Every time I go on a semi-long vacation, I like to do an A-Z reflection on my trip as both a way of remembering my experiences as well as sharing them with my readers. The following is my A-Z reflection post on the trip I took to Québec City and Montréal, Canada between Christmas and New Year's 2016 to 2017.
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A – Amtrak.
The trip from NYC to Montréal is looooonnnngggg. But the seats are pretty comfy. They recline like your typical airline seat (which isn't much), but the bottom part of the seat also pulls out for you to put your legs on. Lay flat seating I think they call it? But don't think you can actually lay flat. You can't. But you can stretch your legs out, so that's nice.
And just as a heads up (though I'll probably write an entire blog post on this journey), the train comes to a complete stop at the border crossing where everyone's passport is checked and they are questioned. Thoroughly. Have your return tickets out and available to show the officer who questions you, and DO NOT give them your phone. Have a printed copy of your tickets or confirmation information. You do not want to be taken off the train for further questioning. And you do not want to be the person to hold the train up because you don't have yourself together.
Also, trash or eat all fruit, veggies, and nuts before you get to the border. The paperwork you fill out asks if you have any of these things. Don't lie (what if you are randomly chosen for inspection?) and don't say you have them either (yet another reason for possible inspection). Just eat them or trash them before the officer gets on board the train and you're good. (I doubt they will inspect your stomach.)
B – Basilique Notre-Dame in Montréal.
Beautiful. old. blue. 5$ CAD per person. Another perfect church that is a must-visit if you are in the area.
C – Cidre de Glace (or cider made from apples in Québec after the first frost).
Umm… I was never much of a fan of cider (or sparkling alcoholic cider) in France, but I fell hard for the Québec version. Especially Michael Jodoin white ciders. As described on the website " Light golden-yellow color and fine aromas of fresh fruit (mainly apple) and white flowers aromas. The palate is almost dry, lively, fresh and delicate, completed by a little bitterness." In other words: perfect. :) I had a glass, after discovering it that is, at every meal. :)
D – Dreary.
Not every day was beautiful during our trip. We arrived during the end of a snowstorm in Québec City, so while we got to experience some nice and pretty skies, we also saw some … not so nice skies. And to see the snow whipping past you as you look out the window of a restaurant? It's alarming, to say the least. You really don't want to leave to go back to your hotel!
E – Elated!
I waited until the very last minute to get a reservation at La Raclette in Montréal, so I was thrilled when there was an opening. And, we were informed that we needed to bring a bottle of wine which we had just picked up from the local liquor store. Perfect!
And man was the food good. I mean – the food was good everywhere we went in Montréal and Québec City, but at La Raclette, you can expect to have a meal. Our meal was three courses and took three hours to consume. It was heavenly. I almost felt like I was visiting France again… :)
F – the French language.
I have always been enamored with the French language, but to hear Christmas carols sung in it?! *squee*
And FYI: just because you call to make a reservation or appointment in Québec City or Montréal and they answer in French, don't assume that English isn't one of the main languages. It definitely is. People in Québec City and Montréal speak both English and French, so choose a language and enjoy! Don't stress yourself out over it! :)
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G – Great Food!
Everywhere we went the food was absolutely delicious! In Montréal, we had Italian, Swiss (raclette?), and Canadian (poutine). In Québec City, we enjoyed French, Canadian, and bar food. No matter what we ate, though, the food was always good. These two cities are perfect for foodies!
H – Hot chocolate.
It's a no-go. But maybe you'll have a better experience than me? All of the hot chocolate I drank in Montréal and Québec City may as well have been fancy Swiss Miss. And that's not what I want to drink in cold and snowy weather. Guess I'll have to return to France proper for the good stuff.
I – Ice Hotel.
It's a thing that is built approximately 30 minutes outside of Québec City. Why people would choose to stay there, I don't know. But it's cool to see none-the-less.
J – Joyful.
There were so many things that went well with this trip. From getting tickets to see the ice hotel, trying maple syrup concoctions, and exploring nature, I was filled with joy and excitement!
K – Kindness
The people of Canada were, more often than not, super kind. All of the service workers seemed to go out of their way to make sure Justin and I were having a pleasant experience wherever we were. (Except for one particular hotel – and even they feigned being friendly!)
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L – the Levis Ferry.
Two words: It's cold.
But worth it. :) To hear the boat crunching up the ice, to see beautiful Québec City from across the St. Laurent River, and to question how people in their right minds could participate in ice canoeing.
Yep. Worth it. :)
M – Maple flavor.
I got so sick of maple flavor.
They sell everything maple in Québec City and Montréal. Maple syrup, maple butter, maple jelly, crepes with maple x, candy made from maple and snow, and … the thing that really threw me over the edge: a hot maple drink.
We originally tried the hot maple drink while exploring and Ice Hotel near Québec City. When you are cold, you are after anything warm. But once we got inside, we came to our senses. Is this maple drink purely for the tourists? Or do Canadians regularly drink it? I suppose this is something I will never know…
|the view from Mont-Royal is amazing!|
N – Natural.
We did so much nature exploring in the cold and snow in Québec City and Montréal.
First, we took the Levis Ferry across the river and got to hear the ice crunch beneath the boat. It was thrilling and creepy at the same time. I did not feel like dealing with a Titanic repeat!
Then, we rode the bus in Montréal up to Mont-Royal where we stood in the freezing cold to snap pictures of the city. I was so cold that I couldn't feel my ears. I was just touching them to make sure they were still attached … it was the weirdest feeling ever. I think I need warmer clothes. :) And my husband drank chicken broth while were up there! EW! :)
Finally, there was our walk to the BioSphere which just happened to be closed. I just wanted to see it, though, so that was okay. It was absolutely beautiful all lit up in golden light. And the snow made the walk seem incredibly elegant and beautiful. I think we may have enjoyed the walk more if we hadn't taken it so close to the end of our time in Montréal. By then, I think we were sick of the cold.
