21 Things I Learned in Quebec City
Quebec City is a beautiful, romantic, clean, quaint, french town in Canada that will make you feel like you are in Europe. It is quick and easy to get to from the States. A trip of 3-5 days is sufficient to relax and enjoy the city leisurely. Before you pack up and hit this storybook land, here are a few things worth noting:
#1. If you arrive in Quebec City via train and realize you are a short distance from your hotel, DO NOT attempt to walk it. The map won’t tell you this little secret, but your destination is likely on a flat street atop a long steep hill.
#2. Figure out the exchange rate before you go. Imagine our delight to discover that everything for us Americans would be 25% off! It almost makes you want to buy that $180 baseball hat. And yes, we saw that.
#3. Quebec City is a fantastic place to buy a warm sweater! It will cost you the same as two nights in a nice hotel. Buying local couture is like going to Starbucks expecting to get a coffee and buying the espresso machine.
#4. Rent a car? Never! Quebec City is a walking city. Everything is within walking distance – albeit, uphill or downhill. After 3 days here, you’ll have legs of steel. We logged nearly 20,000 steps each day. Bring your fit-bit!
#5. Warning! Quebec City is ideally for the able-bodied. There are few ramps or accomodations here. This town is less forgiving to the elderly, the obese, the disabled, the easily tired or those who rely on valet parking. If you bring a wheelchair, be prepared to carry it or abandon it in a ditch. There is one Funicular in town and it doesn’t fit many people.
#6. Vegan or vegetarian? Gluten-free or off carbs? Dairy intolerant or off cheese? Congrats! We commend you for your discipline. You can skip Quebec City. Find a Whole Foods near you and just stay there.
#7. Get ready for rich french meals loaded with carbs, cheese and meat. You won’t find many light, vegetarian or health-conscious options. Daiya is probably a horrific concept here and asking for a gluten-free menu would probably get you ejected from the city.
#8. Women generally dress very conservatively here. Lots of knee length dresses and skirts. No one wears yoga pants to brunch or tennis skirts to run errands. Make a note of that when you pack.
#9. Flats only! Attempt heels only if they are wedges. Cobblestone streets are the norm here. Stairs and hilly streets are dominant features of this town. There’s a reason there is a Crocs store in town.
#10. French. Learn it and commit to trying it. Know how to say, “Je voudrais…” (I would like…) if you want to absolutely delight your waiter. If you are moving slowly down the sidewalk gawking at architecture and shooting pictures of cathedrals, saying “Apres’ vous” (after you) tells others to please pass you by.
#11. Locals are thin. We have no idea how this is possible given that there wasn’t a single Whole Foods, vegan cafe or juice bar to be found.
#12. Catholic churches are a big thing here… Cathedrals are exquisite here. They may not seem like much on the outside, but once inside… Whoa. You’ll be saying “wow…” a lot during this trip.
#13. Argentine Tango dancers hold a weekly dance at the plaza next to the fountains by City Hall each Wednesday night from 7:30-10:00. I felt obliged to seek a confessional the next day to be relieved of the sin of having danced one tanda in Crocs and jeans.
#14. Poutine. It’s everywhere. French fries, cheese curds and gravy. Just ask your waiter for the wi-fi password so you can instagram that poutine you are chowing down.
#15. If you haven’t travelled much outside the USA, your first impression of Quebec City may be that it reminds you of certain parts of Las Vegas or Universal Studio. The famous Hotel Frontenac may trigger thoughts of Hogwarts.
#16. We expect Quebec City will become extinct this century by the rate of smokers. This city is in a dire need for some pamphlets on COPD and emphysema.
#17. Long, complex street names change every 5 blocks. You’ll love discovering that maps provided to you have a surprising number of unnamed streets.
#18. Tax is 15%! They have two taxes and bundled together, it’s a 15% hit on each transaction. Be prepared for your generous donation unless you are purchasing fine artwork (in which case, the tax magically disappears).
#19. Most people are perfectly fluent in both French and English. They will start interactions in French but if you are wearing a backpack and a camera, they’ll switch immediately from elegant, beautifully accented French into perfect English that sounds 100% American.
#20. Going to the bathroom? In some places, it didn’t matter if you are male or female; everyone went through the same door. Once inside the bathroom, the STALLS are marked as male or female.
#21. Montreal is a three hour train ride away from Quebec City. While we didn’t exactly love Montreal, it’s worth spending a night at the L’Hotel and checking out the Notre-Dame Basilica (where Celine Dion got married). It is truly phenomenal.
Quebec City is truly a magical, beautiful, quaint city that is a perfect romantic getaway. Enjoy your travels… wherever they may take you.