March

March 29th was a rainy afternoon which I had free. I took the bus to the end of Robson by Denman. I walked back the rest of the way and recorded some these of clips to share. It was just cloudy originally, but then the rain started to come down by the end of this video. I ended up ducking into a Starbucks and waited for the rain to let up after. Today’s West End Robson Street has always been home to neighbourhood shops. However, it is increasingly becoming a magnet for relatively affordable ethnic food. With all the English language colleges downtown, there is an increasing international student population in the Downtown core. Most of these Internationals are Koreans and Japanese. Thus, you will notice a huge representation of Korean and Japanese restaurants dotted along this stretch of Robson. No complaints here. I love all the food that this student population has induced here along Robson. Favourites in this part of town include Jang Mo Jib, Shantouka Hokkaido Ramen, Hapa Izakaya, Sura Korean, and Beijing Restaurant (it’s actually a Korean restaurant bearing a Chinese name). There’s also Kintaro Ramen, Zakkushi, and Kingyo which are all on Denman, but are very close to Robson Street. Rebuild the parking lot and put up foodie paradise!

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Queen Elizabeth Park on a sunny morning

Here’s another video. This time I had a little time on a sunny Thursday morning. It was pretty quiet in the park, but still some activity going on. I’m still trying to get used to filming with my Nokia Lumia 1020, though. It’s a little odd since the camera lens is actually left of centre when I hold the phone in landscape/horizontal orientation. Anyway, I hope you guys enjoy these little snippets of Vancouver.

Quebec City – Outside the City Walls/À Centre-Ville

There is obviously more to Quebec City than just Vieux-Quèbec, or Old Quebec.  The Old City is what draws everyone to Quebec for all it’s beauty and history.  However, one can and should venture beyond the city walls a little bit.

One evening, we left the Old City to grab some food. We had just trekked along the Governors’ Promenade and cut through the snowy Plains of Abraham.  So we found ourselves on Grande-AlléeGrande-Allée starts from the entrance of Vieux-Quebec.  It’s probably how a lot of tourist first enter Old Quebec.  Just outside the walled city and the Quebec Parliament buildings are a whole row of restaurants and night clubs.  This area is Quebec City’s entertainment district.

In addition to the night clubs, you can find a Chez Ashton and St. Hubert.  Those are more regular run-of-the-mill Quebecois eateries.  However, if you really want to dress to the nines, then the lounges and clubs are here.  I’m sure my winter boots would be a fashion faux-pas in most of these places.

A lit-up classic Fiat along Grande-Allée marks one such drinking establishment.  A steady stream of taxis were dropping off patrons in their cocktail dresses.  Yep.  I’m pretty sure my red Sears-bought winter coat will not pass the hostess.

Apart from Grande-Allée, I also ventured into another part of downtown Quebec, or Centre-Ville.  I never stopped in Carré d’Youville, but as I passed by on the bus, it looked like a shopping area with a shopping mall on one side of the square.  Just past Carré d’Youville and Avenue Honoré-Mercier, there are the roads of Rue Saint-Jean and Rue D’Aiguillon.  These two roads had a collection of shops and restaurants. I only had 20 minutes or so on my last day in Quebec City to wander these streets, but I would have liked to spend more time here.  It’s more of a place that the locals frequent.  Vieux-Quebec is more of a tourist area and these streets felt much more local and more authentic.

Quebec City – The Governors’ Promenade

The Governor’s Promenade in Quebec City was opened by Prime Minister John Diefenbaker back in 1960.  It’s basically an elevated boardwalk that’s built into the side of the citadel fortifications of Quebec City.  It offers great views of the St. Lawrence River below. It’s also one of the main connectors between the Chateau Frontenac, where all tourists seem to congregate, and the Plains of Abraham.

From the statue of Samuel De Champlain by the Chateau Frontenac, we headed up river along the Dufferin Terrace and past the Chateau itself.  At the end of the terrace, we found the Parks Canada sign marking the start of the Governors’ Promenade.

governors' promenade

My coworker had been here a few days before after a big dump of snow.  The stairs and the boardwalk were covered underneath a few inches of snow.  What a difference a few days can make.  The boardwalk was mostly bare on this day.

