The one thing I love about Montreal and Quebec is listening to the French speakers going about their business, conversing, and ordering food. I also find myself closely attending to the announcements made by the airline crew during the flight here. I enjoy staying close to a group of people speaking, as I try to hone in on a word or two. The extent of my French includes “merci, merci beaucoup, bonjour, and sortie”. I’ve been to Montreal before and though that trip was short, I fell head over heels with the language and the people while moderately admiring the place. And this trip to Quebec only added to that admiration.
I traveled for 6 hours and traversed 3 different airports to get to Quebec. I wish there was a direct flight, but I didn’t mind it this time. All the Canadian airports were similar to US airports but the Montreal airport transformed itself from just being in Canada to a place that seemed very far. I noticed the French speakers and the prominence of the language. I felt I had traveled far, like Paris, one of my favorite cities in the world.
Because I’m not a very good navigator, I decided after lunch that I’d just keep walking Rue Saint-Jean past D’Youville. It couldn’t do any harm except it started drizzling, which turned into freezing rain. This lasted for about 20 min with 10 of those minutes spent waiting under an awning looking at the map. I turned around having no further purpose beyond —- and decided to find the La Citadelle. If I walked further though, I believe I would’ve found the Parliament Building. When I did find La Citadelle, I realized I couldn’t walk through as it was prohibited. Later, I talked to someone at the visitor center and it was explained that there’s a museum and the structure and I probably should have gone another way. Which way? I didn’t ask.
From La Citadelle, I walked back to Chateau Frontenac and embraced the chill of the wind. If you choose to ride the Funiculare this is the place for $3.50 each way. Despite the cold, I admired the beauty of the icy and somewhat frozen St. Lawrence River. I kept walking until I saw the sign for Terrasa Dufferin and turned around. I hoped tomorrow will be a nicer day for a walk. I kept walking and mindfully noted places I’d like to visit tomorrow: the monastery, the boulangerie for some pastry, or maybe a crepe place.
From here, I followed the instructions received from the tourist information office and located Notre Dame Cathedral. The place is immense, beautiful, and beyond words. I’ve been to Notre Dame church in Montreal and Paris and all were vastly exquisite. I spent some purposeful time here soaking in the quiet.
I needed food and it was getting closer to dinner time. They say that when you are somewhere new – be it a foreign country or a new city – to eat foods that originated from the area. And so off I looked for poutine while walking Rue Saint-Jean. In this medium sized snack shop, I found poutin celebrated in many different ways. Some were topped with sliced sausages while others were only with gravy. I ordered the mini size ($6.61CAD) and it came with perfectly cooked (and freshly cut) fries with gravy and cheese curds. I can’t say I’ve had cheese curds before so I kept tasting it and taking little bites at a time. My brain is telling me it tastes like cheese but I’m doubting my palate. Later, I researched the ingredients for poutin and confirmed my doubts. Now that I’ve had a taste of the local, I am likely not going to have it again despite its savory flavor. Fried foods are just not my thing and this looks like it could do some serious damage in my dietary lifestyle.
The restaurants on Rue Sainte-Jean and the nearby area all served similar dishes: pasta, pizza, fish, soup. There are a few places that advertised selling ice cream but also served other foods like gyros and falafel. Certainly, bigger places that are specific only served one type of food, such as the Chinese or the Japanese place. So, pick your poison and enjoy your choice.
Transportation: if you’re like me and can’t or don’t use data outside of US, you can grab a taxi for a flat rate of $35 plus tip ($40) to City Center. From baggage claim, cross the street and through the building you will see taxi signs.
If you only have WiFi, you can call up Uber (provided you have the app), and wait inside. I’ll bet they did this because of the cold temps in Winter. This way, too, you won’t lose any WiFi signal.
I’m celebrating myself this weekend and though it’s a well kept secret from others who know me, I will let you in on this short but much needed getaway to Quebec.
Watch for Day 2 – morning and afternoon activities to follow.