Peachhead™ Approved Vacations: Vacation in Quebec City August 2013
Visiting Quebec City
Quebec is a city that loves to celebrate, so you can imagine my excitement when they invited me to Quebec City to participate in the New France Festival.
I had a 6:00 a.m. flight out of Los Angeles and arrived in Quebec at 4:45 p.m--a long day, but so worth it. I stayed at the Hotel Chateau Laurier Quebec. The rooms are a very nice size. There is plenty of storage for your clothes in both the closet and the long dresser. I love how the shower has dispensers for the shampoo, conditioner, and shower gel. Yeah, no more little bottles! The room also has a little refrigerator in it. The hotel has an indoor pool, Jacuzzi, and sauna. The wonderful thing about the hotel is it is located right near the Grande-Allée and a short walking distance to many of the city’s main attractions. The hotel hosted a cocktail party for us and their caterers, Le George V, did an incredible job. Everything was beautifully presented and equally tasty. A great first evening to my trip.
On my first day in Quebec City, I spent the day exploring the city by foot. In the morning I walked from the hotel to the Citadel to see the changing of the guard. The Citadel is the largest British military fortifications in North America, an active military site, and an official residence of the Governor General of Canada. The changing of the guard takes place every morning during the summer at 10:00 a.m., weather permitting, and lasts approximately 30 minutes. The ceremony includes the inspection of the troops by the officers, music by the Royal 22 Regiment Band, and an appearance by the regimental mascot, Batisse--the royal goat. The Citadel also offer daily tours.
From the Citadel we walked down to Old Quebec, where there are cute shops and restaurants. We took a ride on the ferry across the St. Lawrence River. The ferry shuttles back and forth between Quebec City and Levis. You get a great view of Quebec City from the ferry. Taking the ferry at night gives you a different perspective as Quebec City is all lit up and you have a beautiful view from the river.
Following the Ferry ride we walked along the river to the Musée de la Civilisation. This is a wonderful museum where the focus is on participation and interaction. There were a number of different exhibits on display. The first one is every kid's dream (and, I am sure, many adults'). It covers over 60 years of history of video games. As you walk through the exhibit you see how far video games have come. There are over 450 artifacts for guests to enjoy including video games, arcade games, accessories, posters, and magazines. The first game I saw was Pong. It brought back great memories. The last room, of course, has the Wii and Xbox. The best part of the exhibit is that you can play a variety of the games. Talk about fun! My other favorite exhibit was "Paris on Stage 1889-1914." Before you walk into the exhibit you are given an audioguide. As you walk through each part of the exhibit, the audioguide senses where you are and starts playing music to the theme of the room or tells you stories of what you are seeing. You really feel as if you are walking through the streets of Paris. It was truly fascinating. The Maori exhibit was beautiful as well. There were two paintings in particular about Wahine Toa Women of Maori Myth that were stunning and really told a beautiful story.
The steps leading between the upper and lower city are pretty steep so I would suggest taking the Funiculaire du Vieux-Quebec to the upper city. It is a 2-3 minute trip and is much easier than walking all the way up.
Once we reached the upper city we walked a short distance to the Musée du Fort, which presents a unique 30 minute sound and light show on the military history of Quebec City. This show explains the six military sieges that shaped history. There is a model of Quebec from 1750 that lights up and has special effects and it correlates with what is happening in the film. This is an interesting way to learn about the history of Quebec.
As we walked back to our hotel we passed the Parliament Building which is home to the National Assembly, the meeting place of Quebec’s 125 elected representatives. The Parliament building is located on Parliament Hill and is a stunning building. Just in front of the building is the Fontaine de Tourny, a beautiful fountain in the center of the roundabout circle, that contains 43 water jets and beautiful figures. It is a lovely sight to see.
For a complete view of the city we visited the Observatoire de la Capitale, which gives you a 360 degree view of the city from 221 meters up. While walking through the Observatory you learn the history of Quebec City through an interactive multimedia visit.
A great way to learn about the city of Quebec and see all that the city has to offer is to have a tour guide show you around. We were taken on a bus tour by Autobus Fleur de Lys. Michelle Demers was our tour guide and she was wonderful--very knowledgeable and funny. We drove through the Plains of Abraham, where we saw beautiful gardens, statutes, and real cannons. Located in the Plains of Abraham is Odyssey: A Journey through history on the Plains of Abraham. Multimedia technology and special effects animatronic characters are used to reenact major events illustrating three key periods of Canada's history. When you have finished with the three different viewing rooms, you walk through the museum where there are a variety of uniforms and historical information covering this part of history.
