Great Escape: Quebec City
Get a break from the summer heat with the majesty and history of Quebec
By Mike Fleming
Just because we love Atlanta doesn’t mean that we love it in August quite as much, or that we don’t at least deserve to get away from it long enough to regroup and reenergize with Arctic summer breezes. Say salut to Quebec.
The mostly French-speaking Canadian province is home to places like Montreal, of course, but its capitol Quebec City may be even more inviting for gay travelers looking to beat the heat. The friendly locals speak predominantly French, but in tourist areas, gay bars and restaurants, you’ll manage fine with English.
Nestled on the St. Lawrence River, its rich in urban history as old or older than any other city in North America. You can fly directly into Jean Lesage International Airport about 12 miles northwest of downtown, drive in from Montreal in about three hours, or take regulary scheduled trains or buses.
With its narrow cobblestone streets, old city walls, a friendly gay scene, and high-mercury temperatures hovering around 75º in summer, Quebec City has everything you need to recharge while the rest of gay Atlanta steeps in temps at or near the century mark.
Your own two feet and a pair of good walking shoes are all you really need to see sites in Old Quebec, the city’s historic central district surrounding the Vieux-Québec and Place Royale, where you can have a martini on the plaza and watch the people.
Don’t-miss tourist attractions include the singular experiences of the Notre Dame de Victoires Eglise, the oldest continually operating church on the continent, and The Citadel, a still-active military base with centuries of history. You might want to spend a whole day or rainy afternoon at the Musee de la Civilisation, with collections showcasing the region’s indigenous First Nations people.
While in Old Town, don’t miss at least a snack and cocktail at the Hotel Frontenac. Its 1608 Wine and Cheese Bar – so-named to match the founding of the city – includes local selections of the titular wine and cheese.
While you’re fine on foot while in Old Quebec, it’s fun and practical to ride the Old Quebec Funicular to get to other attractions between the upper and lower city. The railway offers breathtaking views as you scoot between fine dining on Rue Saint Louis, shops in the lower town on Rue du Petit Champlain – named after the city’s founder – and in the upper town on Rue Saint Jean.
Once you’ve explored the upper and lower parts of town, a few side trips are absolute musts. A St. Lawrence River Boat Trip down the city’s lifeblood waterway takes about two hours, and you’ll never forget it. On the outskirts of town, Montmorency Falls is a spectacular of the regions gorgeous natural waterfalls.
After days like these, you’ll be tempted to crash, but save room for some night moves at a plethora of gay and mixed bars. We recommend Le Drague Cabaret for dancing, entertainment and just plain terrace-sitting, Bar St. Matthews for a neighborhood pub feel. Adventurous types may like ForHom, a gay men’s social club and bar next to the gay Sauna Bloc.
Gay and gay-inclusive accommodations like Le 253 Bed and Breakfast, Coureur Des Bois, and La Maison du Cocher are definitely available, but we highly recommend getting an Airbnb in one of Quebec City’s many centuries old lofts.
The Canadian dollar translates well to American one, so it’s a great time to travel. In fact, a Quebec City getaway couldn’t be better timed right now, because the gay Fête Arc-en-ciel, aka Rainbow Festival, takes place in September. Think Pride, with a Canadian twist.
Visit the local guidesgq.com, gay travel guides frommers.com, gaycities.com, or your favorite gay Atlanta travel agent.