TABLE OF CONTENTS
here is something about getting away right after you marry the love of your life. Up until the wedding, your life is complete hustle and bustle. You are non-stop; checking timelines, making lists, and budgeting. And then the wedding happens, and it is the best day of your life. You are surrounded by family and friends: You eat good food, drink good drinks, and dance to good music. Everything is perfect, but the one thing that will really top off this wonderful experience is some time alone with your new wife.
Ash and I were married on December 30th, 2019. Our plan was to leave the next morning for a honeymoon holiday in Quebec City. "Go to Quebec in the winter!?" you say? Of course. Why wouldn't you go north of Minnesota during some of the coldest months of the year? The French province of Quebec is made for winter travel. Each year they decorate the old city, head to toe, for their winter holiday festival. Events are going on constantly, people are traveling here from all over, and did we mention- a huge toboggan ride is put up right outside Le Chateau Frontenac.
Now, getting from Minneapolis to Quebec City should be easy. A flight to Toronto, a flight to Quebec, and boom you are there. That is unless you find out that your flight from Toronto to Quebec is cancelled after you arrive to Toronto. Needless to say, after some shifting of flights, Ash and I ended up spending New Years eve in the Montreal airport, cheersing in 2019 with Subway and Tim Horton's. It didn't matter, because we were married, and we were just happy to be together... even if we did have to sleep on crappy airport chairs.
We made it to Quebec airport the following morning and took a taxi to our hotel. Because it was our honeymoon, we went all out and booked our stay at Le Chateau Frontenac, a massive fortress that overlooks the Fleuve St.-Laurent, or St. Laurent River. Ash and I normally unpack our things right away so we can head out and explore, but this trip was different. We wanted to cherish our time together, so we planned to take this vacation easy. Not only that, but were we running off three hours of sleep, so we ate a delicious New Year’s breakfast, popped some champagne, and took an amazing nap in our king-size bed.
The recap of this trip is going to be slightly different than our other trips, because we did not travel all over the province of Quebec, but instead did a lot of little things within the capital city. This vacation summary will be more of an outline exposing some of the fun things you can do in Quebec City during the winter. The stories of our experiences will come into play as you read through each section. For a more in-depth description of all the things to do and see in Quebec City, along with a place to share your thoughts, please follow this link to our blog.
LE CHATEAU FRONTENAC
Ash and I learned quickly that you don’t even need to leave this hotel to have an amazing time. Le Chateau Frontenac had everything: An art gallery, coffee shop, a handful of restaurants and bars, spa, tourist shops, and more. Normally, booking a room in this hotel is spendy, but we did our homework. If you look through the small print on the hotel’s website, you will find a caption stating that they will match any booking deal you find on a third party website, plus knock an additional percentage off. So we did just that. When we called the hotel they were extremely pleasant and stuck to their word to book us a room that fit our budget. If you visit Quebec, please do your homework first because staying at the chateau is a MUST.
We discovered our love for 1608 bar our first night at the hotel. You want a delicious New York Sour? This is the place to go. As you enter the bar, you find yourself if a circular room filled with dark wood, fireplaces, art, and windows with views of the river. The bar sits in the center of the room, managed by lovely folks creating the most gourmet cocktails you could imagine. The menu offers numerous charcuterie boards containing divine cheeses, meats, and fruits that can be delivered to you. The 1608 is by far the coolest bar in the hotel, and you will find that people line up outside the door before it opens just to get a spot- so head down there early.
Another restaurant within the hotel that we want to mention is Bistro Le Sam. Ash and I were seated at a table for two right by the window that overlooked the river. Our server was incredible, and when we told them we had just gotten married, they congratulated us and celebrated our nuptials by bringing out a special dessert with "Happy Wedding Anniversary," written on the plate. The server then went out of their way to write down all the best bars for us to visit while on our trip. We were treated so well, and the space felt very inclusive.
