Over the Fourth of July, L and I decided to take a mini-vacation, so we drove up to Canada! Our destination was Quebec (note: it’s both a province and a city, kind of like New York), but we also slid some US adventures into the mix. I could write entire posts about each thing we did — and maybe one day I will — but I want to share these highlights while everything is still fresh in my mind. So, without further ado, here are some highlights from our Quebecois Adventure!
Thursday night, we left Pennsylvania late and drove through the night. I napped for an hour here and there, but once we reached the border crossing, I was wide awake, and L was still driving. We drove for about an hour and a half after the border (plus an hour of traffic, but I digress) before we reached our first destination:
Montreal is the largest city in the Quebec province of Canada, and in a lot of ways, it reminds me of New York City. It has some interesting historical significance, but in many ways, it’s another modern city. Our first stop was the Notre-Dame Basilica, which I had read about and was dying to go to. Fortunately, it did not disappoint:
The first two photos depict the basilica itself, which is extraordinary, and has tremendous significance to Montreal’s history. The third picture shows the “small chapel” behind the basilica. It burned down and was rebuilt in the 1980s, and looks much more modern. It’s finished completely in sisal wood. Our docent at the basilica was fantastic, and I got a great deal out of our 30-minute tour. If you ever find yourself in Montreal, definitely visit!
I wish I could say that either L or I really enjoyed Montreal, but it wasn’t really our speed. I’m not a huge fan of New York City, so not liking Montreal much is unsurprising. If we had stayed, we might have stopped at the jazz festival, or I might have dragged L into some galleries, but we were, admittedly, exhausted by that point. So what did we do? Drove to our next location, of course.
The city of Quebec was our primary reason for driving to Canada in the first place. We arrived in the town of Boischatel Friday night where we were staying. It’s worth noting that our B&B was fantastic. It’s one of the few five-star experiences I’ve had in lodging.
Adorable and affordable! If you’re looking for an out-of-the-way place to stay near Quebec, Au Gite de la Chute is your best bet. Our hosts were gracious and immediately gave us directions to a gorgeous sight just five minutes away:
This is Montmercy Falls, a gorgeous chute within walking distance of our B&B. We walked first onto the suspension bridge over the falls, then around and down 300+ stairs to take pictures. Unfortunately, you can’t capture the feeling of the spray, and the wonder of those tall falls in a photograph. This waterfall is actually taller than Niagara, but narrower. Definitely a gem slightly outside of Quebec!
By the time Friday night rolled around, we were both exhausted. We made our way to a local grocery store and picked up some food and L perused the beer selection (quite happily, I might add) before we headed back to our B&B for dinner and some much-needed rest.
Saturday morning, we both woke up feeling refreshed. After Monique (our host) fed us a great big breakfast, we drove into Old Town for the day. We spent the whole morning and most of the afternoon wandering around Old Lower Town and Old Upper Town, taking in the strangely European feeling, and viewing sights like the imposing Chateau Frontenac and the Citadelle.
Around midday, we made our way up to something we had driven by, but didn’t know much about: the Quebec Parliament Building. We went to snap a picture, and ended up taking a (free!) tour — I’m so glad we did!
Our docent took us through all three floors of the building, and we were able to sit in the observation area in the room where the National Assembly meets. Most of us were not Canadian, so the docent spent some time explaining the nuances of Canada’s governmental system. The building is breathtaking, and I am definitely glad we made a stop there. Even though L had been to Quebec before, he had never been to Parliament, so it was new for both of us!
After we had some lunch at a great cafe near Place Royale, L and I decided to take a ferry ride. Cruises are popular, but can run more than $100 a couple (no way — I’m a girl on a budget), so we decided to take the ferry — it was delightful!’
Saturday also happened to be the day of a World Cup match we were anticipating, so we went to a bar that L remembered called L’Oncle Antoine, and ended up having a few great drinks while watching the game.
That night, we ended up having dinner at a restaurant in Boischatel where I tried some poutine. Delicious! Unfortunately, we forgot our camera, so no pictures of that deliciousness. We were asleep before 10:00 on Saturday night, got up and had breakfast on Sunday morning, and then headed out for a last spin through the area before heading South.
We stopped by two places on a lark: first, the Bee Museum, and second, the Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré. The bee museum was small but fun, and had a nice selection of international honey products. Unfortunately, we couldn’t visit the basilica because they were in the middle of mass (in French), but it sure looks lovely!
Back to the United States
After that, we were off! Just a short drive from Quebec City down to our Sunday night stop.
Or so we thought.
Two and a half hours at the border crossing.
No, not being questioned, not being detained. Just waiting in line. Yikes.
Then, we reached Vermont! That wait at the border (with no cell phone service, mind you) made me appreciate this sight all the more. So gorgeous. Look at those mountains!
Our waypoint on Sunday was Burlington, Vermont. With a population of 42,000 people, it’s Vermont’s biggest city, and is roughly the same size of my hometown. After getting set up at our B&B, we went to grab dinner and drinks. I’ve written before about the Most Amazing White Pizza Ever, but I should probably share it again, because everyone needs to eat at American Flatbread.
After dinner, we found a few bars. Most notably, The Whiskey Room, where L found a 40-year-old Islay scotch. A bottle of it costs $2000, and it’s kept in a locked case. Unfortunately, it was slightly out of our budget, but we had some amazing whiskey drinks anyway.
We meandered through Burlington for the rest of the evening, stopping at a tiki bar and then a gastropub for great beer and a late-night snack. Burlington, VT is definitely my kind of town.
Back to Pennsylvania, via Connecticut
Monday morning we woke up and had breakfast at our B&B before hitting the road. We took a slight detour down to Norwalk, Connecticut to visit L’s former boss and friend Andrew Cote.
Andrew is a beekeeper, so before we started the five-hour trek back home, we went to visit one of his hives at a place called Stew Leonard’s. Think amusement park-meets Ollie’s-meets grocery store.
It’s on that offbeat note that I’ll end our vacation highlights. We had a great trip, and I can’t wait for our next adventure!
Which place would you most like to visit?
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