Quebec City won us over with its Europeanesque charm: the old world architecture, cobblestone streets, and winding, narrow side-roads with interesting shops and nooks.
If it were less expensive, we would have stayed for several nights to fully explore the area, but it seems that in late July, we had arrived at the cusp of the tourist season. Many hotels were full, and those that weren’t charged upwards of $250. We therefore stayed for only one night, but chose a quaint hotel right in the old city called L’Intendant. We parked our car upon arrival, and did not use it again until it was time to leave the city.
The manager of the hotel was an off-beat French-Canadian who cracked jokes and immediately won over the children. Our room was spacious; there was even a separate bedroom for the kids.
We spent the afternoon walking around the old city.
We stopped by French restaurant Cafe St. Malo as it came highly recommended on tripadvisor. It did have a neat atmosphere, with knickknacks on the walls and old French music sweeping through the dining area. The food, however, left something to be desired. My French onion soup was basically a bowl of baked cheese, and Roman accidentally ordered blood sausage which he then refused to eat (he didn’t realize blood sausage was made of actual congealed pig’s blood). The kids had steak and frites which tasted fine, but was nothing extraordinary.
After our meal, we continued our climb to the wall which surrounds the old city. We came upon a public square at the statue of Samuel de Champlain (founder of Quebec City) where street performers put on shows all afternoon. The kids were enthralled – they sat and watched a full performance by a troop of comedic acrobats, and I pried them away with great difficulty halfway through the second show by a stilt-walking clown.
We walked up and around and down the old quarter of Quebec City until we were all exhausted. After stopping at a creperie for a light dinner, we came back to the hotel for a rest.
At eight o’clock, we ventured back out for a ghost tour of old Quebec: Les visites fantômes de Québec.
A young woman dressed in eighteenth century garb and carrying a flickering candlelit lantern conducted the tour. She took us through places of interest in the old city – some of which we had passed earlier that day – and told a gruesome, frightening tale about each one. Some of the stories were pretty horrific (the tour was recommended for ages 10+), but luckily the kids couldn’t quite grasp all the details and simply enjoyed the scary atmosphere and our (slightly modified) re-tellings. As the tour progressed, the sun began to set, until evening was upon us and the nighttime lights of the city showed another side of Quebec’s beauty. The tour concluded in a pitch black Cathedral (closed to the public for the day, but open to our tour). It was great fun. Our walk back to the hotel through the city at night was a rare treat – normally, the kids are in bed by eight or nine, so we rarely get to see the city lights.
In the morning, we had breakfast included at the hotel before we set off. The restaurant area looked dim and dusty, like it hadn’t been used in years. We saw self-serve cereal canisters and resigned ourselves to a meal of stale Cheerios. Instead, the manager surprised us with an amazing French breakfast: warm croissants with homemade jam preserves, fresh fruit, fresh-squeezed juice, and a strong cup of coffee.
All in all, our stay in Quebec City may have been short, but it certainly stands out as one of the best destinations on our road trip.