Rock On (or not) in Quebec, Mon Ami!

April 15, 2014

in Destination Updates, Travel Canada

  • SumoMe

If you visit Québec (the city, situated on the St. Lawrence River) in Québec (the province) between July 3rd and 13th this year, it may look more like the U.S.A. than a little bit of Europe in Canada.

No, the classy, classic architecture that gives Québec City a European feel isn’t going to be replaced, temporarily or permanently, by made-in-the-U.S. big-box stores replete with American corporate logos.

Rue du Marche Champlain Quebec City

But the pulse of the place will be throbbing as residents and tourists shake, rattle and roll to the musical sounds emanating from ten stages during the three hundred shows that will be performed during the Festival d’été de Québec.

Festival QC 1

(Rosana Prada/The Mission District Flickr Photo)

Lady Gaga, Billy Joel, Journey, or Blondie not your tasse de thé?

Pas de problème, ma chérie! Even if these days you, like me, are a member of the “rocking chair set” instead of the “rockabilly” crowd, Québec City has more than enough cultural attractions to sate your sensibilities.

Listen to “The Music”

1,000 Musical Stars Will Shine

One thousand strong, rock and pop stars, along with blues and “electro” artists, will entertain music lovers during the 47th edition of Festival d’été de Québec.

A$AP Rocky, Cypress Hill, The Kills, Local Natives, Young the Giant, Tegan and Sara, The Bloody Beetroots, Gogol Bordello, Gary Clark, Jr., Daniel Lanois, Phantogram, Jake Bugg, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, The Pretty Reckless, The Chrystal Method, Vintage Trouble, Serena Ryder, John Mayall are among those on the roster of musicians and singers who will perform indoors and outdoors during the 11 day festival.

Other Festival Activities

Music isn’t the only thing that will rock you at Festival d’été de Québec.

QC Buskers

(Renaud Philipp Flick Photo Courtesy of Festival d’été de Québec)

The press release for this year’s event says that “the Festival also features free access to many concerts, street performers, acrobats, jugglers, stilt walkers, and activities designed for the whole family.”

Buy Your Festival Pass Now!

Festival passes went on sale last Saturday, April 12th, and may sell out quickly. So if want to rock your hearts and brains out in Québec City this July, best to purchase your passes online or by phone (1-855-800-3347) as soon as possible.

The first 60,000 passes will go for $68 (Canadian Dollars), the rest for $78 CAN. Taxes and service fees are included, but shipping is extra, and there is a limit of four passes per transaction.

Once those passes are sold out, day passes for concerts (at the Bell stage only) can be purchased online or by phone for $50, and at the box office during the festival, subject to availability.

For more information on passes, visit the Festival Website, call the toll-free number listed above, or send an email to

Travel Planning

Last year a million people came to the Festival, so it only makes sense to make your plans for getting to Québec City (see “If You Go” at the end of this story), and lodging once you arrive, either before or immediately after buying your Festival pass.

Hotel packages area available through the Festival Website.

North America’s “Europe”

Québec City was founded in 1608. No wonder that to the American eye it looks more like Europe than any U.S. city and its historic district is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

(Olivier Lavigne-Ortiz Photo Courtesy of Qué

In the lower section section of the city you’ll find the port (where you can take a river cruise), the wonderfully done Musée de la civilisation, ship models hanging in the Notre-Dame-des-Victoires Church at the Place Royal, and shopping in Quartier Petit Champlain.

Ship at Eglise Notre Dame

A funicular railway makes it easy-on-the-legs to reach the upper part of the city, where you can walk along the Promenade des Gouverneurs, check out Québec City’s signature landmark, Le Château Frontenac Hotel, and visit the ornate Notre-Dame de Québec Basilica-Cathedral.

Le Chateau Frontenac 2

I spent two full days in Québec City, long enough to taste the flavor of the place, but not to see all of the sights, particularly those in the region surrounding the city.

Parlez-vous Français?

Odds are very good that a Québec City “local” will first greet you in French, even if its obvious that you are from South-of-The-(U.S.-Canada)-Border.

But even if you, unlike 95% of the city’s residents, are not fluent in French, that doesn’t mean you’ll have to tote around a French-English dictionary or phrasebook, or get a smartphone app that will serve as your “translator.” English is widely spoken, especially among those providing services to we tourists who become tongue-tied when French comes tumbling and bumbling out of our mouths.

If You Go

Getting There

Québec City’s Jean Lesage Airport has flights between Canadian and international destinations. However, if you can’t find non-stop flights to and from your hometown, check to see if airlines provide such service to Montréal-Trudeau airport.

You can drive between Montréal and Québec City in about three hours, but since you won’t need a car to tour Québec City itself, consider taking Via Rail Canada, as I did.

Traveling by train is a particularly good choice of intercity transportation if you want to spend time in Montréal, a sophisticated city which I liken to San Francisco, and which someone I recently met said reminded her of another one of my favorite cities, Chicago.

The Fairmont Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montréal is conveniently located several floors above the Via Rail train station, making it easy to check out of your room, and ride elevators down to the shopping arcade level below the hotel where you can check in for your rail trip.

Getting Around

You can get around Québec City by foot or taxi, but you’ll need to go on an organized tour or rent a car if you want to see the surrounding countryside.

Where to Stay

Le Château Frontenac, one of the Fairmont group of hotels, has a commanding view from the upper part of the city. But I stayed in the delightful Hôtel Le Germain-Dominion in the lower town.

The Québec Region tourism Website can provide additional lodging suggestions.

When to Go

I visited Québec City in September of 2005, during a two-week trip that also included stays in Montréal, the Laurentian mountains north of that city, and the fabulous log-hotel on the Ottawa River two-hours drive west of Montréal, Le Château Montebello.

Montebello Exterior

The weather was mostly fair, and leaves on the trees were beginning to change from summer green to brilliant fall colors.

Laurentian Leaves

But in winter, you can have fun at the Winter Carnival and have the option of experiencing a “cool” lodging memory by staying overnight in Hôtel de Glace (“Ice Palace”). The hotel says that

our beds have a solid ice base, with a wooden bedspring and a mattress on top. Mattresses are covered with blankets, and people sleep inside arctic sleeping bags designed to stay warm in temperatures as low as -30°C. We recommend that you slip inside your sleeping bag wearing just thermal underwear to keep humidity to a minimum.”

The video may either tempt or dissuade you from bunking there.

Other events take place in Québec City throughout the year.

But Will I Go?

Where in the world will Tales Told From The Road publisher, Dick Jordan, be this year, and more importantly, what are the odds that you’ll run into him in Québec City?

As Dick’s French-Canadian friend Lucie would say, À la prochaine!”

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