Sunday, July 16, 2017

Oui Oui in Quebec City

Ahhhhhh Quebec City! We rolled in to town with visions of a walled city, military guards in bright red uniforms, and delicious food. That is, in fact, exactly what we got.

Not wanting to drive F350 into the narrow streets of Quebec City, we parked at a local bus station and opted for a taxi into the city. As we cruised, April sat in the backseat with the boys and played referee as they went about bothering each other as much as they possibly could without getting reprimanded. After a particularly hard pinch, however, April separated the two with an invisible line and announced that "if they did not have anything nice to say, they were not to say anything at all."

The car was silent.

A few moments later,  Max spoke up with a seemingly kind question:

Max: "Dad, how big is Andrew?"
Mark: "He's four feet tall, Max."
Max:  "I have a riddle. What's four feet tall and never stops talking? Andrew, do you know?"

Thankfully, it was at that moment we pulled up to The Citadelle.

The Citadelle is the largest military fortification in North America and is still in active use.  The official residence of the Canadian Monarch, the Governor General of Canada and home to the Royal 22nd Regiment.... it's got a lot going on. We were there at 10am sharp for the Changing of the Guard. Upon seeing the soldiers, Andrew went into a fit of glee.

The Changing of the Guard was super neat... but also looooonng... 35 minutes to be exact. We cruised the museum and the gift shop after, but we just didn't have it in us to do the additional one hour tour. Instead, we walked through Old Quebec in search of Paillard, a fabulous bakery serving up buttery croissants and top-notch pastries. They have soups and salads and sandwiches too but ... really... does anyone care about those?

Following lunch (and pastries, obvi), the boys traced their steps back a few blocks to the popcorn shop they had spied earlier.  

Of course you can have cotton candy and popcorn on top of your lunch of croissants and macaroons,  kids! Of course you can do that... because your parents are about to make you walk your little legs all around this town. Carb up. 

Snacks in hand, we walked the streets and visited the Cathedral-Basilica of Notre Dame de Quebec and a lesser-known-but-far-more-impressive-to-a-certain-8-year-old, St. Andrew's Church.

Quebec City is full of street performers, and our boys stopped in their tracks when they saw a Ring of Fire act taking place near the town square. Andrew had a lot of thoughts and theories surrounding the gig, and happily put some of Mark's spare change in the performer's hat once the show was over. 

Next up, Chateau Frontenac. A breathtaking building, steeped in history, the hotel is generally recognized as the most photographed in the world. We can't speak to that, but it was certainly the most photographed hotel on our trip. 

Once we were done exploring the grounds of Chateau Frontenac, we headed down to the lower part of the city for more walking and more exploring. Here, Max consumed even more sugar. 

Ready to head inside, the kids were thrilled by a visit to the Musee de la Civilisation and its basement Discovery Zone. Their Once Upon A Time section requires special tickets, but allows a limited number of children each hour to enter a huge room ("castle") full of ornate, detailed costumes and all of the necessary castle backdrops, lighting, and sound effects one could wish for.  Need a noble steed on which to ride? A tower from which to shout? A cauldron in which to make and stir a potion? A bridge on which to gloriously cross? It's all here. Complete with a very large area for parents to kick back and relax/nap. Truly delightful. 

We saw many cool and interactive exhibits at the museum, but particularly interesting was Observe: More than Meets the Eye. Keeping with the idea that our senses can easily be tricked, the boys felt their way through a dark maze... as April watched from the screens outside. Ohhhhh creepy eyes! 

Having walked many miles on the cobblestone streets already, we tempted fate and announced to our sweet children that we'd be walking back UPhill, and then DOWNhill once again, toward one of Quebec City's most famous pizzerias. Of course, most people would probably elect to take the Funiculaire for $2 per person... which handles all those steps for you... but most people aren't Mark Royan. He's allergic to doing things the easy way. And limes. Both make him itchy. 

Wails of "My legs aw liddddderally going to fawl off, Mama!" echoed through the historic streets as we repeatedly assured our boys "Just a little bit longer!" 

What seemed like a million steps later, we arrived.  The pizza joint boasted 2 huge pizza ovens and 4 tables.  The temperature in the restaurant was over 100 degrees.  Another family that walked in with us immediately bailed. Already so sweaty from our hike/walk, it was determined that we could not enjoy ourselves in these surroundings. No matter, they didn't have room for us anyway.  Rejected, hungry, and so hot... we put our heads down in shame as we walked back out on to the streets.  

"You know," Mark said, "Legende is right down the street. That's the amazing place we read about." 

Let's just pause right here. Parents. Hear us.  You know how some restaurants are so hip and cool that you sometimes wonder if you're still classy enough to grace their tables? Now consider finding yourself in front of one of these establishments in leggings and tennis shoes and a baseball cap... with your children in tow. Imagine that you're wearing a L.L. Bean shark backpack.  Image how badly you want to eat there, and how badly TripAdvisor wants you to eat there ... but how you are certain that you cannot pull this off. Now you're in our brains. 

A very nice English-speaking waiter, far too young to have children of his own, spied us looking desperately in his direction. 

"You would like to come in, no?" 

"Ummmmm yes. But we are wearing this and we have our kids and we are sweaty and we don't have a reservation and...."

"Please," Nice Waiter interrupted, "Sit down. There is no dress code here. You can be gone in 2 hours, yes? Because in 2 hours I am fully booked." 


Nice Waiter found us a lovely booth on the patio, surrounded by white lights hanging above us and planters full of beautiful flowers. He rustled up a complimentary appetizer of something to do with beet puree and homemade pita, and brought us a bottle of wine.  

Then, a bird pooped on him. 

He was horrified, but we were oddly put at ease by the whole thing. After all... our kids probably weren't going to poop on him, so it seemed like the worst was over. We relaxed, kids with their notebooks and markers and us with our very excellent Bordeaux. 

There was no kids menu (obviously... the fact that we'd even write that proves our point above), but the Bordeaux told us to relax and just hand the boys their Frenglish menus... and hope for the best. 

Andrew ordered "The Duck: Four Ways... without vegetables, please. And can you tell me what the gizzards are?" 

He ate every bite, especially loving the gizzards (which turned out to be liver) and then moved on to sampling Max's Barbecue Quail. As the waiter came to collect the empty plates, Andrew asked for "Another plate of the Quail, please!" He ate that entire plate as well (minus the vegetables, of course). Mark and April sat in stunned silence.  

Being that we were both extremely impressed by our adventurous eaters and well-behaved kids, we thanked them for their top-notch behavior with the reward of all rewards.... love. No, I'm kidding.... no kid wants that (also kidding). We took them to the toy store in Quebec City, Benjo.

Seemingly endless supply of stuffed animals? Train ride through the aisles? Captain Underpants in French? An entire section of foam weapons? Oui, Oui!

For our last stop, we ventured outside the walls of Quebec City to Montmorency Falls.  The Falls, which are higher than Niagara Falls (so they say... we didn't crawl up there and measure them or anything), were impressive, massive, and capable of spitting out some serious mist. We wisely took the gondola to the top, walked the suspension bridge over the falls, and then walked the 460 steps DOWN (into the mist). 

That sentence reminds us of Into the Mystic... which remind us of Van Morrison... which reminds us of Andy Schaps' wedding... which reminds us how much we love that song. We digress.....

Farewell, Quebec City. You keep on with your bad self, we'll be back! Off to The Maritimes

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