TAKING MY FIRST TRIP – still within Canada – felt like an enormous leap into both the future and the past.
My carry-on bag, usually always half-packed in anticipation of the wonderful opportunities that so often came my way pre- COVID, had sat ignored and unused for more than 18 months. My passport, always in my purse for weekly hops over the U.S. border that lies just 15 minutes from our home, hadn’t seen the light of day since the declaration of the pandemic.
Planning and packing for that first, wonderful, breath-taking foray back into the world of travel, therefore, felt like returning to a much-loved house that has been boarded up and then reopened. Like racing to discover familiar rooms I’d been missing terribly, I soon rediscovered my love of adventure, of wandering unknown streets, dining in cozy restaurants and being pampered in beautifully appointed hotel rooms.
It was glorious.
And Quebec City – an all-time favourite of mine – was welcoming visitors with gusto. The weather was warm and sunny, perfect for the array of outdoor patios with bright umbrellas that had mushroomed all over the city. We explored our share of them but our double-vaxed status also made us confident enough to dine indoors at some of the finest restaurants in the province. From the elegance of the Chateau Frontenac, overlooking the St. Lawrence River where we dined on delectable salmon, to the trendy Bello
where all things Italian were presented with great style, and Laurie Raphaël where we enjoyed every bite of an eight-course tasting menu and the chic Légende Restaurant where the small plate courses were carefully crafted using only local ingredients – every moment of culinary and physical freedom was delectable. It felt magical to be able to sit inside those beautiful restaurants, seeing diners at other tables (albeit through plexiglass safety dividers) and being served delicious food we hadn’t cooked!
Always before, our Quebec City agenda had seemed too full to really delve fully into the history of this UNESCO heritage site but the joy of eased pandemic bonds made us take the time to explore the fascinating underground ruins of Fort St. Louis and walk the more than 400-year old walls of the old city. One glorious night, we treated ourselves to the elegant Strøm Spa Nordique, wandering from steaming hot tubs, saunas and steam rooms to glacial plunge pools all under a wide, star-lit sky. Our skin tingled not simply from the treatments but from the joy of freedom itself.
Even the travel to and from Quebec City, aboard VIA Rail felt exciting and fresh. Though we had to wear masks in our seats in the business car, we were able to remove them to eat the remarkably good meals that were served on what felt like a nearly constant basis. Even when the masks were in place, they took nothing away from the view we enjoyed of the lush green fields, the small towns, the lakes and the shoreline as we rolled along. It felt as if we were being reintroduced to the landscape of our own country.
If you haven’t yet pulled your suitcase out of the closet, now might be the time. Start slowly with a local foray, but then, as your confidence grows, I hope you’ll spread your wings and fly back into the world of travel that you’ve missed so much. You’ll see it all through more eager eyes and cherish each moment with a grateful heart.
Originally published in Cruise & Travel Lifestyles Winter 2021-22 issue.