In Memorandum of my dear friend Debbie Lightstone (1950 - 2015).
Reposting. This trip is reminiscent of the countless wonderful times we shared throughout our friendship.
I decided to block off a week at the end of July 2011 into the August long weekend to go away with some friends. We didn’t want to go too far…not much time…and I wanted to be near the water and my MacBook (oops). Of course the vacation had to involve food and scenic power walks…two of my favourite past times. I envisioned a deck to rest, reflect, chat with good friends and watch the ships go by. We wanted something that felt cottage country but close to the action of a city.
My friend Debbie and I started to do the research. The race to the finish as to WHO would come up with the WHERE on a budget began. We started checking into the voucher program getaways. The offerings seemed either too close, distant, or obscure. We looked into the Jersey Shore, Atlantic City, Boston, Chicago, the Hamptons???…But the commutes seemed rather daunting. My buddy tried to coax me into the excitement of New York, but too much action, extreme hot weather with few relaxing bodies of water. Then we thought we’d look into the Maritimes as none of us have been there. Seems crazy, as I have traveled all across Canada to all the major centers but not there. Then my friend had a brain wave…even though she grew up in Montreal, she had never ventured to the historical Quebec City. Neither have I or our other companion, Miriam.
The thought of eating out every night seemed like too much of a good thing. We agreed somewhere with a kitchenette might suit us best. Debbie is more into the fine dining than into the cooking scene…so it was also agreed, she does the driving and I am the chief cook and navigator. Debbie is a marathon walker and actually participates in marathons all over the globe. She remembered a bed and breakfast on the île d’Orléans about 30 minutes from the hustle and bustle of Quebec City. Sadly, about three years ago she planned to participate in a marathon in Quebec City. Due to her brother’s passing she had to cancel and fly to London for his funeral. She sent me a link to the place she was going to stay Auberge Ile Flottante. It looked wonderful.
I spoke to Tony the innkeeper. He is a sweetheart. Tony tried so hard to find us accommodations. Unfortunately, his inn was booked up for the time we wanted to come, so he suggested the Le Moulin de St-Laurent Restaurant – Chalets. It took a bit of juggling before we reserved two chalets for the duration of our stay. We booked Chalet 719 – Un brin de folie for three of the nights and Chalet 593 – Au clair de lune for our last two nights. These chalets are gorgeous. They are furnished with daily continental breakfast, full kitchens, fireplaces, many bedrooms, as well as a breathtaking view right on the St. Lawrence. PERFECT!
Excited about our time away together, Debbie found this guided tour company: Tours Voir Quebec. They offer two walking tours that sounded fab. One is a FOOD TOUR with sampling and the other; Grand Tour is to see the historical sites. They are 2 to 2.5 hours each. Great reviews on the website too. These are small group tours, max 14 people. Cost for Grand Tour is $23, for Food Tour is $38, plus tax of course, for the combo there’s a 10% discount so would be $58. DONE! We booked both tours. We also planned a stopover for a cruise around the 1000 Islands…a must see.
Munchies in hand, we embarked on our road trip early Sunday morning. We stayed over in Montreal the first and last nights of our expedition. Debbie drives to Montreal often to visit family…no problem. However none of us were familiar with the roads to Quebec City. Ahhh… the roads to Quebec City and me as the navigator. Luckily we found a GPS in the glove compartment that hadn’t been used for 4 years. Once we got it juiced up, it saved our bacon more than once on the trip. Through major hail, a stop to check out 1000 Islands, Rockport, Ontario (USA side too!), and a bit of rain and a lot of sunshine…over this very long bridge to the island…we arrived safe and sound.
The chalets are gorgeous…and the island feels a bit secluded. We did our daily early morning 7.5 k walk on the roadside. No parks or beaches…no hiking… but great walking and cycling on the roadside…going around the St. Lawrence River. Bonne journée seems to be the salutation of the day as we passed residents primping their properties. Everything is pristine lush and beautiful on the island.
To my horror the chalets did not have internet access or telephones. You had to go all the way around to the other side of the island to an internet café. Being an avid MAC user, tres inconvenient, therefore no can do. The first few nights, I was able to get on line…my lips are sealed as to how. The remainder of the trip no internet access. Was tough, but I survived.
First Challet – île d’Orléans, Quebec – Sleeps 6 (our favourite chalet…so cozy and quaint)
Chalet 719 – Un brin de folie 754, Chemin Royal, c.p.116 St-Laurent-de-l’Île-d’Orléans
Chalet 593 – Au clair de lune – île d’Orléans, Quebec – Sleeps 10 (lots of gorgeous bedrooms)
Have a look through the video clip. I highly recommend staying on the island if you are open to a 30 minute ride over the long bridge, the highway, and the heavenly scenery into Quebec City. It’s breathtakingly beautiful.
