The same rain was threatening on the morning of Mercredi, but we hoped it would hold off long enough for us to go on a boat tour. The Louis Jolliet was the same boat we’d seen from Dufferin Terrace, and we were really excited to go on it. I put on a tshirt, left the hotel, and went back inside to change to a hoodie. It was a lot colder than the previous day. We picked up coffee and rode the funicular down to the river.
We bought tickets ($80CA) for the 11:30 cruise and boarded. A very friendly guy dressed as Louis Jolliet greeted us, and we climbed up to the top deck to hang out while we waited to depart. It was gorgeous outside, and the boat, which had a capacity of 1,000, wasn’t very full at all.
The view of Quebec City from the river is spectacular. The Chateau Frontenac towers over everything.
We got underway, and Louis Jolliet started narrating, going back and forth between French and English with impressive skill. We passed the industrial part of the city in the old harbor, and then the huge shipbuilding plant on the south side of the St Lawrence.
(Fun fact: at this point it’s just the St Lawrence River; the seaway portion goes from near Montreal to the Great Lakes.)
The boat took us up as far as Montmorency Falls, which my parents happened to coincidentally be visiting via car. The falls are 1.5 times the height of Niagara, though it’s hard to tell that from the boat.
We passed under this bridge, did a loop, and headed back, passing Ile de Orleans. At that point it was getting really overcast again, and the blue skies were gone.
Louis Jolliet did a trivia contest where someone won a glass of local maple syrup whiskey called Coureur des Bois (‘runner of the woods’), and encouraged us all to go try it. So we did.
We took our drinks out to the pimp seats on the deck. The boat was obviously used for a lot of weddings.
The view coming back into Quebec City wasn’t quite as nice with the sky, but still. Pretty impressive.
We passed the dock and went to see the Plains of Abraham and the Citadel. The river got rapidly more industrial in that direction. Then we turned around and headed back.
As the boat pulled up to the dock, the rain started. We were really glad we’d taken the morning trip, because we’d been pretty lucky with the weather. We got off and walked into the Basse-Ville in search of lunch.
We walked around looking at menus, and as expected, being vegetarian was a challenge. We finally decided on a place called Côtes-à-Côtes Resto Grill. I was a little nervous about it being overly-touristy since it was right there on the river, but the menu was actually really good.
The rain had stopped again, so we asked for a table on the patio. There was another couple sitting out there, and we both had tables under large umbrellas in case it rained again. We ordered local beers (Le Cheval Blanc) and a cheve rillette with eggplant caviar and enjoyed the scenery. Oh, and the building dated from 1683. Crazy.
Right as our entrees arrived, it started raining again. For a while we were protected, and then the rain started increasing. We moved indoors and finished our meal.
We took the funicular back up the hill and went to go do more wandering in Vieux Quebec.
(I love the strange typeface on that building. It’s on the plaza facing Chateau Frontenac.)
Matt had a restaurant in mind in St Roch (what we thought of as the hipster part of Quebec), so we headed that direction. It was raining pretty steadily, which was kind of annoying for our wandering, mostly for photo-taking purposes.) We stopped into a few shops along the way to pick up souvenirs. The humidity was ridiculous, so we appreciated the air conditioning when we stopped.
We climbed down the hill from the Haute-Ville and saw the Gare du Palais near the river. We’re both huge train station nerds, so we had to go inside. (Plus they had nice bathrooms.) It was a good break from the rain, too.
From there we walked into St Roche Faubourg, and found La Korrigane. It was a quiet little place in what became a busy part of town, since it was nearing post-work hours and next to a busy bus stop. We sat there and watched Quebec City do its thing. In the meantime, the weather went from raining to clear and sunny. And HOT.
After a couple beers, we decided to head back up toward Vieux Quebec. We had fancy dinner plans and wanted to clean up a bit before we went over there.
We knew we’d come a very long way and that it had all been downhill, so we were ready for the fact that we’d be climbing. But holy crap, the hills in the heat and full sun – it was ridiculous. We got to a huge spiraling set of stairs and had to decide if it was better to keep climbing hills for blocks on end (on the ‘highway’ that had brought us into town) or take the stairs. We opted for the stairs, and took a recovery break at the top.
We wanted to pick up some liquor-based souvenirs to take home with us, so we looked up a liquor store nearby and went over there. It was called SAQ, and we liked that we ended up with a reusable liquor store back that said SAQ all over it. It’s Matt’s preferred mode of booze-transportation to this day.
The views were much improved from the rainy afternoon. We passed through the plaza with the Palais Montcalm and through the city gate.
Matt stopped into a nearby sports shop to by a Quebec Remparts tshirt. He’d watched enough local hockey to be a fan. (And their logo is awesome.)
We made it back to our hotel and had to shower, we were so sweaty. We hung out in the air conditioning and had a beer and an espresso from the lobby machine. (I loved that machine.) Then we changed and headed back down one of the many hills to dinner at Chez Boulay around 8pm. On the way there we ended up behind a group of young men we instantly realized were hockey players – plus Matt recognized one of them from TV – and were way too excited about it. One of the players asked the younger kids tagging along if they wanted to go get gelato, so they instantly became my favorite team. We later learned that they were the Oshawa Generals, who went on to win the Coupe Memorial.
At Chez Boulay, we were seated right away at the bar, and ordered fancy cocktails. Mine arrived with a gooseberry.
Our meal was as incredible as expected, and the service was very good. I had a beet salad, and gnocchi with local cheese. Matt had Arctic char carpacchio with cattail and milkweed pods, and bison cheek (which was the cheek of the day. Really). I liked that while the restaurant had really high-end food, it wasn’t overly pretentious, nor were the people there. It was a mix of locals and tourists.
After dinner, we decided to go back to the Hotel Chateau Frontenac to have a drink in the other recommended bar there. I stopped into the gift shop and overpaid like crazy for souvenirs (they were worth it), and then we headed to Bistro Le Sam. Its entrance is right next to the main hotel bar, but it’s very open and modern, not at all like the old-guy hunting lodge next door. Our bartender greeted us and gave us menus, and we noticed that most of the signature drinks from next door were on there, in addition to others.
We got talking to him about the local gin called Ungava, because its distinct feature is that it’s bright yellow. He had us sample that and another local gin, and then offered to mix drinks with them. Matt ended up with a Negroni, quite possible his favorite cocktail on earth after the Manhattan, and that led to a very long discussion about how Quebec bartenders had participated in Negroni week. Jean-Felix, our bartender, said he’d taken notes on all the variations and wanted to make them.
So it was time for mini-Negroni week at the Fairmont Hotel Chateau Frontenac. (Here’s Jean-Felix’s post he said he’d write with the cocktail details afterwards.) We met some celebrating locals and talked to them for a bit, and then it was time to go. We really wanted to hang out there all night, but we had a long drive to America ahead of us.