I Backpack Canada » Quebec http://ibackpackcanada.com A backpackers travel guide to Canada Sat, 16 Aug 2014 19:43:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 6 Reasons I Love Montreal http://ibackpackcanada.com/6-reasons-i-love-montreal/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/6-reasons-i-love-montreal/#comments Thu, 27 Sep 2012 16:40:41 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=5323 6 Reasons I Love Montreal is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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A city as beautiful as Montreal probably doesn’t need another travel blogger gushing over it, but I’ve never been one for expectations, which means gushing shall ensue in this post. Montreal is a very unique city to the rest of Canada. There’s something about it, the mix of old and new, the prominence of art no matter where you turn your head, and the fact that food and music play such a large part in the lives of Montrealers has been making me think that this is where I’m meant to be. At least for a while. Unfortunately, that won’t happen anytime soon, so in the meantime, I’d like to write down 6 reasons I love Montreal.

Montreal Vegetables Market Fresh

1. Good Eats Montreal

Many people say you can taste the hard work and love that Montrealers put into every dish. Whether its from the baguettes at a local bakery, fresh vegetables from the Jean-Talon Market, a delicious late evening dinner at Van Horne or a 2:00a.m poutine at La Banquise. Montreal is jam packed with incredible restaurants, pubs, and deli’s. You could spend an entire summer in Montreal and barely scratch the surface of the Montreal food scene. While there are countless must-have eats in Montreal, I personally love walking down Rue Sainte-Denis or Saint-Laurent Boulevard with the sole purpose of throwing caution into the wind and trying something new out on a whim.

Dieu du Ciel! Beer Montreal Quebec Canada

2. Montreal Culture

The fact that Montreal is the most well known bilingual city in Canada, and that housing and commerce mix seamlessly throughout all of downtown, encouraging a populated downtown feel, it’s no wonder Montreal is known to many as the cultural capitol of Canada. It truly is a unique city, different than all others in Canada. Besides being one of the most walkable cities in Canada, the city boasts a massive art & music scene that continues to showcase Canada as more than just hockey-loving lumberjacks. Did I mention Montreal (and Quebec in general) have escaped the draconian liqueur laws that the rest of Canada – excluding Newfoundland –  have to deal with. Wander down to any corner store (or Dépanneur en français), and grab a case of beer or a bottle of wine. No questions asked. This is my type of city.

montreal-tam-tams-drum-circle

3. Montreal Tam-Tams

The Montreal Tam-Tams are something I came across this summer. Something I’d never heard about, but after being in the city for a few days, I kept hearing it from everyone I spoke to. “You have to see the Tam-Tams!” locals would proudly exclaim. Thousands of Montrealers gather each Sunday at the George-Étienne Cartier Monument in Mount Royal Park and proceed to start a massive drum & dance circle. If you can’t drum, you dance, and if you can’t dance, you smoke pot or have a beer, and if you don’t smoke or drink, you play frisbee or just people watch. It’s a mix of artists, hippies, stoners, musicians, and those young, and young at heart who gather to be a part of something during the summer.

Tam-Tam’s start around 1pm and continue until sunset. They’re free to the public, just show up and join in on the festivities. If drum circles aren’t really your thing, there’s also a DJ Booth setup for fans of electronic music, or if music in general isn’t your cup of tea, head back into the woods and watch the LARPers (Live Action Role Players) beat the crap out of one another with swords and shields.

Note: Drinking in public is technically illegal, so be careful. It’s sort of an unwritten law that nobody will rat you out at Tam Tams, just be sure to only bring cans, and don’t try to be the drunkest guy in the park. Also, pot isn’t legalized in Canada, no matter what anybody tells you. Just use common sense.

old-montreal-basilica

4. The Streets of Old Montreal

Walking around Old Montreal during lunch, or even better, at sunset is the perfect way to see why Montrealers are so proud of this magnificent city. Between the countless patios & restaurants, the fresh air, the open park space, the gentle breezes rolling off the Fleuve Saint-Laurent, or the steady buzz of people relaxing and talking, it’s easy to see why so many fall in love with this city.

Montreal Bikes

5. Montreal is a Bike-friendly City

No Canadian city does bikes quite like Montreal. During the summer months, and even the winter months for many, bikes (or Les Vélos en français) are the best way to get around. If you’re just visiting the city, don’t worry, BIXI will have you covered. BIXI’s (which stand for Bike-Taxi) are located throughout the city, and with a quick swipe of your credit card you’ll be on your way with your very own bike. Return the BIXI to any of the countless BIXI stands and carry on with your day. It’s a great way of getting from “Point A” to “Point B”, while burning off a couple of extra calories. Bike paths are found nearly everywhere in Montreal, ensuring minimal interaction between bike and car.

