I, dear reader, am a lover of lists. And a friend of Québec. And that is where today’s posts comes in. Whether you’re thinking of moving to, visiting, or simply learning a bit more about the Belle Province, I hope this post helps you see a bit about what makes this place worth doing so.
Since leaving, I still get a bit nostalgic for the pastries drizzled in maple syrup, the [in my opinion] endearing accent, and ubiquitous cup of perfect coffee. I didn’t do everything I’d have liked while there, but even still, it was hard to narrow my list down to “my ten favorites.” There were, of course, countless dinners and meet-ups with friends that made our time in Québec great, but if we could move those people with us, those same nights would be great anywhere. But I wanted this to be a list of things that are specific to Québec and our time in Montreal. Without further ado…my favorite Québec moments.
Sunday strolls in Montreal’s most well-known park are best between May and October, when temperatures aren’t frigid. It seems like everyone’s joining the party, picnic, drum circle, or joust on Sundays. I can’t tell which specific Sunday I enjoyed the most, just that it was a favorite activity while we lived there. And a must if you spend any extended period of time in the city.
I know, I know, I told you friends’ nights weren’t going to make the list. But this is different. I got invited to a girls’ night with several Québecoises, while my knowledge of French was just budding. I learned so many words in one single night that my brain was ready to explode. Even more than this, I learned so much more about Québecois culture. More precisely, this evening cemented how much I didn’t know and how what I did was only scratching the surface.
Visiting a sugar shack is a must on anyone’s Québec list, even though it can be really bad, extremely commercial, and a real gimmick. We were patient and waited a year before finally acting upon the suggestion of friends. We found ourselves (with a couple friends) at an organic sugar shack. The food really was great, the farm tour worth sticking around for, and the host was full of personality. Still, the best part was the car ride home when we were finally able to let out all of our laughs about the hipsters who morphed our experience into Cabane à Sucre a la Portlandia.
I like seasons. All of them at some point. But by the time March rolls around, I’ve generally had it with snow and slush. I was starting to get seriously antsy in March, and this winter retreat was exactly what I needed. Snowshoeing, woods, an iced-over lake, good food, and a bottle of scotch.
Whale watching tours can be expensive. They can also turn into crazy puke fests where everyone on board is saying goodbye to their lobster lunches (Oh, beautiful Boston). So when we learned that you can spot whales along the beach and the rocks in Tadoussac, we were in. We picnicked on the rocks and passed the binoculars back and forth for a few lovely hours before even thinking to look at our watches.
5. Crêpes de Bretagne with a Frenchie
Quebec is not a little France; Montreal not a Paris wannabe. I get that. Still, there are a lot of French immigrants in the metropolitan area. Thus, crêpes, breads, and pastries abound. It’d be a shame not to take advantage of it. While the husband was out of town for our anniversary one May, my adorable conversation-partner-turned-friend took me out to drink cider from bowls and eat crêpes while sitting on the patio. With French food, a French friend, a French waiter, and an evening filled with my broken French, it almost felt like an evening in—you guessed it—France.
I saw caribou in a natural habitat. Oh, j’aime ça. I was thrilled. Despite that, the next day, I found myself under a rain shelter, unable to cook over the campfire that could not be started. As I dipped my chunk of stale bread turned soggy into tomato sauce, I couldn’t help but think how great our kitchen or bed (okay, the floor at that point) sounded. I was ready for our road trip to be over. Then Mama Moose and her baby appeared from the forest and pranced over to us. We literally could have reached out to touch them at one point. (Mind you, we didn’t. We aren’t stupid. At least not usually. I digress. This time, we backed away toward the other side of the rain shelter). Watching mother and baby tear their supper from the nearby trees was quite the experience. I guess that one meal of stale, soggy bread was worth hanging around.
This was just one of those days where I felt like life was spoiling me. I guess we call that blessed. 🙂 The birds, seals, and scenery of Bonaventure Island and Percé’s small town atmosphere made for a low-key, yet exceptional day.
Sure, our hiking and sightseeing in the Charlevoix region were great. But the highlight came one quiet, camping evening. We offered a some of our skilletful of blackberry grunt to our neighbors, two brothers, both of whom are Harley Davidson-riding plumbers. They accepted, but only on the condition that we accept their offer of whiskey. I managed to swallow a gulp down and then spent the night translating for them and Jordan between my bouts of hearty laughter. There in the woods, over Crown Royal and Martha Stewart’s recipe, we became friends. A motley crew that’d have never existed if I hadn’t made that effort to really learn French.
There were of course many coffee dates (with friends and the husband alike) on the Plateau, and like, #1, maybe it’s not a particular day that made the experience, but having an electronics-free conversation over a caffeinated beverage of my choosing became my favorite thing to do. The Plateau’s architecture made for a lovely backdrop. And almost anywhere you’re walking on the Plateau, you can find a really quality cup of joe nearby. These experiences pretty much defined my Montreal experience.
If you’ve visited or lived in Quebec, what were your favorite experiences? What else should have been on my list?