Sunday, March 17 – Wednesday, March 20, 2019
For spring break 2019, me and two of my best friends decided to make a trek to Canada, more specifically Québec City, which is the capital of the Canadian province of Québec. This was my first trip to this city, which has a special place in my heart because it was the original site that my ancestors immigrated to from France back in the 1600s.
We started the nearly 300 mile trek by mid-morning and arrived in Canada by early afternoon.
SQDC: Société québécoise du cannabis
The state of Maine has had a long and complex journey with legalization of medicinal and recreational cannabis. The state passed recreational use in 2016, but as of this trip (almost three years later), the infrastructure and business guidelines were still not in place. Canada passed full legalization of all forms of cannabis use in 2018 and by early 2019 had systems in place. Each province has its own laws and regulation. In Québec, cannabis is sold through the government-run agency SQDC (Société québécoise du cannabis). And…..this was our first stop even before we got to our Air BNB. The dispensary was closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, so we were glad that we made the stop on Sunday afternoon! It was an interesting experience to see how it operated. Certainly a much different experience than anything with cannabis in Maine or the United States.
We arrived at our Air BNB, rolled a few joints on a granola bar box, and went inside, explored, and settled in. The Air BNB was the basement level of a multi-floor building, which we later found out was other Air BNBs. The one above us was being occupied by six college guys who quickly became evening smoking buddies.
That evening, we went to dinner at Milano Pizzeria nearby. A solid amount of vodka crans (my drink of choice) got us off to a good start 🙂
We walked around the streets near here for a little bit, then got a taxi back to the Air BNB. Now, why did we take a taxi, you might ask? Based on my last trip to Québec City, I thought Uber wasn’t operational in the province. If you read my blog from when I was in Ottawa for the first time, I got stranded in Chelsea, Québec, trying to leave the spa. Stressful times indeed. I passed along this knowledge, and we figured out the whole taxi thing. I guess I should’ve researched if that was still the case. Turns out Uber is now operational there. Whoops. Reasonable mistake…. right? At least we figured that out the next morning, after only a few taxi trips the night before.
We started Monday off with a Québec City Walking Tour. It started off downtown at the Centre Infotouriste de Québec. While it was super heckin’ cold (who goes to Canada on Spring Break?!), it was really information and a great way to walk around Old Québec City.
We visited a lot of churches…. like a lot. I couldn’t keep track of all of the names and locations, but I believe it was Notre-Dame de Québec Basilica-Cathedral, Les Lofts Notre-Dame, and Notre-Dame-des-Victoires.
After our walking tour, we headed out to lunch at one of the tour guide’s recommendations. The main street with shops and restaurants in Old Québec is Rue du Petit-Champlain, as well as some of the parallel streets. We selected Restaurant La Buche (mostly because of the recommendation and the selling point that they had unlimited mimosas for $15). We took our time and had a great lunch connecting and enjoying some traditional Canadian brunch foods (and a few bottles of champagne).
Oh, there was also this weird ass graffitied bathtub in this super dungeon-y bathroom that literally had no explanation? It haunts me to this day.
Observatoire de la Capitale
Next stop was the Observatoire de la Capitale, which is the 31st floor of the Marie-Guyart Building (tallest skyscraper in the city). It was very disorienting and nauseating being this high up after half a bottle of champagne, but it did reward us with some beautiful views. Also weird fact, the mountain range visible from the Observatoire are called the Laurentian Mountains.
After this, Karlee and Rebekah went back to Rue du Petit-Champlain, and I went back to the Air BNB to take a snooze. They came back a couple hours later, and we spent the rest of the evening just hanging out, cooking dinner, smoking, and making friends with the BNB guests above us.
I love visiting the Parliament and other government buildings when I travel. Let’s just say not everyone shares that interest… in fact, they rarely do. So I got up extra early and went downtown to go to The National Assembly (Parliament Building/Hôtel du Parlement). They offer both self-guided tours and guided. I went to the 75-minute free guided tour in English starting at 9 AM. Reserving online is best, so you can pick the tour that is in your preferred language (offerings include French and English, Spanish also available by request). Then, you arrive 30 minutes early, present a photo ID, and go through security.
The tour includes seeing the infinite pieces of artwork and sculptures, as well as the legislative rooms. There is also explanations of the artwork and insight into the operation of both Canadian and Québec government.
My next stop was to meet up with Rebekah and Karlee at the Musée du Chocolat. Based on the fact that this was in the “Top 10 Things to See,” we assumed it would be more popular and busy. It was a bit of a let-down and had less than a dozen exhibits and displays. The cool part was the glass overlook that allowed you to see employees making chocolate. They also had some good chocolate and related items for purchase 😉
Our next stop was Immersion Québec, which is an interactive museum with a variety of virtual reality displays and games that dive into the history of Québec City. I don’t really have any photos because it’s not that type of museum. We were the only three people there, and the prices weren’t too bad (I think they had student discount, too).
Hôtel de Glace
After this, we took a 45 minute drive to Valcartier, QC, to visit the Hôtel de Glace (Ice Hotel). This had been on my bucket list for a while, and it did not disappoint! You are able to actually sleep the night in this hotel in insulated beds and sub-zero temperature-proof sleeping bags, but a majority of people simply visit the many ice sculptures, chapel, bar, slides, and look into the rooms and suites. They have been building the Ice Hotel annually for almost 20 years. It is over 42,000 square feet with 40,000 tons of snow and 5,000 tons of ice.
Also, enjoy this glorious video of the three of us going down the ice slide:
After a few hours here, we headed back to the Air BNB and hung out enjoying our last evening in Canada.
Wednesday, March 20, was our last day in Québec City. If you’ve read some of my other blogs, you know I am very partial to Nordic spas. They are amazing. Like so amazing. We decided that going to the Strøm spa nordique was an essential part of this trip, and we saved it for our last day. It is located in Old Quebec, so it wasn’t too far from Rue du Petit-Champlain where we spent a little bit of time shopping before heading there. There are multiple locations with Nordic spas in Canada, and if you take anything from this blog, it’s that you need to go to one (or two or ten) in your lifetime.
After this, we were on our way home! After we crossed the border, we had to stop at a gas station for some…. forgotten items. Then, we continued on this terrible ass highway. Bek ended up needing a multitude of car repairs when we got back. It basically required us going 15mph for dozens of miles on a supposedly 50mph highway. Potholes doesn’t even begin to cover it. I made a clear mental note to take a different route next time I went to Québec, no matter how much time it added!
This trip was very meaningful because I graduate in May, so our friendship as we know it now is about to change a lot. It was good to have this time to connect and foster our relationship. Until next time, Canada!