Pop Montreal Festival

6. The Multitude of Montreal Festivals

Montreal is a city filled with festivals. No matter what time of year, there’s something for everyone. Whether you’re a music junkie, a fan of contemporary art, a sci-fi geek, a film-buff, Montreal can deliver. I was recently in Montreal for POP Montreal International Music Festival with 4 other travel bloggers, and managed to catch a few shows. With the ease of getting around by foot, bike, or public transportation, it’s easy to squeeze in countless awesome indie acts.

For the last couple of years I’ve been telling myself, “I’m going to live in Montreal someday“. Lately, I can’t help but think that might actually pan out. With each visit to Montreal, I find myself loving the city more and more. There’s so much to see and do in Montreal, I worry that I’m missing out on experiencing one of the most culturally diverse cities in Canada. In the meantime, I’ll just have to enjoy it from afar.

Win a Moleskin Notebook Through Twitter

Contest Time! Just RT “I want to win a Moleskin notebook from @ibackpackcanada & @Keep_Exploring! http://goo.gl/4lOYt” #ExploreCanada”

Winners will be drawn at random. Contest ends October 5th, 2012. 

View a Photo of the Prizes!

For more on my adventures with the Explore Canada Cross-Canada Travel Bloggers, check out out Canada Keep Exploring! Special thanks to the folks at the CTC for giving us the opportunity to show us around two of Canada’s most vibrant and cultural cities. 

6 Reasons I Love Montreal is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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3 Delicious Montreal Eats You Need to Try http://ibackpackcanada.com/3-delicious-montreal-eats-you-need-to-try/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/3-delicious-montreal-eats-you-need-to-try/#comments Wed, 26 Sep 2012 14:09:44 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=5275 3 Delicious Montreal Eats You Need to Try is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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Montreal is known across Canada as a foodies paradise. With row after row of restaurants, pubs, diners, and bistro’s, you can literally go on a culinary adventure in just a couple of square blocks. While there are countless superb restaurants, I always like to find out what city’s are famous for. Something locals go back to week after week due to brand loyalty, an unquenchable craving, or from sheer addiction. Ask a true local Montrealer this question, and besides Hab’s games, there’s three things you can almost guarantee everyone will agree on.

montreal smoked meat sandwich schwartz's

1. Schwartz’s Montreal Smoked Meat Sandwich

Schwartz’s has been serving hungry french and english Canadians since 1928. Besides being a Montreal landmark, it’s known to most as being the last true Montreal Smoked Meat restaurant. Meat is cured for at least ten days then smoked in their brick smoke-house which has 84 years worth of delicious buildup, ensuring a romantic taste of yesteryear finds its way into each slice of this succulent meat.

schwartz's montreal smoked meat

Their most popular dish is the Montreal Smoked Meat Sandwich. Slice after slice of hot, delicious Montreal-Style Smoked meat, served between a soft rye bread with a squirt of mustard. Space is tight at Schwartz’s, and you’ll often find a line waiting outside, but the wait is always worth it. Trust me!

Pro Tip #1

They say if you want to eat it right, you have to order it a Medium-fat Smoked Meat Sandwich with fries, pickle, coleslaw, and wash it all down with a black cherry soda.

Pro Tip #2

Shwartz’s is a cash-only joint delicatessen. Fill those pockets with some money before you dive into one of the best sandwiches on earth.

la-banquise-poutine

2. La Banquise Poutine

I once wrote about my favourite poutine joint, but with the help of Marie-Julie Gagnon, esteemed Montreal travel writer, I have seen the light. I am no longer a devout loyalist to Chez Ashton’s thrown, I’ve had to hand that title off to La Banquise. La Banquise serves 25 different types of poutine, all of which have their own unique spin on the classic dish of fries, cheese curds, and gravy.

la-banquise-menu

Try La T-Rex, your classic fries, cheese curds, and gravy with hamburger meat, pepperoni, bacon, and diced hotdogs, smothered on top of this classic french-canadian dish. Or get a little exotic, and go for La Taquise, the classic poutine dish served with guacamole, sour cream & tomatoes. My personal favourite; however, is La Duleton, your classic poutine served with hamburger meat & onions.

Pro Tip

Poutine is best enjoyed after a long night of drinking, which is convenient, because La Banquise is open 24 hours a day. Stuff your gut full of one of these delicious poutine dishes before passing out for the night and you stand a much higher chance of being a functional human being in the morning.

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3. The Montreal-style Bagel

While the New York Bagel often overshadows the Montreal Bagel, it is not for good reason. Montreal-style bagels are in a league of their own. They are handmade and baked in a wood-fire oven and consumed by hundreds of thousands of hungry Montrealers each morning.

Preparation is a bit different than the New York bagel. The recipe for Montreal-style bagels is slightly different, and they’re each boiled in water that’s been sweetened with honey. After a quick dip in the water, they’re baked in a wood-fire oven, then coated in either black poppy seed or white sesame seed. You’ll find that Montreal-style bagels are typically smaller than the New York bagel and are often found to be sweeter, due to the honey-water soaking.

