Going to Quebec - What Should I Not Miss?

Pretty much as described in the thread title. Mrs. SMV and self are meeting friends in Western Mass next week, then driving north to spend a week in Quebec City, Montreal, and Burlington, VT.

We’ve got a standard Lonely Planet tourist guide, but I’m hoping some of our Canadopers will chime in on hidden gems that we shouldn’t overlook.

I did just find out that Canadian Thanksgiving falls right in the middle of our trip. We have that as a light travel day, when we leave Quebec City and drive to Montreal; how much are we liable to be inconvenienced vis a vis gas stations, restaurants, and such?

Many thanks.

I’m not Canadian but Quebec was a stop on my honeymoon long ago. Don’t miss Old Quebec. It’s on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

25 Essential Things to Do in Old Quebec

Not much at all. The Monday is a federal statutory holiday, and most businesses will be closed, but things like gas stations and restaurants will almost certainly be open. Businesses in some tourist areas might be open.

Canadians generally don’t travel as much for our Thanksgiving as Americans do. In fact, because a lot of places will be closed, traffic will likely be lighter than usual.

You didn’t ask, but if you need any Burlington tips, let me know!

There is a locally-produced liqueur that is made out of maple syrup. That may sound like a Canada joke, but I’m serious. Ask about it in any upscale bar with a knowledgeable bartender.

It is indescribably delicious, and not as sweet as you might think. Makes a great after-dinner digestif.

Not Canadians but we travel there frequently. A couple of times we’ve driven to/from Quebec via the Lake Champlain Islands. The views of the lake and of the Adirondacks and Green Mountains from the islands are well worth a leisurely drive.

Definitely and strongly second DinoR’s suggestion; Old Quebec City is well worth at least a day. Old Montreal is good but Old Quebec City is great.

Yes, please do! Burlington is our last stop before driving back to Easthampton.

Unless you have quite specific interests, the part that really stands out in Quebec city is Old Quebec, within/near the walls. If you’re in the mood to get up early, sunrise on the Promenade des gouverneurs is nice. The Musée de la civilisation could be nice too if museums are your thing.

Avoid Irish-themed pubs, they’re overpriced tourist traps.
You could book seats at Le Parlementaire restaurant in the provincial legislative building. It’s surprisingly affordable for the fancy setting and they go out of their way to provide examples of Quebec cuisine. It can get noisy.
Lebanon restaurant on Rue d’Auteuil makes nice shish beef and souvlaki. I hate to be a hipster about this but it really is a hole-in-the-wall kind of restaurant you could easily miss that makes pretty good Lebanese fast food.
Tutto gelato on Saint-Jean makes very nice ice cream. You can ask them to taste samples before you buy and you can buy a tray of a dozen flavors to split with your half. You should.

Get some poutine in Montreal. I can’t advise you on which restaurant is best for that but now that I’ve mentioned it, someone will chime in.

Traveling between Quebec city and Montreal won’t be a problem.

Another option in Montreal is http://www.schwartzsdeli.com/ famous for their smoked meat.

Aux Anciens Canadiens is always my recommendation for an evening supper in Old Quebec. Traditional country fare. Other posters have commented they found it a bit heavy, but after a long day walking around the cobblestones, I find it hits the spot.

Check out the lower town.

The Louis Hébert restaurant is always good in my experience.

If you’re interested in government, a tour of the National Assembly is interesting. Last time I was there the tours were either English or French. Then have lunch at Le Parlementaire, as MichaelEMouse suggests.

If you want to go to the countryside, touring the island is a good day-time activity.

Cirque du Soleil gives a weekly free outdoor show but it looks like they’re done for the season. I can think of a lot of things to do but not the one killer must-do. I agree that a visit to the old town, particularly the lower town, is essential.

You may be thinking of Sortilege, which is Canadian whisky with maple. It is very nicely balanced, much better than you might imagine. Mapley but not overly sweet. Canadian Club makes something similar.

I have eaten there, and it is certainly good but I found it a bit gimmicky, down to the period costumes of the servers.

I stayed on Ile d’Orléans and it is a refreshing break from the city. Very little development though several good restaurants, wineries, and cideries. I also recommend the Chocolaterie de l’Ile d’Orléans, which offers dark chocolate, milk chocolate, and maple hard-shell dips for the ice cream.

In Montreal, go here. Do not delay. It is always our first stop.

There are tons of great restaurants. Do some sniffing around, check out Eater, figure out your price point. L’Express, Au Pied du Cochon, Hoogan et Montfort are some faves of mine. Schwartz’s is the best for smoked meat. Don’t let anyone tell you different. Go off hours if you can, as lines can be long. La Binerie is a ton of fun, like being transported back in time.

Bagels are like nothing you’ve had before. Get to St Vieteur.

It’s a great walking city. Pick a neighborhood and just wander.

Don’t forget the great public markets. Jean Talon is a paean to vegetables, Atwater for meats. Atwater in particular is an astonishment. All manner of stuffed, rolled, dressed, roasts, sausages and other charcuterie.

