The morning of the 31st, we left Montreal behind for the bustling metropolis that is Quebec City. On our first day, we managed to cross off both La Citadelle and the Château Frontenac before ending with a subdued New Year’s Eve celebration.
Bienvenue a Quebec City
My general rule when abroad is that once I land in a country, I avoid flying again if at all possible. After all, getting there is half the fun.
That’s why we booked tickets from Montreal to Quebec City on Via Rail Canada instead of flying. It only took about an hour longer, was more centrally located in both cities, and was a great way to see the countryside.
Also, Gare du Palais in Quebec City looks like something from Hogwarts.
Complete with grand hall and a cavernous domed ceiling.
Our hostel was about a 15 minute walk from the station. And after dropping our bags, we headed back out to explore the Old City of Quebec. The photos are from two different days which is why they look so different.
The Old City was all very pretty. The architecture hearkened back to the city’s foundation as a stop on the St Lawrence River complete with chateaus, steep sloped roofs, and narrow streets.
However, like many quaint towns of this ilk, the downtown has become so touristy that it’s hard to feel any authentic connection to it’s deeply historic roots. The streets are lined with overpriced food options that aren’t local to the region and trinket gift shops. That said, I’m part of the problem. After noticing there were several shops carrying them, I began shopping for the perfect Quebec Nordiques t-shirt.
But we had no time to waste with petty shopping. There was history to be seen!
La Citadelle de Québec
We walked from the Old City to La Citadelle, a historic yet still functioning military base for the famed 22nd Regiment of the Canadian Armed Forces. Originally built by the French in 1673, it still houses troops but isn’t the defensive stalwart it was a few hundred years ago. The cannons have been filled with concrete and today, it’s largely a ceremonial base, housing a museum and a few officers. And it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
First, we began by seeing the outside of La Citadelle. Below is one of the cannons that once defended the fort. At its peak, La Citadelle was the most heavily armed fort in North America.
After seeing part of the perimeter, we were led to the Officer’s barracks which were the most ornately decorated on the base, complete with regimental crest.
The barracks where the enlisted men slept lacked the crest and decoration.
Not pictured in this post are the following museum stops:
- A Detailed History of the fort’s role in historical battles such as The Battle of Quebec, the attempted seizure by Gen. Richard Montgomery during the American Revolutionary War, and the War of 1812.
- The holding cells which housed rebellious soldiers and criminals alike, but did not house heaters
- Ceremonial visits from Heads of State such as Winston Churchill and Queen Elizabeth II
- The mascot of La Citadelle, Batisse the Goat.
- A historical look at the actions of the 22nd Regiment that led to their monument at Vimy Ridge in WW1 in France.
Looking West and Château Frontenac
The western face of the fort was the most heavily armed section of the base. Lined up beneath the Canadian Flag was a line of cannons facing the St. Lawrence River.
This vantage point also overlooked the Old City of Quebec with a great view of the Château Frontenac (which—again—I jokingly called Château Fromage or “Cheese Castle”). From this vantage point, I can tell why Château Frontenac is the most photographed building in the world.
Instead of taking a selfie with the castle in the background, I handed my camera off to someone who had their own Big Nerdy Camera. My assumption was that they would know how to use the camera and how to frame a picture well.
When I checked my photos later, I found that I had about six of the same photo. All are framed oddly, and none of which have a large enough depth of field to be fully in-focus. It proves we were there, but it’s not going to win any awards.
I guess the point that I’m trying to make is that just because someone has a nice camera doesn’t mean they’re a good photographer.
After La Citadelle
We still had some hours of daylight left after we finished the tour of La Citadelle, so we took our time wandering back towards our hostel. I got a few cool shots of the Château Frontenac up close as well as a statue that lives in the plaza outside.
Dinner and the Remainder of the Evening
Our first night in Quebec City was New Years Eve. Yes, we’d left Montreal—a hub for parties and nightlife—to come to a small river town way out of the way. Bars filled with people buying drink packages and restaurants were booked out for the evening.
We had made no such plans, so we went off to find a place that had an open table. And boy, did we find one.
From the main street, a sandwich board sign pointed down a dimly lit alleyway. At the end was La Maison Marocaine. This small Moroccan joint wasn’t exactly hoppin’ at 8:30 at night. We were able to be seated quickly (most of our wait was because we couldn’t choose which table we wanted).
We ordered spicy dishes and drank tea at a casual pace. While we were there, not one person came in which was sad because I actually liked this place. I had a spicy sausage, and Sarah had the Vegetable Couscous. I’d wholly recommend it, but I’m also biased: I love all kinds of Mediterranean food. It’s the key to my cold heart.
New Years Eve in Quebec City
We planned to go to the New Years Festival in Parliament Square, but couldn’t stomach spending more time outside. We could have gone to a bar, but the bar packages were expensive and catered exclusively to the backpackers that come to the Old City.
So after dinner, we headed back to our accommodation and made the tactical decision to sit in the common area of our hostel and meet people. After a while, we were joined by two Canadians, an Aussie, and two Koreans who started playing Monopoly.
I started a conversation with one of the Canadians from Alberta by quoting Letterkenny Problems. I picked his brain about the non-French Canadian Canada like whether he rooted for the Oilers or the Flames. His answer in a hammed-up rural accent: “I’ll tell ya, I wouldn’t call myself an Oilers fan but that team in Calgary can fuck right off.”
I also asked him if I should visit Edmonton, and his answer was “No. Don’t. I only go back because I was born there.” A ringing endorsement, I must say.
At the end of the evening, the Monopoly group went out to drink but Sarah and I were done. We kissed at Midnight, heard the fireworks go off, and went to bed.
The next day, we’d be exploring more of the Old City. But that’s next post.
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