Solo Travel Destinations, New Places to Travel Alone, Part 4 Quebec City, Canada
As a “Solo Trekker”, I am constantly looking for new destinations that work well when traveling alone. After 5 trips to Quebec City (officially “Quebec”), it has become one of my favorites. From the US East Coast, it is a quick, affordable flight. Other than on holidays, prices are very competitive for both 5 star hotels and quaint bed and breakfasts. In addition, winter trips offer an array of outdoor sports from dog sledding to skiing and ice skating or even a stay at the Ice Hotel.
Quebec City, one of the few remaining walled cities, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. When entering the Gate of St. Jean, you immediately step back into the 18th century.
Although older North American cities exist, such as, St. Augustine, Santa Fe and Jamestown, Quebec has uniquely continued to be the site of major historic events well into the 20th century. Following its 16th century origin as a fort founded by Jacques Cartier, in 1608 Samuel de Champlain established a permanent settlement on the St. Lawrence Seaway. Today tourists can still visit the Plains of Abraham, the site of one of the most famous battles between the French and British. During the American Revolution, new skirmishes began from the South later causing the Quebecois to build the still functioning Citadelle for protection.
In the 20th century, Canada and the US came together as staunch allies during World War II. Chateau Frontenac, now a key tourist attraction and top hotel, was the venue for a critical follow-up meeting between Churchill and Roosevelt prior to the D-Day invasion.
Beyond the Museum of Fine Arts and Museum of Civilization, the Place Royale and the multiple historic sites, the coffee shops and bistros have the feel of the French countryside. This is reinforced by a stroll through the large enclosed market offering baked goods, groceries and gift items. Shops range from a year-round Christmas boutique to tee shirt shops with ubiquitous moose caricatures to fine antique and art galleries. Exploring the Upper and Lower Towns is easy via tram/funicular for those who forego the daunting staircase between the two.
Of my multiple visits to Quebec, two stand out. The first was at Christmas. Right on cue, when I arrived, the snow began to fall. It formed a backdrop for ice skaters on the bank overlooking the St. Lawrence against a panoply of Christmas trees decorated with bright, white lights. Christmas Eve Day choristers in peacock blue velvet with gold trim wandered through the Old Town singing carols. Jugglers, performers and street musicians made their way through the narrow streets all day as well. After a festive dinner in the Chateau Frontenac dining room, I joined both the French and English-speaking Christmas services for a completely bi-lingual celebration.
Following the holidays, Quebec provided great outdoor options for those who don’t mind cold (really cold) weather. With my skis I headed out to the intermediate ski slope about 45 minutes away by minivan or bus. I was in luck as there was just enough snow to ski but no blizzards or total whiteouts.
A second visit was planned around dog sledding. With visions of the Alaskan Iditarod, I headed out to the starting point. Fellow tourists from children to grandparents were raring to go as were an array of howling sled dogs, each opting for the chance to go for a run. As a solo traveler, I was paired with the group leader. As a result, my only required skill was to hang on and not fall off en route. Our wilderness day ended with hot chocolate indoors.
Looking back on those specific trips and my repeated forays into Quebec City, I strongly recommend it as a top destination for solo travelers since:
1. For history buffs, it combines a step back in time but with all modern conveniences available.
2. It is easily accessible via Toronto or Montreal and still affordable for those traveling alone.
3. The hotels and bed and breakfasts as well the numerous bistros and more formal restaurants are well-priced.
4. For winter sports enthusiasts, the range of options is virtually unlimited.
5. During the remainder of the year, the fall foliage, spring gardens and summer hiking trails are big draws.