Monday, September 26, 2016

Three Days in Quebec City

It's hard to believe that part of Canada is French. It isn't something that really made sense to me until I visited the provence of Quebec, namely Quebec City and experienced it for myself. Travelling from New York City to Quebec city one early morning and eventually arriving at the airport it was bizarre to have a language barrier as soon as we stepped out of the airport and hearing mostly French despite being in Canada, a country so strongly associated with the English language. 

When Alex and I arrived at our hostel and tried to check in we struggled to communicate with the staff who worked there. It was obvious while communicating with us they wished we could speak French with them instead of English. We felt like we had travelled back into a french 90's sitcom as the hostel was painted in an array of primary colours and they used the old school massive white computers I haven't seen in use for a very long time.

Unlike most hostels where the common language is English, many of the people staying at the hostel as well as the staff preferred speaking in French, which made it difficult for us to converse with them in complex conversations. We mostly stuck to ourselves and a fellow Australian we met who was travelling for seven months on a solo trip. I'm not sure if this was just the particular hostel or if this theme continued in other hostels in Quebec City also but keep that in mind if you intend on solo travelling there! 

Quebec City is often referred to as pretty but boring, and I must admit this title is fairly accurate. It's a relatively small city of just 500,000 and there really isn't that much to explore or do as a traveller there. It is however a nice place to relax and just soak up the french ambience and the European style architecture which dates back to the 1600's and 1700's.

It's a beautiful place to wander the streets just looking at all the different houses, some of them stranger than others. 

The UNESCO listed Old Town area in particular is awe worthy despite being equally touristy. The Old Town area consists of an upper area which includes the most photographed hotel in the world, Chateau Frontenac. Built in 1983 Chateau Frontenac is a majestic building with an opulent interior worthy of royalty. 

Chateau Frontenac

The lower Old Town area can be reached by taking an extremely scenic funicular (cliff railway) or some very steep stairs and is well worth the visit as you feel like you've been transported back into the seventeenth century. All of the buildings are old and there are no cars for part of it, only people walking the stone laneways which adds to the immersive Old Town experience.

You can take the funicular down to the lower Old Town area

Lower Old Town

One of my favourite things we did in Quebec City was visit the Musee National Des Beaux Arts which was fantastic and one of my favourite museums I've ever visited partially due to the great size of the complex, which included both a contemporary art building, a modern art building and a historic art building, as well as garden surrrounds, but the also the quality of the art we saw. The exhibits included many immersive and interactive works as well as installations. 

Alex  walking through an interactive installation of a cathedral at the Musee National Des Beaux-Arts
We also visited the Maison de la littérature (40 Rue Saint-Stanislas). A public library with a Scandinavian feel that almost entirely features french works of literature except for a tiny foreign literature section. The library also had a large bandes dessinées (graphic literature) area and played french movies that you could sit and watch. It was raining heavily outside which added to the lovely ambience and I know if we'd had more time in Quebec City both of us would have liked to stay there longer, mastering the French language though reading.

We also visited a cafe called Maelstrøm Saint-Roch (181 Rue Saint-Vallierwhich was a fair walk away from the old town into the more contemporary part of Quebec city where the locals rather than tourists inhabit. 

There isn't much of a 'hip' cafe culture in Quebec city, and the coffee wasn't amazing, but it had a nice feel and we stayed there for a while. Alex reading her book and myself writing in my dairy, occasionally discussing things that we thought of out of nowhere, like the old retired couple we were. 

On our last night in Quebec we were lucky enough to be there during their annual Festival d'été (festival of summer) which had a free evening performance of Boy and Bear, an Australian band. After the performance we ended our time in Quebec City on top of the Old Quebec rampart, the fort that surrounds the old town for 4.6km and was built in the 1600's. It provided us with a perfect vantage point for a beautiful evening view of the city as well as a memorable way to say goodbye. 

Thank you to Alex for taking most of the photos on this post.