As you may have noticed by many of my destinations, that I’m not really an “all inclusive” kind of girl – not that there’s any thing wrong with those type of trips, I mean who doesn’t want to lay on a beach or by a pool and enjoy a cocktail (or 3)? But I just find that as I get older and travel to more destinations, my vacation wish list has done a complete 360 from my early 20’s. Now what gets me excited about a trip is the experience – what can I see, do, experience? what are the people like, how is the food, etc.? More reasons may be that not only can I not “rock” a bikini like I used to, I also now have a low tolerance for the extreme heat and humidity. That brings me to Quebec City…
Baby Bug and I have had the pleasure of landing here on two different occasions – both in the winter. The first time was several years ago to visit the world famous Winter Carnival and then once again just a couple of years ago, just before Christmas. Now I realize I am definitely in the minority but I like winter, as one of my favourite princess’s would say “the cold never bothered me anyway” so a cold winter destination just made sense – and Quebec City did not disappoint.
Our first trip/The Winter Carnival and the Ice Hotel:
One may question my sanity when taking a five year old on an almost 15 hour train ride, but you must remember Baby Bug is not your ordinary bug – like Mama Bug, she was born to travel. You must also remember, this was pre “phone attached to your hand 24/7 “days, however a portable dvd player and colouring books did help to pass the time.
Much to my delight, stepping off the train was like stepping into France a hundred years ago. And as we got to our hotel, Chateau Frontenac, it got even better. (tip: The Frontenac was half the price during the week, rather than the weekend). I was in love with this beautiful walled city of quaint shops and cafes.
As a child growing up in Ontario, the Winter Carnival (Carnaval de Quebec) was something we learned about in school and with a daughter just beginning french immersion in school, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to see what it was all about. The carnival is approx. a two week festival held in Quebec City every year (the very end of January and the first week or two of February). There were so many fun things to do: ice slides, tubing, sleigh rides, canoe racing, ice skating, snow sculptures, fabulous night parades and more. All of the activities were located at sites throughout the city. Passes allowed you access to most events and were sold for around $15, but you could buy them in advance online for a bit of a discount.
While we in Quebec City, we had heard about the Ice Hotel. We learned that it was about a 35 minute drive from our hotel but since we didn’t want to rent a car we looked into our options (concierge desk is usually very helpful – remember this was 10 years ago, so yes there was internet to do my own research,but it wasn’t like it is today). There was a tour company that offered a bus pick up from our hotel. The cost was approx. $40 and included transportation there and back and a short guided tour. My memory isn’t the greatest but I’m sure kids were either free or at a discount? This was a little pricy but we decided to go for it since we were already there and it was something unique to see. One thing to keep in mind was that we arrived late afternoon so had some daylight but once it got dark it was very hard to see. We really did enjoy seeing all of the different room categories, as well as the chapel and the bar. It was totally amazing that this place was made from ice, and although I like the cold – I don’t think I could stay there overnight (o.k. maybe with several shots from the ice bar to warm up, but still not sure…?)
the outside of the ice hotel
the four poster ice bed in one of the bedrooms
they even had a little church/chapel area
Our second trip – 2 weeks till Christmas!
As you will see from many of my posts, I’m one of those “Christmas” people. I love everything about the holidays so I often find myself booking trips leading up to the holidays, (for some reason it seems like some of the magic is lost after Christmas?), and actually there’s a small travel window after American Thanksgiving but before the kids are out for Christmas Break, that there are some great travel deals. So with it being “non peak” air miles season I was able to get two flights from Windsor to Quebec City for a very good deal (no 12 hours on a train this time!) I especially love the decorations and you must admit, even the “snow haters” don’t mind a little of the white stuff around the holidays.
This was a short trip but fate timed it perfectly for travel – we arrived a few hours before a minor blizzard and departed a day after the clean up was complete, so no travel delays for us!
Here are some highlights of this magical Christmas trip:
I’m a sucker for horse and carriage rides and this one was fabulous! Listening to the “clip clop” of the horseshoes hitting the cobblestoned streets while enjoying the Christmas lights was definitely a highlight of the trip.
We were so excited to find a traditional Christmas market. I had been obsessed for years with Germany’s Christmas markets (and this was before I was able to visit some in Germany and Switzerland, but more on that later). These little wooden booths sell all kinds of things ranging from crafts, tree ornaments, clothing, to hot apple strudel – yum! And now that I’ve been to some authentic European Christmas markets – these were really very comparable.
“DON’T WANNA MISS A THINGS”
- Poutine from Ashton’s – this is the real deal, and Quebec City is rumoured to be where this delightful dish started from. We were in desperate need of trying some authentic poutine and what better way to find “the best” than to ask some locals. They were right, nothing fancy but always a line up – and sooo good!!
- Beavertails – mmmm, if you don’t know what a beavertail is you are missing out, think warm flattened cinnamon sugar donut. These are excellent plain but also come with a variety of toppings
- Petit Champlain- this area is not to be missed, but easily could be. It is located in the lower level of the city and is one of the most charming places we have visited. It is full of quaint shops and restaurants and it can be reached by funicular right in front of The Chateau Frontenac, (if you want to save the funicular fare, keep walking and there is a staircase, but we enjoyed the scenic ride).