Fairmount Bagel Montreal QB

While there are countless bakeries in Montreal serving these bagels, be sure to pop by Fairmount Bagel at 74 av. Fairmont West, in the Mile End community. Fairmount Bagel has been pushing dough through ovens since 1919, and is oddly enough the only type of bagel to have ever made it into space!

Food plays a large part in Montrealers lives. Thankfully, Montreal is one of the most walk-able cities in Canada, giving you ample opportunity to walk off a few of the extra calories you’ll surely find yourself chowing on when you visit this unique Canadian city. Just remember, it’s okay to indulge in Montreal!

Win a Moleskin Notebook Through Twitter

Contest Time! Just RT “I want to win a Moleskin notebook from @ibackpackcanada & @Keep_Exploring! http://goo.gl/4lOYt” #ExploreCanada”

Winners will be drawn at random. Contest ends October 5th, 2012. 

View a Photo of the Prizes!

For more on my adventures with the Explore Canada Cross-Canada Travel Bloggers, check out out Canada Keep Exploring! Special thanks to the folks at the CTC for giving us the opportunity to show us around two of Canada’s most vibrant and cultural cities. 

3 Delicious Montreal Eats You Need to Try is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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Cross-Canada Blogger Tour: Counting down to TIFF & POP Montreal! http://ibackpackcanada.com/cross-canada-blogger-tour-counting-down-to-tiff-pop-montreal/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/cross-canada-blogger-tour-counting-down-to-tiff-pop-montreal/#comments Wed, 12 Sep 2012 13:15:11 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=5253 Cross-Canada Blogger Tour: Counting down to TIFF & POP Montreal! is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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If you’ve been following along on Twitter or Facebook, you may be aware of the fact that I’ve been invited by the Canadian Tourism Commission to check out the Toronto International Film Festival & POP Montreal, between September 15th & 20th! This is part of a huge campaign to bring travel bloggers from around the world to see & experience some of the unique things to see and do in Canada. There’s 19 travel bloggers in total that are being sent to almost every corner of Canada to see what makes Canada so awesome!

My Intro Video!

It’s pretty rare that I’ll ever jump in front of the camera, but I’m so excited for this opportunity to work with the CTC, and was encouraged by their social media team to just be myself and tell the world what I’ll be doing. Unfortunately for the internet, being myself includes being a bit of a scatterbrain with a extra dash of quirky and weird. Shortly after posting this video to youtube, one commenter informed me that I look a lot like Wil Wheaton. Personally I don’t see it, but there’s worse people to look alike. Who knows, maybe it’ll open up a few extra doors when I get to the Toronto International Film Festival. Ha!

What’s the Game Plan?

It’s going to be a busy week! I’ll be traveling with 4 other bloggers / online writers, exploring Toronto & Montreal. We’ll be landing in Toronto first to catch one of Canada’s most exciting events, the Toronto International Film Festival. After bumping shoulders with some of the worlds greatest filmmakers, we’ll be jumping on VIA Rail and heading to Montreal to catch POP Montreal, one of Quebec’s most popular fall events. POP Montreal includes symposium discussions, art exhibits, fashion shows, movie screenings, countless performances, and of course, a few all-night parties.

I’m crazy excited to take part in this huge travel blogger tour, and hope you’ll follow along. If you’ve ever been to TIFF or POP Montreal, I’d love to hear what I should expect? Any tips? Suggestions? Send me out a tweet @ibackpackcanada or follow my updates on Facebook or Instagram! Also be sure to check out the Keep Exploring Tumblr page, which will be syndicating the whole project!

Check Out Canada Keep Exploring!

Cross-Canada Blogger Tour: Counting down to TIFF & POP Montreal! is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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A Local Quebecois Experience at Le Massif’s Hôtel La Ferme http://ibackpackcanada.com/a-local-quebecois-experience-at-le-massifs-hotel-la-ferme/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/a-local-quebecois-experience-at-le-massifs-hotel-la-ferme/#comments Mon, 20 Aug 2012 17:14:00 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=5147 A Local Quebecois Experience at Le Massif’s Hôtel La Ferme is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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Travel has been evolving for generations, but one of the most profound changes in recent years within this massive industry is peoples desire to do no harm, to see the world in the most ecologically friendly way possible without sacrificing comfort and style. While companies strive to make less of an impact by decreasing their emissions and making changes to how their business operates, travellers too are choosing accommodations that go above and beyond eco friendly. Places that serve not only local food, but offer a unique experience that simply can’t be found elsewhere. No place is more relevant to this new form of travel than Le Massif’s new 4 season hotel, “Hôtel La Ferme” in Charlevoix, Quebec. After arriving in Quebec City by VIA Rail, I managed to find myself on another train to Charlevoix.

monmorency-falls-chute-quebec-city-waterfalls

Montmorency Falls to Charlevoix by “Le Train”

