Dining in Old Quebec

Photo Inspo Travel

I always promise myself that I won’t take any vacation days off work in the summer because I’m saving them all for the sad and snowy days of Canada’s winter, however, O proposed a music festival outing to FEQ that I couldn’t refuse with what was about to be the best crew I would ever meet. I flew into Montreal on a Tuesday night to meet O and Wednesday morning O drove his friend R and me to Quebec City where we met up with R’s girlfriend J who was doing a summer program at the university there. We stayed at Auberge internationale de Québec, an amazing hostel just a 10 minute walk to the center of the music festival. 

FEQ is an annual summer music festival in the heart of Old Quebec, the perfect venue to bring history and pop culture together. You spend the day wandering the historical town, taking in the architecture and the quaint village feel and when the sun begins to set, you join the biggest party of the summer, spread across multiple stages with an incredibly diverse selection of music.

I vaguely remember visiting Quebec city as a child on one of our family summer trips to Canada but, like with all trips as an adult, I knew this would be an entirely different experience and although we initially planned this to be a group event, there were significant periods of time where I was pleasantly surprised to find myself able to explore solo. In a way it helped to have visited other countries before going solo on my own turf (so to speak) because starting here would have made me reluctant to explore, with the mentality that it’s only Canada and I can come here anytime.

Although Quebec City is often deemed to parallel Paris, I think it’s difficult to compare it to any another city, either in Europe or anywhere else. With hills like San Francisco, cobblestones of Paris, town squares of Prague, the Fairmont hotel looking like a castle from Wales so central you can see it from any location in the old town, all walled in like Cartagena, you stand there overlooking the St. Lawrence River wondering if you’re looking over Georgian Bay in Ontario cottage country. Until you hear French. Everywhere. Parents talking to their children, store clerks talking to each other, your waitress greeting you at the restaurant. And then you realize you could only be in Quebec City.

When one travels solo, one of the most dreaded or at least uncomfortable situations tends to be dining alone which, coincidentally, happens to be my favorite. (Additionally, at this time I tend to order something new just to add to the experience.) So I spent two whole days brunching, dining and lazing around in cafes lining the old cobblestone alleys. My first brunch was on a rainy, lazy morning at Cochon Dingue, a bistro embodying a very Québécois spirit enveloped in a Parisian aesthetic. I sat by the window eating incredibly delicious duck confit eggs benedict and sipping on a mimosa. After finishing my meal, I spent about half an hour nursing my cappuccino in true leisurely Parisian style, and when I looked around, I noticed the other tables doing the exact same. You could really see them savoring every bite and every moment together, engrossed in lighthearted conversation and dedicated to being present in the moment. 

Revisiting the old town later that day for dinner was a completely different experience. The ambiance of the setting sun and twinkly lights hanging across the exclusively pedestrian street mirrored the flowy summer dress I opted for that evening. I chose to dine at Lapin Sauté mainly due to the bistro tables lining the walkway but also because they specialize in a menu centered around rabbit (aptly suggested by the restaurant name) and the adventurous side of me was curious. After waiting what seemed like eternity for a sidewalk table, a period of time that was appropriate for a culinary institution such as this, I was seated at one of the four coveted bistro tables with a wine list and a menu as ornate and glamorous as the restaurant facade and the warm summer night that was settling in. I paired my rabbit pot pie with a sauvignon blanc and savored every bite as I watched the evening turn into a vibrant night. The lights got brighter, the music a little louder, and the vibe more leisurely.

Completely enamored by the Parisian aesthetic, I had to return to Lapin Sauté for brunch the next morning. Due to my timely arrival that morning, I was seated immediately at the same sidewalk bistro table. After a seasonal fruit crepe breakfast I lingered once again, sipping my cappuccino and watching people walk by.  

On the last day, just before O and I drove back to Montreal, we grabbed breakfast to go from a hole in the wall bakery, Peppé, that looked exactly like something on a Parisian corner, complete with a display of baked goods in the window. With a loaded baguette, smoothie and apricot danish to go, it was the perfect way to wrap up our experience of this quaint town.

In a way many aspects of this town did reflect European culture; the architecture, the ornate interior of Notre-Dame de Québec Basilica-Cathedral, the street performers in parkettes, the leisurely pace of the town. But despite there not being a single Canadian flag in sight, at the end of the day it was evident that we were still in Canada. On one hand I kept being somewhat let down every time I tried comparing this experience to a weekend in Paris, but on the other, I was amazed that I could have all this without even leaving the country and overall it was a lovely reminder of the elegant beauty in our own backyard.

À bientôt!