Adventures in Canada, Part II: Québec City & Ottawa

If you’re just joining me, welcome! If you’re coming over from the first post where I spoke about Montréal, thanks for sticking around. With so much to say about these breath taking cities, it’s hard to condense them all into one post- and if I had, you’d be bombarded with an eternity of scrolling! Who would want that?! Onward to arguably my favorite city in Canada- Québec City, followed by a budget friendly guide to a day trip in Ottawa!

Québec City has a very “old european” vibe, similar to Vieux-Montréal. From the Best Western we stayed at (mentioned below), we were able to walk around a large part of the city without getting too lost! Of course, if you prefer to use a taxi, drive on your own, or map out where you want to go, that could be very helpful- but wandering around will surely bring you to some exciting places (and give you a decent workout)! Our favorite place to be was Old Quebec, where the streets had cobblestones and were lined with unique shops- clothing stores, restaurants, antique shops, and cool souvenir selections. If there is anywhere I would save spending money for, it would be this city!

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Fun graffiti walking around Quebec City.

First things first, the Hotel!

While here, we stayed at The Best Western Plus for a few nights- and it was great! The whole place was very clean, rooms included, and had an indoor jacuzzi and pool- which is really great when you visit during the winter/spring and spend most of the afternoon walking around in a blizzard! There were vending machines located on nearly every floor of the building, and one was conveniently located outside of our room. I believe we were also across from a liquor store, which came in handy. If I remember correctly, the valet service takes your car to a designated parking area after unloading your luggage at the entrance, and the price is included in the cost of the rooms. I know for a fact, if I ever come back to Québec City, I will be booking at this hotel, and really recommend it.

Cool Locations to Visit

During the spring (when we visited) Québec City is like a cozy winter wonderland- it reminded me of something you’d read out of a children’s book involving the North Pole! The snow on the streets and buildings, and the style of the architecture, make this city a truly magical place. I’m positive that even without the snow, it remains just as incredible. While walking around the city, there are plenty of great statues, churches, and buildings to visit. I can’t speak for all of the city, but the following were some really great places. The first I’ll mention is the statue of Samuel de Champlain, which is located near the famous Chateau Frontenac. The statue itself is in honor of the founder of Québec City, and is pretty impressive!  We were walking around in a brutal blizzard when we reached the statue, but it was still fun to look at, despite the freezing temperatures.

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Frozen in a blizzard with the Statue of Samuel de Champlain, founder of Quebec City

Le Chateau Frontenac, is another really impressive structure. I am not exaggerating when I say this building is gigantic! You are able to book rooms to stay at this hotel, but as you could probably guess, the price is very steep. If you’re on a budget like we were, staying for one night will most probably cost our entire trip budget! As a refresher, for one person, our budget (including free spending money and gas) was about $200 per person, for the week! Although the steep price may make budgeters like myself run for the hills, you are still able to admire the outer and inner beauty of this chateau for the wonderful price tag of $0! The inside of the hotel is even more impressive than the outside, and reminded us of the interior of the Titanic. It’s a great way to wander around and see how the “high rollers” holiday. Plus, it gives you a nice place to warm up!

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In the tundra outside the Chateau!
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The interior- imagine how the rooms must be!

There are plenty of benches around here and scenic overlooks of the water- if it is warmer when you visit, I could see this being a great place to hang out and relax. Our next stop though was the Funicular, which is right nearby! Riding the funicular down the hillside brings you to Rue du Petit Champlain, where there are plenty of shops, restaurants, and other unique sights. The funicular does cost money, but not much- I believe it’s $1 CAD- but do not hold me to that quote! There are other ways down the hill, but this was the “fun way” to get there. There are two “carts”, so you often pass by another group of people going up the slope. We made sure to do strange things as we passed them, which gave them a good laugh!

 

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The Funicular in Old Québec! 

A few other locations that we visited, that are not pictured, include Église Notre-Dame-des-Victoires, which is also located in Old Québec, and the St. Louis Gate, which acts as an entrance to Old Quebec City. Both are nice places to take a photo of, or with.

Food and Drinks

Closer to the Best Western Hotel there is a Subway– after utilizing our french skills at the time, we were able to all successfully order sandwiches, although I’m sure had we just used english, things would’ve been alright- and less excruciating for everyone! Obviously, Subway isn’t this incredible restaurant, but if you need a quick, somewhat ‘healthy’, affordable dinner, at least the option is there! There were a lot of fast food places nearby as well, but I avoid them unless I am desperate!

Along Rue Du Petit Champlain, there was a restaurant that we ate dinner at both nights during our stay- Bistro Sous le FortThe restaurant itself was cozy and very close to the funicular. Both nights we were given a nice corner table near the fireplace, so it was very warm despite the blizzards outside! We also had a nice window seat so we could gaze out onto the streets and look at the lights and snow, which was really beautiful. The service was also friendly and the food was very good- it wasn’t expensive enough to break the bank, and for the overall experience, it was well worth going out for dinner- and walking there from the hotel! Things may have changed since we were last here, but the overall experience at this little Bistro was great and I still remember it to this day.

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Rue due Petit Champlain, Photo Credit: HaveACameraWillTravel

As for bars and clubs, I can recommend one bar that I was tricked into going to back in 2013- I had reluctantly agreed to keep my friend Brandon company at a bar he was excited about going to. Our taxi dropped us off at Le Drague – I will remember the name forever, because his explanation to me was, as he pretended to just realize it wasn’t a ‘normal bar’ but a gay one, “I thought it meant the dragon, not the drag.”  There are plenty of bars though throughout the city- I just can’t vouch for any of them from personal experience.