Another wonderful museum to visit is the Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Quebec, located in the National Battlefields Park. There are more than 37,000 works of art, from the seventeenth century to today. Not only does this museum feature amazing art, but part of the museum was a former prison. You can actually tour the prison and go into the jail cells (which I must say were very small). The jail started construction in 1861 but in 1867 inmates helped to finish building it and it was officially open for business in 1871. The prison was a functioning prison until 1970. In 1991 the prison became part of the museum. There are a number of different exhibits at the museum. The six permanent galleries are free to visit; there is an admission fee for the special exhibits. My favorite was the Alfred Pellan exhibit. His work was very creative and interesting and quite entertaining. Just outside the exhibit is a photo booth that you can step in to take pictures of yourself and then send them to yourself via e-mail or facebook. "Kaleidoscope" was another interesting exhibit where the pieces were made of glass. In the educational gallery the museum has a special room for kids, where children can play and learn.
After driving through the quaint streets of Quebec City, we headed to the Island Île d’Orléans. This Island marks the border between the St. Lawrence River and estuary and is 20-½ miles long and 4-½ miles wide. The island was connected to the mainland by a bridge in 1935. While on the island we met Guy Bel, a metal smith and artisan who has been doing traditional metalworking for over 37 years, at the Forge à Pique-Assaut. It was amazing to see the work that goes into creating his gates, stair railings, and decorative objects.
We ate lunch at a cute restaurant called Le Moulin de St-Laurent, which was originally a water mill dating back to 1720, used to grind grains into flour for the residents. Be sure to sit on the outdoor patio, which has a beautiful view of the waterfall. The restaurant is a family-owned business and you can see the love that the owners have put into it.
After our lunch we stopped at Cassis Monna & Filles to learn about the black currants that are grown and the different liquors and other items that are made with this berry. This is another family run business, run by two sisters. They were very warm and welcoming. You can stop in for tastings.
After leaving the island we went to the Montmorency Falls Park. The falls are 272 feet high (higher than Niagara Falls), and are a magnificent sight. We rode the cable car up to the top and once there we walked across the suspension bridge over the waterfall. It was so powerful to be standing above the waterfall. When you are ready to go down you can take the cable car back down or you can walk down the 487 steps. We walked down the steps, which I highly recommend. You get great views of the waterfall and you actually get so close to the falls that you get cooled off by the mist.
That night we had dinner in a historical house dating back to the 18th Century at Place Royale at the restaurant Les Voutes du Cavour. This restaurant specializes in group service only.
After dinner we walked to The Image Mill, which is a 40 minute visual and audio projection on the world’s largest film projection screen. The film is projected on the grain silos in the Old Port of Quebec. This year’s film is a tribute to Norman McLaren.
The next day we walked along the Grande Allée, where there are a variety of restaurants, bars, and nightclubs. We had lunch at Savini, which is located right across the street from my hotel. It was nice to sit outside on the patio and watch people walk by while we were dining.
After lunch we decided to explore more of the city by horse drawn carriage. You can find the carriages near the Chateau Frontenac hotel. The ride cost $90 for a 40 minute tour of the city. We rode through the Plains of Abraham and Quebec City. The guide gave us a history of the city, explaining all of the statues we passed, pointing out the oldest homes and restaurants, and giving us interesting facts and tidbits. After our tour ended, we walked the streets and found fun street entertainers, great shops, and even found an alleyway, called La Rue Du Tresor, where artists display their work.
There is a Cirque du Soleil show that takes place in Agora, the Old Port of Quebec. Next to the show is a wonderful Parisian-style Bistro called Café du Monde. The restaurant is very large, has a full bar, and has a great prix fixe menu to enjoy before the show. The duck liver paté was unbelievable. I also enjoyed the flank steak with a watercress butter and the crème brulée desert. The service was perfect as well.
After dinner we walked next door to see the Cirque show. The show is performed nightly, except for Sundays and Mondays, from June 23, 2013 – September 1, 2013. There are a number of VIP reserved seats you can purchase for $17.00 (plus $3.00 service charge) each. Otherwise the tickets are free and are general admission and first come, first served. The doors open 30 minutes before the beginning of the show. A cast of 35 artists perform amazing stunts and you are mesmerized during the 50-minute performance. You literally are holding your breath as they do magnificent feats of strength and agility. Definitely a great way to spend the evening.
