This is the last in a 3 part series about our family road trip to visit with family and experience a little bit of our northern neighbor, Canada. The first post explored the fun of Niagara Falls and the second post covered snazzy Toronto.
From Toronto, we continued on to Montreal to enjoy a day with our Canadian family in Quebec, the main reason for our visit. Crossing into Montreal, signs began appearing in both French and English, and sometimes only French. My (very) mediocre grasp of French came in handy at times. But the highlight of Montreal was being with family, of course.
Though we didn’t spend much time exploring Montreal, we passed a lot of amazing street art and enjoyed delicious poutine (including a vegan option) at the famous La Banquise. We’ll just have to return soon!
Jardin Botanique de Montreal
While in Montreal, we enjoyed the 75 acre Jardin Botanique de Montreal/Montreal Botanical Garden, a National Historic Site considered to be one of the top gardens in the world. We enjoyed exploring the cultural and botanical-themed gardens, including the Chinese, Japanese, and First Nations gardens. It is a beautiful feature in a bustling city, just across from the old Olympic Games site.
The garden design encourages visitors to explore and interact with the grounds. Active curiosity is promoted through playful creativity. A visit to the Montreal Botanical Gardens is far from a passive experience.
In addition to educating guests about plants and the environment, the Insectarium features various live and preserved insects on display. The leaf cutting ants exhibit was fascinating–I could have sat for hours and simply watched them traverse their habitat. Even the vending machines were educational, and offering visitors the opportunity to snack on insects, a protein we should be eating more of, science says.
Leaving Montreal, we drove north into the beautiful countryside of Quebec provence to its capital, Quebec City, fueled by plenty of Tim Hortons coffee.
Quebec City Day One: Vieux-Quebec
The cliche about old Quebec City is true: you do feel like you’re in a picturesque French town on the other side of the Atlantic rather than North America. The streets and shops have that same pretty charm found in France, with crowds of tourists to match. Walk the large hill that comprises the old city and discover a beautiful vista around every corner, whether the city itself or the Saint Lawrence river.
At the foot of the hill down by the riverfront is the Musee de la Civilisation, a cultural museum that includes dynamic hands-on exhibits. Learn more about the history and culture of Quebec, including its First Nations peoples. We went through the fantastically fun Observe: More Than Meets the Eye exhibit so many times, I lost count and didn’t care. There was also an incredibly moving and multimedia, immersive exhibit exploring the identities of and challenges and violence faced by many First Nations women. We actually ran out of time and weren’t able to explore the entire museum before it closed because we took our time enjoying each exhibit.
After a hot walk up the hill in old town, we needed to recharge, so we popped into the library, Maison de la Litterature, near our hotel. This throughly modern space is within an old 1800s church, filled with light and opportunities for visitors to do more than just check out a book and go. The ground floor had an espresso cafe, giant magnetic poetry, and art supplies available for visitors to design their ideal library. I wish the library in our town could have all these features in such a beautiful setting, <sigh>.
Quebec City Day Two: La Citadelle & Saint-Jean
La Citadelle de Quebec
On our second day in Quebec City, we visited the UNESCO World Heritage Site fort, La Citadelle de Quebec. The on-site museum tells the tale of Canada’s armed forces, including moving exhibits on the World Wars and trench art. One quote in particular from a veteran moved me: “After having been drenched in blood and been around so much suffering, we came back as profound humanitarians. We came home with a burning desire for concord and…unity.” Regardless of our service history, we should all be profound humanitarians who strive for a better world.
In addition to a fascinating visit behind the fort walls into Canadian military history, it offers a beautiful view of Quebec City’s old town and the Saint Lawerence river. This is simply a beautiful place.
Down the other side of the hill from all the tourist hustle and bustle lies the neighborhood of Saint-Jean, which feels a bit like a hip college town (in the best possible way). With plenty of shops, galleries, and places to eat, Saint-Jean will revive your over-touristed tiredness.
We began with a stop at Epicerie J.A. Moisan, the “oldest grocery store on the continent,” founded in 1871. This shop may be historic but you can find all sorts of modern and traditional gourmet goods, local and global. It would be a perfect place to grab some fixings for a picnic or some souvenirs to take home to your foodie friends.
Our next stop in Saint-Jean was Erico Chocolaterie to cool off with some delicious artisanal ice cream, though all manner of creative sweets beckoned to us. My vegan was also happy there were non-dairy options for him, usually not the case. Next door is their Musee du Chocolat, which traces the journey of chocolate from tree to your taste buds. Some of the interactive exhibits could use some TLC, but it’s a nice feature and even includes a working clock made from chocolate.
At some point it was lunchtime and I really, really wanted some French food–frankly, the food we had elsewhere in Quebec was overpriced and mediocre. Le Billig Creperie-Bistro saved the day with delicious food in a funky little warm space. My “La Bearn” buckwheat crepe was delicate and crispy, stuffed with duck confit (one of my favorite things in the world), goat cheese, caramelized onions, and spinach. Yum.
Between J.A. Moisan, Erico Chocolate, and Le Billig, exploring Saint-Jean was my favorite part of Quebec City. Bonus that I also popped into a kitchen store along the way and found a new favorite coffee cup too.
On the Road in Quebec: Parc Omega
Since our oldest daughter’s #1 wish for our Canada trip was to see some Canadian wildlife, on the way back to our return visit to Montreal ending our trip, we stopped at Parc Omega. This is a drive-through wildlife park featuring Canadian animals, many of which you can feed along the way. It takes about 1 and 1/2 hours to drive through, with many deer and elk coming up to your car and other animals observed from afar such as bears and wolves.
Though I am not a fan of zoos, Parc Omega is different. The grounds were spotlessly clean, and all the animals had ample room to roam and were in good health. And honestly, we had a blast driving through the park and feeding the animals. It was one of the very best parts of our whole trip for all of us. There was plenty of laughing, squealing, and even some tears when a too-enthusiastic deer drooled in our window too much. (I was tempted to a photo here of that last moment but resisted. Aren’t you proud of my restraint? LOL)
Thank you, Canada, for the adventure and memories–from the fun of Niagara Falls, to the sophistication of Toronto, and the beauty of Quebec, and above all else, the friendly and kind people. We will be back very soon!
Thank you for reading Part Three of my 3 part series on our Canadian adventure.
Have you been to Quebec before? What did you enjoy? Please share in a comment.
- Want to read more about fun places to learn about and visit? Check out my posts on Niagara Falls, Toronto, and Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park.
- Visit my Events Calendar to see upcoming fun classes, trips, and events.
- If you like what I do here, please follow my blog, comment on my posts, and share them on social media–I’d greatly appreciate it. Thanks!