Quebec City trip Report...

Oct 2nd, 2002, 11:18 AM
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Quebec City trip Report...

Well, we just returned from seven wonderful days in Quebec City. Thanks to many of your contributions, we went with armloads of recommendations and tips for exploring this beautiful and historical city. Since I relied on the Fodors web site for so much information, I thought it only fair that I give back some of what I got. It is with this in mind that I am “filing” the following trip report—in the hope that future travelers can garner some useful information. Since i wrote more than I intended, this is posted in three parts.

OUR HOTEL: We stayed at a hotel in Lower Town called Hotel des Coutellier ( This is a small (24 rooms) and moderately priced hotel located on Rue St.-Paul right across from the marina. The staff was friendly, the room was spacious and well equipped, and the location was excellent. We were right near the heart of the art and antique district and there were many great restaurants and boutiques nearby. I know that people are often posing the question “upper or lower town?” and, after vastly exploring both, I have to say that I would probably stay in lower town again.

While not a full-service hotel, the Hotel des Coutellier does offer basic services such as dry cleaning, etc., and, the small but capable staff will even deliver room service from the restaurant next door. One of the best features of this hotel; however, is their continental breakfast. At 7am each morning the front desk clerk sneaks up to your room (they didn’t awaken us once) and hangs a picnic basket of goodies on a hook by your door. The basket contains croissants, muffins, yoghurt and juice…and you don’t have to leave your room! This was a really nice touch.

One last thing I would like to add is that the hotel is run by a man named Jean-Sabastien Page who is a veritable font of useful information on everything from restaurants to history to excursions. I picked his brain for information often and he was only too happy to oblige. We would definitely stay at the Hotel des Coutellier again.
Oct 2nd, 2002, 11:20 AM
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RESTAURANTS: So many choices, so little time…

Le Saint-Amour: Our first night out and one of our most memorable experiences. Le Saint-Amour is a beautiful little restaurant on Rue St.-Ursule in upper town. The chef is award-winning, the food is superb and the ambience is very romantic. We began our meal with a piece of melt-in-your-mouth goose foie gras and an escargot “stew” made with garlic cream, spinach and pinon nuts…unbelievably delicious! Our main courses consisted of broiled veal sweetbreads and an incredible rack of Charlevoix lamb. If I were to attempt to describe the desserts, I would only bring tears to your eyes! By the way, if you dine there be sure to make reservations a few days in advance and request the winter garden (it’s an indoor atrium in the back of the restaurant that is simply beautiful). Also, don’t forget to order something from their extensive (and reasonable) wine list.

Le Continental: I realize there has been some mixed press on Fodors concerning this restaurant; however, we thought it was excellent. If you like classic continental food (Duck l’Orange, Sole Meuniere, Chateaubriand, etc.) you will not be disappointed. Sure, there’s nothing new or innovative here, but the preparations are right on, the servers experienced and the ambience appropriately classy. Their foie gras de terrine and lobster bisque rivaled the best I’ve had and the tableside flambes are pulled off with flair and panache. Where else can you get crepes with fresh peaches made tableside?

Le Ardoise: This is a small locals place located in lower town around the corner from Mesclun. Quite casual and featuring a nightly prix-fixe menu with everything from confit of duck to foie de veau. Nice ambience, casual service, good food.

Marie Clarisse: After being told by virtually everyone that this was THE place to go for seafood, we made advanced reservations for our night out at this adorable and romantic restro. The menu changes daily (which is always a good sign for a seafood place) and is read and described to each table by the maitre ‘d. That said, however, our meal at Marie Clarisse was our most disappointing. The service was scattered and the food was unimpressive. My date had the fresh lobster which, unfortunately, was cooked until rubbery and I had the bouillabaisse which more closely resembled a very bland cioppino. Given what we had heard about this place, I chalk up our experience to an off night: every restaurant has one once in awhile.

Le Echaude’: Very attractive French/Mediterranean Restaurant in lower town right down the street from Mesclun. The menu features everything from a wonderful steak tartare to bouillabaisse and the service is friendly and efficient. One of the few places we went to that had an actual “bar” where you could sit and just enjoy a cocktail if you liked.
Oct 2nd, 2002, 11:21 AM
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Since our hotel provided continental breakfast for us each morning, we never managed to make it out for breakfast. As for lunch, generally we found ourselves in high tourist areas at that time and really struck out with most of the places we tried. Had we been closer to our hotel during the lunch hours I believe we would have had much better luck, as that’s where many of the locals seemed to be dining.

Other Quebec City highlights include:

Strolling on the boardwalk in front of the Chateau Frontenac and watching the street performers; hors d’ oeuvres and wine on the terasse overlooking the St. Lawrence river at the Frontenac; walking around the Plains of Abraham (unbelievably beautiful!); exploring every street, nook and cranny of Vieux Quebec; experiencing the battle reenactment at Museo du Fort; jazz at the Hotel Clarendon; a river cruise up to Montmorency Falls; Montmorency Falls themselves (spectacular!)…

We also rented a convertible and drove to Charlevoix. We were only there overnight and will have to explore this beautiful region more fully on our next trip. Baie St.-Paul is wonderful (great artisan community and THE place to buy nice gifts for people) and Le Malbaie is home to the Hotel Manoir Richelieu—where we stayed overnight. Both these towns (and others) deserved more of our time but, sadly, we just didn’t have it to give them. We will definitely rectify that next time.

Well, I know this is long but if you’ve hung in there this far and have any questions, I’ll check back periodically and try to answer them. Thanks to all who contributed their time, tips and advice: you really helped to make our trip a wonderful one!

Oct 2nd, 2002, 11:45 AM
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Thanks for the report - we go to QC about every other year, and always like to hear about new experiences or restaurants. We too were VERY disappointed in Marie Clarisse on our last trip. Our absolutely favorite restaurant in the area is La Camarine in Beaupre (near Mont Sainte Anne) - the BEST meal we've ever had in our lives...
Oct 3rd, 2002, 08:40 AM
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Thanks for the report, David. We, too, ate at the continental and thought it was wonderful. Did you make it to Mesclun? It was on our list but just didn't pan out.

Lisa (I'm not)
Oct 3rd, 2002, 10:37 AM
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David,Thanks for such a wonderful detailed report.We are visiting Quebec later part of this month for our 25th, and will definitely take into consideration your suggestions.
Oct 4th, 2002, 12:05 PM
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Mesclun was on our list but we never managed to make it there... maybe next time.


Let me know if you have any questions. One trip hardly makes me an expert but I will try my best to answer anything.

Oct 7th, 2002, 08:37 AM
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Just curious, why do you prefer lower town to upper? Pros? Cons?


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