Getting to Hôtel La Ferme  in Charlevoix Quebec is half of the adventure. While driving is an option, to truly take in the experience you’ll want to catch the train. From downtown Quebec City you’ll need to drive, cab, or bus to Montmorency Falls. Be sure to show up early to take in Quebec’s famous Waterfall and snap photos of the small bridge that crosses overtop. If you find yourself above the falls you’ll want to take the Gondola down ($10.39 Round Trip per Adult). Waiting patiently at the bottom of this magnificent vista is Le Train. Le Massif’s luxury locomotive that travels between Quebec City to Baie-Saint-Paul and onwards to La Malbaie.

le-massif-hotel-la-ferme-le-train-ipad

The ride north by train to Baie St Paul and La Malbaie includes some impeccable meals made with local Quebec produce along with one of the best views of the Fleuve Saint Laurent (Saint Lawrence River). In true “Cirque du Soleil” fashion, the entire journey is orchestrated with video, music, and a live map of the trains location in Charlevoix. Throughout the entire journey you’ll learn about the history and importance of this region with the help of an array of iPads found on each dining table. After experiencing the sights, sounds, and tastes from the train, disembark at Baie-Saint-Paul – the train literally stops right beside the hotel!

le-massif-hotel-lounge-cafe

What sets Hôtel La Ferme apart?

Le Massif’s hotel/hostel/resort hybrid is something completely original and unique to not only Quebec, but Canada. Daniel Gauthier, the man who co-founded the internationally acclaimed “Cirque Du Soleil” is behind this incredible project. This new 4 seasons hotel is home to swiss inspired luxury rooms along with budget friendly hostel dormitory rooms, perfect for a group of friends on a ski getaway or the lone vagabond exploring Charlevoix. The backyard gardens play a large role with Hôtel La Ferme’s restaurant “Les Labours“, which uses produce they grow themselves in all of it’s meals. This new eco-local-friendly hybrid accommodation provides access to some of Baie St Paul’s most beautiful walking trails and some of the best views of the Fleuve Saint Laurent (Saint Lawrence River).

le-massif-charlevoix-train

The idea is to appeal to not only high end travellers looking to relax, but university students and budget travellers. Young adults who want to hit the slopes of Le Massif during the winter while being given an affordable and luxurious room. While these different types of travellers are in separate buildings, they share access to a common lounge, bar, cafe, performance center as well as “Les Labours” – more on it below. The idea is to promote social engagement, and giving equal access to the luxury amenities that are available at Hôtel La Ferme.

le-massif-hotel-la-ferme-room-bed

The Hotel Rooms of Le Massif’s Hôtel La Ferme

Not a single detail has been missed at what is likely to become one of Quebec’s most popular tourist destinations. Between the beautiful Canadiana art, the locally produced blankets that adorn each bed, to the salvaged wood from the Charlevoix area that can been seen throughout the hallways and rooms across the entire complex. Beautiful oak hardwood floors can be seen in each and every room, along with some sturdy hand-made cabinetry. A plasma screen TV, iPod/iPhone ready stereo and a “Nesspresso” machine with pop in espresso capsules can be found in each hotel room.

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Stepping foot into the bathroom is like walking into something you’d expect to see in the TV show “Cribs”. The glass walled shower sports two shower heads, perfect for those who don’t like to shower alone. Don’t forget to try out their luxury soap, shampoo, and conditioner, it will blow that Pantene ProV you brought along out of the water.

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Hôtel La Ferme Reinvented Hostel Rooms

It’s been my experience that the majority of hostels tend to suffer from shoddy bedding, cheap mattresses, loud, squeaky and inconvenient bunk beds, and far too many people crammed into the same room. The folks at Le Massif have replaced “cheap accommodations” in lieu of “budget accommodations”, without sacrificing the quality and craftsmanship seen throughout the rest of the Hotel.

quebec-best-hostel-lockers

They’ve completely done away with bunk beds, and instead opted for custom lockable murphy beds that fold out from the elegant wall cabinetry. Each hostel room has a limit of 4 beds, along with 4 large sized lockers to store your personal belongings. A large in-room bathroom with multiple sinks can be found within each room, making that awkward traipse down the hall to a shared bathroom a thing of the past. Each dorm style room includes a plasma screen TV along with an iPod/iPhone ready stereo, perfect for getting ready in the morning or sharing music with newfound friends.

Hostel rates at Hotel La Ferme are going to start at $49. While it’s slightly more expensive than your average dorm rate, keep in mind this isn’t your run of the mill hostel. Dorms will have 4 beds maximum and each will be treated with the same exceptional service as the hotel rooms.

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Local Eats at Les Labours

A hotel dedicated to providing a unique experience in all 4 seasons wouldn’t be complete without meals made with local in-season produce, most of which is grown in Le Massif’s own backyard. These class act dishes are prepared by Chef David Forbes and his incredible team. Their love and passion for providing visitors the chance to taste this magical region of Quebec is second to none. The menu at Les Labours changes with the seasons, giving you a chance to gawk at freshly crafted meals all year round.