Sitting between the St. Laurent River and Le Chateau Frontenac is a massive toboggan ride. I read about the ride months prior while Ash and I were planning our honeymoon, and immediately put it on our must-do list. We decided it would be best to go down the slide on the coldest day of our vacation, and this ended up being a great idea because there was barely a line to wait in. Bundled up in our warmest clothes, we bought our tickets and waited at the bottom of the slide for our sleds. As we waited, we watched people flying down the slide, and I mean flying; the top speed you get on this thing is incredible. We grabbed our sleds and started the trek up the boardwalk to the top of the structure, which is not an easy task because the wood planks are caked with slippery snow. Walking up a steep incline and pulling a sled while trying to grip the handrails is definitely a challenge, especially because I kept stopping Ash to take picture of them with the hotel in the background. We finally made it to the top, only slightly winded, and positioned our sleds between the ice medians that prevented the sleds from running into one another. Ash and I had the option to ride together, but being the competitor I am, I wanted to race them to the bottom. I love winning. So we sat side by side as the toboggan staff gave instructions in both French and English. They finished their spiel, stepped away from the track, and we were off.
It is not often that my screams turn into hysterical laughter, but this was one of those times. With tears streaming from our eyes, Ash and I raced to the bottom of the hill, getting air born as we hit our top speeds. I came in slightly ahead at the finish line (winner winner) and the crowd mimicked our reaction as we stood up belly laughing. The ride was terrifying and amazing, and anyone that comes to this city during the winter needs to experience it.
Quebec city has two main parts: Downtown and Old Quebec City. Le Chateau Frontenac is in the middle of the Old City, so we spent the majority of our time there. The Old City sits on top of a giant hill overlooking the river- the hotel right on its peak. At the bottom of the hill is a quaint village town known as Quartier Petit Champlain. There are two ways to get to this part of the city. You can walk the steep hill, or you can take the Funicular. The Funicular, like and elevator, takes you up and down the hill. The only difference is that this elevator is 1) outside, and 2) moves at a 90 degree angle. Encased in glass, you can see the entire Quartier Petit Champlain as you glide down the track. It is definitely worth trying at least once, but in an effort to save money I would recommend going by foot the rest of your vacation.
Quartier Petit Champlain is a scene right out of your favorite fairy tale. This snowy village is lined with stone-walled boutiques and pubs that are covered in garland and lights. Ash and I felt like we were walking around the north pole. We popped in and out of the shops that sold everything from clothing, to gourmet snacks, to tourist knick-knacks. Although it is not that big, you can easily spend an afternoon here going to and from pub and shop.
Being that it was our honeymoon, Ash and I were ready to get pampered. During the planning stage of our trip, I made an effort to research spas in Quebec. We settled on Siberia Spa because it was located outside of the city in the middle of the Canadian forest. It seemed like it would be the perfect little getaway... And it was. Walking up to the building, we felt like we were in the middle of a Scandinavian country. The dark blue wooden building was surrounded by beautiful snow covered evergreens, and although it was cold outside, the space felt warm and inviting. Siberia Spa offers a multitude of spaces: saunas, hot springs, cold springs, massages, relaxation rooms, and a splendid little cafe to grab a healthy snack. My one recommendation is that if you book a massage, remember the time change... Ash and I arrived 30 minutes late to our couple's massage and only received half of our allotted time- completely my fault.
Ash and I had heard a lot about Montmorency Falls before going to Quebec. This waterfall is technically taller (not wider) than Niagara Falls and is located right outside of the city. Tours to the waterfall are in full swing all throughout the year, so we bought our tickets and picked up the bus right outside our hotel. As we drove to the falls, our tour guide gave us a run down of the history of Quebec. Although they gave a lot of detail of the French history, Ash and I were a bit disappointed that they neglected to talk about its indigenous roots of this province prior to the colonization by the French... something to be aware of when you are taking these tours.