Lastly, go to the Botanical Gardens. I’ve never been so late in the season, but I’m confident there will be much to marvel at. Maybe the BioDome is open again.

Oh yeah, Old Montreal is worth an hour’s stroll, but only to dig the architecture. Seriously tourist trappy.

Have fun. I love the place, and I would live there in a heartbeat.

(I was going to send this as a DM, but aparently there’s a character limit that I’ve exceeded. Oh well).

This is just a data-dump of the best places for food and beer in downtown Burlington, according to me. :slight_smile: I can refine this, or offer out-of-town options, or recommend other things to do/see if you have some other thoughts about what you might like.

Though, really, if you’re here with a group for just one day, hitting Church St (the 5 block pedestrian thoroughfare downtown) and maybe checking out the waterfront as well (a few blocks away), eating drinking and window (or actual) shopping are probably going to be a pleasant enough way to spend the day.

Ok, here we go . . .

Local brews:
Vermont Pub and Brewery - http://www.vermontbrewery.com/

This is truly “the original,” founded in 1988, and the first post-prohibition brewpub in VT. They don’t can or bottle, and, frankly, are no longer my favorite local beer after the literal explosion of options in the last 5-10 years. But, I’ve been drinking their Burly Irish Ale, Handsome Micks Irish Stout, and Forbidden Fruit since I turned 21, and I have no intention of stopping.

Also, many of the restaurant options I suggest are a little on the pricier side. VT Pub and Brewery is the place to eat if you want tasty pub fare at reasonable prices.

Zero Gravity - http://www.zerogravitybeer.com/

Their “home” restaurant/bar is American Flatbread downtown, but they also recently opened a tap room ~ a mile from downtown on Pine St… Really excellent beers; there’s a slightly larger selection at their Flatbread location.

Queen City Brewery - https://queencitybrewery.net/

Funky vibe, Queen City brews styles that most other folks around here aren’t making.

Citizen Cider - https://www.citizencider.com/

Excellent ciders. Pass on the food there, though. Also, every restaurant in town carries their cider.

Foam Brewers - https://www.foambrewers.com/

They’re the newest of the bunch; they make good beer, and get a lot of beer industry love.

. . . those are the ones that are walkable from downtown/Church St. There’s easily 10-15 more within a 5 mile radius, including Magic Hat (always fun for a tour) and other options.

Best restaurants in Burlington (most of which you’ll do much better at with a reservation, particularly if you’re a larger table):

http://www.pizzeriaverita.com/ (amazing pizza. Soft, chewy crust, really delicious sauce. If you’re looking for an “authentic” pizza, this is it. The best I’ve had, and I’ve had pizza. If you’re hungry, each one is a personal size.)

http://www.trattoriadelia.com/ (my favorite (upscale) Italian restaurant.)

https://www.honeyroadrestaurant.com/ (my new favorite place in town. Small plates, so it makes ordering complicated (or fun, depending on your perspective), but everything is special. Even items that look simple or plain on the menu are really just excellent.)

https://asinglepebble.com/ (incredible Chinese food. Not a take out place, nor is it a place where they charge you $28 bucks for the same dish you’d get at a take out place, but with slightly fresher steamed broccoli. Really delicious; everything is good. I highly recommend the Mock Eel (fried crispy shitake mushrooms in a sweet soy sauce.)

https://www.mlcvt.com/ (my favorite place outside of town . . . but only a mile away. Hyper-local, with an ever changing menu depending on the meat/produce/etc they’ve managed to get a hold of. If I were writing cliched headlines, I’d call it “elevated farm-to-table”.)

https://www.bluebirdbbq.com/ (It’s BBQ. It’s good.)

http://www.stonesoupvt.com/ (depending on your mood. This is very, um, Vermont, home-grown food. A hot and cold bar, pay by weight. Definitely less upscale than all the places above.)

http://www.pennycluse.com/ (If you’re here for breakfast. But there is always a line. Always. The last time I ate there we got there as they opened, and the place filled up before we got in the door. We were first in line with a 1/2 hour wait. But it is really great food. A good breakfast alternative that fills up less quickly is http://www.theswinginpinwheel.com ).

Other places that are great, but I generally wouldn’t pick over any of the above:

https://www.henofthewood.com/ (Upscale American cuisine)

http://www.pascolovt.com/ (Italian)

http://www.farmhousetg.com/ (Expensive. Too expensive. But, the burgers are really good, so if you’re into burgers, it might be worth it. I still cringe when I pay for them, though. These guys also have a really excellent tap/can/bottle list for beer. And, there’s a basement ‘speakeasy/bar’ that’s separate from the restaurant, with a very cozy fireplace and seating, and you can still order food from the bar.

http://americanflatbread.com/restaurants/burlington-vt/ (home of afore-mentioned Zero Gravity beer. If you want pizza, and aren’t interested in the sort of schmancier option of Pizzeria Verita, this is the place (though, it is, as the name says, ‘flatbread’. Don’t expect NYC pizza here.))

