Spring break in Canada by Anelise N. '19
Snowboarding ramps, waterfalls, poutine, butterflies, and lots of noodles.
This year, for spring break my friend Yida and I decided to head to Canada!
We spent three days in Quebec City and four days in Montreal. Montreal is pretty easy to reach from Boston and as such is a popular spring break destination for MIT students. We decided to visit Quebec City as well because I was really amped to practice some French and I wanted to see more of the francophone part of Canada. 😀
We flew into Quebec on Saturday right after classes ended. The whole trip from take-off in Boston to touch-down in Quebec City was around 5 ½ hours because we had to fly through Newark airport.
We got a hotel room in the center of Quebec’s old town, but really it was more like a small apartment. We made sure to get one with a kitchen so we could cook food if we wanted to.
It was a really short walk to a lot of bustling areas and tourist sites in downtown Quebec, which was really nice. We walked everywhere and only took public transportation once (to go visit some hiking trails out of town).
Quebec City was actually a very pleasant place to stay. It felt much more relaxed than the American cities I’m used to, like Boston or San Francisco. The buildings were shorter with more space in between them. The roads were wide and there was surprisingly little automobile traffic. Because the old city was built on top of a hill (the site was first chosen as a French military fort, after all), from certain streets you can get a beautiful viewpoint out over the rest of the city. The city is built overlooking the St. Lawrence River, so one side of downtown opens up to a 180 degree panorama over the ice-peppered river. The city felt quaint and relaxed and was surrounded by natural beauty.
The beautiful walkway hugging the border of vieux Quebec and St. Lawrence River. And me being goofy.
When we first arrived in the city, we had a really nice Uber driver from the airport (who spoke mostly French—those French classes are finally coming in handy!). He told us that the city was currently celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, that there had been a big parade earlier that day, and that the entire city was decked out in green to celebrate. He also informed us that there was an international snowboarding competition being held there!
We decided to do as the Romans do. After eating some poutine for dinner, we got drinks at an Irish pub and watched the snowboarding finals. Downstairs, a duet on the fiddle, outfitted in rock t-shirts and kilts, were performing songs that sounded like a mash-up of traditional Irish folk music and heavy metal. We had fun watching one of the performers strum until the strings on his bow snapped while the bar’s patrons accompanied him with an impressive Irish jig.
The next day, we walked over to the competition ground that had been set up for the snowboarding event. Unfortunately, all the events were over, but there was a closing party going on with a band and food stalls and we got to check out the ramp up close.
We explored a beautiful church.
On the advice of a tourism agent (the people in the tourism office were surprisingly really helpful), we took a long walk overlooking the St. Lawrence river and ended up in a beautiful snow-covered park.
Afterwards, we took a stroll along the quaint, cobblestone-lined streets of old Quebec and had a delicious dinner. Yida tried blood pudding, which I was convinced was going to be kinda gross, but she proved me wrong—it was delicious.
On Monday, our last day in Quebec City, we planned an ambitious itinerary to make sure we could get everything done we wanted to. We got up bright and early and left the house at 8:30. We caught a half-hour bus ride to La Chute de Montmorency, a waterfall on the outskirts of town.
We then took a tour of the Citadelle, an old fortress and still-active military base that is the most salient reminder of Quebec’s history as a military outpost. It was really interesting because the trip highlighted the pride with which the Quebecois regard their French heritage. The colony of Quebec was first founded by the French before it was taken over by the English in the French and Indian War. As such, the predominant language is still French—it’s the language people speak on the streets, and although most people speak English, we still ran into some situations where my French concentration came in handy.
The military regiment stationed at the Citadelle, the 22e regimente royale, (the 22nd royal regiment), has roots dating back to WWI, back when the official language of the Canadian army was exclusively English. It was established specially to recruit French-speaking Quebecois soldiers, who up until that point had avoiding enlisting because of the language barrier. During the war, they earned a reputation as a brave and effective regiment after their success at the Battle of Vimy, and the 22e was established as a permanent group. They are still fiercely proud of their francophone heritage; in fact, there is a Canadian law enforcing that the regiment can only be referred to by its French name, leading to its English colloquialization as the vant-dooze.
After leaving the Citadelle, we explored some more of the picturesque city and had a fun photo shoot on the boardwalk overlooking the St. Lawrence river.
The view was so pretty that we decided to spend a few hours in a restaurant overlooking the scene.
After which we went back, cooked some spaghetti, and watched a movie.
The next morning, I drank the biggest cup of coffee I have ever seen in my life.
On the bust to Montreal, the woman three rows up from me was wearing a brass rat.
It turns out that our AirBnB was right next to Montreal’s Chinatown. Yida agreed to teach me how to cook some Chinese food, so we went to an Asian market and picked up some ingredients.
The chef and her masterpiece. We bought a whole fresh fish (complete with head and eyes and everything) and Yida pan-fried it in soy sauce and Chinese cooking wine. It was sooooooooooooooooooo good. I mean it was some of the best fish I’ve ever had.
The next day we decided to wander around old Montreal, the picturesque city center filled with decorative buildings.
We went to the Centre d’Histoire de Montreal, a small history museum that traced the development of the city.
We stopped and ate beautiful pastries in a cute little shop.
And then we ate the best noodles I’ve ever had in my life.
The next day we went to Montreal’s HUGE botanical gardens. They had a whole greenhouse full of plants from around the world—tropical plants form the Amazons, bonsai from China, cacti and succulence that look like they could have come out of my garden in L.A.
They also had an amazing butterfly exhibition.
One even landed on my face!!!!!!!!
There was also a gorgeous Chinese garden.
Yesterday, we just spent some time walking around the city and the park in the middle of it called, appropriately, Mont-Royal.
And we found a restaurant that sells spicy drinks that look like Chinese take-out.
Today was our last day in Canada…and we went back and got more noodles.
I wrote this while chilling in a café chock full of university students finishing their work. I relate!