soliciting quebec travel information

Last time I asked for Canadian travel advice was 2008 - too long ago! That ended up as 16 days exploring Newfoundland. This trip is more modest, but I am very excited. We haven't had a good holiday in so long.

In 2007, we spent our 20th anniversary at the Hotel de Glace, the Ice Hotel, which was then at the Auberge Duchesnay, about 30 minutes outside of Quebec City. (It's now built in Quebec City itself.) We didn't get to QC on that trip, and I've been talking about going ever since.

2012 marks 25 years of our domestic partnership, a stunning number that deserves a full-on celebration. So "a few days in Quebec City" grew into this: three nights at this B&B in QC, then dogsledding here, dinner and one night at Auberge Duchesnay, then three days in Montreal, staying at Le Petit Hotel. Then, if it's not snowing, we'll drive down to Vermont to visit some friends and family, spend the night there, then drive home.

We've never been in Quebec City, and although we've been to Montreal several times and we love it, we haven't done any real sightseeing there. And for some reason, we've never had a Montreal bagel! Shocking, I know, but we never heard of them until we moved to Canada. We've also only had poutine and smoked meat in Toronto, and of course Montrealers would say that means we've never had poutine or smoked meat. (I'm a New Yorker. I understand completely.)

So this thread is for your recommendations, ideas, must-sees, and musts-to-avoid. We like history, architecture, neighbourhood restaurants, markets (although it's January, so it would have to be an indoor market), bookstores, and general urban exploring. We're driving between cities, but expect to walk and take transit whenever possible. We don't ski, skate or snowboard, but we do like cold weather.

Your turn.


allan said...

We don't ski

So, naturally, a ski company spams the post.

Stephanie said...

Fabulous! What are your dates for travel (approximately)?

laura k said...

Thanks, Steph! Leaving Jan 1, back Jan 9.

laura k said...

I should have mentioned the language issue.

When we went to the Ice Hotel, people were warning us against speaking English, saying you absolutely must speak French anywhere outside of Montreal.

So if any of those folks are reading this...

A, we've traveled in France. If my French was enough to get by in France, it will be enough to get by in QC.

B, relax. We'll be fine.

John F said...

I highly recommend Schwartz's Deli, in order to cross real smoked meat off your list. The genial abuse from the staff is almost as good as the food!

Stephanie said...

When we went to the Ice Hotel, people were warning us against speaking English, saying you absolutely must speak French anywhere outside of Montreal.

Certainly the ability to get by in French will be an asset but given the tourist industry in Montreal as in Quebec City there is significant economic incentive to speak English. When in the touristy areas you will have no problem finding plenty of people proficient in both official languages. In Montreal of course this extends much farther beyond those areas. When you leave these areas then your ability to function in French will be more important. You will do just fine, of course.

Jan 1 - 9 is a nice length of time and perfect for some outings out of doors. If you were spending more time or in another season I would suggest the Gaspé Peninsula (beautiful).


Stephanie said...

To add to John F's recommendation for smoked meat, I would recommend St. Viateur bagel . Yum!

The old joint on St. Viateur is not to be missed. It is really just a whole in the wall but a charming one at that.

johngoldfine said...

Last time I was in Quebec was for a weekend liquor-and-sex holiday from college--gf Jean (now wife) and I stayed at a b & b just a block from yours. Hope you have as much fun as we did, though neither you nor Allan can expect to see frisky 20 again.

As it was 1965, we thought fondue in the old quarter was the very height of sophistication. We drove back to Maine in a bad January blizzard in a 1958 Beetle.

And that's all I know!*

* Except: I bought one of my favorite books of all time ('Slim' by William Wister Haines) in the lobby newsstand in the Chateau Frontenac in the winter of 1957. I still have the book, held together with tape and rubber bands.

laura k said...

So far, so good! Smoked meat and bagel recommendations - yay! We are all about hole in the wall places, as you may imagine.

Stephanie, when we were soliciting info about our trip east, readers recommended the Gaspe Peninsula. It's on on my list since then. :)

John, thanks for sharing that great memory. I love that you associate it with the book you bought on the trip. I'm the same way. I don't think Allan and I will have quite as much fun as you and Jean did on that trip, though it's fun to remember our own sex-and-drinking trips! We were long distance for a while, so those trips were extra special. :>)

But it will be great fun in an entirely different way.

laura k said...

John F, thanks! For some reason I read that comment as coming from JohnGF. Makes more sense now. :)

The "genial abuse" sounds similar to a few NYC institutions.

laura k said...

Ahh, I see the bagel joint is ouvert 24h. Looks très délicieux.

Stephanie said...

Note that there are two St. Viateur on St. Viateur. But of course there is! :D

laura k said...


Amy said...

We were in Montreal a number of years ago for a conference, and it is a great walking city. But I have no specific recommendations. My cousin went to QC last spring, and her photos were wonderful. They did some biking and hiking as well as city stuff, but I imagine that won't be possible in January. I can ask her for recommendations if you are interested.