In Quebec City, obviously, the Old City, the Citadelle and the Plains. I would recommend also hopping up the road to Beaupre, you’ll pass Montmorency Falls which is a good stop and you can see the Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupre which is well worth it and the Cyclorama of Jerusalem which is an interesting curiosity though I wouldn’t say must-see before making it to Canyon Sainte-Anne. The churches and sacred architecture in and around Quebec City is absolutely insane. Every little village church is picturesquely beautiful. Basically everything about Quebec City is great. It’s a really unique place. You’ll enjoy it.

I’ve never been that much of a fan of the Plains, because the provincial government for obvious reasons doesn’t want it to be a major tourist attraction and the Feds have to tread so warily.

But, the last time we were there the Centre d’Accueil had a good audio-visual diorama, so maybe it’s improved.

Wow, now I need to go back up there to scope out the churches. Plus a stop in Montreal to re-see the big ass church, where they had that miracle-worker dude.

Why does Quebec have such magnificent sacred architecture? Splain, please.

A number of reasons.

First, France followed a different colonial policy than Britain. Britain allowed anyone who wanted to leave to do so, especially religious dissenters and trouble-makers. That meant you got a diversity of religious views in the British colonies.

France, however, ran the colonies as enclaves under the King’s control, with much greater controls over who could emigrate. In particular, no Huguenots (also, no Bruces. That went without saying.). Emigrants had to be good Catholics. They could even be young ladies of easy virtue (« les filles du Roi »), provided they were Catholic. (Laurier, a future Prime Minister of Canada, got in trouble as a teenager at his Jesuit school by winning a school débate, taking the position that the King should have allowed Huguenots to emigrate.)

So you’ve got a population that is by and large homogenous Catholic, and also largely cut off from the Enlightenment, given limits on population and communications.

Then you have La Conquête, in 1760-62. It’s an existentialist disaster for New France, further isolating them from political events in France, like the French Revolution. The Conquest established a new system of British Protestant rule.

So the Church becomes a major centre not just of religious identity, but québécois identity. When you went to l’église, you were affirming that there were some elements of your life that were independent of les anglais. (There are obvious parallels to the role of the Catholic church in Ireland.)

That in turn meant that almost all québécois supported the church, including financially (and the British kept the system of state-enforced tithes, so the Church had steady income.)

The Church thus took on a very conservative role, both culturally, to protect the faithful habitants from the perfidious anglais, and theologically. The Church in Quebec in the 19th century was strongly ultramontaine - “more Catholic than the Pope.”

And the Church also played a strongly political role, as an aspect of protecting the québécois minority. That Conservative tendency also meant conservatism in politics. One famous political slogan in the 19th century was « Le ciel est bleu, l’enfer est rouge. » (“Heaven [the sky] is blue, Hell is red.”). The Conservatives in Quebec were « les Bleus », the Liberals were «les Rouges ».

All of which meant big churches, even in tiny towns. They were religious centres, community centres, political centres. They were an expression of the survival of les québécois, no matter what those anglais were up to.

It all went smash in the Quiet Revolution of the 60s, but the churches are still there, even though they serve much-dwindled congregations.

Pretty much. I’m not an architecture student, so take what I say with a grain of salt, but I think that we also see this blending of Norman architecture with New World sensibilities. A lot of the architects were trained in Paris, but as mentioned were rather conservative, so not impacted as much by trends of the time, so you get these very older-style looking buildings but with more modern materials and building methods. As mentioned, you have these huge areas like Montreal and Quebec City that have hundreds of thousands of devout Catholics and there is tons of money to pour into building projects. The smaller countryside churches largely tried to emulate the styles of the large basilicas in the cities combined with influences from plainer Protestant churches and they came up with a very distinct style - 90% of them made with a light grey limestone and a steeple at the top of a very steep roof. Here’s a typical church from Ile d’Orleans

These little stone churches are ubiquitous in Quebec and in my opinion absolutely gorgeous. Honestly, I think you could waste a whole day just driving around the Ile or up to Beaupre touring all of their pretty little stone churches.

To continue with this point, you can’t say ‘the big ass church’ about Montreal. Montreal has FOUR basilicas. (Mary Queen of the World, St. Patrick’s, Notre Dame and St. Joseph’s) and they are all absolutely gorgeous. (I personally like the interior of St. Patrick’s the best. I like St. Joseph’s exterior, but to each their own.) That doesn’t include all of the little Catholic churches and the Protestant quasi-cathedrals. If you like sacred architecture (or really any architecture) Quebec has an embarrassment of riches. I’m actually worried that with declining congregations we’re going to see a lot of these places destroyed over time. Beaupre has already lost its nunnery which is beautiful in its own right and I think that that is going to be the norm to watch these buildings just slowly decay and fade away, so enjoy it while you can.

“Protestant quasi-cathedrals” - no “quasi” about it. Anglican (and Orthodox too, although not Protestant, obviously) cathedrals are just as much cathedrals as Catholic ones - the seat of a bishop.