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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.