Inside there is an open floor and stage with a disco ball hanging above, and the lighting is pretty cool everywhere- even in the bathrooms. I remember being buzzed out of my mind staring at the changing lights in there! I imagine when there are shows it must be packed and pretty fun! The drink names there are pretty funny- I ordered a ton of Pornstars, and would recommend them if you happen to go. My best memory, if you care, was befriending a lesbian from Wisconsin. She gave me the best advice I ever received about my sexuality- with her hand on my back, she heartily said to me, “Hey, you never know, you’re still young and have plenty of time to figure yourself out.” I think it’s a great place to go if you want to experience something new, have some fun in a cozy place, and meet great people who can have a lasting impact on your life years later.

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I’ve blurred out faces since I’m not sure if they’d want their photos on the internet!

Overall, Québec City is a very beautiful, laid back place to visit- I’m not sure if there is a party scene out there (I will assume there must be) but I didn’t get the “Las Vegas” or “Times Square” night life vibe- which was great! It was peaceful and clean, and very charming. It was the type of city were at 2 am, my friend and I could walk drunkenly home from the gay bar without feeling threatened. It is the type of city where if you run into someone walking their dog at said time, you both share a quick “how are you” and continue on your separate ways. I really loved Québec City and think there is plenty to enjoy out there- if you prefer a more bustling area though, I would stick with Montréal.

Day Trip to Ottowa!

The final review I can leave is very small in comparison to Montréal and Québec City- genuinely because we did not spend much time here. Still, after exploring the city by foot, I think there are few cool places I can share with everyone that might inspire you to make a road trip to this city as well.

Our first major stop of the day was the Peace Tower, mostly because we thought the building looked pretty cool. There were tons of people there that day doing yoga- I’m not sure if it’s an everyday thing or what, but it was pretty interesting! We ended up eating lunch on the lawn nearby and enjoying the overcast afternoon. There are plenty of things to do around this area, such as exploring Parliament Hill. 

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Posing by the Peace Tower in Ottawa, Ontario!

The Centennial Flame is one of the first things you might notice when exploring Parliament Hill, and is unfortunately something I do not have a photo of anymore. The flame itself symbolizes Canada’s 100th Anniversary of being a confederation, and sits above a water fountain! It’s really cool to watch the flame dance above the water and be able to warm up on an overcast day at the same time.

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Famous Five Monument on Parliament Hill

The Famous Five Monument is also located nearby and features a variety of statues that you can pose with to your liking. Although at the time we had no clue what these statues were meant for, after doing a bit of research, The Famous Five commemorates five Alberta women who fought to have women recognized as ‘people’ and ‘equals’ in the early 1900’s- not as second class citizens under the law, as women had been. I’m glad we got to enjoy celebrating with them at their tea party! There are various other statues beyond the image above, and one even has a chair out that you can sit down on for photos! The Statue of Queen Elizabeth II is also located near the Famous Five, between the Centre and East block buildings located on Parliament Hill.

A bit more wandering beyond will bring you to the Bytown Museum. I’m still not completely sure how we got here, apart from the fact that I remember walking up and down various staircases, and along various pathways both under bridges! The museum itself is fairly small, but goes over the origins of Bytown and how it eventually developed into the city of Ottawa that you see today! I believe in order to get onto the other floors of the museum you need to pay, so being on a tight budget, none of us paid to venture higher into the building. If it’s a topic you’re very interested in, I’m sure it’s worth the entrance fee, but otherwise, you can enjoy the scenery nearby and the walk getting here.

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Relaxing near the Bytown Museum

On our journey around Ottawa, we also came upon the Canadian Tomb of the Unknown Solider. At the time, we didn’t know what this, like nearly everything else I’ve brought up, was actually for! We thought it was pretty interesting that there were guards there, so we figured it must be important. After doing a bit of research, the tomb commemorates an unknown soldier who died during World War I in France- and since it is a tomb, it also holds their remains. The National War Memorial is located ‘above/behind’ the tomb- it is the stone arch you can see some of in the photo below. The archway, with a statue on the top, commemorates all Canadian victims of war. It was originally built for those who lost their lives in the First World War, but has since been extended to serve as a memorial for all Canadians who have been killed in war.

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Canadian Tomb of the Unknown Solider

We also visited the Supreme Court of Canada, where you can go on a free guided tour around the building. We opted to do this while we were in the area, seeing as we didn’t know where else to go. A guide took a large group of people, including us, on a tour of the building, going over the history and important cases. We were eventually brought into a courtroom where we sat down and listened to the guide talk about the room, and before exiting, were allowed to put on a gown and sit in the judges chair! That was kind of fun to do. The entire tour lasted maybe 45 minutes and was pretty informational!

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Inside the Supreme Court of Canada, enjoying the fancy chair!

We ended up eating at a Tim Horton’s I believe- and then returned back to Montréal after a long day exploring. Walking around Ottawa, apart from parking (since I believe we had to pay for a meter) was a very inexpensive day trip. Most of the attractions we visited were free, and there was plenty to explore by foot. I definitely think visiting is worthwhile, especially if you are interested in history!

Bottom Line: What are you guys waiting for? Canada is AWESOME! There is so much to do, and so many unique places to explore. It’s affordable on a budget and is great fun for groups of friends, couples, or families. I think these cities near the East Coast have something for everyone- as for the West of Canada (play on words, ha! I’m not funny), hopefully someday I can make it back out there and explore! For now,  East coast Canada does not disappoint!

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