Bonjour, Hello- It’s my cheat sheet for a Montreal + Quebec City Travel Guide travel guide & a superb dash of French Canadian Chic…
Vrooom… on the road with hubby, kid, and poodle for a family road trip to visit our splendid French Canadian neighbors up north.
It’s no secret that I’ve always had a travel crush on Montreal. Way back when, I even entertained the idea of applying to McGill University. As a New Yorker, there’s something sweet about hopping on a plane and in about an hour landing in the midst of Euro-ish culture for a fun weekend getaway.
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It’s been awhile since I last visited both Montréal and Quebéc City and this time we decided to try it as an extended family road trip from New York City. Starting out in Lake George, NY (worst dog-friendly lodging ever), heading to lovely lakeside in Lake Placid, NY, and then up to Canada, back via Vermont and then to Mount Washington, this adventure was one of the most enjoyable we’ve had driving in a long while.
I know how you love French Chic, Cannes Do Chic, and thought I’d do a spin on French Canadian Chic– not for the fashion & stylish ladies but for the city street style that inspires the mood in this petite Montreal + Quebec City Travel Guide travel guide. I’ll concentrate on Quebec City and mostly the Old Montreal neighborhood today and will spotlight other must-sees in Montreal during the week.
The Old Montréal section of Montreal is by far the most picturesque and historic district that was once surrounded by walls. It now bustles along Rue Saint Paul divided into West (Ouest) that’s the more chic & trendy (think SoHo in NY) and East (Est) that’s more touristy yet charming.
Visit Pointe-à-Callière, Montréal Museum of Archaeology and History complex to see the city come alive in its multimedia theater overlooking its architectural remains as part of the museum’s permanent collection.
Currently, Pointe-à-Callière, Montréal Archaeology and History Complex presents The Beatles in Montréal– a lively, and magnificently executed multi-media & interactive exhibition… did I say fun for the whole family too?
We stayed at the perfectly located, pet-friendly and super chic Le Saint Sulpice Hotel Montreal on St Sulpice St– right behind Notre Dame Basillica, down the block from activities on the Old Port, and off Rue Saint Paul Ouest with the chic SSense store across the corner. What I loved the most about Le Saint Sulpice Hotel besides roominess of our terraced suite — complete with kitchen so I could make my green smoothies– was the old European feel of the property combined with up-to-the-minute modernity.
Interestingly, I couldn’t place why I didn’t remember the 108-suite hotel from when I had last stayed in Old Montreal. That’s because although the property has a “been there for centuries” architectural vibe Le Saint Sulpice Hotel Montreal is only ten years old and built to meld with its surroundings- therefore every room is appointed with the needs of a contemporary luxury travel in mind.
No visit to the Downtown Montreal area is complete without a stop at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts on Sherbrooke Street West. Presently there is the Chihuly Utterly Breathtaking exhibition of the glass master’s supersized wonder; see the big yellow “chrysanthemum” pictured at the top.
When it’s time to shop beyond the plethora of boutiques, and I did plenty, my two favorite department stores are Holt Renfrew & Company (perfect for aprés museum as it’s next door) and Ogilvy on Saint Catherine Street (the Gerard Darel department is fab).
Montreal Restaurant Finds:
Bocata, a find for small plates and great wine on Rue Saint Paul Ouest. Try the Asparagus & Truffle plate and Warm Octopus Salad.
We rekindled a love for fresh & authentic Greek food at Mythos with my old friend Sonia who I met on a girl’s trip to Greece. Try the swordfish, Greek salad, and taramosalata.
Quebec City, Quebec
About a 3-hour drive north took us to Québec City where Old Quebec (Vieux-Québec in French) is its historic neighbourhood with the most European feel. The charming narrow winding & hilly streets (there’s a funicular if you desire) are a walker’s paradise without having to cross the Atlantic.
In stunning contrast to the quaint charm of the city, is the crown of Old Quebec architecture, the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, where we stayed. It’s an enormous, 618 room, pet-friendly, luxury property along the St. Lawrence River that boosts breathtaking views. Sadly, ours was of treetops but we were assured that the room did have a view come the fall. Oh, well. One could enjoy the scenery from walking along the river promenade.
The hotel is undergoing a renovation that couldn’t trump the hotel’s history. Built in the late 19th century as a stopover for CP travelers Le Château Frontenac, its architect Bruce Price (father of Emily Post) drew on the architectural styles of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance that are clearly evident in the castle design.
Even though there is a saturation of tourist nicknacks admist a smattering of antique shops, black belt shopping is not the thrust of this city. However, absorbing the culture and gastronomic delights is. One of the best finds is the free Cirque du Soleil show, Les Chemins Invisibles: Chapter Five – The Harbor of Lost Souls. You can’t beat that for an open air evening of entertainment.
Paris on Stage- 1889-1914, a Spectacular Belle Époque Exhibition at the Musées de la Civilisation is an innovative multi-media look back in time in incredible contrast to the exhibition’s reactive commentary… yes, do get the head set! If that’s too much ohh la la for you, there is also the L’Exposition qui se Joue! that explore the history of video games with more than enough buttons to press to keep a teenage boy busy.
Quebec City Food Finds:
Dining in Old Quebec City could be a sport from the amount of dining choices. Restaurant Toast! offers a modern, trendy take on small plate dining and a secluded garden. Try the Grilled Octopus Cooked 12 hours, Butter Poached Lobster Risotto, and Smoked salmon Half Cooked at 50ºF.
Restaurant Le Continental puts the C in classic French cuisine for old school, pricey standbys. Think Dover Sole and Flambé.
For a quick, homemade gastro bite or some extra-sweet strawberries, the Marché du Vieux Port (Farmer’s Market) is an extra delish pit stop if even just to ogle the savory pies or artisan macaroons.
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Photos: FocusOnStyle, Saint Suplice Hotel