Thursday, June 14, 2018

Quebec Has a Piece of My Heart

At 18, I graduated high school, packed a bag, and headed to Quebec City for the summer. It was my first taste of independence and I was scared out of my mind. As my parents turned around to leave, I signed a contract saying that I would speak only French for the next six weeks, which seemed like an impossible task with the few words I knew. Always a homebody, this was a huge step for me. It was a "love it or hate it" moment for sure. It turned into one of the best experiences of my life. Some of the girls I met are still those I call best friends. And after countless visits in the few following years (some great, some terrible), it is still my favourite city on the planet. Here's why:

* It's Gorgeous
The architecture is beautiful, as are the narrow, winding streets lined with mature trees. In the distance, beyond the river, you can see the forested hills and Jacques Cartier National Park where I've been rafting and kayaking. The Chateau-Frontenac stands stoically at the precipice of the cliff down to the Basse-Ville. ...I could go on and on.

* The People are so warm and welcoming
Montreal has a lot of positives but as someone who is always trying to improve her French skills, it is not the place to be. One look is all a salesperson needs to decide if you are French or English and there's usually no going back, no matter how much you persevere and try to respond in French. Our first morning in Quebec City demonstrated exactly what I like about the people here. Our waitress started with French, switched to English when she heard us talking to each other in English, then switched back to French when we continued with it, aiding us with hand gestures, repetitions, or clarifying words if needed. The accent is rounder and lovely, and the pace is relaxing.

* The Food
Of course you're going to get amazing French cuisine in Quebec. But what I love about Quebec City is that it's a blend of cosmopolitan and farm. You can find fresh moose burgers or foraged mushrooms on the menu, along with the delicious staples of crepes and cheese.

* The Size
Like Calgary, it's so accessible. Quebec city is pedestrian-friendly and small to get around. The main bus terminal and train station are centrally located meaning you could do your whole visit on foot if you like.

I was so excited to share my favourite city with Craig and Baby. I knew it would mean seeing it from a different perspective and experiencing it in a different way. And it did not disappoint!

Monday, June 11, 2018

Montréal à Grande Vitesse

With Erin heading back to work in the near future, our maternity leave travel opportunities were drawing to a close. Not ready to call it quits yet, we tacked on a week in Quebec to our biannual trip to Ontario to see friends and family.

We planned a whirlwind tour of Montreal, a city we've each spent some time in, which is not nearly enough time to do this great city justice. With less than 24 hours in our pockets, we spent a good chunk of it visiting family and feasting with our gracious hosts in their backyard.

Adventure Baby felt that we really needed to make the most of our one morning of sight-seeing so she awoke the entire house at 5 am (which felt like 3 am thanks to the time change), and off we went. We wandered Erin's favourite neighbourhood, Le Plateau-Mont-Royal, which didn't quite have its same feel thanks to the early hour of the day. Its desertedness was especially ironic after warnings from friends that we shouldn't head to the city during one of its most popular weekends: Formula One. Disappointment bubbled up when standing in front of the boutique Erin was excited to visit as we were over an hour earlier than its opening time.

Battling those Formula One crowds on St-Laurent...

With an understandably cranky baby, we continued on for a walk along Montreal's Old Port. The serenity of the location and time of day was interrupted occasionally by the sounds of race cars driving past on the nearby island.

A delicious lunch and great company awaited us back at Erin's Aunt's house, which brightened our weary spirits. A diaper explosion, closed rental car office, and tight transfer time to the train had us stressed to the max, but with moments to spare, we made it on board and were off on schedule to Quebec City. We'll look forward to our next visit when we can hopefully have more time to explore our favourite places Montreal has to offer.