CANADA: Niagara + Toronto + Quebec City + Tadoussac + Montreal

Mark and I went to Canada for the first time this June, and had quite a fun and interesting experience!  We fit a LOT in to one week, starting out couch surfing in Niagara Falls and Toronto, followed by a day’s drive to Quebec City along with the best couch surfing experience ever, and a quick day and two nights in Montreal.

 

NIAGARA:

Ravine Vineyard

Go there.  After enjoying the most delicious meal and wine I’ve ever had, we discovered that this wine/restaurant is named in the top 20 wine restaurants… in the WORLD.
Don’t miss this place if you’re in the Niagara region. Go wine tasting. And have your life changed.  The rosé took me back to France, we learned about the wines from the actual sommelier, and learned they practice biodynamic farming.  I’m a believer in this.

 


My wonderful companion.  Despite the rainy days we experienced, we were lucky to have the clouds part for our wine tasting / foodie experience at Ravine Vineyards.  Seriously an absolutely perfect day to sit on the outdoor porch and enjoy a great culinary experience.


MasterChef worthy.

Inniskillin Winery:  Famous for their “Ice Wines” where wine is made from grapes frozen on the vine during the winter.  The frozen grapes cause the sugar to become very concentrated, and make a very sweet, dessert wine.

Niagara Falls: 

The before shot:

On the boat up to the falls. It was so misty and windy, it felt like a hurricane.

the result:

It was as fun as it looks…  Definitely take a boat to see the falls. We had a BLAST.


On top of the falls

Dinner at Tide and Vine Oyster House:

Oysters are my jam. We struggled  to find this little hole in the wall, considering the Yelp address was quite incorrect.  But we found it, and it was worth it.

 

TORONTO

Our next day was spent exploring Toronto.   We couch surfed that night, and had an interesting experience to say the least.   After a long morning of mix-ups and a bit of stress, we finally got to visit the city.  First stop was the Kensington Market.

Morning stop at a gluten-free bakery at the Kensington Market.

The Distillery District in Toronto

A completely delicious lunch in The Distillery District at El Catrin Destilleria.  Mark and I shared everything to keep the cost down, but we got such a quality meal! That salad was a mango and melon salad, and was a life changer. Go there.  Get that salad.

 

Coffee break at Thor Espresso Bar, after a long day of walking and exploring.  We took a nice nap just before this at one of the beaches on the lake nearby.

Famous castle:

 

ROAD TRIP TO QUEBEC CITY:

Pit stop on the side of the road for some homemade donuts.  They were delicious!

There were many wineries in the region, we ran out of time to see most of them.  But we made a pit stop en route to Quebec at Three Dogs Winery.

 

QUEBEC CITY:

We were lucky enough to get a night tour of Quebec City with our gracious couch surfing host, Benoit.

This was after we enjoyed one of the most fun dinner-with-strangers I’ve ever had.  Benoit essentially had a family reunion that night with his mom, brother, sister, and one of his close friends, plus Mark and me, and another couch surfer.  They cooked a delicious meal, and offered the best company.  Such a great experience.

The next morning started with a classic quebecois breakfast: homemade crepes with famous quebec real maple syrup… and nutella.  Talk about hospitality. 
Above are pictured (left) the other couch surfing guest from France, (middle) our host’s roomate/nephew, (right) our host’s mom!


pictured (left) Roberto from Italy who was our host’s couchsurfing-guest-turned-buddy, (middle) our host, Benoit, one of the kindest human beings I’ve ever met.  He found his calling in couch surfing.  We were guest number 900+.  This was the coolest experience.

Walking the streets of Quebec City:

Lunch at Le Chic Shack:

Y’all, the BEST poutine ever.  We ate a LOT of poutine in Quebec and Montreal.  This was SOOO amazing I can’t even tell you with words how good it tasted.  So was the homemade chocolate milkshake (also pictured).  We got an alternative version of poutine that used potato hash instead of fries, and shredded beef in the most amazing sauce I’ve ever had.  I would eat this every day.  I’d go back to Quebec City just for this… and the couch surfing company.

Fun note, Le Chic Shack uses all local and organic ingredients.  Pretty sure that’s why it tasted so fresh and delicious.


(All the white on the top?  cheese.  real cheese. not packaged american cheese, but the real-just-churned-from-the-cows-out-back cheese.)

As we ate at Le Chic Shack, we got to enjoy watching a local cycling race out of the big street windows.

Atop a citadel wall, looking onto the center of the city where the parliament building is (tall and to the left)

The fountain below  was apparently a gift brought over from France by somebody I can’t remember…

Cutest grocery ever: Maison Jean-Alfred Moisan

Lots of pretty, old buildings.  This is the big one on top of the hill (seen in the nighttime photo above)

View from our way up the citadel wall.  St. Lawrence River to the right.

 

L’ile d’Orleans


We drove around the entirety of this island.  At first it was a relaxing, beautiful, and a great idea after walking nearly 14 miles in Quebec City.  But it took 2 hours.  We were tired.

A vineyard on the island

Fresh berries off the road.  Bonne idée indeed.

Our evening in Quebec City was spent eating a lot of food, with a nice dessert and drinks to finish off our time there, before heading to Tadoussac the next morning.

 

TADOUSSAC (and en route there):

Our couch surfing host Benoit and his buddy Roberto adamantly convinced us to come with them to Tadoussac, a town about 2 hours north of Quebec City that’s known for whale watching on the river.  Benoit and Roberto were so inclusive and inviting, it was hard to turn down.  Mark and I  had initially considered going up to this region to see the fjords, but thought it might be too much driving time.   We are very glad they convinced us to join them.  It was such a great opportunity and absolutely beautiful.

Benoit told us he was taking us to see his country home:

Mark with Benoit & Roberto

Us with Benoit!

From the top of this fancy hotel, we could see where a tributary river met the St. Lawrence.  That line where the two waters meet shows the separation between the fresh and salt water.  We later learned during whale watching, was that this is where the whales swim because lots of krill gather along this line.

Taking the ferry across to Tadoussac.  A fjord

Roberto, Mark and I suited up for the experience.  Benoit drove us all the way there, and just hung out while we went whale watching. So sweet.  

A true captain if you’ve ever seen one:

 

I mean, you can’t get more classic than this:

It was beautiful, and freezing (they gave us wool gloves and beanies). The water was as smooth as glass.

That night we drove back to Quebec City, picked up our car, and drove 3 hours more to Montreal.

MONTREAL:

We stayed at the cutest bed and breakfast, Alexandre Logan, where the French host served us the most decadent “croque madame” on a fresh croissant for breakfast.

We rented bikes on the Montreal bike system, which was a great idea for such little time we had in the city.  We rode all over, in the photo below, Montreal is behind Mark.  We rode to one of the islands across the bridge, which made for some ever so vibrant exercise.

The Old City:

Notre Dame de Montreal – was as extravagant as expected and fascinating. The architecture from the 1800s was extremely colorful (teal walls and ceilings).

We finished our trip with one of the Women’s World Cup games: Canada vs. the Netherlands.  Canada won.  The crowd was awesome.

A lot happened in one week, and it was definitely a trip to be remembered.  Thanks for some good times, Canada!

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