Lucky 13 – this is Week 13 of my journey to better health. Settle in because this is the longest update so far, but I think you’re going to enjoy it.

The Challenges

Sunset over the St. Lawrence River in Quebec City with Hotel Frontenac on left of photo
There is nothing like a sunset over the St. Lawrence River in Quebec City.

If you read last week’s blog, you know that I was spending the week in Quebec City for a conference. There are a lot of great things about travel, but being on the road can be an obstacle to healthy eating.

Tuesday and Friday were spent hopping from plane to plane and airport to airport. (Take my advice: don’t fly Air Canada. If I ever go back to Quebec, I will drive).

When I finally arrived on Tuesday – two hours late – I drove to the hotel and headed to our opening reception. It was mostly light fare of cheese and crackers until they brought out the main attraction: poutine.

takeout box of poutine

For those unfamiliar with this French Canadian specialty, poutine has three ingredients: French fries, gravy and cheese curds. This version was served in a little takeout box.

I wish I had it from an actual restaurant because this didn’t do the dish justice. The fries were lukewarm and the gravy wasn’t thick enough. But it was the only real entree at dinner so I had to force it.

And if you couldn’t guess, none of the three ingredients would be considered healthful super foods.

plate with two crepes and a side of breakfast potatoes
Wednesday’s breakfast: crepes and potatoes.

It’s hard to have portion control at a conference, especially when a buffet is involved. Wednesday morning I managed to restrain myself as I dined on delicious crepes and a side of breakfast potatoes.

plate of manicotti with sauce
Is it ravioli? Is it manicotti? Is even Italian?

Lunch was a served meal of filled pasta with tomato sauce. I hesitate to call them ravioli because that was Thursday’s lunch. It was okay, and that might have been an exaggeration given that it was the only option.

Dinner, on the other hand, was a feast. We were all left to our own devices so I wandered the big city (it’s actually more of a medium city) on my own in search of adventure and food.

row of stone buildings all with restaurants and other businesses in Quebec City
Cafe l’Omelette was one of dozens of cafes and restaurants in Vieux-Quebec, the Old City.

What I found was Cafe l’Omelette, a little bistro in the Old City (Vieux-Quebec) that caught my eye mostly because the menu was printed in both French and English.

They were serving five varieties of poutine, but I wanted to experience more of the area cuisine so I ordered the Specialties Quebecois, a three-course menu featuring some of Quebec’s other favorite dishes.

bowl of pea soup with two slices of white bread
Quebec pea soup looks more like ham and bean soup, but tastes great.

It started with a bowl of pea soup that looks and tastes nothing like the baby food-esque split pea soup that I am familiar with. Instead, it more closely resembled a ham and bean soup (though these were definitely peas,  not beans) and there was even ham in it. It was an enjoyable start to the meal, and somehow, this was the lightest course.

One thing about Quebec cuisine, it’s not light. And that was evident with my entree: meat pie. It’s exactly what it sounds like: beef (in this case, roast beef) inside a traditional pie shell. Of course, it was all topped with gravy, because it’s Quebec.

Quebec-style meat pie with fries and salad
Meat pie, fries and a salad (just for looks).

The crust was a little overcooked in places, but the beef was fantastic and the gravy had a little something extra that I still can’t quite put my finger on.

And there had to be fries on the side (to be fair, the menu said nothing about fries). Oh and there was a salad. I’m not sure how that fits in, but it was there, and I ate it.

slice of sugar pie drizzled with chocolate syrup
Shoofly pie in Quebec? Not quite. This sugar pie most closely resembled pecan pie without the pecans.

The third course was Quebec’s favorite dessert: sugar pie. Think of it as pecan pie without the pecans. It had a gooey sweet filling with a tasty pie crust. It’s like Quebec’s version of shoofly pie.

Needless to say, nothing I ate here would fit my diet.

plate with a chocolate mousse macaron
The best thing I ate at the conference was this chocolate mousse dessert.

The next day was more conference food: breakfast potatoes and fresh fruit at breakfast; ravioli and sautéed vegetables at lunch; and a served four-course dinner including  salad, cream of broccoli soup, stuffed chicken breast and chocolate mousse cake.

Friday’s journey home included a stop at Tim Horton’s for breakfast for muffins and orange juice and a hearty lunch of a hamburger and fries in the Montreal airport.

The Successes

Upon arriving in Quebec City, I picked up a rental car. But after a drive to the hotel, I parked it for the week.

tall staircase leading up to Old City Quebec
There were 99 stairs (yes, I counted them) to climb between my hotel and the conference.

I missed out on the hotel room block for our conference (the Hilton) and instead stayed about a mile away at the Best Western. I made the walk between the two hotels a total of 10 times (five times each way), but that was only the beginning of my exploration.

sunset at the Citadel in Quebec City
The Citadel overlooks the Plains of Abraham and the St. Lawrence River.

I walked across the Plains of Abraham, hallowed ground to French Canadians. It was here during the French and Indian War that the British defeated the French, essentially giving them control of Canada. Today, it’s an expansive park with lots of walking trails.

An added bonus during my visit was seeing the construction of a temporary stage and grandstand for an annual music festival. I even got to hear a rehearsal on Wednesday night, though it was in French so I couldn’t understand a single word.

Hotel Frontenac on a sunny day
The Hotel Frontenac – an architectural gem in Quebec City.

I made my way along the Promenade de Gouverneurs to the famed Hotel Frontenac. Built as a destination for railroad travelers, the hotel is a stunning piece of architecture that towers over the city and looks out upon the St. Lawrence River.

historic stone gate to Old City Quebec
The gateway to Vieux-Quebec.

A highlight of my walks was walking through the old city gates. It was like traveling through time – forward one way, backward the other. The walls that once kept the city safe from its enemies now protect the Vieux-Quebec from the encroachment of downtown modernity.

cannon in front of Hotel Frontenac
Quebec embraces its military heritage – cannon can be found on display throughout the city.

Over the course of my three days in the city, I walked for a total of 7.5 hours – about 20 miles by my best estimate. Most of it served no purpose other than to explore.

The Results

I ate a lot of calories. I burned a lot of calories. It turns out, I burned more than I ate:

Current Weight: 171.2
Weekly Weight Loss: -1.6
Total Weight Loss: -18.2

After a flat week, it was good to see the results come back this week.

The Week Ahead

Compared to last week, the next seven days are easy. Julie and I are planning a few day trips over the holiday weekend but hopefully our exploration can overcome the extra calories, just like last week.

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