This evening was beautiful along the river.  The setting sun shone upon the other shore while the river lay mostly in the shadow.  The buildings across the way reflected back the golden colour onto the water.  The big freighter in the river broke up the reflected light and cast long shadows.

Below along the riverfront, there were what looked like red and green buoys.  They were items to be used in the navigation of the river, I’m sure.  The colour sure stands out in a wintery river scene.

It was a quiet evening along the boardwalk itself.  We spent some time just watching freighters go up and down the river.  The sun was setting quickly and the sky.

Closer to the end of the Governors’ Promenade, the sun was almost all gone.  The sky and the clouds were now bathed in a purple sunset.  It was pure purple serenity.

At the end the Governors’ Promenade is a gazebo and terrace, but this part was very snowy.  They hadn’t cleared this part. Plus the trail ends right at the Plains of Abraham. It’s hard to believe that the battle on this humble piece of ground decided the fate of North America many centuries ago.  So through those snowy historic fields, we trekked back to the rest of the city.

snowy plains of abraham

Quebec City – Vieux-Port/Old Port

After returning from Lévis on ferry, we were pretty hungry.  We walked the lower town towards Rue St. Paul.  Rue St. Paul is just below the ramparts of the upper town and runs alongside the Port of Quebec.  We were on our way to a recommended eatery along Rue St. Paul.

We passed some neat little store fronts. There were a few antique shops along the way.  Plus the florist with an amazing random wood chandalier above their front door. That was quite the piece of work.

Our destination for lunch was Brynd Smoked Meats.  My coworker had already been here a few days ago, but she felt was worth a return visit.  We all ordered some smoked meat sandwiches, but the pièce de resistance was the smoked meat poutine. There were extra portions of shaved smoked meat topping the poutine.  It was SO good!  You really do need all the walking in Quebec City to help you work off all the extra calories from all the poutine you’re going to try!

brynd-st-paul

I also loved the decor of the eatery.  There was a bicycle theme to parts of the restaurant.  My other coworker, an avid, avid cyclist wanted a photo of the wall where an artist’s painting hung. There was also the doodle of a dog showing the way to the washrooms.  Remember that “F” is femme for ladies and “H” is homme for the gents.

After packing lunch away, we made our way across the street to the Via Rail station.  This station is the Gare Du Palais.  It stands out as another giant example of Canadian Pacific Railway architecture that is so prevalent across Canada.  The copper roofs and the palatial look really stand out and grab your attention.

Inside, the ceiling was just as impressive as the architecture outside.  The huge ceiling vaulted high above and was complete with stained glass depiction of North America.

A little ways down from the Via Rail station was the Marché du Vieux-Port de Québec, or The Quebec Old Port Market as we would say in English.  Because it was March, the market was empty in some parts.  I can only imagine that more vendors from rural Quebec would descend upon this market during the growing and harvesting season.  We found everything from maple syrup (of course) to honey to locally made foie gras.

“Open and help yourself. Thank you.”

I personally loved a store in the back of the market called La Routes des Indes.  It was a like a mini-supermarket that specialized in all sorts of spices, teas, and exotic food stuff from around Asia and the Middle East.  There were these little drawers full of pre-packaged spices that you could pick from.  The shelves are tightly packed and the aisles are narrow.  However, it was fun to go in and peruse the selection of dry goods.

It was in La Route des Indes that I also came across a brand of tea I had never seen before.  It was Kusmi Tea from Paris.  I’m a sucker for nice, colourful packaging.  And boy, is Kusmi packaging every eye-catching.  They had a whole shelf full of the Kusmi Tea products right at the entrance to the shop.  I decided to buy a box of assorted teas to give to my wife.

