This past week I fell in love with Quebec on an extended Labor Day holiday with the hubby. We started in Montreal, spent a few days relaxing and hiking in Mont Tremblant, and finished our trip in Quebec City. Who knew (apparently not me) our neighbor to the north was so amazing? Here are the top 10 reasons every Chicagoan should visit Quebec:
1. Getting there is so freakin’ easy. We flew Porter, a relatively new airline based out of Toronto that flies to Midway, and it was a pleasure. Seriously. They actually serve you food, even on short flights, and alcohol is free (helpful to the hubby who needed a little liquid courage to get on the propeller plane…I promise the planes are big and not at all scary). All flights connect through Toronto City Airport (minutes into Toronto, if that’s where you’re going), and the Toronto gate area is a virtual VIP lounge, complete with plush seating, free WiFi, and complimentary food and drinks. Going through passport control and security in Canada could not have been simpler. In fact, our biggest hassles came from the American side (surprise) when TSA made us throw out contact solution (despite the fact that it is medical, apparently there is grave concern about the acidity of the liquid, which, by the way, I put in my eye!), and we waited at Midway passport control for over 45 minutes before someone able to stamp our passports could be found.
2. No jet lag. As a follow-up to #1, with only an hour time change to Eastern Time, a trip to Quebec creates no jet lag. That means you can hit the ground running and enjoy yourself without being cranky.
3. Beauty. Quebec is a beautiful place. In the cities, the architecture is grand, lit up at night by dazzling lights, and the streets are lively. “Old” Quebec City feels like a European city (let’s go with Paris, since they both speak French). Outside of the cities is stunning landscape and natural parks. Where we were in Mont Tremblant, the lakes (over 400 of them) were crystal clear, serenely still, and surrounded by mountains. The hubby and I rented a kayak, and it was so calm and peaceful, I actually took a little nap on the water. I know, rough life.
- Mont Tremblant National Park
4. Food. The food was very good. From excellent restaurants (The Sautéed Rabbit in Quebec) to iconic stops (Fairmount Bagel Factory in Montreal), from post-hike lakeside picnics to Canada’s well-known poutine (not sure I loved that), we definitely ate our way through Quebec.
5. Public transportation. Montreal has some of the best public transportation I’ve seen in any North American city. Trains are fast, run frequently, and are clean. Further, because it gets so cold (like in Chicago), Montreal has placed its spacious stations underground, often with legit food and retail stores (many refer to it as a mall or underground city), and, brilliantly, provides access to the stations through a series of tunnels from multiple street level entry points so people can escape the cold from many different locations. Comparing our rickety, slow, and often chilly El to Montreal’s underground metro makes me very sad. And jealous.
6. Bikes. Québécois love their bikes (arguably another form of their public transportation)! In Montreal, there are racks of bikes available to rent at nearly every corner. Just pick up an available bike when you need it, and drop it off at another rack when you are finished. So easy. And cheap. Even better, Montreal has installed bike lanes on streets, separated from cars by a concrete barrier, to keep bikers safe. It’s like biking down Clark, but without risking your life.
7. Ingenuity. Despite the beauty, both Montreal and Quebec City are major port cities, which can create some less-than-appealing industrial structures. What to the Québécois do in Quebec City? Use those structures for a (free!) nighttime movie depicting the history of Quebec City. Here are the structures in the day light:
And here are the same structures at night. Brilliant, right?
8. French. I’ve always wanted to learn French, but studied Spanish all my life. Going to Quebec provided the perfect opportunity to learn some basic French. And although nearly all the people we met were bilingual, speaking both French and English, I had a lot of fun (and provided much amusement as I pitifully attempted to pronounce words in French). Think I’m going to keep this up, too. The hubby has been saying he’d love to go to Paris.
9. Jean-Talon Market. The Jean-Talon Market in Montreal, (allegedly) the largest farmer’s market in North America, was absolutely incredible: stand after stand of delicious fruits and vegetables beautifully displayed and interspersed with restaurant and lunch options (we had oysters…and Turkish delight…and a whole bunch of fromage) and food-based boutiques.
Don’t these artichokes look like some sort of curated artistic display?
10. Château Frontenac. Yes, its cliché to include this on the list, but Château Frontenac, now a hotel in Quebec City, is simply breathtaking (picture is above). We didn’t stay there (it was way more than we wanted to spend…and we’ve been told the rooms aren’t that great), but we sure spent some time at their bar, Le St-Laurent.
Filed under: Travel