Quebec City, the road trip!
Boosted with GPS confidence, we decided to take a more meandering route toward Quebec City, and spent some time visiting the lovely Prince Edward County area. I had the Wine Atlas of Canada with us, and from its recommendations, selected a couple wineries to visit. The first was Closson Chase Winery, a small one that works with only two types of grapes: Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. So we tried one of each. The Chardonnay was amazing, really; rich and complex and delicious. Nevertheless, when we learned it was $42 a bottle, we were hesitant to purchase. The Pinot Noir was easier, as it still needed aging, and therefore didn't taste that wonderful yet. We weren't willing to spending $38 on future possibilities.
Huff Estates was the next we tried. It's probably the biggest in the area, and has a large store and a nice patio and all. And many different types of wine. We tried several. Nothing blew us away, but the rosé was very nice: almost a grapefruit taste to it, and very refreshing. And only $15 or so, so we got a couple bottles of that. I also liked the merlot, which was in a more rustic style, but not quite enough to spend $24 on it.
Our next stop of consequence was Ganonoque, where we considering staying for the night. But the one restaurant in the area that was listed in Where to Eat in Canada was closed, and there were signs about warning that power was going to be cut the following day from 8am to 11am! Which sounded like a pain. And just generally, it didn't seem that charming a city. So we decided to move on—to Cornwall. Which we had low expectations of, and it therefore exceeded.
We stayed at a Holiday Inn, deciding to splurge on a slightly more luxurious room, and took advantage of their pool and hot tub facilities after dinner. And dinner itself was very. Going by Where to Eat in Canada, we ate a restaurant called Fusion Cafe. I had seafood linguine, Jean had lamb, and everything was very well prepared, with good service.
We continued our meanderings the next day, almost managing to bypass Montreal (the GPS messed us up a little at one point), and taking the more scenic shore route to Quebec City. As we traveled, we listened to Bill Bryson's book Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe. It's been out quite a while, but that meant it definitely took us back to our honeymoon trip to Europe, since he visited many of the same countries we did. And as with most of Bryson's books, it had a lot of humour.
After a little resetting of the GPS (which was taking us out somewhere in the suburbs at first), it did get us to our hotel in the Old City. The room looked slightly dingy at first, but we ended up quite liking it. It was certainly central, in fact very clean (just its beige colour tone made it seem a bit dingy), and though small, made good use of space. The parking lot, though, was the very smallest we have ever encountered, including Europe. Jean got the car in in OK (I wouldn't have), but getting out would have been, well, very time-consuming had there not been a couple of helpful locals who guided us. Extremely narrow passageway.
We arrived there fairly late the first day, so didn't do much beyond a little walking around and dinner out at Apsara, a Thai restaurant listed in (you guessed it) Where to Eat in Canada. It was an enjoyable and not too expensive meal.
The next day we visited the tourist bureau and confirmed that most of the museums were closed (as it was Monday). But we were able to visit the archeological site of the Fort St-Louis, for free. That was really interesting. I had no idea this big, historical building had been there, across the street from the Chateau Frontenac. (It had burnt down—I think in the 1930s—and was never rebuilt.)
But after that it was mostly art galleries. Jean had no trouble finding work he liked. I wasn't always disagreeing with his choices, but I was more hesitant than he about the price tags, which tended to be around the $1800, $2000 mark—a bit of a jump from what we usually spend. So nothing was purchased this day, though we certainly admired the creativity of Quebec artists.
We had lunch at the Crémaillère, an old favourite, despite not being quite dressed for it. (They stuck us alone in an upstairs room.) The food was just delicious, though, from the soup to the crème brulée. I don't why this place isn't in Where to Eat in Canada! Then we headed out of Old Town to do a little shop in the main downtown area. I've blogged about some of the things bought, but it included a medieval-style dress, and this is when I first spotted Ride a Rock Horse. I didn't buy it right away, as I mainly wanted the cover, and it wasn't in the greatest shape, but I ended up back there the next day and got it then anyway.
This was our big dinner night; we went to the Saint Amour, which was right by our hotel. I did convince Jean to stick with the somewhat cheaper five-course Inspiration menu (gosh, I sound very cost-obsessed on this trip!), and everything was lovely, except the main-course fish, which was actually a little overcooked. The wine was small disappointment too, as the menu listed a 2005, but it was a 2007 they had in stock. He told us we could send it back if it tasted too young, and probably we should have—but that's hard to do. But I quibble. It's a beautiful room, with fantastic service, and in all but that one case, impeccable food.
The next day was museums, as I'd realized that in all our times here, we'd really visited very few. We went to the Musée de Civilisation in the morning. It had some very creative exhibits, incorporating video, audio, interactive elements along with artifacts. Most interesting was probably the Québec history items, but there was also a special exhibit on aliens that was worth the stop.
We had lunch at Aux Anciens Canadiens—the $19 lunch is a good deal. But talk about hardy! Soup, pheasant and baked beans, then maple syrup pie... Wow. It was pretty good homestyle food. We both figured our moms do just as good a job, though.
The afternoon was the Musée des Beaux Arts, where we mostly saw modern art pieces, for whatever reason. Not that we visited all galleries, as it's fairly large. The feature was on US modern art, and there was another special on women artists, and we saw a couple more standing galleries. Didn't feel we liked it quite as much as Montreal's, Toronto's, or Ottawa's, but I guess those are the top ones in Canada.
After that big lunch, we didn't want dinner until late. We decided to try our breakfast restaurant—that is, the place where we had the breakfast included with our hotel room, as made pretty good breakfast. And we had a $10 off a bottle of wine couple. We had heard that morning that they were hosting a school group of 40—there seemed to be mountains of school groups visiting Québec at this time, by the way—but by the time we got there, the group was done. Jean just had lobster, which was so-so, and I had one of the three-course specials, which was actually very good. The main was cod, perfectly cooked and seasoned. That place was called the Feu Sacré.
Then we were off the Charlevoix. Which I'll continue on another page.