E and I both had a huge case of wanderlust after our Italian honeymoon last summer, but international adventures can get expensive! For our first wedding anniversary, we decided to take a mini-vacation to Quebec City so that we could get a small taste of Europe without an expensive plane ticket. Old Quebec felt like a different world, but it only took us 6.5 hours to drive there! We loved the convenience of throwing everything in the car instead of packing for an airplane.
In my frenzy to wrap everything up before our vacation, I forgot that we would need to work on our French! Neither of us spoke the language, so Quebec gave us a three-day crash course! We spent the drive to Canada playing a bunch of YouTube videos for beginners. There are 15-ish vowel sounds in the French language, which confused the heck outta me. But thankfully, we learned enough basic phrases to fumble our way through Quebec. We did find that if we started and ended the conversation in French, the locals were more than happy to help us in English. By the end of the trip, I had mastered “Parlez-vous Anglais?” and “s’il vous plait!”…and that’s about it 😉 E is much better at learning new languages since he’s bilingual, and he caught on more quickly! We’re glad we challenged ourselves to learn some French even though we felt kinda stupid doing it!
We chose an unusual season to visit, since the picturesque snow had mostly melted away, but the spring blooms hadn’t yet arrived. We ended up with a chilly, mostly rainy week in Quebec City. When we saw the weather forecast before leaving Boston, we almost switched our destination, but we decided to stick it out and explore Canada anyway! I’m so glad we did, since the rain actually added to the cozy charm of the city!
A few views from the road trip through New Hampshire and Vermont…
Our rainy welcome to Quebec City:
We usually prefer to stay in Airbnbs when we travel because they tend to be less expensive and more unique. Unfortunately, two different Airbnb hosts canceled our bookings right before our trip (a huge bummer!), so we decided to spring for a hotel instead. Thankfully, we found a great last-minute deal on TripAdvisor for Auberge Saint-Antoine! We really lucked out by staying there…one of the best hotel experiences I’ve ever had, and I would highly recommend it if you’re planning a trip to Quebec City! Its central location in lower Old Quebec meant that we had easy access to the historic sights without too many crowds of tourists. I also have a teensy obsession with fireplaces, and Auberge Saint-Antoine had not one, but THREE!
We had a Nespresso machine in our room and must have had 4 cups of coffee a day…each! So yummy!
Super fun coincidence: in our room, we found a CD with Jean-Philippe Tremblay on the cover. We worked with this conductor on our tour with YOA Orchestra of the Americas, which is actually where E and I met! So cool to find this on our first anniversary!
I couldn’t get over the picturesque beauty of the cobblestone streets and painted doors! It really did feel like we hopped over to Europe for a few days.
Here’s the bar inside of Chateau Frontenac…we didn’t have a drink there, but it was too pretty not to photograph!
Adding to the list of things I didn’t know before our trip: Quebec City is a great destination for food! We had some incredible meals there, and for way less than a typical “foodie meal” in Boston! For our anniversary dinner, we headed out to Chez Rioux et Pettigrew (formerly called Le Quai 19). We rolled the dice and ordered “La Table de Pettigrew,” or basically whatever the chef felt like creating that day. It didn’t disappoint! I am still dreaming of that meal!
On the casual side of the food spectrum, we fell in love with a cozy little pub/diner called Buffet de l’Antiquaire. After trying French onion soup at four different places, this one took the cake…er, soup! (insert groan here!) E and I are going to try to make our own at home…any recipe recommendations?
On our second day, the sun graced us with its presence for a few hours! Naturally, I spent the whole afternoon running around taking photos! Quebec City is heaven for photographers! I have to give a little shoutout to E for patiently pausing every three minutes while I stopped to take another photo. 🙂
If you’ve ever seen a photo of Quebec City, it most likely included Chateau Frontenac! Constructed by the Canadian Pacific Railway to lure in wealthy tourists, this 1893 hotel towers above Old Quebec and reminds me of a Disney Castle. The staff was kind enough to let us head up to the 17th floor for a bird’s-eye view of Lower Town.
Since we had a car, we followed the advice of the concierge and drove 15 minutes outside of the city to get to Montmorency Falls. We were surprised to learn that it’s actually about 30% taller than Niagara Falls! You can cross the falls on a pedestrian suspension bridge, which terrified me to half to death (I’m REALLY scared of heights!).
E convinced me to walk across with him, but I only made it about halfway before I broke down into hysterical tears and retreated back to land. However, E tempted me with the prospect of being able to photograph the waterfall with better light from the other side…I’m such a photographer, ha! I finally gathered up my courage and bravely made my way across. I’m not sure I could do it again though…the straight drop down combined with the power of the waterfall is one scary sight!!
Canadians love poutine, so of course we had to eat plenty of that as well! We even had dinner at a place called Poutineville. That restaurant has forever raised my poutine standards…fries, cheese curds, and gravy for days!
Thanks to a little Google search, we discovered the Morrin Centre, which is one of the most gorgeous libraries I’ve ever visited. It felt like a real-life version of the Beauty & the Beast library!
We found the Morrin Centre’s modern counterpart next door in Maison de la Littérature. The all-white minimalist interior really appealed to me!
Right outside of Chateau Frontenac, the Governors’ Promenade runs along the St. Lawrence River up to the Plains of Abraham. We loved this despite the rainy weather, so I can only imagine how beautiful it must look in the summer!
Just to recap, here’s a quick list of our favorites from the trip:
Buffet de l’Antiquaire for French onion soup
Poutineville for poutine…of course 🙂
Le Billig for crepes
L’Echaude for dessert
Additional fun things to check out:
– Governors’ Promenade
– Montmorency Falls
– Le Petit Champlain for shopping
– Rue Couillard for pretty pictures
– Morrin Centre
– Maison de la Littérature