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(2022 - Winter Issue)


After a few days in the country, pulling into a city can be jarring. Not so for my daughter, Samantha, and me, in part because we’re both urban dwellers (she, New York City; me, Toronto), but also because we’ve arrived in an equally charming locale, the old part of Québec City. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Vieux Québec (Old Québec) has a distinctly European feel with its narrow, winding streets, centuries-old churches, and historical buildings. Even Hotel 71, our accommodation, is housed in a 19th-century former bank headquarters.

As frequent travel mates, Sam and I have a well-honed, post-arrival plan of attack which includes hitting the ground running. So, after marvelling at our room’s high ceilings and rain-shower head, as per the drill, she plunks her knapsack on the bed next to the window, and I set up the suitcase stand at the foot of the bed next to the bathroom.

“Key?” I ask just before leaving.

“Check,” she answers, and we’re off.

Forks over Forts

As the only remaining fortified city north of Mexico, and home to sieges between the British and the French (hence the blended architecture) including the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, Québec City is a military buff’s dream. On this adventure, however, we’re more interested in forks than forts and seek to fortify ourselves by devouring as much Québécois cuisine as possible. Happily, we’re in the heart of artisanal shops, cafés, bistros and brasseries that line the streets of this neighbourhood including Place-Royale and Quartier Petit Champlain. At Café Maison Smith, we discover the best pastries ever created; at Trouvailles de Jules, we find every type of Québec-made delicacy including confit, chocolates, and maple everything.

One evening, we ride the funicular—a cable railway that carries folks from Lower Town to Upper Town—and pop into the retro diner, Chic Shack, for poutine. Grazing on their mushroom-gravy vegetarian version, I’m mesmerized by the view of the majestic Château Frontenac where we’ll be having dinner next.

“We probably shouldn’t have stopped here first,” I murmur, polishing off the final fry as Sam takes a shot of what is billed as the most photographed hotel in the world. The iconic, late 19th-century landmark plays host to the rich and famous as well as regular folks wanting to splurge. Although we’re part of the latter group, we both feel wealthy the moment we enter the grand lobby. After checking out 1608 (the hotel bar named after the year the city was founded), we feast on a multi-course dinner and wine pairing at Champlain (the restaurant named after the city’s founder).

Unwilling to let the evening end, afterward, we wander around the laneways lit by the streetlights’ glow and end up at Q-de-Sac Resto-Pub for a pint. Not surprisingly, a hockey game plays on the big screen.

Winding Down in Wendake

On our final night, we stay at First Nations-owned Hôtel-Musée Première Nations in Wendake, a community in Québec City, and home to the Huron-Wendat people. After visiting the property’s museum, which is packed with Indigenous artifacts, we settle into dinner at Restaurant La Traite. Our multi-course meal is comprised of local dishes sourced from Québécois and Indigenous cuisines.  Our immersive Indigenous experience continues at the National Ekionkestha’ Longhouse, a dwelling replica that would have housed up to six families pre-contact.

Storyteller Diego Gros-Louis Rock, a teenage boy of Innu and Huron-Wendat descent, joins us around one of the three burning campfires. Over the next hour, he shares myths and legends passed on from generations. At one point, I catch Samantha’s expression of wide-eyed wonder, and it reminds me of story time when she was little.

Back in our room, we crawl into our beds, our bellies and imaginations full. Knowing we’ll be going our separate ways the next day, I want to lie awake and talk, but my daughter is already fast asleep.


Strøm Spa Nordiques’s award-winning design by Québec firm, LEMAYMICHAUD, sets the perfect ambiance for mother/daughter bonding. Situated along the riverbank of the St. Lawrence River, the wellness haven features Scandinavian-inspired pools, dry saunas, steam baths, and a lazy river hot water pool.


Housed in a 17th-century building and the site of the first hospital in North America north of Mexico, Monastère des Augustines provides a glimpse into the lives of the sisters who came to Québec in the 1600s to care for the sick. The on-site museum features healthcare artifacts while a retreat package allows guests to overnight in a spartan room once used by the nuns and includes yoga and other wellness activities.

Travel Planner

For more travel information about Québec City, please visit Québec-cite.com/en

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