Based on her experience, Harvey and I have been talking about a possible trip to Quebec this spring. I want to do something special for the big birthday I have coming up this summer, and I'd prefer Amsterdam or some place in Europe, but the cost may make that impractical. So I look forward to hearing about your experiences.

laura k said...

Thanks, Amy. I think it will be easy to find good stuff on QC, having a lot of Canadian readers (and FB and G+ contacts). I've heard it's very beautiful, very romantic, and a great place for a getaway - which is why I've wanted to go for several years.

It would probably be a great place for your birthday trip, but if you want to go to Europe, I hope you'll go for it. That's what credit cards are for, after all. In the long run, you won't notice the difference, what's a couple thousand more to pay off. But the trip will be really special.

My .02, as my role in life apparently is to encourage people to do what they want to do. :)

laura k said...

I hope Tornwordo comes around. He lives in Montreal.

AZ used to live in Montreal and still goes frequently... but that convo can only happen on Facebook.

MSEH said...

Ditto re St.-Viateur!!!!

Stephanie said...

I totally forget to mention:

1. When in Montreal (not often enough), we spend most of our time in Le Plateau. For me this is where the life/character of Montreal is found.

2. If we were going to have smoked meat (Schwartz or the other shop directly across the street) we would take it up the Mountain and eat it pic-nic style. Perhaps not ideal in January but a trip up the mountain for a great view of the city is always worth it.

3. Le fromentier is the best bakery I have ever visited in NA. WORTH it! You must go for lunch or breakfast croissant! Gorgeous shop in the basement no less!

I will post more as I think of it.

Patrick N. said...

Wow, 25 years! Congratulations Laura and Allan! I would second John's recommendation for Schwartz's Deli. Both fun and delicious. :)

Amy said...

Laura, you may be right that we should take a carpe diem attitude on this, but with airfares to Europe (at least at the moment) around $1800 each, it's not chump change we are talking about. We can drive to QC or fly somewhere in the US and save probably over $3000 just on transportation. For now we have decided to wait and see what happens with air fares as we get closer to May. We may just go wherever we can get a cheaper flight and be spontaneous! (And yes, that would be VERY unlike us...)

laura k said...

Oh no, not chump change, for sure. But I would say the exact same thing: you will not notice the money in the long run. You'll pay the credit card bill off and your life will not change because of it. You're both employed, $3,000 in air fare isn't all that much to pay off, assuming hotels, food and other expenses will be about the same.

Obviously that's just my perspective - I'm so accustomed to charging vacations and paying them off at a later date, that it seems insignificant to me. But YMMV - and probably does! :)

laura k said...

Thank you, Patrick N! And thanks, Stephanie - keep 'em coming!

Amy said...

Thanks, Laura, I will let you know what we decide once we decide. Meanwhile, I am very curious to hear about your trip in January.

tornwordo said...

Too bad I'll be in California when you're here! We coulda had a cawfee!

The Gazette recently did a 12 must eats in Montreal, I'll see if I can find the link....


Schwartz's is on there. I've actually never been, but smoked meat is everywhere here.

My fave resto in town is Au Pied de Cochon but you have to reserve NOW if you want a table. The food is awesome and if you order beer instead of wine, not too pricey. Also, Pinxto is a great place we discovered recently.

As for hole in the wall, KAZU on Ste-Catherine Ouest is to die for. There is always a lineup out front(like Schwartz's) but it is sooo worth it. It's Japanese.

Streets to walk (if it's not horribly cold) are Ste-Catherine, Mont-Royal, St-Hubert between metro Rosemont and Jean-Talon, and in the old Montreal all over. Best poutine in town is at the Montreal Pool Room (IMHO) just south of Ste Catherine St on Bl St Laurent.

If it's really cold, you can explore the underground city. Basically a series of shopping centers connected together.

Feel free to email me if you have any other questions!

tornwordo said...

Oh and I've never had a better bagel in my life than here. And I know New York City bagels. Stand in line and get a half dozen warm ones fresh out of the oven with a tub of cream cheese and just dip away. Heaven.

laura k said...

Ah rats, I was hoping we could meet up. Truth be told, I thought I might get to say hi to Georgie. :)

Thanks for the recommendations! Any cultural must-dos that we might not hear about elsewhere?

tornwordo said...

Well, I'm a huge fan of the botanical gardens though in January, all the good stuff is in the greenhouses. My favorite museum is the Pointe a Calliere which is built on the birthplace of the city.

Finally, a bit of theater fun in English for you:


Stephanie said...

I think you would enjoy Le marché Jean Talon . This is the most popular market in Montreal.

On a completely different note, you might enjoy the l'Opera de Montréal

BUT, if you are REALLY lucky you may get to see them BOTH at the same time

laura k said...

Hey, thanks you guys! Tornwordo's favourite museum - Museum of Archeology and History - looks great. As does that market! With or without opera. :)