Crossing Uneven Ground

Quebec City Road Trip

Flowers Quebec City

Quebec City Road Trip.

Things are a little better with French…French bread or French toast for example not to mention French salad dressing or fries. Also, if you add French, certain things may get sexier …maids, curves, kisses. Oo la la! Well, what about French Canada? From our home in Milwaukee it’s about 17 hours drive to Quebec City, the heart of Canada Français. A ten day Quebec City road trip is very doable, so we said “Au revoir” to Brew Town to find out just how French, French Canada is.

Dufferin Terrace Gazebo

A crisp morning breeze snaps the Canadian flag on one of the Victorian era gazebos of Dufferin Terrace. This boardwalk is a great place to get an overview of the city and the St. Lawrence River below.

Approaching Quebec City by car you start to notice that road signs are all in French, no English. Down the road toward Montreal the signs did double language duty, but here it’s “en Français” only. Quebec license plates say “Je me souviens” or “I will remember.” I don’t know what they remember but I will remember that a “rue” is a road and that there is a lot of seasonal rue construction and collectors (ramps) are easy to miss. Thankfully our English-speaking GPS prevailed and we were soon through the gate in the city wall and rattling down the cobblestone rues of Vieux Quebec (Old Quebec).

Quebec City was founded in 1608 and was under siege from the British pretty much from the start. The defensive technology of the time was the enormous stone wall and Quebec City boasts the only such city wall remaining in North America. It is clear that this city was a fortress and it’s perched up on high ground. Along Rue des Ramparts a long row of menacing, black, 17th century cannon and mortars look down on the port below. Just outside the city wall is the historic site “The Plains of Abraham,” where the French lost Quebec and most of their land on the North American continent to the British in the French and Indian War in 1759.

Canon Rue des Ramparts

A long row of cannon look down on the Port of Quebec from Rue des Ramparts.

The charm of Quebec City is that it is a peek into the past. Colonial era buildings are picturesquely festooned with flowers. Streets (I mean rues) wind around the contours of the hilly substrate and dive down into an area called “Petite Champlain.” It is quaint here and it is touristy. The neighborhood has been developed into a walking mall of narrow streets, boutique shops, galleries, historic buildings and restaurants.

Tourists Quebec City

It’s hard to decide where to eat when all the restaurants look so good.

Petite Champlain District

Petite Champlain comprises a few narrow, cobblestone streets along the St. Lawrence River. Tourists are attracted by rows of shops, restaurants and beautiful old buildings.

Free or cheap entertainment is easy to find. If you like walking narrow streets, checking out shops and admiring tastefully-restored old buildings, you’ll enjoy long hours in Quebec City. You can relax from your walks with a drink at a sidewalk cafe and people watch for a while then head to one of the city squares and catch a street performance. Street performing is a Quebec City tradition and while they are encouraged, the city doesn’t support them financially. We had a lot of fun catching the acts and felt good about putting a few bucks in their hats afterwords.

Things to do in Quebec City.


Street Performer

Monsieur Rene enthralls a crowd at a city square. Find a bench and enjoy the show.

Quebec City Road Trip

Feats of Strength. Street performances are free but tips are greatly appreciated.

Circus Show Crepuscule

Quebec City sponsors a free “Cirque de Soleil” style circus called Crepuscule. Seats are first come, first serve at the Agora in the Vieux-Port (Old-Port) area.

Foie Gras Seller

At the local farmer’s market, Le Marché du Vieux-Port de Québec, this charming woman offered us a sample of goose foie gras.

Quebec City Road Trip

Architectural detail of a building next to the train station on the Rue de la Gare du Palais.

Notre Dame des Victoires

Take an evening stroll and check out the historic buildings. This is Notre Dame des Victoires.

Even though signs are in French and it is clear that the locals speak French first, it is pretty easy to get by with English in the tourist areas. All of the hotel, shop and restaurant staff that we ran into spoke fluent English so making purchases and getting directions was no problem. Prices were reasonable in Canada and our US dollars went pretty far. Gas was about the same price as the States. Hotels in the old town were a little pricey but considering it’s a major tourist destination, not bad. Food prices were about the same as similar venues in Milwaukee, so also, not bad.


Then there’s poutine. This mainstay of French Canadian cuisine starts with fries and layers on cheese curds and brown gravy. There are variations and our favorite, from restaurant Le Lapine Sauté, added rabbit (lapine) and substituted a mustard sauce for the gravy. Really rich, this is a good dish to share.

Quebec City is French but in its own way. It has that old world feeling. You’ll find well-preserved historic buildings and musicians playing Quebecer music on the street. When you hear French spoken here you can almost hear a quiet Canadian “eh?” punctuating the sentence. “Comment ca va eh?” (How’s it going, eh?) This place is what I look for in a good travel destination: a distinct culture, a thriving art scene, friendly people, beautiful scenery, great food. If travel is about discovering someplace new and different this city is perfect and for those of us in the Midwest and Eastern USA, it’s just down the rue.



8 thoughts on “Quebec City Road Trip

    1. Tom Post author

      Quebec City is really a great get away and pretty close for us midwesterners. Joanne and I liked all the free or cheap entertainment and the unique culture of the city. Thanks for the comment and safe travels!
      Tom recently posted…Quebec City Road TripMy Profile

  1. Luann Boie

    Lovely photos and commentary. Almost like being in France. Would love to visit there and enjoy the culture and sights. Not that far for us Wisconsinites … and enjoy the cooler temps.

    1. Tom Post author

      I think you’d really like Quebec City and it is pretty close. We found a lot of road construction that slowed us down a bit on the way but otherwise it was a complete change of culture and lots of fun.
      Tom recently posted…Quebec City Road TripMy Profile

  2. Craig

    As always, you do a wonderful job of capturing the sights. I like the cheap part. Inclined to include this destination on our next trip out east. We weren’t too far from the Canadian boarder in northern Vermont on our latest trip.

    1. Tom Post author

      Yes, Quebec City is very accessible from the Northern U.S. Even though we decided to splurge on a nice hotel located in the old town, Hotel Clarendon, we kept the budget under control by hitting the city market for food and and found that just wandering around was fine entertainment. Thanks for the comment.

  3. Muneo Nagaoka

    Thank you for the beautiful photoes and essay as usual. It reminded me of my visit to Quebec City. My boss and I visited there in February over 30 years ago. It was very cold enough to cover The Saint Lawrence River with ice. Summer scene is completly different from that in winter.
    My boss took me to a French restaurant and offered me an Italian dish instead of French cuisine. We didn’t notice it until the waiter told us. That was one of my old memory.

    1. Tom Post author

      Thanks for the great comment Muneo. We saw photographs of Quebec City in the winter time and it looked quite beautiful with holiday lights and a dusting of snow. I’d like to visit then too.

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