Saturday, December 13, 2014

Travel Destination: Québec City!

Almost every year my wife and I try and visit some place outside the continental USA, as budget and time permit.  In the last decade we've been to Ireland (multiple times), Scotland, Iceland, Newfoundland, Jamaica and Puerto Rico (twice). Next on the list will be Québec City in 2015. Why Québec? Here are some reasons.
image from Voyages Universitie site
Old World charm – That phrase "Old World charm" looks and sounds so stupid, but what it means is that Québec is reputed to be the most European of all North American cities. You know, narrow, cobblestone, shop-lined streets; outdoor cafes, and stuff like that.

French culture and language – You can experience a French-speaking region for much less cost than going to France or even the French-Caribbean. Plus, it’s in Canada, where the people are just plain friendlier. The French stereotypes don’t apply to the Québecois, do they?

Cost/Convenience – With one-stopover flights from our local RVA airport to Québec for under $400 round trip, it means no flying out of DC. And, you can easily find rental apartments in the Old Québec/Saint Roch area for less than $400 per week.

Music – It’s always a plus for me if the place we’re going has an oldtime jam or Irish session to check out, and it looks like there is an Irish session at Pub Nelligan’s in the city every Tuesday evening.

Waterside – Although it’s neither an island nor directly situated on an open body of water, the mighty Saint-Lawrence River does run through Québec, which keeps our water-themed trend going. The Saint-Lawrence is fairly wide as it passes through. You can take a ferry across to Lévis, where there is the Parcuors des Anses – a 10 mile paved walking/bike path along the water.
image from Corporate Stays site
Size/Layout – Québec looks like it is small enough and condensed enough to be completely walkable, but still sizable enough to have plenty of pubs/breweries, restaurants, coffee shops, museums and other cultural attractions. I have a feeling that it will be similar to Galway Ireland, Reykjavik Iceland, St. John’s Newfoundland and San Juan Puerto Rico – other cities we have visited and really enjoyed.

Other travel destinations in the running this time were New Orleans, Lunenburg Nova Scotia, the French Antilles (Guadeloupe or Martinique) and Michigan.

New Orleans was a strong contender.  It certainly checks the boxes for cost and convenience, plus culture, cuisine and music.  However, New Orleans might be more fun to visit with friends than as a couple, and Québec has a possible advantage in terms of charm as well as the French-speaking characteristic, which may be an incentive to learn some français before going.

Lunenburg, NS appears to be a lovely small town in Canada, similar to previous favorites like Dingle Ireland and Stromness in Orkney, Scotland.  However, flights to the nearest airport Halifax are a little bit more expensive than to Québec and you'd probably want to rent a car since Lunenburg is about 80 minutes away.  I also didn't see any inexpensive lodging options in Lunenburg other than the campground in the middle of the town; an option I seriously considered. But, if you're going to be in Nova Scotia you might as well try and see the Bay of Fundy and Cape Breton while you're up there, which would involve a ton of driving and more expenses.  We weren't up to the challenge.

The francophone islands in the Caribbean looked enticing until I looked into the airfare.  Unlike Puerto Rico, where you can fly for less than $300, it's almost $800 or more to fly/get to Martinique, Guadeloupe or St. Barts, so that will have to wait.  Plus, I think we're ready for another northern, more urban setting and not some place tropical.

The west coast of Michigan made a pretty strong case for itself as well, with its miles and miles of coastline, parks and cool beach towns along Lake Michigan and the density of breweries.  Grand Rapids alone has something like 25 breweries and Traverse City frequently shows up as one of the best places to live and/or visit.  It's also feasible to drive to MI from VA instead of having to fly.  Somehow, though, the idea of Michigan just doesn't seem foreign enough!

Ireland would actually be at the top of the list once again if flights there weren't so expensive now (I remember getting $440 round-trip tickets less than a decade ago).  Nonetheless, I have no doubts that Québec is the place to go next!

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