Québec City and Le Carnaval

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.2014-01-31 14.55.29 

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. 

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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. 

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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.

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Some of the rooms were plain while others were intricately decorated with carved ice bed frames and snow murals on the walls. 

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Many of the hallways were artistically carved and lit as well. 

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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. 

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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. 

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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. 

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The ice luge

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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. 

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While other were abstract. 

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And some just right out there. 

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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.

Back to US Road Trip Adventures!

In the beginning of the summer we did a road trip.  We started off in Texas with a visit with Bülent’s BFF Shawn.  I was able to visit with Shawn again and meet his wife Larinda.  They were great hosts, I had never been to Texas before and they had planned an awesome trip.  We visited in Fort Worth, near their home, then hopped in the truck and started the first leg of the road trip.  We drove to Austin, took a look around and then headed to the Salt Lick BBQ, a little bit out of town.  There was meat, meat and more meat!  It was amazing!

From there we drove to Fredericksburg where we hit up a few wineries and then stayed in an adorable cottage right off the main street.  A former German settlement, the buildings and cuisine have an authentic German flair.  I went running each morning we were there (Not optional: The food was amazing.  Example: Duck Hash with Eggs.  *Duck* Hash!)  It was fun, because running along there was so much to look at and enjoy.  The town had lots of great local wine, since it was close to the wineries.  It also had some really fun kitschy shops where you could buy useless but amusing things.

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For your information the glassware, jam jars with stems, was billed as “Texas Crystal Wine Glasses.”  Clearly all about the class.    There were also quite a few fudge shops.  This is pretty typical in tourist towns, apparently people walking the streets for souvenirs love to court diabetes and heart disease and pack away that delicious mixture of sugar and butter.  There were also some novelty treats.

Chocolate Covered Bacon

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Chocolate Covered Jalapeños

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Chocolate Covered Pickles

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I talked with the teenagers selling the atrocities, and and they insisted people actually bought the “treats” and that they were pretty good.  I pressed them, Really?  They are actually tasty?  The boys said they liked the bacon and jalapeños.  But they remained suspiciously quiet regarding the deliciousness of the chocolate covered pickles.

From there we went to a small winery near Luckenbach, named Sister Creek.

June 2012 116It was a small place and informal.  When we said yes, we would like to see the winery, we we told to just on on through and come back to taste when we were ready.   We had run of the place.  It was like a dream!

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Generally I prefer dry wines, Sister Creek had a lovely Muscat Canneli  that was fairly sweet, almost effervescent and delicious!  We bought a bottle to bring back to NH and another for a hostess gift on the return leg of our road trip.

From there we went down to San Antonio.  We spent a night enjoying the River Walk, and in the morning went to the Alamo.   Then we drove back on up to Fort Worth.   I had never been to Texas before, and Shawn and Larinda went to great lengths to plan a lovely vacation and show us around the state.  From pit BBQ to wineries to Chocolate covered bacon, we had a blast!

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