O – Obstinate.
After paying a certain price for a room with a view, that's what you expect from your hotel when you arrive. So when they don't give you that room with the view, you get irritated.
Well, technically, the room had the view, but it was on a lower floor.
So, in reality, the hotel gave us what we paid for, but, as my husband would say, it wasn't in the "spirit" of the payment agreement. (Especially, since there were no non-view rooms on our floor. *sigh*)
Anyway, my word and emotion "obstinate" comes from a remark I made about the hotel when they had us climb the steps from the lobby to our room floor. (Does that tell you how close to the ground floor we were?) I'm not sure if they overheard what I was saying, but I was definitely feeling (and perhaps being) obstinate about the hotel. (i.e. If we had paid more, they would have given us a higher room. Therefore this hotel and the staff sucks. Which, unfortunately, is still my opinion.)
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P – poutine.
I have a love/hate relationship with it.
We tried it in 3 locations: Taverne Grande Allée (regular style from a local pub), and La Lapin Saute (made with rabbit) in Québec City, and Au Sommet Place Ville-Marie (breakfast style) in Montréal.
As for regular local style, I simply couldn't get over the squeakiness of the cheese. Like, I don't want to be eating "squeaky clean" cheese. Just no. The texture = ew.
And the one made with the rabbit? Well, to be honest, I didn't really try it. I'm not a foodie, and I'm not into eating cute little animals. I ate a few fries from my husband's dish, but that was about it. I avoided the rabbit sauce altogether.
The breakfast style poutine was my absolutely favorite! Instead of cheese curds, they melted mozzarella on top and served it with a sunny side up egg. YUM!! That dish took home a win for me (which was good, because I didn't like the side of fruity yogurt we ordered).
When I return to Canada, I will definitely be trying poutine again. I don't think three tries is enough to determine how I actually feel about it. Because let's be honest, cheese fries even without sauce are pretty awesome! So … adding a bit of meat sauce shouldn't change it that much, should it?
|Photo credit: mrurbain via VisualHunt / CC BY-NC-SA|
Q – the Québec City tourism website.
If you are planning a trip to Québec City, visit this website first. Not only does it break down the attractions by area, but it also tells you the approximate walk times to get to your next point of exploration.
Tip: Everything in Québec City is within 15 minutes of walking.
Tip 2: But it may be uphill, so come prepared to hike.
Tip 3: Or if it's icy and snowy outside, come prepared to slide. :)
R – River, St. Laurent.
No matter how you travel, the beautiful St. Laurent River will follow you as you move between Montréal, and Québec City providing beautiful views on the train and potentially great lookouts by car (assuming you know where you are going and where the river is in relation to the road).
S – Snow.
They were expecting up to 50 centimeters of snow while we were there. That's around 19 inches for my American readers. NINETEEN. So I realize I live in the no-snow zone (it may snow once or twice a year where I live), but NINETEEN INCHES?
And I'm not even kidding when I say that steps become ramps and there is no distinction between the road and the sidewalk. Seriously sometimes you step and you have no idea what you are stepping into or on.
I love snow (or perhaps the idea of it?), but if you visit Montréal, and Québec City in the winter be prepared. (Of course, this also means things like ice hotels can be built, ice rinks can be outside, and snow sledding, tobogganing, and other winter sports are welcome vacation possibilities!)
T – Tire Sur La Neige.
This is a candy made by spreading a hot maple "syrup" out onto the snow and rolling it onto a stick as it hardens. The result is similar to taffy except that it is maple flavored. I have read online that a true Canadian can eat 7 of these in a row without getting sick or tired of the treat. One was enough for me, though. :)
U – Unesco Heritage Site.
Did you know that Québec City is one?
Turns out Québec City was once a walled-in city. And, thus, is now a UNESCO heritage site.
V – Via Rail Canada, the rail service between Montréal, and Québec City.
Don't make my mistake and think that Québec City and Montréal, are a hop, skip, and a jump away from one another.
You will need a train ticket. Or a rental car. Or a plane.
But if you choose to use Via Rail Canada, the trip will take approximately 4 hours. And like the European rail system, you will want to purchase tickets in advance, preferably on sale. The cheapest tickets I got were 29$ CAD/person and the most expensive economy tickets I got were 84$ CAD/person. Upgrade to first class for better service, early boarding, and more leg room.
W – Winter.
I have no idea what these cities are like in the summer, but I am extremely glad I got to see them covered in snow. Québec City and Montréal seem like the perfect place for either a relaxing winter getaway or a perfect place to participate in winter sports. It all depends on what you seek in a winter getaway; no matter what – they have it!
(Asking for sun and beach weather might be a little too much, though. Even for these delightful and beautiful cities!)
X – X marks the spot.
We didn't have internet for most of the trip, so we ended up relying on maps a good bit of the time. It actually exhilarating being able to get around to where we wanted to go and finding the things we wanted to see without relying on our phones. Plus, it was nice being disconnected (for the most part anyway) for the week. Anytime we actually needed the internet, we were typically lucky in finding a cafe with free internet … or we just waited until we were back in our hotel room to look up whatever it was we needed.
Y – youthful!
Because that's how snow makes you feel! :)
Z – Zip line.
We saw them preparing one for Carnaval. If you are into that kind of thing, Québec City may be the place for you.
And that was our trip. Alphabetically. :) Have you ever been to Québec City or Montréal in the winter? Would you want to go? … Or do you prefer taking warmer vacations?