A Bonhomme Good Time
We arrived in Quebec City at about 9AM yesterday and flagged a taxi to deliver us to our hotel: the Hotel Sainte-Anne, right in the heart of Vieux Québec or old Quebec.
On the taxi ride into the city, our driver told us that today’s main event for the carnival was the dog sled races through the middle of the town. Sure enough we saw a large track of fresh snow about 12 inches deep laid down on the middle of one of the main streets for the dogs to run on.
As we were arriving so early, our room wasn’t ready for us so we dropped off our bags at the hotel and went out to explore the city.
As Barb and I had packed well for cold weather, we armed ourselves with the long scarves, toques, and thick gloves that we had and it made for a comfortable time walking along the streets. The weather has been about -5 degrees C and while this is cold by our Vancouver standards we have been told repeatedly that it is about 10-15 degrees warmer than normal for this time of year.
All of my research of the Quebec Winter Carnival that I did before our departure led me to believe that there are about a million visitors that come to the carnival. As such, I was somewhat disappointed to see very few people on the streets as we did our first walkabout through Quebec City that morning. It was only later that it occurred to me that it was 10AM on a Saturday and the vast majority of people were probably not even out of their hotels yet. It would only take a few hours to prove how true this was.
The first thing that Barb and I notice was how never before have we seen so much of a European flavour in a city in Canada as we’ve seen so far in Quebec City. It’s not only the architecture of the building that are so European (especially here in the old town) but it’s the fashions that are available in the stores and the food in the restaurants all remind of us our many trips to Europe.
This is definitely a city that we’re going to enjoy.
The first order of business that we needed to take care of was to get some breakfast (I’m sorry, petite dejeuner) and found a fabulous spot almost next door to the Ste-Anne called the Auberge du Trésor. We had a hearty breakfast of eggs, potatoes and some delicious toasted fresh bread and freshly made jam. Certainly a perfect breakfast to jump start our energy levels to get us through the day.
After breakfast, we made our way over to Place Desjardins which is one of the major spots of the winter carnival – mostly having a lot of the children’s activities.
Sidebar: While walking throughout the town, we couldn’t help but notice how many women are wearing full length fur coats here. In Vancouver it wouldn’t be practical purely from a weather perspective and personally I had thought that fur coats were a bit passé but clearly not here in Quebec City. In the first day alone we counted no fewer that about 10 women wearing full length fur coats. We also came across about 2-3 stores which specialized in fur coats any accessories. Obviously a market is here for these coats. If you happen to have a full length fur coat gathering dust in your closet, come to Quebec City as here seems to be the place to wear them.
But I digress. I was going to say that around the area of Place Desjardins there were of course tons of children – many of whom were being pulled along on some kind of sled by their willing parents. Most of the kids looked like that kid on the movie A Christmas Story where they were so bundled up that if they fell over they probably wouldn’t be able to get up again.
Without exception, all of the kids seemed to be having a great time going down the hill on inner tubes or taking part in the dozens of other outdoor activities in this area of the carnival. All of the kids were sporting red rosy cheeks from the cold weather.
While we were walking along the streets we passed by a small outdoor skating rink (also something that we would never see in Vancouver). I told Barb that this reminded me about how I used to play hockey outdoors when I was young in similar rinks. Barb asked if we got cold while doing so and I told her that our feet would be numb with the biting cold and that it would be excruciating removing the skates once we got home with near hypothermia.
Ah, good times.
Shopping and Art
As today is Sunday, we woke up to the sounds of the church bells of the church next across the street from our hotel. No matter where we have travelled in the world, Barb and I cannot ever get enough of the sounds of church bells. On a side note, our most memorable church bell experience is hearing them on New Year’s eve in Germany while staying with our friends Anette and Frank in 2001.
We took a stroll this morning from our hotel down the stairs to the lower town called Quartier Petite Champlain. It was here that in 1608, Samuel de Champlain started to build the first establishment in New France. Today, this area is filled with interesting shops, restaurants and galleries. If you happen to visit this area of Quebec City, be prepared to take plenty of pictures.
Barb and I finished our day outside today with a fabulous meal at a restaurant called Café de la Paix. We both enjoyed a succulent duck a l’orange and was accompanied by the most delicious orange-based sauce. If it weren’t for the biting cold on the walk home it would have made for a much longer stroll along the streets but as it was, we couldn’t have gotten back to our hotel fast enough.
With only half of our four days in Quebec City completed, we still have much to see and do before we move onto the second phase of our trip on Wednesday morning.