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While You’re in Baie-Saint-Paul

While I could go on all day about how much I’m in love with Quebec and completely infatuated by Le Massif, there is more to this region than lounging around in comfy beds and eating delicious local food. During the summer, explore Rue St-Jean-Baptiste and browse through eclectic local artisan shops, sample the local Charlevoix Microbrews then find out why Baie-Saint-Paul is a mecca for painters, performers and artists of all kind. If nature is more your thing, whale watching tours, hiking trails, and secluded beaches along the Saint Lawrence River are all within walking distance.

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Come winter, ski the 770m (2,527 ft) of vertical at Le Massif. During the winterLe Train carries eager passengers from Quebec City (At Montmorency Falls) directly to the mountain, and continues to Baie-Saint-Paul where exhausted skiiers can relax at Hôtel La Ferme. The staff at the hotel informed me that waking up at Hôtel La Ferme in the winter is going to make for a great Canadian experience, as there will be a skating rink right in backyard of the eco-hotel.

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Baie-Saint-Paul is the heart and soul of arts and culture in Canada. The beauty of this region wasn’t just recently discovered, in fact, the infamous Group of Seven often visited the area, setting up their easel’s and painting the dramatic colours of this picturesque Quebecois landscape. The history of the culture and people in Baie-Saint-Paul and the entire region of Charlevoix is something to be truly appreciated. For anyone keen on exploring the province of Quebec, be sure to include Charlevoix & a stay at Hôtel La Ferme in your itinerary.

Special thanks to the folks at Le Massif for helping out and showing me around this great new project that is sure to bring in countless excited tourists.

A Local Quebecois Experience at Le Massif’s Hôtel La Ferme is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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Why I Love Quebec & You Should Too! http://ibackpackcanada.com/why-i-love-quebec-you-should-too/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/why-i-love-quebec-you-should-too/#comments Sat, 28 Jul 2012 16:08:11 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=5092 Why I Love Quebec & You Should Too! is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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Located throughout this french Canadian region are a thriving people that have faught for their culture. The french Canadians are truly one of Canada’s brighter shades of colours, with decadent food, a thriving arts scene, a passion for history, and all things fun. While tensions between the french and the english have seen waves in their numbers, including several demands for independence, one thing is for certain – Canada would not be the diverse and unique country we know today without Quebec.

I am absolutely in love with Quebec. While I’ve shared many a heated debates with english Canadians about their position on the bilinguality of Canada, I maintain that the french canadians are an essential part of this magnificent country. They are the chicken stock to our mosaic flavoured soup. The eggs to our omelette. The cheese to our poutine! I urge every english Canadian to spend at least a week in this province to truly understand its significance to not only the population of Canada, but to the ideals which make Canada what it is. I traveled by VIA Rail to Quebec and traveled around the province for 3 weeks exploring this amazing culture.

These are the reasons I love Quebec:

la-fin-du-monde-beer-quebec

The French-Canadian Food & Drink

While it’s hard not to speak of the seducing allure of poutine, there is more to french canadian cuisine than fries & cheese curds covered in a whopping helping of gravy. Between the artisan cheese, the old country style breads, or the insatiable beauty of french canadian beer, Quebec has no shortage of mouth watering tastes. Try Unibroues “La Fin du Monde“, a 9% golden belgian style ale with fruity hints and a strong punch that will keep you practicing your french with healthy amount of liquid confidence. Don’t forget to watch for local bakeries where you can pick up some of the best Montreal styled bagels along with some of the best tasting bread you will find in Canada.

The French Canadian History

Canadian history is hardly as glamorized as our american neighbours, but looking into the annals of time, an interesting story of settlers, natives, fishermen, farmers, soldiers and wars unravels into the birth of Canada. Stepping foot onto the Plains of Abraham to picture a war that lasted 15 minutes and resulted in the death of both English & French Commanders (James Wolfe and Louis-Joseph de Montcalm), or explore the Ramparts of Quebec, the only remaining walled city in North America besides Mexico City – had it not been for the preservation efforts of Lord Dufferin the Old Quebec landscape might have been lost to a sea of similarity. Don’t forget to check out the “Lieu historique national des Forts-et-Chateaux-Saint-Louis” below Quebec City, a unique look into the past of Old Quebec. The new interactive exhibits and friendly staff of Parks Canada will be sure to bring life to the stories of yesteryear.

cirque du soleil trapeze

The Quebec Arts

I’m always surprised how well the french stand behind their artists. It’s a culture that promotes creativity in a way that is hard to find in western Canada. Between the music, the painting, the sculpting, or the street performing, art can be found throughout this city. It’s not merely tucked away into a corner; rather, it’s promoted and encouraged. From big acts like Cirque du Soleil, to the artists on Rue du Trésor, it’ doesn’t take long to find somebody who is creating something unique and beautiful.

