Traveling with my boys has definitely gotten easier in the past few years. Sure, there are fights, but they are able to sit still long enough so plane and car rides are no longer torturous events. Yay, me!
This summer we decided to take a trip to Québec City. I had been several times, but this would be the boys’ first trip. The area is simply beautiful! It’s like what I imagine being in a quaint, European city would be like. I came across pins from the blogs Sugar and Soul and We3Travel, which gave me quite a few ideas of places to visit that the kids might like.
Day 1 – Road Trip and Old Québec
We packed our bags and set off on our adventure. Living in New Hampshire makes it easy for us to travel to some really great places in a short amount of time. Québec City is only about 5 hours from home.
We decided to cross the border at Derby Line, Vermont and stopped to fill up the tank before heading across the border. Trust me, you will want to fill up as close to the border as you can. Gas prices are quite high in neighboring Canada.
Border crossings are always interesting. Every now and then it can be tough (random car searches, questions for the kids, etc.), but this one was super uneventful. Phew!
After a surprisingly flat drive on the Trans-Canada Highway (we New Englanders are used to hilly roads), we arrived at our hotel. We stayed at the Best Western Premiere Hotel Aristocrate just outside the city. As much as I would have loved to stay within the walls of Old Québec, it just didn’t make economic sense. Not only are the prices higher, but parking is not included. By staying just 10 minutes (30 during rush hour) away, we could come and go as we please and save a bunch of money. The hotel was really quite nice. It was clean, modern, and super convenient to all the places we planned to go.
As soon as we arrived, we dumped our bags and headed into Old Québec to sightsee and eat dinner.
I picked the d’Youville garage at random and found it was really close to the walls of Vieux Québec (and the expensive hotels we were looking at). We headed straight to the Château Frontenac and the Dufferin Terrace. The iconic hotel (yes, you can stay there!) overlooks the St. Lawrence River and is frankly hard to stop looking at and photographing. I tried to restrain myself, but good Lord, it’s breathtaking!
Dufferin Terrace with a beautiful view of the Château Frontenac in Old Québec.
Just when you think it can’t get any more picturesque, you head down L’Escalier Casse-Cou (Breakneck Stairs) to the Basse-Ville or Lower Town. I felt like I was in another world! Charming buildings containing everything from gelato and baked goods, fine arts and crafts, restaurants, and of course souvenir shops (My kids have to have their tchatchkes!) surround you.
After oohing and ahhing at all the wonderful treats, we headed to Aux Anciens Canadien for dinner. The restaurant boasts that it is housed in the oldest house in Québec (built in 1675) and serves traditional Québecois food. My husband and I had Grandma’s special which consisted of a big slab of tourtière (meat pie), baked beans, and all the other traditional fixings. The boys chose tourtière, too, and claimed it was almost as good as Mémérè’s. Now that’s tough to beat!
Day 2 – Waterfalls, Churches, and an Island
A full itinerary awaited us! Our first stop was Montmorency Falls, which are actually taller than Niagara Falls though definitely not as wide or as impressive. Sorry Montmorency! We parked at the Manor of the same name, crossed the bridge over the falls, went down a crazy bunch of stairs, got wet from the mist at the bottom of the falls, and then took a gondola ride back up to the Manor. There was no way I was climbing back up those stairs! The kids enjoyed sitting at on the platform at the bottom of the falls. They were soaked!
Next up…the Basilica Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupre, a beautiful church that has been credited by the Catholic Church with the curing of the sick. There are many braces, canes, and crutches that have been sent by those who were cured of their ailments after a visit to the basilica.
What next? Why another waterfall with tons of stairs, of course! After visiting the basilica, we drove to nearby Canyon Sainte-Anne. These falls are a lot different. The whole family agreed that these were way more fun to explore than the other. Again, sorry Montmorency! Apparently if climbing stairs and walking across suspension bridges isn’t an adventure enough, Canyon Sainte-Anne also offers a guided ropes/cliff scaling/tightrope walking/death wish kind of adventure. My kids begged to try it, but I told them we just weren’t cool parents. Sadly, they didn’t disagree. Sigh.
After all the stair climbing, I was ready for some sightseeing by car. Yes, my legs were done! Île d’Orléans is a perfect place to tour around. This beautiful island on the St. Lawrence River is filled with rolling farms, quaint towns, and incredible views. Did I mention the bakeries, chocolate shop, farm stands and wineries? Got your attention now, huh? Our choices…gourmet pizza and danishes from La Boulange, fresh picked strawberries from one of the many stands on the island, and chocolate from Chocolatiere d’Île d’Orléans. Heaven!
I just can’t say enough how spectacular the views were. We actually started talking about retiring there some day, until the thought of winter on an island in northern Canada put a stop to that. Brrrrr!
Once we had seen most of the island, we went back to Old Québec for dinner at our new favorite restaurant, La Buche. This restaurant boasts traditional French Canadian fare with a twist.
My kids stuck to what they know best…Pâté Chinois (kind of like Shepard’s Pie, but better) and Poutine. By the way, in my neck of the woods and where my mom is from in French Canada, Poutine is pronounced more like…”puts in”, not “poo teen”. That’s just weird! After all, it is a Quebec thing, right?!? Anyway, the Pâté Chinois came with shredded beef (my version is made with hamburger) and the Poutine had a giant slab of bacon on it. Delicious!
photo courtesy of La Buche Facebook page
I always love a place with a quirky sense of humor and good food and La Buche checked off all the boxes! I’d describe it as modern meets lumberjack. According to my boys, the bathroom was AWESOME. Yes, the bathroom! The sink is an old clawfoot tub in the middle of the room and the bathroom stalls are lined with graffiti (a pen is provided for you to add your own mark). You don’t see that every day!
After dinner, we headed to see the Holy Door at the Basilica Notre-Dame-de-Quebec. We are Catholic, so this was one of the things we had wanted to experience while in Old Québec. According to my research, the Holy Door is usually only opened every 25 years during a Jubilee Year, and symbolizes the passages of faithful life. It is the only Holy Door in North America (1 of 7 in the world) and was open this year by the Pope to celebrate the Jubilee of Mercy. The church itself is beautiful and is worth the visit, even if you do not go through the Holy Door.
Now I know what you are thinking…that girl has not climbed enough stairs today! Not to worry! More climbing followed our journey through the Holy Door. This time we climbed the fortified wall surrounding the city. These thick ramparts surrounding Old Québec are the only remaining fortified walls in North America and are very cool.
Day 3 – Rainy Day Plans
Rain in the forecast. No problem! We thought the Aquarium du Québec would be a great choice. It was literally down the hill from our hotel. What we didn’t realize is that the Aquarium is made up of several buildings with lots of outdoor exhibits. Needless to say we got wet! It was fun anyway. The seal show, polar bears, walrus, jellyfish exhibits, and stingray petting were our favorites!
So, what else do you do on a rainy day? Head to the mall, right? One of the malls outside the city has a large amusement park in it, called Mega Parc. Unfortunately, everyone else in Canada had the same idea and the parking was like a mall at Christmas time.
We decided to pass on the crowds, grabbed lunch instead, and headed back to Old Québec since the weather had cleared.
We spent our last evening walking around the city savoring the sights and sounds and a gelato or two. 🙂 We will definitely be back.