This post is written by Katie, about her time in Canada after the 15th Annual North American Bird Strike Conference.
For my last day in Montreal, I decided to take a day trip over to Quebec City on Canada Via Rail. I bought my tickets 17 days in advance, selecting my last day in Montreal because that’s when the tickets were cheapest! With a Hostelling International card-holder discount (although they never checked that I actually had a member card), it came to X round trip (which was actually cheaper than bus options on the same date as well as cheaper than Lonely Planet claimed it would be).
I woke at 5am to check out of my 2-bed female dorm at HI-Montreal (although throughout my Sunday to Friday stay in room 308-A, I never had a room-mate!) and walk to the main train station to catch my 6:15am Canada Via Rail Train 20 to Quebec City. I arrived at the train station right before boarding began at 6am. The boarding process went quickly, and I easily found my seat on the train.
The train departed exactly at 6:15am, and a ticket checker came through the cabin checking tickets shortly after. Then the beverage/snack cart came through, and although the prices seemed equivalent to Montreal cafés, I did not buy anything. The seats on the train were comfortable, although I wish for picture taking purposes that the outside of the windows had been cleaner. I worked on emails for the majority of the train ride, and then started reading the Quebec City section of my Lonely Planet Montreal & Quebec City book about an hour before our arrival at 9:24am.
I left my backpack with my laptop in a CAD4/24hr locker in the bus station and then spent the day wandering Quebec City – I had the general idea of going out to the Citadel and back, but no set path or other must-see sights (here’s my actual path).
My first stop was the Parc-de-l’Artillerie (since I walked by and it looked interesting), and then I checked out menus for a while before settling for a CAD11 meal of a muffin, pumpkin bread, and latte at Baguette & Chocolat. After breakfast, I walked to the nearby Notre Dame Cathedral and looked around inside the cathedral for a short time. I found the explicit suggested donations a bit off-putting.
After leaving the cathedral, I walked to the Quebec City Citadelle via the Parc du Bastion-de-la-Reine. The views were great, and I walked along the moat to the Citadelle entrance. I arrived just in time, since a guided tour was scheduled to leave just 5 minutes after I bought my CAD13 student ticket using my University of Texas ID. The guided tour was included in the entrance fee, and seemed to be the only way to actually see the Citadelle, so I went for it. A small French group and a very large (~45 people) English group departed simultaneously.
Our tour guide was lively and kept things going. The tour was only supposed to last for 60 minutes, but ours lasted 75 minutes. One cool thing we saw on the tour that was not planned was a young Canadian Veteran who was riding across Canada with 7-8n horses to visit every military site and ride with young veterans in their communities to raise awareness of the existence of young veterans. He took time to speak to our group about his ride when our guide stopped to ask him a simple question about how long his ride was lasting. It seems like a pretty good initiative/project!
After the guided tour of the Citadelle ended, I spent some time wandering through the Citadelle museum. The museum would not be worth the entrance fee if you did not go on the guided tour – but it was interesting to read the Canadian take on history as well as browse through a section on Canada’s time in Afghanistan.
I walked back along the moat walls to Parc du Bastion-de-la-Reine after leaving the museum, and headed down to the boardwalk. From the boardwalk I almost immediately climbed back up to the Plains of Abraham via the Governor’s Promenade. After enjoying the views, I turned around and walked back to the boardwalk and enjoyed the views of the Chateau Frontenac.
From the boardwalk I walked down to the Lower Old Town and continued to wander. I stopped for a CAD8 bowl of vegetable soup and Diet Coke and then headed back to the train station.
Canada Via Rail 29 to Montreal was delayed by about 15 minutes, but the actual train was a neat design! One side had single seats and the other side had double seats, but there was good storage both above and below each seat without cutting into leg room. I really like how the train was laid out!
I became very lost when exiting the train station, and ended up just going back to the train station and starting over. I reached HI-Montreal around 9:45pm and checked in with no issues. However I got assigned to room 106 which ended up being the luggage storage room! I went back to the front desk to enquire about this, and was told they had overbooked and would clear the luggage and make me a bed in the luggage room. I envisioned a rough night, but was happy to have a room to myself. I was not going to sleep for long anyway.
I went to cook dinner, assuming my bed would be ready when I returned. However, when I entered my room, nothing had changed. I enquired with a different person at the front desk and they went to make up my room. I just wanted to go to sleep, so I went to shower in the common bathroom, which was a bit disgusting as it smelled and its floor was dirty.
When I opened the door to my room, I was amazed! They had removed all of the luggage shelves and constructed a real double bed! The room also had a private bathroom, chairs, and a book shelve. If I had not known it was a luggage room, I would not have guessed except for the dirty carpet and a few broken floor tiles.
I’m actually grateful to have gotten a private room instead of the 10- bed female dorm. But the way they handled it was poor. Once they knew they were putting me in 106, they should have prepared it. They knew I had stayed the previous 7 nights and had left my luggage – there should have been no question that I was coming back and would need a place to sleep.