The weather people said it was going to be sunny on Saturday and Sunday. We, initially, planned to visit Old Quebec on Sunday but decided to go a day earlier due to possible public transportation issues.
Husband tried to purchase tickets online, only to keep getting rejections. Remember what I wrote about earning points as we spent? Yep, Amex. His and mine were rejected so he used his debit card. Voila! Tickets were purchased. The website said we needed to print out the tickets so H went downstairs to have it printed.
There were two options getting to Quebec City using public transport: bus or train. We opted for the bus because it left by the hour starting at 6 in the morning and the tickets cost CAD54 per person. Here’s the website for Orleans Express. In contrast, going by train would have cost us CAD 72.43 and we would have been limited between the 9:06 am and 12:45 pm departures. Since it would take 3 hours+ to get to Quebec, we wouldn’t have been able to see a lot of Old Quebec.
The Centre Ville (or Central Station) was very convenient as it was the same station we arrived at from Plattsburgh. There were already people lining up at Gate #6 when we arrived 45 minutes before departure. We were glad we took the bus. The Canadian buses (vs the Greyhound we took) were clean, had working charging stations, seat trays, comfortable seats, and free wi-fi.
While on the queue, I took a moment to surreptitiously admire this fashionable guy pushing the pram of his adorable daughter. His hair was stylishly cut and fell over his face as he leaned down to speak to his daughter once in a while. He had a scarf wrapped casually around his neck and a jacket that fitted him nicely. I even got to see him interact with his daughter since he decided to seat in front of us. While his daughter sang quietly or asked him questions in a quiet voice, he answered without going into baby speak. The entire three hours, the kid, who was probably 1-2 years old (not sure, I’m not good with kid’s ages) did not throw a tantrum or kick the chair in front of her. She was well-behaved. He even cuddled her as she slept. My heart melted as I observed this interaction. H whispered, “The guy looks like Robert Downey Jr.” I couldn’t help it, I snapped a photo of him.
H wasn’t immune either, I found this out later, when we discussed how there were more men out and about with their kids on their own, ably taking care of them, and being openly affectionate. This was in contrast to the usual scenario of women handling their kids either alone or with a disinterested guy, or guys being publicly berated by their wives or girlfriends for forgetting the milk or other baby stuff, parents at the end of their wits yelling at their kids to behave or parents ignoring their kids’ antics because they looked so tired.
The bus driver did a quick announcement in French but I did catch bits and pieces and got the gist of it. It was the standard welcome to the bus, where it was headed, and to keep conversations and noise level low. I was impressed that the entire bus complied. No noisy discussions, no music leaking out of ear phones, heck, even the babies and kids on the bus complied. How’s that for considerate travelers?
Old Quebec City
I did a quick google and read from other posts that the bus would take two stops. We got off on the 2nd stop, which was at the Gare Du Palais Station. From their, we walked for about 20 minutes, skipping Bus 21, which passed us by as we were walking uphill.
First Stop: Château Frontenac
The Chateau is an impressive building, which was originally built for the 1893 Chicago World Fair. It sits on top of “Cape Diamond overlooking Dufferin Terrace and the St. Lawrence River” (https://www.quebecregion.com/en/quebec-city-and-area/chateau-frontenac/). It is considered to be the most photographed building in Quebec.
While the outside is grand, the lobby was equally awe-inspiring. It is a hotel and is operated by the Fairmont Chain but the public is allowed to walk the halls.
The promenade outside the hotel was a great spot for walking and observing the river below.
2nd Stop: Citadelle of Quebec
Above the Chateau is the citadel. It is “an active military installation and official residence of both the Canadian monarch and the Governor General of Canada. The citadel is the oldest military building in Canada, and forms part of the fortifications of Quebec City, which is one of only two cities in North America still surrounded by fortifications, the other being Campeche, Mexico.” (wikipedia)
The entrance from the Chateau was undergoing construction so people were directed to take the other entrance at the other end, down the hill, round the bend, and up to the hill again. It was a bit of a walk.
We weren’t able to see the entire citadel since guests needed to purchase a ticket and be a part of a tour. It’s an active military base and people are prohibited from loitering, rightly so, but we didn’t have to the time to wait and for the entire tour to finish. Instead, we viewed the citadel from the top and walked around the Old City a bit more.
3rd Stop: Lunch at Il Bello
We briefly stopped in front of the Parliament House and enjoyed the tulips in bloom surrounding the statue and the fountain, until our grumbling stomach told us it was time for lunch.
Based on Google ranking, we decided to have lunch at Il Bello. They claimed to be Italian but I would call the food a fusion of Italian-French. It was a charming place and quite spacious. There were only three tables occupied at that time and we had the fortune to be seated at the closed French windows.
The Foie gras alla bella was very popular among the diners. The slice of duck liver was very generous and went well with the soft slices olive oil drenched bread. H’s veal tartar was chunky with onions. For dessert, H had the flambeed bello coffee, which disappointingly didn’t come aflame. It was the only reason he ordered because the menu promised a feast for the eyes. I ordered two desserts, as usual. The lemon cake was a dome shaped pastry covering a lemon jelly and whipped cream, with hardened lemon cream on top. The home-made tiramisu had heavy mascarpone and a strong flavor of coffee.
A couple later came in when we were enjoying our tea and insisted that they wanted to sit outside, even though it was obvious the outside area was not open for dining. To the Restaurant’s credit, they compromised and opened the windows allowing the cold inside. The staff asked the me if it was okay to open the windows all the way to our side and I had to say no since it was cold. The other diners directly in front of the open window didn’t mind but I caught a whiff of a putrid scent and we high-tailed it out of there.
4th Stop: Notre-Dame de Quebec Basilica
All the tourist spots were located within meters of each other. A block away from the restaurant was a mini-plaza with a fire-twirling busker entertaining the crowd. Across the street stood the basilica. There’s no entrance fee and no queues outside the cathedral when we were there, which was great, as we were able to enjoy the relative quiet inside.
5th Stop: The Port
We meandered our way back to the Gare du Palais station, passing little alleys filled with artists displaying their wares and popping inside retail stores, before we decided to walk along the port. There wasn’t much to see so we ducked inside this installation to take shelter from the hot sun and found a market inside. There were plants, pastries, soaps, etc. being sold. We didn’t buy anything since we didn’t want to carry to overfill our tiny carry on bag when we go back to Boston.
Back to Montreal
Our return ticket was scheduled at 5.30 pm but since we were tired and didn’t want to wait 2 hours, we had our tickets changed to 4.30 pm.
Overall, we spent about 3-and-a-half hours in Old Quebec.