Finding the Quirk in Quebec City

Quebec City was the last stop on our Babymoon to Canada. It was almost like we had saved the best for the last.  The city and its people were a mix of old world charm and quirkiness, it offered us surprises at every turn.

I travel the same way I pick up a new book, I read the back cover and a few lines of the introduction and if it interests me I commit myself to it. I rarely research about a place I am about to go to or ask around for advice. When we travel as a family we pick a place that catches our fancy based on a few excerpts or a stray remark and book our tickets. It is usually only after we check in at the hotel that we try to figure out a rough itinerary for the trip. We have rarely meticulously planned out a trip and this always leaves room for our destination to surprise us. The beauty and secrets of Quebec City were all the more fabulous because we didn’t have any preconceived idea of what to except from this Canadian city.

We chose to travel by train as I was expecting and wanted a comfortable journey. I was at a sweet spot in my pregnancy called the second trimester where a lady can think of traveling without the nausea of the first trimester and the fatigue that comes with the third. We had booked a quaint bed and breakfast called Le Clois Saint-Loius. Hotel Le Clois was a charming renovated Victorian hotel which promised to be a get away for lovers and so it was. The decor, the personal attention and the vintage furniture gave the place a lot of character and romance.

Staying in the old city of Quebec was romantic in itself with the small shops, restaurants and cobbled streets to take a stroll on. The streets in the upper town of Quebec city all lead to the formidable Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac which is a historic hotel. The view from the Chateau Frontenac is that of the wide river of St Lawrence where cruise ships are a common sight. The streets of Quebec City have many quirks and surprises that spring up at every corner. The shop that sells Native American crafts and artifacts or the store La Boutique de Noel that keeps Christmas alive throughout the year are just a few of the quirkiest things to see in Quebec City.

The view from upper town of Quebec City is amazing and what makes it more worthwhile is the lovely secret of the lower town of Quebec City that lies hidden beneath. The lower town of Quebec has its own fun vibe throughout its narrow streets lined with french restaurants. The lower town is older and forms the first settlement in the historical Quebec City.There are street musicians and murals on buildings, fun little stores and tiny cafes. The place is completely filled with music, history and life where you can unwind and let the city and its vibe soak into you. Quebec City cannot be written about it really needs to be experienced, it remains one of the most romantic destinations I have been to.

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Across Canada With A Bump – Montreal

Is it a party destination, is it a vibrant modern city or is it a historic city? No! its Montreal.It has everything and more. Montreal is the third destination on the post series                           Across Canada With a Bump.

Montreal molds itself to become different things for different people. Every inch of Montreal has options for adventure, for learning, for relaxing and for enjoying a multitude of cultures.The city of Montreal is named after Mount Royal which forms an inescapable part of the panorama of the city. A lot of Montreal’s shopping, transport system is built underground and it is almost like this expansive and vibrant city moves underground come winter and is just one of the amazing aspects of this city.

We traveled to Montreal by train from Toronto and enjoyed the colors of autumn and the beauty of the Great White North, which was anything but white at that time of the year. It is difficult to cover a beautiful and vibrant city like Montreal in 2-3 days, especially if the traveler is also pregnant and needs to slow down and put up her feet once in a while. We decided to go to the tourist center downtown and then decide on an itinerary.

One of the Bird Houses on the trees Downtown
One of the Bird Houses on the trees, Downtown

 

We booked a Grey line bus tour on the first day and hence were able to take in Montreal with other passengers who wanted to slow it down and escape the crisp autumn air i.e senior citizens. The tour gave us an idea of the city and the sights we should not miss when in Montreal. These we explored later at our own pace and time. Here are a few of my favorite spots in Montreal.

Old Montreal

Old Montreal retains its historic charm with slate grey buildings and Victorian architecture. Exploring the streets and centers of Old Montreal is a lot of fun and has the potential to be different experiences for different travelers. Old Montreal is near the pier and is lined with many restaurants, cafes and shopping with curios and souvenirs. The restaurants have cuisines from all over the world with predominantly French and British tastes. We also found a Kashmiri restaurant tucked away in Old Montreal which served some good kababs but it was Downtown Montreal that amazed us, with awesome Indian food at Le Taj. Since I was pregnant, I craved Indian food hence we tried cuisines closer to home as much as we could.

Old Montreal
Old Montreal
French Onion Soup
French Onion Soup

Notre Dame Basilica

Notre Dame Basilica, I remember it as the most beautiful church I have ever seen. The light streaming in through the stained glass paintings, the arches of the church, the skylight, the intricate designs on the walls, every inch of Notre Dame is a masterpiece. I could have spent hours inside the church admiring the paintings and the structure but finally I said a prayer for my little one and we left the Basilica for there was much of Montreal that needed to be seen.

Notre Dame Basilica
Notre Dame Basilica
Stained Glass painting of Christ
Stained Glass painting of Christ
A Prayer
A Prayer

Jardin Botanique de Montreal- Botanical Garden Montreal

The botanical garden in Montreal is a masterpiece and we were in luck as the Botanical garden was hosting its annual ‘Lantern Festival’ when we visited. So it made sense that we visit the botanical garden in the evening. The Japanese and the Chinese gardens host the ‘Lantern Festival’ which is also dubbed as the Gardens of Light. Each of these lanterns are made with paper by experts and shipped to the Botanical Garden for the festival. It is a very romantic experience to be had and one that is never going to leave your memory.

Jardin Botanique de Monreal
Jardin Botanique de Montreal
Paper Lantern
Paper Lantern
Lights on the Lake
Lights on the Lake
The tale of the princess and the peach
The tale of the princess and the peach

Bio Dome

The Bio Dome was originally built for the 1976 Olympic games and later renovated and rebuilt. The Biodome allows visitors to walk through four different ecosystems from the tropical to the marine to the Artic. Flora and fauna of each of these ecosystems is replicated and you can see tropical parrots, the lynx and the penguins all under one roof. You can experience the humidity of the tropics and the cold of Artic and Antartic, all in one dome. Canada has successfully replicated the wonder of this planet which by nature hosts this huge variety of life forms all under one single dome.