festival quebec

The French Language

While unbeknownst to most english speakers, Quebecois french is much more different than what is spoken in France. Having had the opportunity to share a few drinks with french speakers from France and Quebec, it took less than half a beer before they were arguing over the proper way to say something. Each claims to be more proper french while the other is more influenced by english, and while I’m hard pressed to say who is right, it’s clear they have their differences. Despite their heated debates, Les Quebecois are all but too happy to encourage english speakers to get out of their comfort zone and use whatever french they’ve retained from high school classes. It took me about 2 days before I threw caution to the wind and started fully immersing myself in the french language. After a full week of immersion, my french came back, not completely, but enough that I’m not afraid to start using it again!

The Warm Smiles of Les Quebecois

Perhaps it’s the way english speaking Canadians butcher their beautiful language, but I’ve never seen more smiles in my life than when traipsing through the streets of Quebec City and Montreal. The ability to warm someones day with a genuine smile appears to be engrained in each and every french individual. From the patio waitresses, to the street performers, to the shopkeepers selling t-shirts that read “Oui Oui”, a smile from a French Canadian is like a hug from an old friend. Introducing yourself in french (even the butchered variety) is not only socially proper, but also shows that you acknowledge the rights of french Canadians to live as they please, without forcing english upon them. In this beautiful mosaic that is Canada, I think that’s the least we can do.

The Educational Experience

Having taken french immersion for the majority of my primary and secondary education, I can honestly say that diving into the deep end and experiencing Quebec for a few weeks or longer will give you not only a greater appreciation for the language, but a greater understanding of local expressions, proper connotations of words, and an increased vocabulary. Language is very much a “use it or lose it” skill, and immersing yourself in french language and culture forces those skills to build, to develop and grow upon the foundation that the education system provided you with. While Montreal is a beautifully french metropolis, it has a surprising amount of english speakers, which is why I recommend getting to Quebec City, or further north to Charlevoix and get the opportunity to practice your skills in complete immersion, without any safety net to fall back on. It won’t be easy, but nothing worthwhile is!

It’s been my experience that many western Canadians don’t understand life in Quebec. Stereotypes mixed with preconceived notions of what the french Canadians are like tend to keep most from ever visiting this unique basket of culture and language. Travel has an astounding way of tearing down the walls of peoples assumption. I truly believe that if more english Canadians would leave their bubble to experience Quebec – Peace, happiness and friendship would replace the stereotypes many Canadians possess about this beautiful province, which in turn could help solve the politically sensitive situation that Canada has faced for so many years.

Why I Love Quebec & You Should Too! is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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The Best Poutine I’ve Ever Had – Chez Ashton’s in Quebec City http://ibackpackcanada.com/the-best-poutine-ive-ever-had-chez-ashtons-in-quebec-city/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/the-best-poutine-ive-ever-had-chez-ashtons-in-quebec-city/#comments Wed, 04 Apr 2012 12:35:37 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=4423 The Best Poutine I’ve Ever Had – Chez Ashton’s in Quebec City is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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I eat a fair amount of poutine. Not like daily or anything, that would be dangerous. Foolish even. (Plus poutine goes right to my thighs) To me, poutine is something you indulge in every once in a while. A brief meal (typically enjoyed inebriated) to remind you and those around you about your thoughts on dieting. We all end up 6 feet under sooner or later, I’d prefer to spend some of my time enjoying something I love. French Fries, Gravy, and a helping handful or two of fresh Cheese Curds. That’s a dish made with love! I’ve eaten poutine all over Canada, and while I clearly have several more establishments to sample, I can’t help but write about Chez Ashtons in Quebec City.

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Chez Ashtons, the birthplace of poutine

There will always be alternative views, but Chez Ashtons is believed to be the inventor of poutine. There’s been many claims in the past, but at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter to me. I’m just happy Quebec shared this dish with the rest of Canada. If you speak with the locals and let them know you’re going to Chez Ashtons, you’ll either get a big smile and a thumbs up, or a clicking tongue with frowning shaking face. Perhaps it’s because of the Fast Food nature of Chez Ashtons. Many people feel a cultural dish as incredible as poutine shouldn’t be served in under 5 minutes. I clearly don’t share that philosophy.

I had just left some post Crashed Ice celebrations, which included partaking in a couple St Patricks Day beverages with my younger sister. All that partying and excitement worked up a serious hunger. It was time. We made the trip down Rue Saint-Jean, stumbling past groups of drunk french speaking teenagers and adults. We stayed on course, “This is no time to socialize!”. We came upon Chez Ashtons and B-lined it into line.