So we made our way back to the Auberge-Saint-Antoine.  The walk from the Port area can offer great views of the buildings on the ramparts of Quebec City.  The different elevation off the tightly packed buildings, the city fortifications, and the steeple towers really add a unique feel that can only be described as Quebec City.

On that note, I’ll leave you with this photo from along Rue St Paul.  You never know what you may encounter on your travels.  If you didn’t have a car or bicycle and you needed to move a chair, wouldn’t you have done the same?

Quebec City – Across the River in Lévis

After an icy ferry ride across the St. Lawrence River, we ended up in the City of Lévis.  It’s a small town built upon a ridge overlooking the St. Lawrence on the southeast shore of the river. If you arriving in Lévis by ferry, as we did, then you will need to take one of two sets of stairs up to the main town above.

You will want to make your way up to Avenue Bégin (“bay-zhen”) where most of the stores are.  This must be what Main Street Quebec feels like in small towns.  We noticed that everyone was making their way into one old brown house. The house is home to Les Chocolats Favoris (Favourite Chocolates), a chocolatier in the middle of town. We were there just before Easter (known as Pâques in French).  It was busy with Quebecois families coming to and fro and buying lots of chocolate in anticipation of the Easter Weekend.

Apart from Les Chocolats Favoris, the rest of the block looked very quiet on this snowy Saturday morning.  I could see some people enjoying a little brunch inside this delicatessen called Aux P’tits Oignons. It looks like a neat little place to grab a bite.

We made our way down the block and went back towards the river.  We came across a large church called Notre-Dame-de-LévisThere was a funeral at the time we passed by.  Everyone was milling out of the church in black attire.

Around the corner and down the road from Notre-Dame-de-Lévis was the Collège de Lévis.  The college has a beautiful building in which it is housed.  Much of Quebec City has a similar architectural theme.  I love the little towers or steeples that seem omnipresent across the Quebec landscape.

After passing the College, we made our way back towards the ferry and descended the red set of stairs to the north of the ferry terminal. The ferry ride back across to Quebec City was nice way to end a Saturday morning of walking in Quebec.

Quebec City – Ferry Across the Icy St. Lawrence

When people visit Quebec City, they usually stay in the Old City. However, my coworkers and I caught a glimpse of the ferry plying through the icy waters of the St. Lawrence River. That got us thinking to what is on the other side of the river. We soon found out from the hotel concierge that the city of Lèvis sits on the southeast side of the river. Plus, we really wanted to experience a ferry across the St. Lawrence with all the winter ice still floating around.

This river scene at dusk piqued our interest about an icy ferry ride and what lies across on the other side.

The St. Lawrence at the end of March was still very, very icy.  The flow of the river carried all the ice quickly down stream.  We watched with amusement as one ferry was carried downstream past the ferry dock on the other side.  The boat had to work hard to go back upstream against the flow and the ice pushing downstream.

As the ferry actually got into the thick part of the ice, you could hear an amazing crunch.  The sound was loud and crisp.  It somehow matched the subzero temperatures of the day.  It was an amazing feeling to be on a boat breaking through ice.  It was a very worthwhile ride.

The St. Lawrence River is one busy waterway.  Freighters slowly chugged by us on the ferry.  Some may have come down from the Great Lakes on their way out to the Atlantic Ocean and destinations afar.

Looking back to the shore that we left, we could see the Chateau Frontenac tower over the rest of Vieux-Quebec.  The newly minted copper roof is still truly copper at this point in time.  Many years down the road, it will be the copper-green that we often see on other Canadian Pacific (now Fairmont) hotels across Canada.

If you ever are in Quebec in the winter, then I do recommend the CAD$6.50 (March 2013) for the round trip crossing.  Also, I recommend briefly walking around Lèvis just to get a sense of a smaller Quebec town apart from the usual destinations like Quebec City and Montreal.

 

Quebec City – Stairs Everywhere/Escaliers Partout

One thing you should know about Quebec City is that there are stairs everywhere. You can’t escape the existence of stairs. There may be an elevator or there may not. In a city with over 400 years of history, you should expect to do a lot of walking and a lot of climbing.

