Arriving in Quebec City, La Citadelle, and the Château Frontenac

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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.

Gare du Palais

Complete with grand hall and a cavernous domed ceiling.

Interior Gare du Palais Quebec City

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.

Side Street in Quebec Old City

The Old City - Quebec City

The Old City - Quebec City

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.

Flag of the 22nd Regiment
Flag of the 22nd Regiment

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.

Cannon at La Citadelle Quebec

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.

Officer's quarters at La Citadelle Quebec

The barracks where the enlisted men slept lacked the crest and decoration.

Interior at La Citadelle Quebec

Not pictured in this post are the following museum stops:

Interior at La Citadelle Quebec

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.

Canons at La Citadelle Quebec

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.

Chateau Frontenac and frozen St. Lawrence River

St. Lawrence River from La Citadelle Quebec

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.

Chateau Frontenac and Us

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.

Chateau Frontenac

Statue outside Chateau Frontenac

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.

La Maison Marocaine in Quebec City

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.

La Maison Marocaine in Quebec City

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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Suitcases and Sandcastles


    1. Author

      Just go on a warm day!

  1. I finally made it to Montréal for the first time last year and Québec is high on my list as well! Love the view from Château Frontenac. #farawayfiles

    1. Author

      Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Lovely post, though it looks so cold! I know I would never find myself here in winter, my Southern California blood couldn’t take it. That said the Chateau looks so lovely, and I would love to see it in person. I know just what you mean about asking others to take your photo. I always try to take a nice photo for people, but it seems so one sided, doesn’t it? #farawayfiles

  3. Fascinated by this as I don’t recall ever seeing pictures of Québec before. It looks so elegant and European and very pretty in the snow. You’ve really inspired me to visit. Thanks for sharing on #FarawayFiles

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