Thursday, January 13, 2011

Quebec–you’ll wished you stayed longer

Québec is a hard place to define. It's a combination of so many facets.  It's a combination of French and English cultural influences, thriving in a decidedly North American setting. It's a combination of Upper and Lower Town, separated by great stone walls. Québec is also a city as well as a province, with so much to do and so many places to visit.

One of the many decisions you'll need to make on your first trip to Québec, is where to stay. Travel guides offer pages and pages of quality selections to choose from, but we’ll concentrate on two distinct sections of Quebec City and three hotel selections, depending on your budget.


Hotel Le Priori is a small boutique hotel at the eastern edge of the historic Vieux-Quebec (Old Québec) section of town. Situated on the oldest street in North America, this hotel was once the home of architect Jean Baillairge. Dating from the 1700s, each room proudly displays some of the original masonry wall surface. With just 21 rooms available, five are suites and the balance are standard rooms. The standard rooms are cozy, but very comfortable.

Tastefully complimenting the historic structure and its antique fireplaces, rooms are equipped with a queen-size bed and down filled duvets, 26 inch LCD televisions with DVD & CD, and modern, sleek bathrooms with stainless steel pedestal lavatories. A special massage shower is featured in each room. Wi-Fi is available throughout. Parking is available two blocks away in a city lot adjacent to the cruise ship docks. Prices start at $129 per night.

On the first floor of the hotel you'll find Restaurant Toast! Long, upholstered bench seating, rich wood block tabletops, indirect lighting, and a well-stocked breakfast buffet start your day off right. Around the corner, SSS, another restaurant operated by the same owner, offers a not-to-be-missed lunch and dinner menu, served in a relaxed and warm atmosphere.

Proceeding outside, you’ll find yourself in the most European-like area of North America. Old World charm exudes from every building and street in sight. “Bonjour!” is heard everywhere as shopkeepers and citizens alike greet each other in the cool morning air. Fascinating art galleries, cozy eateries, full-building murals and unique gift shops share the streetscape with renovated apartments. Hour upon hour can be spent wandering, sightseeing and shopping without ever leaving this inviting enclave.

As you wander Lower Town (Basse-Ville) from the Museum de Civilization to the base of the Funicular, you are subconsciously aware of the imposing bluff to your immediate right. High above lies the Upper Town (Haute-Ville) area of Vieux-Quebec and its 3 miles of thick, fortification walls. The walls have been well preserved and four of the seven original massive city gates are being restored.


Within the walls you’ll discover military, religious and cultural history, all contributing to Quebec being named a UNESCO Heritage Site. The gold-leafed interior of Notre-Dame de Quebec Basilica-Cathedral built in 1633 and the copper-roofed Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac are two of the most visited and photographed sites in Upper Town.

Immediately outside the walls, on a gently sloping rise, Parliament Building watches over the city. The outside of the building displays statue after statue of Canadian notables and inside, a little-known restaurant is available to all at lunch-time with sumptuous fare.

Across the lawn from Parliament Hill and adjacent to the Plains of Abraham, sets Hotel Chateau Laurier Quebec. This award-winning hotel (with a corridor full of awards to prove it) blends old and new as the perfect place to stay for tourist or business-person alike.

A myriad of 16 meeting rooms and a ballroom can accommodate weddings or meetings of any type. 12,000 sq. ft. of interior space and a 4,000 sq. ft. courtyard can be configured for the perfect event. Apropos for a French facility, their catering is a feast for the eyes as well as the palate. The caterer, George V, was chosen as Quebec’s official caterer and culinary representative at the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver.

Each of the hotel rooms offers all the comforts you would expect in a multi-starred facility. Large, light filled windows and comfortable furnishings make this a perfect refuge after a day of wandering the city center. Wi-Fi is available throughout and parking is available in a basement garage. Prices start at $129, but they are currently offering winter specials from $109 for a two night minimum stay.

On ground level, you’ll find a pool, breakfast buffet and convenience store. On multiple floors, you will even discover self-service wine dispensers for that last minute celebration. At night, you are just steps from Grande Allee where you will have difficulty deciding on dozens of the trendiest bars and restaurants in Quebec City.


While the two afore-mentioned hotels are quite reasonably priced for a premium destination like Quebec, there are still those who have to stretch every dollar or loonie (the Canadian one dollar coin.) For those, a hostel can be a wonderful alternative, and Quebec has the best in all of Canada.
Hostel International of Quebec sits right in the midst of historic Upper Town, close to all the major attractions. The hostel is actually made up of two buildings; the historic older building and a more modern facility, connected by a three-story high, all glass walkway.
The hostel is located less than one kilometer away from the bus station and the rail station. The airport is approximately 16 kilometers away. There is no parking at the hostel, but public parking is available nearby at $15/day.
The newer building was added to handle increased demand and now houses private rooms for one or two travelers, or families.  The rooms I saw were beautifully decorated with a double bed down and a single bunk bed above. Some of the rooms have fireplaces in addition to desks and comfy upholstered chairs. (See the slideshow to appreciate how nice these rooms actually are.) Some private rooms have the bath en-suite and others share a bath.
In all, the hostel can handle 279 people in combinations of 4, 6, 8, or 12 beds per room or the private rooms, some of which can hold up to a family of 5. Summers usually find the hostel completely filled, and weekends in the shoulder season will often sell out. It's a good idea to plan months in advance if you want to come on a certain date.
Downstairs, there is a large common area where musicians perform and movies are shown. Ping pong and pool tables are located here. There is also a large eating area and kitchen in the basement, along with a snack bar. The kitchen is quite large and offers 12 stove burners for cooking and a large 4-door refrigerator for storing food. In the evening, a full service bar operates until 11 p.m., serving wine, beer and cocktails. (Alcohol service is common in Canadian hostels.) Foosball can also be found in the pub area.
There are volunteer led activities every day, but some of the most popular are the evening pub crawls and weekly bike tours to some nearby waterfalls.  They also take groups to the revolving Astral Restaurant,   for the best views in town.
With rates starting at only $24 per person Canadian (linen included), and free Wi-Fi, it's no wonder this was voted Best Hostel in Canada for 2009.


Quebec will be the city where you will say “Darn, we should have planned to stay longer.” It can’t be helped -- there’s just too much to see and do. Try each of these accommodations on your next trip as you’ll be sure to come back more than once.


Hotel Le Priori
15, rue du Sault-au-Matelot
418.692.3992 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              418.692.3992      end_of_the_skype_highlighting or 800.351.3992
Hotel Chateau Laurier Quebec
1220, place George-V Ouest
418.522.8108 or 866.319.144
Hostel International du Quebec
19, rue Ste-Ursule
418.694.0755 or 866.694.0950

Visiting Quebec in the winter…want the ultimate hotel accommodation? Read this article about the Ice Hotel and then pack your woolen unders.
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