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Pamela MacNaughtan

I moved into my apartment in Old Québec during a blizzard on New Year’s Eve. Excited to be living in Québec City, again, I didn’t care that I didn’t have a bed or sofa the first night. I was back, and determined to stay.

I meant one of my neighbours as I struggled to drag a 50lb wooden countertop for a piece of IKEA furniture I had bought. Navigating the snowy road, then across a slightly icy sidewalk and finally trying to drag that sucker through the heavy wooden front door; all while praying that my back (which had been injured earlier in the year) wouldn’t give out.

He gallantly took over and carried it to my apartment. Once inside, I sat on my window sill for a couple minutes to rest my back before heading back down. He asked for my keys and offered to bring the rest of my things inside. I, of course, said yes!

Living in Old Québec (Vieux-Québec)

Chateau Frontenac in the early morning hours, before the crowds of tourists show up.
Château Frontenac and Dufferin Terrace in the early morning hours, before the tourists are out for the day. Truly, my favourite time of day.

I love the history and architecture within the fortified walls of Old Québec (Vieux-Québec), they remind me a little of Europe and I can trick my mind into thinking I’m travelling. I love the little details hidden in plain sight, and the pretty vistas.

In the low season, there are plenty of cafés for me to park myself and work.

It is incredibly difficult to have takeaway food delivered, which is great because I’d end up living on Dominos pizza. Yes, even in Québec City.

I love that I can take an early morning walk and the streets are basically empty. It is so pretty and quiet and therapeutic in the hours when most tourists are getting up and eating breakfast.

This is the neighbourhood I fell in love with during my first visit in 2013. My one-bedroom apartment is affordable and my rooftop offers spectacular views of the city.

Basically, it is all things wonderful and fantastic.

Except from May 15th to October 31st.

The Downside to Living in Old Québec

rue Saint-Jean becomes one of the busiest streets in Québec City in summer. Tourists crowd the sidewalks, making it hard to get around. Thankfully, there are plenty of quiet side streets!
rue Saint-Jean becomes one of the busiest streets in Québec City in summer. Tourists crowd the sidewalks, making it hard to get around. Thankfully, there are plenty of quiet side streets!

There is a downside?! Yeah, there is always a downside to living in a popular tourist city. It’s the tourists! Ha ha

Tourism is fabulous, truly, it buyoys our economy and allows visitors to experience one of Canada’s oldest cities. I am constantly encouraging people to visit Québec City (I wrote a guidebook for that purpose!), it is beautiful and historic, the locals are lovely and the culture is delightful.

Living in the middle of it, however, gets old, fast. At times, the crowds swell to the point where walking around the old city becomes unbearable. There are lines outside my favourite restaurants and forget about finding a table in a café.

Peace and quiet can be found in the early morning hours or after 19:00 when the crowds begin to thin out.

I’m Staying in Old Québec, For Now

I'm staying in Old Québec, for now, but I also spend a lot of time in the neighbourhood of Saint-Roch.
I’m staying in Old Québec, for now, but I also spend a lot of time in the neighbourhood of Saint-Roch. In summer, this grand church is a beacon of activity.

I love my little one bedroom apartment with its grey wood floors, tall windows with deep sills for sitting, rooftop patio and thick old walls. And I love that the droves of tourists force me to venture outside my neighbourhood.

In summer, I can often be found in a café somewhere in Saint-Roch, wandering the streets of Saint-Jean-Baptiste or Saint-Sauveur. I spend time in churches that have been converted into gorgeous libraries. I wander into almost every épicerie I see, some of them are truly hidden gems, and trying new restaurants. Sometimes I rent a car and go on small road trips to Baie Saint-Paul, Tadoussac, Saguenay and Montréal.

To sum it up, the crowds of tourists in Old Québec have helped me to gain a greater appreciation for the nerighbourhoods and cities/towns outside of Old Québec.

As much as the crowds make me crazy in summer, I don’t have plans to move from my apartment in Old Québec.

Although, I will admit, when May rolls around I will start to dream about moving myself to a neighbourhood like Saint-Roch where the streets are flat (I live on a hill, and in winter walking in the old city can be scary for someone with a weak back) and filled with cafés, restaurants and boutiques. It would be a more local experience. Perhaps my French would improve quicker. Is it worth the expense of moving and giving up my current views of the city?

No matter which neighbourhood I live in, Québec City is home. I’ll still spend time in Ontario with my family, but this is home now, this is where I will come back to relax and recharge.

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