Ahh the honeymoon. Of course we would've loved to go to Europe, but twice in a year is a little excessive, especially on top of a wedding. So we went with the next best thing within Canada... Québec! Québec City for nine days and Montreal for four. We've been to Montreal many times, but I had been to Québec City only once, on a school trip in grade 8, and Mike had never been, which just seemed silly. It's a one-hour flight!
Most people want to know what the heck we found to do in Québec City for nine days. It's more of a long weekend destination for most, I guess. We've certainly never spent that much time in one city, either. But you have to remember that we left two days after our wedding. All we wanted to do was unplug and take it easy: sleep in, stroll, patio people-watch, eat some good food, drink some French wine. When you have nine days somewhere, you can do all that and not worry that your picnic got rained out or the museum is closing... because you can go tomorrow! It was great! Maybe our days of go-go-go backpacking are behind us?
The very first night we arrived was La Fête nationale du Québec, also known as Saint-John-Baptiste Day. Actually, I believe the holiday was the next day, but the party was the night before. And what a party it was! Stages were spread out across the entire Plains of Abraham — every musical genre was represented — and you could peruse it all with a beer in hand. (Why can't Ontario get behind this concept?) We walked around the whole thing and then settled in at the hip hop stage with Loud Lary Ajust and their hilariously "bilingual" rhymes: "Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, oh my God, I mean oh my Dieu!" Haha! It was so fun!
We stayed in this beautiful airbnb apartment. The location was great: on a relatively quiet street, outside of the touristy area, but close enough to walk to all the sites, and in between trendy Rue Saint-Jean and Avenue Cartier. That amazing kitchen didn't get much use, but the balcony sure did. It was a great place to come back to at the end of a long day... or to not leave at all on a rainy one.
The Chateau Frontenac sadly doesn't offer tours anymore, but that didn't stop us from poking around. After a delicious cheese and charcuterie platter at the newly renovated bar, 1608, we ended up in the basement where we found this photo. Ladies who lunch? How about ladies who skate... and are served martinis on the frozen lake? I have a new goal to aspire to.
Down down down into the Old Port. We weren't crazy for the scene down there at first. The shops, galleries, and restaurants all seemed aimed at an older, wealthier demographic. Think Niagara on the Lake. But then we turned a corner and discovered Quartier Petit Champlain, which was quaint and lovely. We settled in at Bistrot le Pape Georges for lunch and, thanks to the very friendly waitress, a few too many glasses of rosé. We were quite content on the patio, but the atmosphere inside was awesome too. It was built in an old house from 1668 — need I say more? The Petit Champlain shopping wasn't half bad either. Mike bought me a beautiful leather clutch from M0851 as a wedding gift. Can't complain about that!
The Musée des Ursulines de Québec preserves the art and history of the Ursuline Convent of Québec City, the oldest institution of learning for women in North America. The range of subjects these women learned was pretty astounding - it almost made me wish I could be a student there now. They also had an embroidery exhibit on that was quite beautiful. We weren't allowed to take photos, unfortunately.
The clear favourite for us, however, was the Morrin Centre. Before it became the first English-language college in Québec City, it was the city's first public prison. This unique mix of history made for a very interesting tour, from dank basement cells to science laboratories and an absolutely spectacular library.
Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec was a treat both inside and out. It emphasizes art by Québécois artists, which is really what you want as a tourist, and the tower wing, which used to be a jail, is an interesting piece of preserved history. If you need a break, the café patio has a great view overlooking the park. Just don't order the beef tartare, or tell the waitress that you disliked it, for that matter. You've been warned.
I'm not usually big on modern art, but the Les matins infidèles: L’art du protocole (Unfaithful Mornings: The Art of Protocol) exhibition was brilliant. Inspired by the film of the same name, in which a photographer takes a picture at the same time on the same street corner for a year, this exhibition brings together fifteen artists whose work was executed in a similar manner, with strict methodical rules. 40 meters of paper, 400 pounds of wool, 7905 Spirograph drawings, thousands of pinholes. It was all beautifully mesmerizing.
We also rented a car one day and made a trip out to see Montmorency Falls and Île d'Orléans. Maybe we've been spoiled, living so close to Niagara Falls, but we found the falls a little ho hum. The island, on the other hand, was fantastic! We sampled wine, cider, cassis and ice cream while overlooking the Saint Lawrence River. We were able to drive around the entire island in an afternoon (it's only 34k long and 8k wide), but I would've liked to have had more time to stop and explore. In hindsight, I wish we stayed a night here. You live and you learn.
Another advantage of having a lot of time in one city, we feel like we got to explore neighbourhoods that likely get overlooked by tourists on a tight schedule, like Quartier Saint-Roch, where we shopped, sampled some micro brews, and dined at L'affaire Est Ketchup, which was one of the best meals the entire trip.
This crazy show was set up outside of a subway station. Only in Montreal.
It was fun to catch some of the jazz fest this time, as I'd never been. We did some research ahead of time and set out specifically to see these guys, The Fat Tuesday Brass Band, a 7-piece band with a New Orleans funk sound. As expected, they killed it!
The duo we liked to call Money Pants and Slash hit the stage afterwards and there was no way I was walking away before hearing a few songs. Their real band name was Les Deuxluxes and they were every bit as fun and rock and roll as they looked.
I'm so happy we were able to catch the end of the Orkestra Severni and Gypsy Kumbia Orchestra set that was making it's way across the square. What a performance! I felt like I was at a Beirut Takeaway Show. Luckily Mike had the forethought to shoot a quick video, complete with weird dancing man. Enjoy.
I've saved the best for last. The food. Oh my God, the food.
Adopting the "it's our honeymoon, let's splurge" philosophy, we ate at some truly amazing restaurants on this trip. L'affaire Est Ketchup, Le Moine Echanson, and Hobbit Bistro were all highlights in Québec City. In Montreal, Au Pied du Cochon left us so drunk on foie gras that we had to hold each other up on the walk home. And then there was Joe Beef, where I believe I declared myself "the happiest girl in Montreal." Haha!
All in all, we spent our two weeks well. It was exactly what we needed to both keep that newlywed high going strong and ease the shock of it all being over. We don't grant ourselves (or others) that favour very often, do we? But it's so important. What if we took a trip after every big life event? Let's make that a thing.
By the way, if you missed the other four parts of my wedding recap, you can find them here.