Marie-Pierre Lessard, 30, is the owner of Nomad Tours Québec and has been leading tours through Quebec City’s historic, cobbled streets for over five years. Her love for the city and passion for sharing it with the world encouraged Marie to start running the immersive walking tours. Today, she shares her knowledge and local insight with travellers from across the globe!
Stunning architecture, a romantic atmosphere, intriguing history, a bustling foodie scene and European charm – you’ll find it all in Québec City!
Overlooking the beautiful Saint Lawrence River, Québec City is the capital of Québec province in Canada. The country’s oldest French-speaking city is an exciting destination to explore thanks to its 400-year history and storied past. Québec is home to a unique Francophone culture which Québecois (Québec locals) are incredibly proud of and excited to share with the world.
The most captivating way to learn more about the city is with a local who knows it best. Our local guide in Québec City is Marie.
Read on and discover more about Marie, her tours and Québec City’s unique Joie de vivre (zest for life)!
1. What sparked your passion for operating these walking tours of Québec City?
I wanted to be an entrepreneur and I wanted to lead my own tours. I love to show my city and make people have a good time. I like to feel “useful’’ and help people plan their stay here. I also learn so much from my visitors!
2. Could you provide a brief history of Nomad Tours Québec?
I started my company a few months after my graduation. When I graduated, I quickly felt that I needed a new project to work on. The one thing I wanted to do was guiding. I decided that if I wanted to guide and lead my own tours (and make a decent salary with it) I needed to start my own tour business.
Québec City is historic but also very modern and vibrant.
3. How long have you lived in Québec?
All my life! I actually grew up about one hour away from the Old Town and when I was 17, like many students, I needed to move to a bigger city to continue my studies and go to college.
4. What languages do you speak?
French and English.
5. What can a traveller expect on a typical Québec City tour?
On Expat Explore tours, we meet and start our tour from the famous Fairmont Chateau Frontenac – a luxurious spot that is the most photographed hotel in the world! Next, we make our way to the City Hall Plaza, a short five-minute walk from the Chateau. We cover City Hall, Notre Dame Basilica Cathedral and the Seminary. Next, we head to the Dufferin Terrasse to enjoy the view of the Saint Lawrence River and Orleans Island in the distance. Next up we make our way to the oldest part of the city. Here, we cover the birthplace of Québec – the Place Royale – before continuing on to Petit Champlain Street where you can find local crafts, amazing souvenirs and excellent local restaurants. We typically end the tour at the end of Petit Champlain Street. It’s a great place to end the tour as travellers have free time afterwards for lunch and to do some shopping. It’s the perfect spot!
During the tours, I always find time to talk about Québec’s culture, the wintertime here, our top sport – hockey as well as our most famous dish: poutine!
I have learned that the world is a very diverse place and every guest, with their different cultural backgrounds, will see my city with different eyes.
6. How long have you been leading tours?
In 2020, I will celebrate my fifth year in business!
7. How many tours do you lead a week?
During the high season (from May to October) I generally run between seven and eight tours a week. I could take more but my guests deserve to have an energetic tour guide so I need to give myself time to rest!
8. What are the top three places people should visit in the city?
Houlala! There are more than just three! But if I had to pick… I would say to visit the most beautiful street we have: Petit Champlain Street. Then, Québec City’s Observatory, it’s the best place to enjoy a breathtaking view of the city. It also helps travellers to get their bearings in the city. Lastly, I would say to go to a place to meet the locals. Because travelling is not just about seeing things, it’s also about the people we meet. To achieve that, I would suggest having a good pint of local beer in the Saint-Roch district. The neighbourhood is a hub for microbreweries!
9. What is your favourite thing about living in Québec?
I love living here, there are always events going on and nice restaurants to try. Québec City is historic but also very modern and vibrant. I also like to fact that nature is very close-by. Jacques-Cartier National Park is only 35 minutes from the Old Town and I love their hiking trails.
10. What is something people might not know about Québec?
Québec City and its people have French, English, Irish, Scottish and Native American influence. Even if, for most of us, French is the native language, we are not 100% French!
11. What piece of advice would you give first-time visitors to Québec?
Like visiting any other place, be open-minded. Québecois have a very distinct culture and we are proud of who we are. Never take for granted that a Québecois speaks English. Never! We are proud to speak French and we will be happy to speak with an English speaker but never assume that we all speak English… We can find that rude! Those who can speak it (which is the majority of people working in the Old City) had to work hard to master English.
We, Québecois, LOVE when English speakers try to speak French! It’s a cultural thing, we think it’s respectful, but also very endearing.
12. What handy phrases should visitors to the city know?
“Parlez-vous Anglais?’’ (Do you speak English?) is handy!
13. What questions do you get asked most often on tours?
I often get these questions:
Travelling is not just about seeing things, it’s also about the people we meet.
14. You must meet people from all over the world every day – what is the most interesting thing you have learned from people so far?
This is an excellent question! I have learned that the world is a very diverse place and every guest, with their different cultural backgrounds, will see my city with different eyes.
I’ve also learned that we should not judge all travellers as being the same, even if they are from the same country. Also, when I started to run my tours, I was scared that people would not understand me in English or that I was not good enough… Turns out, my guests seem to love my French accent! The French accent brings the local flavour, haha! I improved my English quite a lot during the last five years and now, I feel much more confident.
15. What do you hope travellers take away from your walking tours?
I want my guests to have a good lay of the land and set their bearings for their entire stay here. I also want to give them personalized recommendations according to their needs and interests. If my guests are only here for 1 or 2 days (like with Expat Explore travellers), my ultimate goal is to make them want to plan a longer stay or even come back to Québec on a future trip!
Experience all of the highlights, culture and history of Québec City on a walking tour with Marie! Take a look at our USA and Canada Tours here.