Today was a good day. I had crêpes AND poutine. In Québec City. A good day, indeed.
Québec City is old. Very old. If you’re into history or seeing stone buildings put up 400 years ago, head over to Q City. The French and the English (and the Americans) duked it out for this place a while ago, and there’s lots to learn about all of that, especially with a tour of les plaines d’Abraham (Plains of Abraham) and all the plaques and statues on the walls and in the parks. Not being a history nerd or much into tours, I didn’t learn about any of it, but I did appreciate the architecture and had a blast walking through the old cobblestone streets, and on the boardwalk and through the Château Frontenac, taking photos, and poking my head into the shops.
This morning I drove into town with Denis, my couchsurfing host, which was great because the highway system here is really confusing and he was my navigator in the car and then my tour guide in town. (And he’s an enthusiastic Frenchman with a penchant for good books, so we had a lot to talk about.) We walked through the most incredible narrow streets lined with old stone buildings and then we went for crêpes on Rue St-Jean. I had swiss, ham and asparagus, drenched in maple syrup. Dear God, that’s good stuff. I was tempted to eat two, but had to save room for poutine.
After lunch I left Denis, who went to find a bookstore to add to his already extensive home library, and met up with Eve’s roommate’s sister, Raphaelle, and we went for a walk along la grande allée (Champs Elysées), through the park, and to a restaurant to have my fourth poutine in less than a week – and I have to say, it was the best one I’ve tried so far.
Travel tip: If you’re going to have poutine, avoid fast food joints, even if it’s on the menu. When I mentioned I’d tried it at Burger King in Montréal, Raphaelle just shook her head and cringed. Real poutine should have “squeaky cheese” so fresh it actually squeaks on your teeth, she reminded me. At a fast-food restaurant all you’ll get is overly-salty fries and bland gravy… with silent cheese. But at Chez Ashton’s (a restaurant chain only found in Québec City) it was the real thing. So good.
I had a fantastic time exploring the town today with Denis and then Raphaelle. It’s beautiful, and there’s so much to see. “You need more than one day,” says Denis, and I believe him. I can just imagine in the winter, especially at Christmastime, when the snow is freshly fallen and the lights are all on at night in the old city, how it must be just like a Canadian postcard. I’ll definitely have to come back one day in the winter to see it.
Travel tip: In Québec parking is not cheap, but it is convenient. This is not a big city (pop. 500,000) and there doesn’t seem to be a great transit system here, so better than trying to get a bus around town, just find a parking spot near the old part of town (where all the action is) and leave your car for the day to walk. I paid a flat fee of $18, which would have been less if it had been the weekend.
Tomorrow I’ll be heading to Saint John, New Brunswick. It’s going to be a long drive, with yet another time change, but I’m looking forward to seeing a province I know so little about.
NEXT POST: St. Gabriel de Valcartier to Saint John