We also visited the Saint-Louis Forts and Chateaux National Historical Site, which is located beneath the Dufferin Terrace . This was where, for more than 200 years of French and then English rule, the official residence and seat of the power of the French and British governors was located. There were 500,000 artifacts founds on this site and they have many objects on display in the fort. They offer tours in both English and French and have a special family tour that will entertain the kids. There is also an archeological dig area where kids can dig up artifacts and match them up with items stored in a filing cabinet.
After the fort we visited Fortifications of Quebec National Historic Site Artillery Park. We first visited the Officer’s Quarters where we toured the fully restored dining room, kitchen, and drawing room, as well as the officer’s mess. It was fascinating to see original furniture from centuries ago, as well as the kitchen appliances used back then. After our tour we ended up in the Dauphine Redoubt for dinner. What an incredibly beautiful room. This is the room where the leaders used to have their dinners. We had a fabulous dinner there that was catered by Le George V. This meal was the finest meal I had in Quebec City. Every course was mouth watering. To give you an idea of how delectable this meal was, the first course was a trio of grilled scallops and bacon, honey and vanilla salmon tataki, and home-smoked trout from Orléans Island. It was all presented so beautifully, as well. For additional activities taking place at the Quebec National Historic Site Artillery Park, visit this link. This was definitely the perfect way to end this trip to Quebec City.
New France Festival
Quebec is a city that loves to celebrate so you can imagine my excitement when they invited me to Quebec City to celebrate the New France Festival. This year’s theme was “To Our Heroines!”--known and unknown women, pioneers, erudites, natives, nuns, and merchants who have all marked the history of the colony.
This year, the festival ran from August 7 – August 11, 2013. The opening night started out at the Bassin Louise Port of Quebec where they reconstruct the Arrival of Filles du Roy. This is where the 36 women representing the King’s daughter come alongside in Quebec. Later that evening, the opening parade takes place on Grande Allée where 500 people dressed in costumes stroll along the streets as they sing, dance, and interact with the crowds lined up along the streets. There were wonderful costumes and Giants. Everyone is so into this festival and happy to be a part of this event. You can purchase a medallion, which will give you access to all of the New France Festival sites, for $10. After the parade we went to the Place de Paris where there is plenty of food, drink, and entertainment. This is a great opportunity to sample the food of Quebec, and the entertainment was wonderful. The first night there was a wonderful trio called Barbo performing. The evening ended with a fireworks show over the St. Lawrence River.
Throughout the festival, there are many different events going on throughout the city. On my final day in Quebec City I celebrated the New France Festival by wearing a period costume from the 1700s. So many people were walking around in great costumes. The entire city gets into the festivities. We even participated in a parade. It was so great to see everyone lined up along the sidewalk cheering us on.
We started the morning by visiting the Vieux-Seminaire Courtyard, where they had a variety of interactive activities set up. You can participate in stone carving, learn to fence, paint a masterpiece, and more.
Next we visited the Musée des Ursulines Garden. This Ursuline Convent was founded in 1639 and is the oldest institution of learning for women in North America. This was the first time in 374 years that the garden was open to the public. In the garden they gave us a history of the convent and also had a person role playing a doctor during that time period (the people playing these roles are called animators). The doctor animator had a variety of “medical” tools that were used during that time, and he explained how they were used. The staff were very welcoming to tourist and spoke in both English and French.
Throughout the city there are areas set up to celebrate this magnificent festival. People are dressed in costumes and take on the roles of the characters they are dressed as. This really brings history to life for the visitors, and is such wonderful way to learn. The New France Festival brings in 200,000 people in 5 days; 55 percent to 60 percent of the visitors are tourists, from 25 different countries. As Stephan Parent, the Executive and Programming director of the festival, said, the Festival gives Quebec City soul, by what you see and experience. The Festival touches all of your senses.
Quebec City is such a beautiful city to visit. It is rich in history and culture. Whether you are traveling with your family, partner, or friend, Quebec has something for everyone.
I would like to thank Quebec City Tourism for sponsoring me on this wonderful traveling experience to Quebec City.