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Trip Report Montreal and Quebec City in the Fall as an option to Paris

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We spent a delightful week this October in Canada and I thought it would be nice to share given the limited number of postings for both Montreal and Quebec City.

First, let me say that this trip was in lieu of our usual Fall trip to Paris and as such I was somewhat “neutral” about the prospect. The outcome however was that we will return to both cities. While not Paris they do for us living in New England offer a pleasant alternative for a short and less expensive vacation that has a European “flare”.

Montreal was an easy drive from Hartford CT, with a lunch stop over we were at our hotel in about 5 hours. No jet-lag and far less costly. We stayed at Le Place D’Armes a boutique style hotel that we booked through Traveling with friends we booked to King rooms, one of which the hotel upgraded to a suite. Both rooms were very spacious for a city hotel, nicely appointed and quite comfortable. We will return. The bar is comfortable and a pleasant stop for the buffet breakfast. Aix Cuisine du Terroir, the restaurant in the hotel fell short in my opinion. Glasses of wine were at best 4 ounces and portions equally as small. As such, overpriced for what was mediocre food as well. They seem to rely more on their reputation then delivery. Equally aggravating was the e-mail I got during dinner from Open Table indicating the restaurant had cancelled our reservation. This they could not explain or correct despite 15 minutes of the manager and staff running in circles.

We opted for a Grey Line tour of the city given that it was a cloudy almost raining day. This made sense to us given the weather and each stop over afforded opportunities to walk around a bit. Lesson learned for us though was that the first stop was at Notre Dame…. Next to our hotel….we wasted nearly an hour as we had already explored the wonderful church. The City is a delight and our short time there was too short. I’d like to get back and see the biodome and further explore the old city.

Our second nights meal was t Bonaparte and it was one of the highlights of the trip. The food, wine and wait staff were all excellent. The escargot casserole and the chicken stuffed with lobster were out standing. Each meal and each course was prepared to perfection. Maybe we got a bit lucky, but I suspect not, everyone in the restaurant seemed to be enjoying themselves.

From Montreal the early morning drive to Quebec City was painless. About half way we got off the highway for breakfast and given that Burger King was all we could find, that’s were we went…. And my over easy eggs were perfect!

In Quebec City we booked rooms at Le-Port Royal Hotel and Suites in the Lower (old) city. The rooms, were really one bedroom apartments at what I would guess were 800 sqf, with separate bedrooms, living room and full kitchen. An excellent value and very comfort able for longer stays. We were in Quebec City for 4 nights and as such only used the kitchen for a few breakfasts and cocktail hours. (There is a gas station on the back side that sells wine)

The October was perfect, cool and sunny. We walked two city walking tours. One of the lower and the other of the upper city. These along with lunch stops and shopping nicely filled two days. We also added on a tour of the Citadel which was very informative and offered excellent views of the river and port.

A couple of notes on restaurants:

Le Café du Monde - Reviews are generally positive and the restaurant is billed a s a large Paris Bistro. To me it fell more like a large tour bus restaurant (factory). The food fell into two categories, fresh fish which was good (not great) and Bistro fare… the bistro fare was pre-cooked and over cooked. Perhaps the volume of diners in the Fall is low and the food turn-over is not ideal…. All in all, not a positive experience and I would not return….

Buffet de l’Antiquire – On rue St Paul we found this little place in the lower town via our tour book and were glad we did. It feels a bit like a old NYC style deli/diner and is warm and cozy inside. Nothing fancy, just a good place to stop over for a very reasonable meal. Breakfast food is breakfast food, but the fresh berry jam was a delight on thick slices of toasted home made bread. We also stopped in for lunch. The vegetables are canned and include lots of peas…. I hate canned peas…. But everything else was pretty darn good. Even the poutine! It’s not fancy, simple cafeteria fare, but an easy warm meal when busy “touring”. The Antique shops on the street were fun too!

Café St. Malo also on rue St. Paul - This was the “find” in Quebec for us. The short menu is varied and the Pig brains were from what I was told absolutely perfect. My Osso Bucco was also excellent. The house wines are perfectly suitable and we returned a second night….. muscles were fresh and yummy and the rabbit was perfect. The Café feels like Paris and the wait staff was delightful. We will return to Quebec City just to eat here!

Aux Anciens Canadiens – Following advice we ate here for lunch. I suspect much of the food is pre-prepared, but it is done carefully and the food and atmosphere make for an enjoyable meal. It does have it’s share of tourists 9it’s in every book), but there seemed to be quite a few Canadians dining as well. My meat pie was good (better than the others I had to date) and the maple syrup pie was far too good!

We did eat in the hotels restaurant one night and were somewhat disappointed. “Le 48” has three problems. First, it does not know what it wants to be. Inside it is decorated in a modern almost Moroccan style. The video screens sport Cirque du Soleil performances and the Cirque music is completely out of synch with the video (in fact it is a different show). That’s just confusing to the diner. Second, The menu crosses from a light fare tappas style to burgers… again very confusing. Third the waiters were high as kites, no kidding they were disruptive loud, laughing at each other and dropping food plates all over the place…a total mess. (we questioned the later point at the hotel desk and were told the yes they do “drink” sometimes…. this was more than just wine) Now the upside the food was quite good and I suspect when the out door terrace is open it is a great place to stop and have wine and a nosh.

We did a day trip North to The Basilica and shrine of St Anne d’ Beaupre, Montmorency Falls and island of Orleans. It was a great day trip despite many things being closed in the off-season. St Anne falls were closed and that was disappointing, but Montmorency was very enjoyable. We parked at the bottom ($10) and took the cable car up ($10 each). At the top we noted that there was a small parking lot at the top, empty in the off season.

Was Montreal and Quebec City just like Paris, no….. but it worked and we plan to return!

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