Canada Trip Part 5: Quebec City, Canada
If you’re following along on our summer trip to Canada, check out the first four posts in the series:
- Part 1 – From Raleigh to Philadelphia
- Part 2 – A few days in New York City
- Part 3 – Settling into our apartment in Montreal
- Part 4 – Sights of Montreal
After enjoying a week in Montreal, we hit the road for a few hours to travel further north and east to Quebec City. The drive between Montreal and Quebec City is really easy since the entire route is all freeway and well signed for motorists. We arrived at our apartment for the week and met the owner who gave us the grand tour of his two bedroom corner unit. While the owner was with us in the apartment, I didn’t notice anything odd about the place but Mrs. Root of Good certainly did. I’ll skip that part of the story for now though.
In French, the old part of Quebec City is known as Vieux-Quebec. This part of town is what makes Quebec such a beautiful destination for tourists. With city walls and buildings dating from the 1600’s and 1700’s, it gives the visitor the feeling of walking through history. Some have described Old Quebec as looking like Paris (without the transatlantic flight).
We didn’t have a lot of time to explore Old Quebec but we managed to see most of the Upper Town and the Lower Town on our driving tour. The historic buildings, courtyards, plazas, tree-lined sidewalks, and cobblestone streets did remind me of an old European city.
The Chateau Frontenac must be the most iconic building in Quebec City. More than just a landmark, it’s a fully operational hotel where you can stay for just a few hundred bucks per night. Or you can drive through the central courtyard for free. Tours are available if you’re interested in seeing the inside.
The Citadelle of Quebec is a 17th century fort and still used as a military installation today. Most of what you see today was built in the 1800’s. We walked along the Citadelle walls that overlooked the St. Lawrence river. Great views from up there!
The St. Lawrence river itself is quite a sight to see. It’s probably a mile wide in the vicinity of Quebec City and reminds me of the great Mississippi river here in the US. Very broad and speckled with a range of boats from personal watercraft to container ships.
Ten minutes (seven miles) outside of Old Quebec lies the Montmorency Falls (“Chute Montmorency” in French). We were planning on visiting Niagara Falls and were excited to learn that this waterfall, at 275 feet, is 100 feet higher than Niagara Falls. In terms of sheer volume of water, Niagara handily beats Montmorency Falls. But it’s still quite a sight to see the towering height of the Montmorency Falls from below. And for those not afraid of heights, you can walk over the top of the falls on a footbridge. The flow rate of water going over the edge is still impressive, even though it’s just a trickle compared to Niagara Falls.
Entrance to the park is free but parking was $12. There is a parking lot at the bottom of the falls and at the top in case you want to drive between the two vantage points instead of climbing 30 flights of stairs up the side of a cliff. The $12 fee lets you park in both parking lots. I also noticed that around closing time they didn’t ask for the parking ticket at the upper falls parking lot (if you want to save your twelve hard earned Canadian dollars).
Food in Quebec City
We managed to avoid starvation in Quebec City without too much effort. Thai take out places were all over. We tried a few while we were there. The food was good but nothing special. They all offered traditional Thai dishes and a regular assortment of Chinese food (General Tso Chicken, lo mein, fried rice).
For someone who loves ethnic cuisines, I was really disappointed in the absence of Mexican restaurants in Quebec Province. Here in the States, Mexican food equals quick, cheap, relatively good food with a side of mariachi background music. None was to be found on our Canadian voyage this summer. After returning home, I ate Mexican food every day for a week straight (no lie).
Seeking a taste of home, we did hit up the KFC for some good ole fried chicken. Except they francophoned it with the name “PFK”. That’s the acronym for “Poulet Frit du Kentucky”. Which sounds really fancy but signifies nothing more than “fried chicken of Kentucky”. Or KFC as we call it.
