customs was cleared without event, and the wait for flight began.
Quebec is the first city in North America that looks and feels like what I imagine an actual city in France is like. There were very few rude people, and Jm was an excellent French speaker during the trip. She was even complimented on her French by a few shopkeepers.
Television had both english and french channels. Was interesting to see how well US shows felt when dubbed in french (e.g., the Blaine-tology episode of South Park was hilarious in french while the Simpsons were not that funny dubbed in French).
The food was excellent, and there were restaurants and cafes everywhere. We wondered how all of them managed to stay in business.
Our hotel was very nice and close to most of the attractions in the old city. The Frontanac was ten minutes by foot.
To Jm’s dismay, we did not come across many pastry shops. Fortunately, we did find one close to us that managed to curb her sweet-tooth.
Overall, a most enjoyable but brief vacation.