First Impressions: Solo in Old Quebec City
I arrived in Quebec City late at night, and I was quite concerned that getting a taxi and checking into my hotel were going to be a struggle, given my pitiful French. It actually went very well; my taxi driver spoke enough English to get me to where I needed to go, and even have a garbled little conversation in a very random mix of languages.
For some reason, although I know far more French than Spanish, Spanish seems to be my current default, and I have embarrassed myself on several occasions by saying ‘si’ or ‘gracias’ when I really meant ‘oui’ or ‘merci’. People have been very tolerant of my language fumbles, however, and have been very helpful, all around.
Getting into the hotel room was similarly straightforward, and the hotel is nicer than I expected, which is a pleasant surprise. I was randomly upgraded from a shared bathroom to a private bath, which I do really appreciate, as I have been doing a lot of walking, and it is nice to be able to soak in a hot shower, rather than worrying that someone is waiting on me to get out. The location is fantastic, and I am right in the middle of Old Quebec, the historic part of the city.
I have taken a few tours around the city already, from walking tours to a food tour, to a farm product tasting tour on Ile d’Orleans; they have all been quite interesting, and I will be writing more about these in the coming weeks.
My inability to speak French has not been the handicap I had feared, and basically everyone here speaks enough English to get through a transaction. I don’t imagine this holds outside of the Old City, but if you are sticking mostly to popular tourist areas, it seems that just English is sufficient.
Old Quebec City is actually very small, and very walkable, as long as you are good with hills and stairs. There are lots of hills and stairs! There is a lift, called a funicular, from the Lower Town to the square in front of the Chateau Frontenac, but the hills are unavoidable.
I could probably walk across the widest point of the walled city in ten minutes or less. However, there is a lot to see within that small space. Almost every building has a long history, and there are lots of fun little shops and random museums. It seems that a number of shops have little displays explaining the history of their product; I went into a chocolate museum the other day, and also passed a jade museum that I intend to go back and check out.
Quebec City is definitely more expensive than a lot of the destinations I would normally go to, but there are ways to keep the budget a little more reasonable. It is even possible to sample higher-end Quebecois cuisine without breaking the bank! From hotels to restaurants, there are some budget-friendly options around, and I’ll be writing about that, as well.
The Old City has all of the European flair I was hoping for, and really invites wandering around, just to see what you can see. It is very safe and orderly, so I don’t feel concerned about having my camera out and being distracted, even when I am roaming alone in the evening. Of course, basic safety precautions are a given, but I really do not feel like there is much to worry about, here.
I am excited to check out more of the city after my conference this weekend, and to get out of town and check out Montmorency Falls.
Overall, so far, Quebec City has been pricey, but safe, friendly, and fascinating. With its walkable Old Town and easygoing vibe, this is a great place for solo female travelers, or for families looking for an easy trip with the kids. Watch for a lot more articles about Quebec!
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