We arrived at Montmorency with an hour to explore before the bus left. This is another thing to think about if you are debating taking a tour vs. venturing out on your own- tours only offer limited time to experience each stop. If you want to really take in the falls and hike the grounds, I recommend taxiing to this location instead. The time limit did not stop our fun though, and we quickly bought a ticket for the gondola that takes you up to the top of the waterfall. The pathway alongside the cliff was pretty cool. The rock walls were covered with ice, and below us you could see climbers scaling the cliffside, picks in hand. A large bridge sat over the top of the falls, and we made our way to the middle, getting some photos of the water rushing below.
Île d'Orléans is an island on the St. Laurent River that has fun things to do and see year round. It was also the second stop on our bus tour. Using the only bridge that connects the island to the main land, we drove over the waters of the St. Laurent River to the southern-most tip of the island. There, we stopped at Chocolatier De L'Île d'Orléans. Now, if you have ever seen the movie Chocolat, you can probably remember the dring that Juliette Binoche served Judy Dench in her chocolate shop; a thick chocolate liquid topped with cream. Chocolatier De L'Île d'Orléans had this very drink, so you can bet your bottom dollar that I ordered this. After our drinks, a few truffles, and a mild case of diabetes, we boarded the bus and left the island.
Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, the final stop on our tour, was worth seeing. Even if you are not religious, you can appreciate the art within the basilica. The church looks quite old, so you would be surprised to learn that it was only completed in 1946 (thank you Wikipedia for that information!). Incredible mosaics fill the interior walls and ceilings, and the chapel is said to contain the bones of Saint Anne herself. Mass was in session, so we moved carefully around the space making sure not to disrupt those taking part in the ceremony. We spent a half hour taking in the basilica's artwork before climbing back onto the bus and heading back to our hotel in Old Quebec City.
Our last night in Quebec City was pretty memorable. We hadn't really spent a night on the town, so we decided to see what the popular places were like in the city. Going off the recommendations of our server from Bistro Le Sam, and some research we did on the local queer hangouts, we decided on two spots: L'Atelier and Le Drague Cabaret Club.
The entire honeymoon we had seen horse-drawn carriages parked outside of Le Chateau Frontenac, and Ash had mentioned on multiple occasions that it would be fun to take a ride. After bargaining with the drivers, aka giving all the cash we had, we pulled up to L'Atelier in style behind two horses. The bar was very posh, and it had an industrial, hip feel to it. We followed the hostess to a few floors up, and bellied up to a chic bar. Like the 1608 bar in the hotel, L'Atelier knows how to make a drink. We were enjoying our time, chatting with the bar tender and sipping on cocktails, when we noticed a same-sex couple next to us. We had not seen many same-sex couples during our time in Quebec, so we struck up a conversation. They were natives of the province, and one of them was from this area. We learned that their next stop was the same as ours, and we asked if we could tag along. Thank goodness we did, because after the few drinks we had, we would have been completely lost.
Le Drague Cabaret Club is great. Much like Minneapolis' Gay 90's, it had various rooms and levels where you could dance, listen to music, or just hang at the bar. What it did not have was the option to pay with a credit card, and after throwing all of our cash at the horse ride, we did not have the means to get in. After various failed attempts to pull money from one of the ATMs, our new friends covered our butts. Being the wonderful humans they were, they offered to get us into the club and buy us a celebratory wedding drink.
We spent some time dancing, and although we would have liked to stay out later, we decided it would be best to head back to our hotel since we would be flying back home the next morning. We exchanged information and said goodbye to our new buds, and headed back for one last night in Le Chateau Frontenac.
There are a few take-aways from this trip that may be useful for anyone planning to visit Quebec City. The first is try to stay in Le Chateau Frontenac. Yes, it is spendy, but if you do your homework you can find a decent rate. This hotel sits in a perfect spot for first time visitors, and gives you the option to pick up tour buses to any nearby attraction. Second, try to practice some French phrases. Ash and I got pretty good with "bon soir," and "ca va bien"... but it would have been nice to know more since French since it is the primary language here. Lastly, always have some cash on hand because you never know when you will need it. Although almost every place takes a card, there are some spots that are cash only.
I hope you have enjoyed experiencing our trip to Quebec City- please check out our other adventures and continue to check in as we add more each year!