The Mechanic and I rang in the new year and decade in Quebec City, Canada, keeping with our tradition of traveling to really cold places in the winter. Planned back in March, it was a short and minimally planned trip that gave us the excuse to get out of the country in 2019 – just barely! And we had a blast, even in the cold temperatures and the snow.
As the tourism website boasts, Quebec City is feels so European, and is so close – two one-hour flights got us there through Toronto. French is the predominate language, but luckily for us, everyone is bilingual. I had to stop greeting people with “Bonjour!” because they then responded in French, which made my brain switch to the only other language I know, German – not so helpful. Adding to the European flair is the 400 years of history – Old Quebec was founded in 1608. And Old Quebec, where we stayed, is simply the most wonderful place to spend the holiday season! It’s decorated within an inch of its cobblestones, with lights everywhere! Twenty-four hours of snow over New Years Eve only added to the romantic feel of the city. Pictures don’t do it justice, but of course I am including some. : )
Highlights of the trip included:
Right on the walkway between the Chateau Frontenac and the Saint Lawrence River is a toboggan run, La Glissade. This is the only thing I remembered from my brief time working here in the 90s. For a nominal amount, you stand in line, are handed a toboggan, and drag it up to the top of the tracks, then slide down at a breakneck speed. It was SO FUN!
Quebec dining is not for the faint of heart, apparently. Every place seemed really expensive, even with a favorable exchange rate. Of course, we were in the middle of the historic and touristy area, and it was the holidays, but whew! We don’t normally eat like this! Thankfully we found a small grocery where we stocked up on bagels and Nutella for breakfasts in our hotel room. Nevertheless, we ate and drank some amazing things!
Visual Winner: Hands down favorite was Bistro L’Orygine, a boreal bistro. Located within steps of our hotel, this place dazzled all the senses – I was as in love with the decor as the food.
Historic Winner: While attempting to find a quick and cheap lunch on New Year’s Eve, we ended up instead at Restaurant Aux Anciens Canadiens, in a building built in 1675-76. Oh you know, that old place – !!! The food is considered traditional, and it was tasty, especially my maple syrup pie! Think of a pecan pie without the pecans, and yep, that’s what it was. The prix fix lunch in a cozy location was perfect on a snowy day.
Fanciest Experience: I decided that our toboggan experience called for fancy cocktails at the bar in Chateau Frontenac, and that decision paid off. The bar was fancy but didn’t feel stuffy, and the drinks were fun and inventive. My cocktail, Genie in the Bottle, was poured from a lamp! Personal Tradition: Apparently raclette on New Year’s Eve is a tradition in Germany, and we have done it several years when we are home. We haven’t had it in a restaurant since our honeymoon in Zurich, so having it for New Year’s Eve in Quebec was a nice way to keep this personal tradition going.
Surprise Dining: Who would have thought that the tastiest meal would have been in the Toronto airport?! We ate at Twist by Roger Mooking – vegan cauliflower tacos, and the most delicious side of maple-glazed carrots, arugula, pistachios, and huge chunks of salt. This was a *side*!!! Why can’t restaurants here serve sides like this?! Would I fly an hour to Toronto just to have this again? I am not ruling it out.
Lest you think all we did in Quebec City was eat, let me share with you possibly the biggest highlight of the trip. We went to Strom Spa Nordique. Just typing the name brings back memories of the eucalyptus steam sauna, ahh….. Located along the river and easily accessible by public bus, this experience was similar to the Blue Lagoon in Iceland but totally different. On the coldest day of our trip (“Feel like” temps of 5*F), we went outside in our swim suits and terry robes to jump into thermal baths then dip into cold pools. We tried the steam sauna, a dry sauna, and the flotation pool, plus ate a light lunch in the bistro there. Sitting in the hot water with the cold wind off the river blowing frozen steam over us, I felt like one of those Japanese monkeys in the hot springs, and it felt AMAZING. I don’t have photos of any of it but the memories will stay with me forever.
New Years Eve Festival
The Mechanic and I prefer to stay at home to ring in the new years, but a new decade, an international city, and a free festival of electronica and traditional music was the perfect way to celebrate. The streets were shut down, and full of Bud Light (???) pop up bars, so we stood in the snowy cold, drank our hot wine, listened to the music, and shouted “Bonne Annee!!!” along with everyone else at the stroke of midnight. So worth it.
Up Next: 2020
We returned home on New Year’s Day, ready to start a new year. As with so many other people, my mind is spinning with the possibilities of a new decade, and thinking about where I was ten years ago when 2010 started, and twenty years ago at the dawn of 2000. But that’s a topic for another blog post!
I hope you all enjoyed your holidays and are ready (or starting) to face what this new year brings. All the best to you and yours!