The PFK restaurant experience was interesting. After scanning the menu board and being shocked at the prices for fried chicken (“$25 for a 10 piece?!”), I eventually found the “family economy meal” that cost the same amount as a bucket of chicken but traded off a few pieces of chicken in exchange for a large Pizza Hut pizza and a large order of fries for about the same price. And the pizza came with three toppings! I ordered pepperoni and sausage, thereby exhausting my knowledge of meats in French. Wanting a slightly healthy pizza, I quickly scanned through my mental rolodex of vegetable names in French for that third topping. Oignon was the only word that came to mind, so we had pepperoni, sausage and onion pizza.
It was a little different than the pizza we get at Pizza Hut in the US. The sauce was a bit zestier, the pepperoni less zesty and more like salami, and the cheese a bit bolder. PFK / Pizza Hut was a success and appreciated by all (especially the children).
While in the restaurant I overheard the French speaking cashier using some pretty awful French. Her cash register tape started shooting out of the register at maximum velocity and as she scurried to fix the misbehaving paper roll, she repeatedly uttered “What de fouck?! What de fouck?! What de fouck?! What de fouck?! What de fouck?!” Over and over. I can’t believe I didn’t say something pithy to her like “pardon your French!”. I’m going to regret that the rest of my life.
Our AirBnB Apartment
We rented a two bedroom apartment in Quebec City. The reviews at AirBnB were great and made the place sound clean and well-appointed. It had a large kitchen with plenty of room for us to cook. The living room was spacious and had enough seating for our family of five. The bedrooms had comfortable beds and plenty of linens.
When I first walked in and the host toured me around his apartment, I thought, “hey this place looks great!”. I was taking in the big picture of where we would be relaxing and enjoying our vacation for the next week in this beautiful city. As soon as the host handed over the keys and left, Mrs. Root of Good looks at me with this look. It’s hard to describe, but it’s the “oh no, something is really wrong” look I rapidly discovered. It turns out the place was filthy and I was somehow enamored of the big picture of the place and didn’t pay attention to the tiny, crusty, hairy, grimy details of the general state of filth.
This place was dirty enough that it warrants its own separate blog post, so I’ll leave the details to that later post.
We tried to clean up and make do with the apartment. We went to sleep the first night exhausted from cleaning and disappointed that the place wasn’t in good condition upon our arrival.
As soon as we woke up the next morning I think we both realized this apartment wasn’t going to work out. We quickly made the joint executive decision to cut our losses and move on.
I found out we could cancel the AirBnB reservation and get a full refund (less AirBnB reservation fees) for the unused nights remaining on our reservation. I only had 30 minutes to cancel before incurring costs for another day, so I went ahead and processed the cancellation and immediately received a refund for the last six nights of our stay.
At that point, getting a refund was secondary to getting out of that apartment. We spent the rest of that day sightseeing around Quebec City. After a day of touring the town that we had planned on visiting over the course of a whole week, we returned to the apartment, packed everything we could into the trunk of our Accord, and went to sleep for night number two in our dirty apartment. First thing the next morning we set out for the long drive back to North Carolina. Home. And cleanliness.
AirBnB eventually made things right with us. I’ll share the whole story in a separate blog post soon. You’ll see in that post why I still recommend AirBnB as a great alternative to hotels. I would encourage you to take a look at AirBnB’s listings the next time you need a place to stay while on vacation. If you want to save $25 off your booking, please click through this link.
Quebec City Expenses
We only spent two nights in Quebec City and ended up getting a full refund on our apartment rental so the stay was incredibly cheap at $82 (mostly for food).
|Restaurant Meals||$33/day - we didn't cook; ate take out instead||65|
|Groceries||consumed groceries we bought in Montreal||5|
|Gas||didn't need to refuel in Quebec City||0|
|Parking||parked once at the waterfall||12|
|AirBnB Apartment - Quebec City||2 nights; $446 total minus $446 refund||0|
|Souvenirs||digital pics and rocks from the waterfall were free||0|
|TRIP BUDGET - Quebec City||2 days at $41/day||82|
In Part 6, I’ll wrap up our Canada trip summary, share some money saving vacation tips, and explain what it’s like to embark on a long road trip with three kids (the youngest being two!).