While I was home on semester break, my family and I decided to take a vacation together. Last year we went on the memorial cruise, so this year we wanted to do something different, and closer to home. We decided on Québec when we found out that their Winter Carnival or Le Carnaval de Québec coincided with my trip. We knew it was going to be cold five hours farther north, but it is winter, so it was going to be cold at home too! It is one of the oldest cities in North America, and the only fortified city as well. We stayed just outside the walled city, and right off of Grande Allée, one of the cities oldest streets, filled with cafes, restaurants and bars.
In and around the walled city, the architecture takes on a distinctly European look.
Between hearing the French on the streets and the architecture, if you ignored the people walking around posh areas in snow pants (with no ski slope in view) you would swear you were in some Francophone part of Europe.
I particularly loved where the old and new cities met. On the right there is a historic building, in the background a modern high-rise and in between an urban ice skating rink.
After touring around the Old City, we headed about 10 kilometers out of town to check out the Ice Hotel, or Hôtel de Glace. While I wouldn’t want to sleep there, it was amazing. It had almost everything a typical hotel would, including a bar with drinks sold in ice glasses.
Some of the rooms were plain while others were intricately decorated with carved ice bed frames and snow murals on the walls.
Many of the hallways were artistically carved and lit as well.
There was a chapel, complete with an ice alter and pews, and apparently many weddings are held there. It was very lovely, but it would take a special kind of wedding dress as the temperature was about 20°F.
The Winter Carnival was very entertaining. It catered to families and adults. Private outfits had set up booths to advertise their wares, like outdoor winter spas and heated hammocks. There were food stalls selling everything from fried dough to poutine to grilled trout. There was a bar that sold beer and wine as well as hot wine in ice glasses. There were also many fun activities, like tubing, sledding, cross country skiing, and snowshoeing. One night when it was snowing my brother and I participated in a game of human foosball. We won.
There was even a stand that had set up an ice fishing area, with a heavy layer of ice laid over a reservoir stocked with trout. When you exited there was a stand where you could buy a grilled trout or get the one you just caught roasted.
The ice luge
There were also some amazing snow sculptures. It was a competition, and the snow artist had a limited amount of time to complete their sculptures. Many of them worked over the night, and we stopped by to watch for a while. In the morning we went by again to see the finished products. Some were based on fairly large concepts.
While other were abstract.
And some just right out there.
We had a great time in Québec, not just because of the city and the carnival, but because it is so nice to spend time together as a family. Between getting the old house ready to sell, moving to the new house and getting Mom’s new place all settled in, there is usually always something to do at the house (or one of them.) I don’t mind this, and am really glad I was there to help out during at least part of the transition. However when there is always a project to work on, it is hard to get quality family time. Going away to Québec for part of my trip was great. I was able to hang around the house, relax and help out on few projects, but also have some really great time with my family while we did nothing but be a family.