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Deux très grand Poutine s’il vous plait

I ordered in my best french, which unfortunately after a few drinks, is also considered my worst. The lovely girl behind the counter laughed and deciphered whatever it is I said to her. A couple minutes later we were presented with two large dishes of original poutine. Nothing fancy, no extras, no pieces of sausages or splashes of weird sauces. Just a straight up traditional Quebecois poutine.

Quebec Poutine at Chez Ashton

I observed this poutine. Crisp fresh cut fries, ooey gooey gravy, and cheese curds the size of human digits. It was beautiful! A drunk man can only observe food like that for so long. My fork quickly made contact with the dish, and crushing ensued. The fries retained their strength, which is to say they didn’t become a soggy mess. The curds were thoroughly spread throughout the fries, ensuring I didn’t eat all of them before getting to the bottom. It was the perfect Poutine. Simple, elegant, and crafted with years of experience. I high fived my sister and laughed, “Wow, that was crazy good! Quebec does poutine right!”.

 Have you ever enjoyed a Chez Ashtons poutine? Ever come across a poutine that’s better? Comment below or toss me a tweet @ibackpackcanada!

 

The Best Poutine I’ve Ever Had – Chez Ashton’s in Quebec City is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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T’ire D’érable – Why aren’t you everywhere? http://ibackpackcanada.com/quebecs-maple-toffee-tire-derable-why-arent-you-everywhere/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/quebecs-maple-toffee-tire-derable-why-arent-you-everywhere/#comments Wed, 28 Mar 2012 13:04:22 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=4211 T’ire D’érable – Why aren’t you everywhere? is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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One of my fondest memories of taking french immersion was back in Grade 4 or 5. I was living in Saskatchewan and we had a teacher intern from Quebec who was sharing french culture to classrooms throughout the school. Most of us moaned at the thought of learning about anything cultural. That was until she mentioned we were going to be making candy in the snow. After hearing that she officially had my attention!

Tire D’érable, Maple Toffee on a Stick

That was the first time I had ever heard of “Tire D’érable“, or Maple Toffee for us english speaking Canadians. Our french teacher intern took our classroom outside in the winter. We were taught that in the old days these types of treats were incredibly popular with children, not only because they tasted amazing, but because they were also fun to make.

We watched as she boiled Quebecois maple syrup to a liquid state. The smell of melting maple syrup filled the entire schoolyard. Aunt Jemima would be proud. Once it was ready, she happily handed out popsicle sticks and instructed to find some clean snow. She proceeded to poor this hot liquid in a small straight line and told us to wait a second before rolling our sticks through the amber trail.

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Mmm, “Maple-ee”

As the liquid solidified around the stick, a Maple Syrup “sucker” was born. Forged from heat, snow, and tree guts. We were blown away. Needless to say some kids ended up with more of it on their face than in their mouths. Regardless, we were hooked! French culture was officially awesome from that day on. Unfortunately that was the last time had Home-made Maple Toffee until my recent visit to Quebec City.

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Sold on the Streets of Old Quebec

Located on the streets of Old Quebec, little stands were selling these maple syrup treats. A plywood box held a patch of clean snow. I watched as a young man splashed the snow with a gracious amount of liquified maple syrup. A customer waited for it to cool, her smile growing as she saw it was ready. She rolled the wooden stick slowly and confidently through the hardening toffee. This clearly wasn’t her first rodeo.

Tire D'érable

I promptly jumped in line with my sister and a couple friends, and for about $2.00 I was treated to my favourite Canadian candy. Still sticky, still gooey, still incredibly tasty! I spoke to my friends as I watched them devour theirs. One of the guys I was with was going to town on his. He smiled and began to loudly declaring “Why aren’t these everywhere!?!“. I believe he liked them.

Have you ever had Maple Toffee/Maple Taffy/Tire D’érable?

T’ire D’érable – Why aren’t you everywhere? is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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A Weekend in Quebec City for Red Bull Crashed Ice http://ibackpackcanada.com/weekend-in-quebec-city-for-red-bull-crashed-ice/ http://ibackpackcanada.com/weekend-in-quebec-city-for-red-bull-crashed-ice/#comments Wed, 21 Mar 2012 13:26:24 +0000 http://ibackpackcanada.com/?p=4185 A Weekend in Quebec City for Red Bull Crashed Ice is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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Crashed Ice has sparked my curiosity for years. The speed and grace of hockey, the agility of ski cross, and the obstacle course like adrenaline rush you would only expect to find in a military training facility. Quebec City was no fluke choice destination for this event, it’s narrow streets and steep hills make it seem like this was what it was built for. Crashed Ice has been on my bucket list for what seems like forever.

My younger sister and I joked (albeit terribly) about “crashing” Crashed Ice; however, it wasn’t until we figured out that this is likely going to be the last year we’ll both be in eastern Canada that we decided to make it happen. We hopped on a bus full of University students from all over Nova Scotia and made the pilgrimage to see the insanity with our own eyes.

