Travel A to Z – Q

I’ve been enjoying my trip down travel memory lane this month. It’s been an opportunity to think back about places I haven’t thought about for some time, like these two Q cities.

Quebec City, Canada: My memories of Quebec City are fuzzy now, as it’s been more than 20 years since I was there, but I have a memory of a beautiful city,

The tall building that looks like a castle is actually a hotel – well beyond my price range when I was visiting.

I was staying in the youth hostel, which helpfully offered bilingual (French / English) walking tours of the city. Our tour was led by a young woman who gave descriptions and history in English and in French as we walked around the town. At one point, one of the tour members (a woman from the US), pointed out that as the French speaking people on the tour seemed to understand English, why not just do the whole tour in English to save time? Our guide seemed to bite back her first response (I can only guess what she might have wanted to say) and consulted with the French speakers who nodded to having the tour only in English. (Although I noticed that every time we stopped for a photo opportunity, the guide would gravitate to the French speakers and talk with them, so still giving them the French tour they’d signed up for). I was amazed that someone could have so little cultural awareness as to run roughshod over someone else’s language like that. She probably didn’t understand that Canada is bilingual and in Quebec, the order of those languages is French (long pause), English.

I always thought one day I would go back when I had a bigger budget and I would stay in that castle hotel. But it’s been more than 20 years now and I haven’t been back to Canada.

Queenstown, New Zealand – New Zealand’s adrenaline capital. Husband-then-New-Boyfriend and I were there early in our relationship, and we got bit by the adrenaline bug.

It started with the jet boat ride along the Shotover River, which was good fun, as we hurtled along at high speed, close to the overhanging cliffs and spinning around in circles. But once you have one adrenaline high, you have to chase it with another.

So we took the next step up. White water rafting – which was good fun, and not nearly as scary as the drive down the narrow dirt road on the side of a cliff to the start of the rapids. We got sprayed with water and bounced about by rapids and we loved it. But we wanted more. So we signed up for white water sledging.

If you’re unfamiliar with this activity, let me describe it.

You’re put into a wetsuit, given flippers and a kickboard, and tossed into the rapids of a river. Not physically tossed, but the tumbling rapids of the river do grab you and toss you about pretty much as soon as you kick off from the riverbank. The worst of the rapids were the first kilometre of the swim, with the river flattening out but still fast moving for the remaining 4km. I was tumbled upside down, I got caught in circling eddies at the side of the river, I got water up my nose from being smacked in the face by the churning water, but I loved it! Some kind of fierce anger and determination to beat this river kicked in and every time the river smacked me about, I got angry and thought, “You are not going to beat me,” and I kicked back harder. At the end of the swim, I got out and felt amazing that I had done this, and in fact joined the hardy band of swimmers who got into the van and were driven back up the river to have a second go. Husband-then-new-boyfriend meanwhile was fuming. He hated the whole experience of ‘controlled drowning’.

When we got dropped back in town, I wanted to cheer him up, so I suggested we go parapenting.

We were lucky to get the last bookings of the day and took the Skyline (cable car) up the mountain where some men with parachutes were waiting for us. To distinguish this para-activity from all the other para- type activities you can do, what this involves is being buckled into a harness with an expert; facing the edge of the mountain; waiting for the parachute to fill up with air; and then running as fast as you can when the expert says “Go!”

I will point out that your brain goes into a little mini meltdown as you start running off the edge of a very high mountain. “You can stop running now,” the expert said and I realised we were flying by parachute, high about Lake Wakitipu and the Remarkables, as the sun went down at the end of the day. I would love to say that I settled back in my ‘seat’ and relaxed and enjoyed the view but I was too busy gripping the ropes tight enough to get cramps in my hands and trying to remember to breathe and not panic. This was a very different kind of adrenaline and not a positive one for me. Meanwhile Husband-then-new-boyfriend was relishing the experience and it more than made up for his near-death-by-drowning earlier.

Quito, Ecuador: Q is another difficult letter to find destinations with but let’s go with Quito as a potential destination. It’s the jumping off point for visits to the Galapagos so if I want to go to the Galapagos, I will one day have to go to Quito. The world’s highest capital, surrounded by volcanoes, not entirely promising; however the botanic gardens are full of orchids and hummingbirds. Who doesn’t love a hummingbird? I’m sold.

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