Kate (kate_nepveu) wrote,
Kate
kate_nepveu

Vacation in Review: Québec City

This is going to be brief, because I am tired and have no desire to add to my LJ homework.

Lodging

We stayed at a B&B called La Maison d'Elizabeth et Emma. The master bedroom really is that big and lovely, and the bed was very comfortable, though no bed is as comfortable as our own. The private bath was next door, requiring a brief step out into the hallway. Breakfasts were very good: French toast, pancakes, omelettes, etc., as main courses, and plenty of fresh fruit, cheese, and bread for sides.

It was located across the street from National Battlefields Park and a block away from Avenue Cartier, which has a lot of restaurants. It was about 20 minutes' walk, or a $10 cab ride, to the old part of town. A good location, if one doesn't insist on walking more than one really should instead of taking a cab, because one is foolish and prideful. (She types, stretching out the calf muscle that still isn't quite happy.)

Tourism

Québec strikes me as a much more history-oriented town than art-oriented. I was not hugely enthusiastic about learning history at the time, but it was interesting enough.

National Battlefields Park is quite nice aside from its historical value: many benches, picnic tables, trash cans, and shade trees, all appropriately placed, with several precipices to provide that added thrill of danger. We spent a fair bit of time walking around it, as well as a lovely lazy late Saturday afternoon when I sat in the shade and read Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell and Chad stomped around taking pictures.

We also toured one of the Martello Towers, small round gun placements, which had a neat audio tour system, and watched a multimedia show about the battles at the Interpretation Center. I could've done without the multimedia show, I think, though it was interesting to learn about the different uses the park's land has gone through. (One of the Martello Towers was even used as a family home for a time.)

On a different day, we visited The Citadel in time for the changing of the guard. I'm not usually one for such ceremonies, but we wanted to see the place anyway, and it's hard to resist a goat mascot. We hadn't quite realized that you couldn't wander around on your own, which makes sense since it's still an active military site, but the tour was fine and we didn't get too bored waiting for the Changing of the Guard to finish. I liked this better than the interpretation center show, being more concrete. (We skipped the tour of the Governor General's official residence, because it was time for lunch.)

And this is already taking much too long, so with additional brevity:

One of our guidebooks lists Verrerie La Mailloche as a "glass-blowing museum and shop." Don't believe it. There's glass-blowing that you can watch, sure, but it's basically a shop with a few shelves of poorly-labelled exhibits. I was bitterly disappointed, even though I'd not expected much.

The Musée de l'Amérique francaise is on the grounds of a seminary and has an interesting chapel (tin columns and ceiling painted to look like marble!), a collection of scientific instruments formerly used to teach at the seminary, and guided tours that include some interesting architectural features. We stayed for a classical music concert, which had pretty singing but a really regrettable framing story about a priest in love with a girl (we missed the first few minutes, but he appears to have taken vows thinking she was lost to him in some way) with a weird Da Vinci Code moment when the girl gives him a newly-discovered gospel of Mary Magdalene that will somehow help him. WTF, over? (In light of this, it was probably good that we couldn't understand the lyrics.)

The Musée de la civilisation was pretty good; we spent an afternoon there and might've spent longer actually doing the CSI-like "Anatomy of a Murder," instead of just wandering through. Besides that, I think I found most interesting "Encounter with the First Nations" best, but it's all a little fuzzy now.

The Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec was somewhat disappointing in its regular collections; its strength seemed to be art from the Modern and subsequent periods, which is generally not to our taste. There was an interesting though depressing special exhibition on Camille Claudel and Auguste Rodin, "Fateful Encounter." Claudel was a young talented sculptor who worked with Rodin; they began an affair; she had psychological problems including paranoia and delusions; he did not exactly handle things well either; she stopped working and ended up institutionalized by her image-conscious family for thirty years before she died.

I wanted to spork the writers of the explanatory text who often called Claudel "Camille," while Rodin was never "Auguste," but the art was quite interesting (I particularly liked Claudel's portrait sculptures), and the story was gripping in a very downer kind of way—Possession with extra madness, perhaps.

General notes:

In tours and such, it was interesting to hear the British invasion of Québec referred to as "The Conquest," capital letters always audible, the way Americans would say "The Revolution" or "The Civil War." It made me much more aware of the separatist issue than I was in Montreal, where we did more artsy things and where I imagine the issue is less prominent. This was heightened by the language barrier, which was also much more noticeable (though not insurmountable).

We did a fair bit of tramping around the old part of town (we did not take the funicular up the cliff, or down for that matter), around the walls, and so forth. Yup, feels like a European city. I resisted buying any more desk toys, getting instead a pretty Christmas ornament and a hematite pin.

Finally and randomly, Rue Saint-Jean has a pub called the Hobbit and another called Fou-Bar, which as Chad points out is a nice bilingual pun.

Food

I think I liked the food, and the lazing about after good dinners, the best.

Aux Anciens Canadiens does indeed have a very good lunch deal, thanks to Dan Blum for pointing it out. Be sure to make reservations or get there promptly at noon, as they are very busy. I had Québec meat pie that was just like my late great-grandmother's and made me very nostagic; Chad found me a simple recipe, and Mom's going to send me a more complex one, so I will give it a try sometime.

La Grolla has fabulous rösti (with cheese mixed in with the potatoes; we'll have to experiment as no recipe I've turned up on the web has cheese in, just on top, sometimes), wonderful fondue, and prompt and friendly service.

Au Petit Coin Breton is a crêpe place with three locations. If you like the smell, it's basically how the crêpes taste. I briefly contemplated stopping there on the way out Sunday morning for breakfast to have more crêpes, okay?

Fortunately for my sleep, my craving was assuaged Saturday night at Le Continental (website: warning, annoying Flash and music), where I had Crêpes Suzette for dessert (diabetic coma waiting to happen and it's set on fire next to your table, what more could you ask for?). I also had very good lobster bisque and a truly wonderful dish of pan-seared scallops in a saffron sauce. Chad had a beautiful filet mignon, also set on fire for our amusement. Expensive but worth it.

We left Sunday, and stopped in Montreal for lunch with papersky, rysmiel, and zorinth, which was good all around. We stopped for dinner on the Northway, and the TV playing CNN on mute was the first we'd heard of Hurrican Katrina (I'm glad they used Kate several years ago), though the full potential wasn't clear until we got home and reconnected to the Internet (ah, sweet connectivity). Skimmed back to ?skip=200 on the friendslist while sitting on the floor petting the needy doggie with the other hand—if I said anything particularly idiotic in your comments, I apologize, as I was pretty tired.

Today I did not a whole lot at all, really, and tomorrow it's back to work. I don't quite need a vacation from my vacation, so perhaps we're getting better at calibrating these things after all, even if we have to do it mid-vacation. I do, however, need to go to bed posthaste, as this was not quite brief enough after all.

Tags: [time] in review, food, trips
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