As it happened our schedule did not permit me to do much of the cooking. The girls were treated to one lovely brunch. Thank goodness for Miriam as she insisted on mothering us with some late night quick meals of chopped tuna, eggs, canned soup, and nourishing salad with local greens and veggies… all felt homey and yummy after a long day of sight seeing. My contribution was a dressing, made with ingredients on hand, white wine, lemon juice, lemon rind, Dijon, orange marmalade, garlic, freshly ground salt & pepper and evoo.
Our tour guides were lovely warm knowledgeable Quebecoise personalities. We saw the major sites and were quite satisfied. The foodie tour was intriguing and tasty. First stop was the SAQ 33696 Terroir d’ici Quebec, close to the Fairmont Frontenac for a tasting of local spirits. We were told it’s the only liquor commission where you can purchase local product. I bought a bottle of “Coureur des Bois, Crème d’ erable”, otherwise known as Maple Cream. Ingredients: cream, maple syrup, sugar, alcohol casein, rum, caramel, and natural flavour, mmm mmm. It’s sort of like Baileys but with homegrown maple. It is delicious. Spirited apple cider is found pretty much everywhere and a big must among the locals. We tried mixes with whisky…not so much my drink. But if you like whisky and apple cider of the alcohol variety… awesome.
Grand Tour – Quebec City
We visited the oldest grocery store in Quebec City, which has many gourmand delights including an array of locally produced cheeses and caramelized onion jam. Very quaint and the cheeses were wonderful. Next we visited “Erics Choco-Musee”. Eric’s passion is fully imminent with this quaint history of chocolate museum and his addictive bounty of the intriguing chocolates. He uses the freshest ingredients which makes some of the confections perishable i.e. fruits, herbs, goats cheese, butter, maple, lavender, rose petals, pear puree. These are a must to try…you can buy on line. Warning: If you start, you won’t be able to stop. They are that good!
I have been enjoying experimenting with the pure organic maple butter that I purchased from Les Delicies de L’erable, a retail confectionary on the tour with another museum devoted to the production and history of maple syrup. Maple butter is air whipped maple syrup. It makes for a delightful spread for croissants, bakes, your finger. Yum!
If you like very thin crispy crepes, then you would enjoy sampling the ham and cheese crepe at Le Billig Creperie-Bistro. This is the tour’s finale. It’s a very small place and is always packed…you’ll need reservations for this one.
Food Tour – Quebec City
The Grand Tour is chocked full of all the fascinating sites and sounds of this untouched historical city. Hotel Frontenac, the wall that separates old from new, monasteries, boy schools, nunneries, murals, sculptures, opulent churches, architecture of the times (past and present)…too numerous to mention so I’ll show you in the thumbnails.
One of the highlights of the trip was the Fetes de la Nouvelle France Parade. It’s a celebration in early August, held in remembrance of the early French colonial times. The people of Quebec City are so full of joie de vivre! Dancing in the streets, talking to the crowd, period clothing…and then there were the people participating in the parade! It was spectacular. So fun and uplifting.
Other Things We Saw… Including the Fetes de la Nouvelle France Parade
Not sure how it happened, untrue to the foodie that I am, no time to fully research where to eat. So we depended on the locals for suggestions. We dined at three places. The first night, a late dinner at Moulin le St. Laurent, the on site restaurant for our chalets. The highlight of the restaurant is a tiny waterfall that resides beside the outdoor patio. I had the four course Table d’hôte. Shrimp appetizer, gazpacho, duck leg on a bed of greens and berries, and Chocolate Cream Mousse, English Cream and Whipped Cream Mousse with Poached Vanilla Asian Pear. Maybe it was the late hour, it was about 10:00 PM before we received our appetizers. The dinner was fine but not what I expected in terms of creativity, freshness and flavour. It’s apparently the place to go on île d’Orléans.
In Quebec City, we had lunch at Café Hobbit 2000, a little outdoor bistro on St. Jean street has great wine. I enjoyed, again my French fave, the duck leg confit with potato dauphinois A girl just can’t have too much duck?? Le Cochon Dingue was suggested for lunch by our Grand Tour guide, Jocelyn. It’s a touristy place with lots of people and bustle. I ordered a lovely meaty lobster roll with…guess what…French Fries or Frites. They were both tasty but not spectacular. However, I devoured a delectable maple cake with fudge maple icing that was truly delicious.
This trip was all about me getting away with good friends to unwind. As it turns out, we spent our time walking, touring, sampling, and not as much time dining. The chalets are so comfortable and the view of the St. Lawrence outside of our window was calming. Check out the picture galleries offering a glimpse into what you might enjoy on your travels to Quebec City. It’s an awesome city with so much to offer…a getaway which offers blissful solitude, preserved history and splendour combined with beyond gorgeous scenery of Nouveaux France.
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