Barbies, Drinking in the Alley and Quebec City

By Remy ( photos by Liz)

It should be noted that this blog is a team effort: while my prosaic stylings describe our experiences, it is the artful photography and design aesthetic of Liz that, like herself, makes these periodic publications so easy on the eyes.

We continued to be conscious that we had passed from one solitude to the other, traveling deeper into Quebec as we continued downstream on the Seaway. Of course, the concept of “two solitudes” is a Laurentian bias based on the old construct of Upper and Lower Canadas and fails to acknowledge that there are solitudes centred around the North, the West Coast, the Prairies and the Maritimes, as well. It takes traveling across this country to really appreciate the differences between the peoples that are monolithically grouped as “Canadians”. And of course, that is more starkly placed in the fore when you enter a province whose principal language is your second. It really feels exotic! And Montreal – probably still my favourite big city in this country.

The Atwater Market, where we got our fresh food on! And some tasty barbecue for lunch. The numbers were still a bit reduced due to Covid, but the crowds were sufficiently large to require some bumping of elbows, which was nice.
Riding the bike path along the Lachine Canal. Lots of outdoor activity, including this pop-up market.
A bit of kitsch in this chic city – the Barbie Museum, which was strangely compelling. We put aside PC attitudes about body image and enjoyed this exhibition of hundreds of different Barbie (and a few Ken) dolls, from various eras and collections. Some had been dressed by well-known designers. This one is for Darren, the family Elvis aficionado.
What did I say about body image? It is creepy stereotypes like this that continue to drive the cosmetic surgery industry. The ear rings are fabulous, though!
A bit of human-scale space in the midst of urban density.
More of the iconic National Parks Adirondack chairs in downtown Montreal. The woman in the chair beside me was sound asleep and never aware that we had taken the photo. At least I hope she was asleep…
Our belated anniversary dinner at Vin Papillon Restaurant, a place we had visited five years before (that’s how good the food is!) The street-side door was locked and directed us around to the alley, where the action – and the lineup – was. As you can see, the restaurant had adapted!
You could enjoy a glass of wine and an appetizer while seated on a concrete divider block as you waited for your table to come available. This would only be cool in Montreal!

After our dose of cosmopolitanism (and a night spent in Costco parking lot – a little bit of bohemianism thrown in) we began the trek to Quebec City. We chose the secondary highways to benefit from the quaint little towns and scenery along the St. Lawrence, as well as the immersion in Quebecois culture. Once outside of Montreal, there is little English displayed or spoken, but happily my attempts at using my second-language training French were well received. It is amazing how quickly it returned after laying dormant so long in Calgary, and I soon stopped mashing together French and Spanish. It made for some nice interactions with the locals.

It doesn’t get any more Quebecois than this! Roadside poutine with home fries and squeaky cheese.
The river estuary in Yamachiche, a beautiful wildlife preserve along the way. We spent a wonderfully quiet night here and got to do some cool hiking. This area reminded us of the mangroves of coastal Mexico.
The elevated boardwalk through the forests of Yamachiche. This area floods so these walks, which extended for kilometres, allowed visitors to enjoy the area and birdwatch in all seasons.

Midway to Quebec City lies Trois Rivieres, which has a history almost as old as the original Quebec and is a bit of a hidden gem, likely bypassed by many tourists to the province. A small old town is still preserved here, but it is also rejuvenating itself as a bit of an arts centre now that the stinky old pulp mills have been decommissioned and torn down. We quite enjoyed the vibe here, with its slightly gritty edge.

Some of the cool public art at the Trois Rivieres waterfront park and amphitheater.
The open-air performance amphitheater where some big acts have played. This is an amazing space and we would love to see a show here! A great use of lands reclaimed from a large, stinky pulp mill overlooking the water.
Our breakfast view at the park where we spent a couple of nights – it is a significant draw to van-lifers to be able to access free hot showers! The ones here were located in the skate shack, which is also used by the beach volleyball players in the summer. This was one of the nicest and most well-used city parks we have encountered so far. Listening to local CBC and eating eggs just like we did everyday back home.
At the Pop Museum (as in culture, not soda) in Trois Rivieres, which showcased Quebecois culture. Who knew that all these things were invented in Quebec? No thanks for the Crocs, but seriously – peanut butter? That deserves a Nobel prize! Oh, and the game of Trivial Pursuit was invented here too.
Stopping to smell the flowers in old town Trois Rivieres. It was fascinating to see buildings dating from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries all in one place.
Not atypical construction along the beautiful riverside highway between Trois Rivieres and Quebec City.
My belle fleur among the belles fleurs in the garden of the coffee shop in Deschambeault, which also housed the best bakery we have encountered so far. We spared you a photo of my hot buns among the hot buns at the bakery.
Driving the Chemin du Roy along the river, we made a quick stop to pilfer some apples.
Move over, Taber! The area around Neuville is renowned for its corn, and for good reason – easily the most delicious that we have eaten, and we have had a lot of corn since southern Ontario. The variety from here has its own recognized denomination.

Finally, on to Quebec City, where it all began for Canada. I had never been and needed to rectify that deficiency. It helped that we had a connection for a place to stay nearby, so we could stage up at the home of Bill and Lucie and make a foray into the city. Unfortunately, Bill was tied up with some family business in the St. Catherine’s area of Ontario and could not be around to host us, but Lucie (who didn’t know us from Adam) graciously stepped up and made us two strangers very welcome.

In the touristy area of Vieux Quebec. Again, numbers were probably down for this time of year, but still enough people around to make us feel that we were having an authentic experience.
The requisite Old Town selfie. We probably got in 30k steps, which had us feeling like our old selves by the end of the day!
The view from the Citadel. The history is overwhelming – after the big battles between the English and French, this is a place where we had to fight back the Americans – twice!
Frowning at the Chateau Frontenac.
The best thing about living in a van is that you can have a picnic anywhere instead of dining in the tourist traps of the city. Public consumption of wine is totally acceptable too!

With our visit to Quebec City at an end, we are heading into the area where the St. Lawrence is salty and we get get to dip our toes, o too briefly, into Gaspésie before crossing over to the Maritimes! liz is excited because she thinks she will be able to understand the language again, but that is a mistake.

~Remy~

Published by tompkinsontheroad

Married mother of two awesome boys who is now living full time in a self converted Camper van and seeing more of the world. We gave up something super special to live our dream of living a free and simple life on the road exploring new places and taking joy in the discovery of the extraordinary

5 thoughts on “Barbies, Drinking in the Alley and Quebec City

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed Quebec, both your narrative and living there. Loved the stone house in Trois Rivière, reminds me of St Anne de Bellevue, near where we lived. I look forward to your posts, so keep them coming.

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