I stayed down in the Petit Champlain/Vieux Port area which I called the Lower Town. It’s down along the riverfront, but outside the original city walls that protect what I call the Upper Town.  So if you need to travel between the Upper Town and the Lower Town, then you need a really good pair of walking shoes.  A good pair of knees wouldn’t hurt either.

Now add snow to all those stairs.  Then you need a really good pair of winter boots or regular shoes with great grip.

In the daytime or the nighttime, Quebec City is a stunning cityscape from 400 years ago.  The top of these stairs offer a great view of Petit Champlain.  If you really don’t want to take the stairs, then you can take the Funiculaire for $2.25 per person.

The Funiculaire has been in operation since 1879. Now it was a big deal in 1879.  However, you may look at it as a glorified elevator.  Call it whatever you want, it is a pretty neat vehicle to take people up from Petit Champlain or down from the Chateau Frontenac.  I think it’s worth taking at least once.  But don’t forget, I’m a major transit geek. 🙂

Then there are plenty of streets with significant inclines.  My coworkers started to suspect that the steep inclines were a built-in Quebecois exercise program to work off all the poutine the tourists eat. I can tell you that one climb up from Petit Champlain to Chateau Frontenac certainly burnt off a significant amount of poutine I had for lunch.

The moral of the story is bring a good pair of comfy shoes.  If you are travelling during the snowy season, a pair of winter boots will be helpful, but not always necessary.

P.S.

Oh, and if you really want a cracker way to make the descent from Upper Town to Lower Town, you should join the Red Bull Crashed Ice event and skate your way down iced up scaffolding all the way to the river front.  Crashed Ice was the weekend before we were there.  It’s such a big event that they were still cleaning up the leftovers a week later.

L’Auberge Saint-Antoine

Because of a work-related workshop in Quebec City, I was very fortunate to be put up at L’Auberge Saint-Antoine for a couple of nights.  This boutique hotel is in the Old Port area and just next to the shops of Petit Champlain.  The hotel is literally steps from the river.  The hotel is a unique mix of hotel luxury and educational museum.  L’Auberge Saint-Antoine sits on the site of the Old Port and many artifacts were found during the re-construction of the old buildings.  Little displays of artifacts are littered around the hotel.  Every room has an artifact just outside the door and embedded within a case in the night side table. It was a truly luxurious stay that I normally wouldn’t splurge upon.

I was greeted in my room by the melodies of a Diana Krall CD playing on their Bose system.  There was a tiny corridor with closets for me to stuff everything in.  A Nespresso machine sat on one of the counters ready for coffee connoisseurs to enjoy (I never did have the time to make a Nespresso for myself).  The bathroom floor was heated and luxurious bathrobes were hanging ready to cuddle new guests.  A little card sat on the pillow and welcomed me to L’Auberge Saint-Antoine with a brief weather forecast for tomorrow.

Meals were served in the attached two-level Panache Restaurant or the Artefact Cafe-Bar in the lobby.  There was also an auditorium in the hotel complete with a breakout dining and drinking area.  That’s where we had our workshops and enjoyed an evening of hors d’oeurves and entertainment.  Our entertainment was a magic show put on by Eric Leclerc and we were even served popcorn for the evening.

L’Auberge Saint-Antoine was a great place to stay. I normally would not fork out the money on my own for a place like this.  So I’m grateful that I had the chance to spend a weekend here.  The hotel may not be in the heart of Old Quebec, but Petit Champlain is just next door with plenty of shops to peruse.  One could hop on the Funiculaire and be lifted up to the Chateau Frontenac and upper town.  You could also just walk up all the stairs to work off all the poutine you’ve eaten in Quebec.  There are public buses just out on Rue Dalhousie that one can take to other parts of Quebec City.  There are also the ferries that cross the St. Lawrence to the town of Lévis on the other side of the river.  The ferry terminal is a very quick walk from the hotel.  Overall, it was a splendid hotel in what has always been a splendid city.