Parrots of the Tropics
Parrots of the Tropics

 

 All material copyright of Traveling Noodles. Images credited to Razor Rasu.

Across Canada with a Bump – Toronto in a day

Toronto in A Day

This is part of a series of posts about four beautiful cities in Canada which I visited when I was in a beautiful stage in life, pregnant with my baby. These posts chronicle my trip from Niagara Falls to Toronto to Montreal and onward to the quaint Quebec City.

Toronto was the next stop of our great Canadian Odyssey which we later dubbed as our Babymoon.  Toronto has close family whom we could visit, which meant home cooked meals for my pregnant cravings and that itself was a big highlight of my trip. I could suddenly not handle food without spice, I craved spice. In-fact I drowned any food with pepper or sriracha sauce. We had one day for  seeing Toronto which we had to utilize as best as we could.

The first thing that strikes a visitor in Toronto is the amazing skyline of Toronto city where the CN Tower lords over the rest of the buildings. Before Dubai won the race for the tallest building, CN Tower retained the  honor of being the tallest building in the world. The  pressure difference while going up the tower is almost alarming. There is an observatory on top of the tower where enthusiasts can experience a Skywalk while tied to a harness. My excuse for not doing the Skywalk is pregnancy and not because I was  chicken. The CN Tower offers an all encompassing view of Toronto city and the Great Lake Ontario. Lake Ontario was a revelation as it dwarfed any lake or pond that I had previously seen. If I didn’t know any better I would have called it a sea.

In the midst of the concrete marvels of the city, is Toronto’s Historic District which boasts a happening and chic Distillery District. The Distillery District has fashion houses, designers, dance studios, bakeries, restaurants and chocolate shops. If there, do visit Soma Chocolate Maker. They have amazing Mayan chocolates which were spicy drinks that the Mayans drank. The Mayans were the pioneers of chocolate and would most probably pooh pooh chocolate in the present form. The restaurants at Distillery District were full of life and laughter with different flavors of beer on tap.

Here is a Photoessay with the highlights of Toronto city.

Toronto CN Tower
Toronto CN Tower
I Spy a Tower in my Eye
I Spy a Tower in my Eye
The City of Toronto
The City of Toronto from CN Tower
Look a car!
Distillery District
Distillery District
Fine Whiskey
Gooderham & Worts Fine Whiskey
Malt Kilns
Malt Kilns- Originally used for drying germinated grains.
Buildings modified as studios and stores
Buildings modified as studios and stores
Old Factories new uses
Old Factories new inhabitants
Dance Studios
Dance Studios @ Distillery District

Photographs are copyrighted and credited to Razor Rasu.

Across Canada with a Bump

This is part of a series of posts about four beautiful cities in Canada which I visited when I was in a beautiful stage in life, pregnant with my baby. These posts chronicle my trip from Niagara Falls to Toronto to Montreal and onward to the quaint Quebec City.

Immersed in the falls

Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls prominently features in the itinerary of anyone flying to the east coast of US or Canada. The view from both sides of the border is quite different and unique and each side can argue its merits or demerits. While from America you stand on a bridge and peer at the horse shoe shaped cascade of water called the Niagara Falls, from Canada the majesties of the falls is displayed to you in all its splendor. As you near the falls you can hear it roar and the fall kicks up an obscene amount of mist and spray in an attempt to cloak itself.

 

Niagara at night

Niagara Falls at night is highlighted with many colors but it comes a close second to beholding the falls on a light and crisp autumn day.  Niagara bursts with color in autumn with tree tops that have hues of red, orange and gold. Night is for the rest of the town of Niagara, the whole city turns into a carnival for grownups with casinos, shows, a wax museum and a Ferris wheel. Traveling with a bump meant turning in early and giving the casinos a wide berth but there is no concession required for soaking in the beauty of the place.

Maid of the Mist going into the roaring falls
Maid of the Mist going into the roaring falls

The Maid of the Mist is as famous as Niagara Falls and is almost synonymous with it. This boat service which closes in the winter, rides almost into the falls. The Maid of the Mist is an adventure where as you go closer to the roaring cold falls you get drenched with only the thin raincoat which is almost the uniform for the Maid of the Mist- to protect you from this natural marvel. Remember to wear sensible shoes as they are bound to get wet and while you are at it take a better rain coat.

Vineyard @Niagara
Vineyard @Niagara
Wine Tasting
Wine Tasting

The region near Niagara Falls has many famous vineyards that host tours for visitors. The tour usually includes a trip to the vineyard and a crash course in wine tasting. Niagara’s weather and water is conducive for good wine making and who can forget the golden drops of happiness a.k.a maple syrup! Niagara is also home to a unique and yummy dessert wine called ice wine. Ice wine is made during the winter when grapes are left on the vines to get frozen in the cold, they are then harvested and processed to make this wine. One drop of ice wine is extracted from one frozen grape precisely hence it becomes a luxury and a novelty to be had. On this trip I only got a whiff at the ice wine but it is definitely on my to-do list for some day.

Niagara with Autumn Colors
Niagara with Autumn Colors

Our trip to Niagara was rewarded with the appearance of an unexpected but beautiful rainbow, the likes of which I had never seen before. The wide skies of the north stretched the rainbow from end to end. It was and will remain one of the many miracles of nature that I have witnessed, no photographs and no cameras can do justice to the colors that I saw in Niagara.

All photographs are copyright of Traveling Noodles and credited to Razor Rasu