Arriving in Quebec City was a breath of fresh air, and trust me, we needed it after that bus ride. It’s my experience that people tend to spoil, much like meat kept out of the refrigerator, after about 8 hours. Thankfully showers have the uncanny ability of washing off the miles from a 12 hour bus trip, and after a soak, a scrub, and downing one of the complimentary Red Bulls, I was ready to see the course.

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Crashed Ice Starting line

It was a short walk between the Delta Hotel and Le Château Frontenac, a magnificant hotel that opened in 1893 by the Canadian Pacific Railway. Le Château Frontenac is apparently the “most photographed hotel in North America”, but this weekend most seemed to be referring to it simply as “The Starting Line”. Situated at the base of Le Château Frontenac was the Crashed Ice Start platform that would propel equipped skaters, both male and female, along a 580 meter (0.58 km) long urban track.

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The Crashed Ice Course

The 2012 Crashed Ice course is roughly 4.5 meters (14.7 feet) wide. Combined with its 60 meter vertical and a length of 580 meters, the ice track requires skaters to plan their path wisely. As the whistle blows, skaters stride down Rue du Fort where they will come across the front of the Post Office. They’ll then come across a new addition this year, the 360 degree turn, right before arriving at what everyone is calling “The Splitter”. A 30 meter section of the course where skaters will be forced to pick sides. Fast & tight, or slow & wide. Once they survive “The Splitter” they’ll have the beauty of the Saint Lawrence in sigh, and it will be a fast sprint down “The Royal Corridor” where they’ll hit the final “Victory Turn” and race for the finish line at “Place de Paris”.

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Trois, Deux, Un

Our small group gathered along the boards of the course. The air was heavy in excitement as music and loud cheers were erupting from the growing crowd. The lights seemed to dim, as the announcer counted down the next race in one of the most powerful and inviting of french accents. The crowd exploded in cheers, my head was on a fast swivel as I watched skaters tear through ice, pushing every extra ounce of speed out of their trajectory. The sound of blades slicing through the rock hard ice sent shivers down my spine. The only logical thing to do was scream and hollar with the rest of the 105,000+ attendees.

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I proceeded to wander and get as many photos from alternative angles. Unfortunately navigating through the crowd was like crossing a river full of hungry piranahs. Nobody wanted to give up their spot, and everybody was craving a better view of the event. I used my best “Je m’excuse“, holding my camera above the heads of the crowd to snap blindly. I managed to find a few clearings throughout the track, which allowed for some incredible photo ops, along with a couple convorsations with spectators. Some were drunk, some were high, some were confused as to what was going on and just followed the crowd, and others were simply too french for me to understand. Whatever their case was, they were all smiling and enjoying the sights. There was no shortage of high fives that’s for sure.

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Ice Cold – Require Beer

As the hours flew by in excitement, toes began transforming into ice. Thankfully I wasn’t the only one feeling the cold. I found my younger sister and a couple of her friends and we proceeded to search for beer. We knew it had to be near the crowds somewhere. This was after all Quebec City, hands down the most “European” Canadian city in terms of liberties. We saw a group drinking beer out of plastic cups and proceeded to ask them “Ou est la bierre?!“, they said something I didn’t quite understand, but followed it by a solid smile and a point in the right direction.

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We followed the Crashed Ice track down, took the occasional side street to sneak by condensed groups that didn’t appear to be moving. Then finally, we came upon the finish line at “Place de Paris”. Greeted by lights, a couple of awesome french DJ’s, and a huge crowd of people. All of which had at least one beer in their hand. We made it! The beer warmed our spirits, which in turn allowed us to forget about our numbing feet.

As we overlooked this great walled Canadian city, chalk full of life, lights, culture, and people from all over the world, I couldn’t help but smile. Quebec City, one of Canada’s oldest city’s is in bed with one of the worlds newest sports, and it couldn’t be more beautiful. The downtown lights and coloured stage lights add an eerie glow to the gothic features of the castle like city. It’s hard not to take photos!

Quebec City 2012

Merci Beaucoup Quebec

Looking up at Quebec City from the bottom of the Crashed Ice course, it was clear to me that this city is something special to Canada. It’s a piece of beautiful difference lined with cobblestone, and spoken almost entirely in french. Quebec is one of those locations where assuming everyone speaks even a bit of english is seen as foolish. While the language barrier can make simple things take an extra minute or two, ultimately everyone in this city is happy to help, even if that means you have to speak in “bastardized” french.

As the final races finished, party’s erupted across Quebec City. Beer was consumed in honour of Saint Patrick, in honour of the winners, the losers, the french, the english, and the beautiful city that graciously hosts this event year. Red Bull Crashed Ice is one of those events that words can only do so much to describe. Next March, pack your bags and see it for yourself!

 Video of 2012 Crashed Ice in Quebec City

 

A Weekend in Quebec City for Red Bull Crashed Ice is a post from: I Backpack Canada

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