A long weekend in the states, lead me to three days of explores in our Northern neighbor, Quebec, Canada. I boarded an overnight bus from NYC (not as bad as it sounds…) and woke up in Montreal.
It’s a curious thing really, to watch cultures and languages cross oceans and become rooted in new lands. Yet, over time, they take on a shape of their own, becoming an evolution of new and old threads. Quebec is this evolved fabric.
Referred to as French Canadian lands, the province of Quebec boasts French as its mother tongue for so many of its people. Quebec City itself is tiny in size but mighty in presence, as one can feel transported into Europe when entering through its city walls. And I guess my question to this French influence was, why? So I set off to experience this province and filled in my gaps in knowledge along the way.
In the 17th century, the French language made its debut onto Northern America through French explorations. Largely encapsulating much of western North America, New France was founded. Trade became its main economy, France its champion. Yet, through 150 years of battles of imperialism between France and Britain and their American colonists, New France continually succeeded to British rule. And as a conclusion to one of the larger conflicts, the Seven Year’s War, the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1763 (not to be confused with the one signed in 1783). New France became that of Britain’s, though certain allowances were made. In what is now the Quebec Province, French colonists were allowed to continue trade, to practice their religion, and to maintain other traditional rights and customs.
Enter the beginning of the evolution of Quebec’s fabric. Its roots still that of French, but forced isolation from mainland France under British rule caused Quebec to realize its own linguistic and cultural norms. Through time, and the internal shifts among each of these lands, marked linguistic differences became apparent. Quebec is reflective of its European past but also refracts its own identity. For that, I adore in abundance.
To further add to my curiosity, I noticed an (amazing) surplus of Vietnamese restaurants (my favorite cuisine) throughout Montreal. I again asked myself, well, why?
Historically, Vietnam and its surrounding countries (previously referred as French Indochina) were some of France’s most lucrative colonial endeavors. Of course, this came with its share of unfortunate realities for the countries’ locals, but also came with an adoption of the French language for many. But my answer beckons back to the more modern time and to that of the Vietnam War, where many Southern Vietnamese sought refuge from their Northern Communist counterparts. Canada opened its arms to two waves of Vietnamese migrations, the second of which still continues today. And the adoption of French as a second language in their colonized history proved to be helpful to their success in Canada. Today, the province of Quebec has the second highest Vietnamese-Canadian population, behind Ontario, with Montreal as its city with the highest concentration. So, with that, came Montreal’s introduction to their incredible cuisine!
Stay curious, loves.
Quebec City (little Europe)
Entering this little walled city and UNESCO World Heritage site feels as though you’ve jumped the Atlantic and found yourself in a quaint European city.
- In Old Quebec or just outside of the city walls
- Perhaps the most photographed hotel, and an attraction all in itself, is the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac
- In winter, enjoy the Ice Hotel
Sights (near & close by)
- Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac
- St. Lawrence River (views from the Old Port)
- Place Royale
- Rue Saint-Jean
- Montmorency Falls (best views from below in the Parc de la Chute-Monmorency)
- Plains of Abraham (park)
- Parc National de la Jacques-Cartier
- Ile d’Orleans (a beautiful little rural island)
- Check this out for recs! http://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/destinations/canada/quebec/ten-must-try-restaurants-in-quebec-city/
Getting To & Around
- Orleans Express Coach Lines (3 hour one-way trip) – arrive in Gare du Palais which is a short taxi ride from Old Quebec
- Train – arrive in Gare du Palais for Old Quebec
Within + Around the Area
- Within Old Quebec, everything is walkable.
- For explores outside the city, there are city shuttles available – though they run slow!
- Car rental would provide the most flexibility
- Ubers/taxis are widely available as well, though less economic
Though I was less inspired by Montreal’s architecture and physical presence, I do believe city’s are only as strong as the goodness of its people. For that, Montreal excels.
- Plateau Mont Royal (lots of bars, restaurants, shops, live music)
- Some recommend staying in Old Montreal though I feel like it came become crowded quite quickly!
- St-Viateur & Fairmont for all your bagel needs (both staples of Montreal)
- Café Parvis (adorable! Great food)
- Arts Café
- Best Vietnamese Food: https://www.mtlblog.com/montreals-most-authentic-vietnamese-restaurants?all=1&
- Additional tips:
Sights (near & close by)
- Mont Royal and its surrounding park (for hiking & best views of the city)
- Awesome walking/bike + winter tours: http://fitzandfollwell.co
- Mont Tremblant (a bit out of the city – shuttles available – but beautiful both during the winter and summer for outdoor activities)
- Old Port Montreal
- Old Montreal
- Notre Dame Basillica
- Parc Jean-Drapeau
- Rue St-Paul (for a European flair)
- Rue St-Denis (a fun street, especially during summer!
- Additional tips: http://www.travelandleisure.com/articles/the-best-of-montreal
- I walked EVERYWHERE. Over 15 miles in a day. But that was just my preference :)
- Buses and Metros are widely available – just purchase a transportation pass!
- Ubers/Taxis are widely available