A foray into French Canada: Montreal + Quebec City

This post is one in a series about road trips in the United States and Canada. To see other road trip posts, click here.

On our northeast USA road trip, we decided to make a detour into the Canadian province of Quebec. It was a great couple of days – we thoroughly enjoyed the old European feel of the cities, and it was fun trying to speak French!

Maybe it was the fact that it was a grey, drizzly Sunday morning, but Montreal didn’t enthral us. The old city itself was nice, with old stone buildings and a European feel, but it was super quiet – the only people around the old town were tourists snapping away on their iPads, and absolutely nothing was open save one coffee shop and a couple of souvenir stores.

We had a lovely pain au chocolat (yup, it definitely felt like we were in Europe!) for breakfast and wandered around Vieux Montreal for an hour. But there really wasn’t much to see (or perhaps we missed something!) so we decided to move on. We’d heard that Quebec City was better anyway!


We drove the 2.5 hours to Quebec City and checked into our hotel, the Best Western Plus Centre-Ville. It was a nice enough hotel, nothing amazing but it satisfied our needs (aside from the $24 parking charge, ouch!). From there we headed into Vieux Quebec, the old walled city. The hotel website said it was only a 15 minute walk, but they neglected to mention the huge cliff with staircases that we had to scale before getting there! (The old town is up on the top of a hill – a very strategic position back in the day I’m sure!).

The old city was amazing. It actually felt like we were in an old French town – the walled town with little cobbled streets (Quebec has the only remaining city walls north of Mexico City), stone buildings with painted shutters and overflowing planter boxes hanging outside, gas lamps lining the streets, and of course people speaking French everywhere. What a charming place! Yes, it’s very touristy – nearly all the shops in the old city sell some kind of souvenir t-shirt or kitschy art piece, but it was so lovely to wander around and get lost.

We tried poutine, a Quebec dish that is fries topped with gravy and cheese curds. It sounds like a heart attack in a bowl – and it probably is – but it was yum! I don’t think I’d go out of my way to buy it again, but it was one of those things you have to try when in Quebec. We saw glass being blown into flying pigs, tried some local Quebec beer (I got apple beer – rather weird), saw a protest in favour of making public transport free, a free gypsy circus show, and had a lovely tapas-style dinner at a restaurant called Table.

The following day started with two of the biggest pain au chocolat we had ever seen – yum!!! We hit the road to Ile d’Orleans, an island in the middle of the river about 15 minutes from Quebec. Ile d’Orleans is famous for its wine, cider, and maple syrup, so we spent a few hours driving around the island sampling its wares. The ice cider was great – although very sweet, kind of like a dessert wine.

We didn’t think much of the wines, as they weren’t to our tastes. But we loved the maple syrup (who doesn’t?), and bought a tiny little jar of maple butter to take with us on our journey, as well as some local cheese and baguettes. We wanted to see the Montmorency Falls (30m higher than Niagara!) but it cost $10 just to drive into the carpark, so we sufficed with seeing them from the highway – pretty impressive nonetheless!

We headed back to Quebec and had one last look around the old city and discovered a big farmers market, where we bought some locally-made Andouille sausages and some Quebec wine before heading to Chemin du Lac camping ground about 20 minutes south of the city for the night. For dinner we ate all our local produce – so good!

Smart Shaun smelled rain in the air so we decided to blow up the mattress (we had acquired a pump by this stage), put down the car seats and sleep in the car. Good call – it didn’t actually rain until about 6 am but when it did it poured! Fortunately we were warm and dry for a big day of driving ahead. We said au revoir to Canada and headed back into the USA, into New Hampshire this time.

Up next – the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

P&S xx


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