A sense of Europe meets the splendour of nature
Talk to Quebecers about Canada and they’ll tell you it’s a place they might go some day. In fact the people of this vast and beautiful province consider themselves very much Quebecois first and Canadian a distant second. French settlers, arriving some 400 years ago, firmly established themselves in what became known as New France. Despite challenges from British and later American forces, the French legacy was the one that stuck, seeping deep into language and lifestyle throughout the province. Indigenous culture preceded long long before of course and the First Nations are increasingly involved in sharing their traditions, creating a wonderfully unique Québec heritage of which locals are fiercely proud.
Don’t underestimate the expanse of Québec. It is huge, stretching from the northern states of the US to well into the Arctic Circle, and is more than six times the size of the UK. A wild and wonderful adventure-land of rivers and lakes (10% of the land is covered by freshwater), mountains, villages and cosmopolitan city life. Much depends on how long you have to play, but most visitors base their Quebecan odyssey in the south of the province. It’s here, between the buzzing centres of Montreal and Québec City, along the majestic St Lawrence River that the majority of the population live. Take a low season road trip from the unspoiled beauty of the Pontiac region of the Outaouais, through national parks and the fascinating Eastern Townships, and onto the Gaspé Peninsula where the St Lawrence becomes sea-like mass before emptying its 1200km bulk into the chilly North Atlantic.
In whichever of the four seasons you enjoy Québec you’ll find extraordinary landscapes, wildlife, adrenaline kicks and an abundance of local products, from cheese to wine to maple syrup. The most popular times are summer which brings warm weather, and winter with its festivals and snow-sports. As a low season traveller however you have the opportunity to really make this magnificent place your own. Our preferred times to visit are early spring (mid-March until the end of May) or late fall (November) before the real cold of winter sets in. In these periods revel in the tranquil cocooning aspect, travelling with no hurry to get anywhere, indulging in luxury spas, taking relaxing walks in the beautiful outdoors. Admire the power of nature as the seasons transition, something which endlessly fascinates French Canadians, who seem to talk about the weather even more than the British.
Remember low season weather can be a surprise, ranging from sub-zero Celsius to mid-teens. It can be as warm as a summer day or as cold as winter and that’s all part of the adventure! Pack for all eventualities and be prepared for change. A misty spring morning walk through pine forests can transform into a clear and sunny afternoon. In autumn, a floor of multi-coloured leaves underfoot, you can climb a mountain and gaze for miles across a stunning landscape of rivers and lakes; or from your cosy cottage, witness the tremendous power of the St Lawrence as it bursts its banks.
The 3 million strong economic and commercial hub of Montreal is an attraction all of its own, but for low season romance, we really recommend checking out the far smaller provincial capital Québec City. The UNESCO World Heritage old town feels ultra European, with horse-drawn carriages, French-style architecture and cobbled streets. There’s a sense of another world here and peak season sees the centre packed with tourists strolling the charming upper and lower towns, and the fortifications which make it North America’s only walled city north of Mexico. That’s why we love the low season when we can explore the historic sites and browse boutiques and galleries in relative peace. In addition there are a whole host of artistic, cultural and gastronomic activities to escape into when the weather dictates, like the marvellous Huron-Wendat Museum where you can learn about indigenous heritage and make bannock over a fire. On the other hand, the Plains of Abraham, the city’s sprawling 103 hectare battlefield-park, offers a year round space to get outdoors, with military remnants and tremendous views.
The Great Outdoors
Quebecois are very much used to extremes of weather so don’t shy away from year round adrenaline fueled fun in one of the 30 national parks or 15 nature reserves. With the right clothing, hiking is wonderful whatever the weather. In fact we absolutely love being in Québec to embrace the locals’ excitement at renewal when the first buds of spring emerge from a blanket of snow. And donning crampons to take a hike in autumn’s first snow fall is one of the year’s most iconic moments. A favourite trek close to Québec City takes you to Montmorency Falls, a wonderfully powerful waterfall, taller than Niagara and in full flow in low season. Further afield, national parks remain accessible year round with many adapting the available activities for the low season, with top choices including quad biking in Appalachian Regional Park, or spending the night in a wolf cabin in Omega Park, where wolves can wander right up the huge windows
Inspired? Give our friendly partners at First Class Holidays a call to find out more about the wonderful low season months in Quebec as well as hearing about some absolutely amazing deals! Call now for friendly advice on: 0161 888 5630 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org