06 Mach 2015
Spend the winter in Quebec!
Winter in Quebec is colourful and cheerful. This is due to the carnival, which has lit up the city every February for over 60 years, a distraction from the arctic temperatures.
And take full advantage of the European charm of the city, surrounded by accessible conserved countryside.
The Quebec Carnival marks the best time of winter to visit this historically charged capital.
So, organise your visit in time for the next carnival!
It is THE carnival that launches carnival season across the world! In Quebec, every year for the past sixty years, locals slip into warm parkas, tuques and mittens for two weeks of celebrations in the snow. Every year, the Carnival of Quebec, the most historic of North American cities, attracts tens of thousands of wonderers/curious eyes who dream of meeting Bomhomme, the carnival’s mascot. And this is a snowman (dressed in convincing synthetic costume!) is present at every event throughout the fortnight. He benefits from an aura and protection worthy of a head of state! Nobody knows who hides beneath the suit every year. And if you pounce on him for a warming cuddle, his burly security team keep close watch so that his secret identity remains in tact and continue to set aglow the eyes of those children who fully believe that he is a real snowman! With the carnival in full swing at the start of February, this is the perfect chance to visit Quebec. This usually tranquil city, when compared with its frenetic rival/neighbour Montreal, comes alive in winter. An ice and snow covered theme park materialises. Witness the spectacular canoe races on the frozen Saint-Laurent. And parades set the streets alight after dark. So, make a note in your diary and reserve the first fortnight of February 2016, to ensure that you attend the next Carnival. If you want to find somewhere to stay in town, it is essential that you book in advance, as more and more important visitors flock to the Quebec Carnival every year, even in -25 degrees!
“My country is not a country, it is winter…” sang Quebec-born Gilles Vigneault. In order to embrace winter in Quebec, there is no better way than to sleep in a room…made of ice! We’re not talking about a night in an igloo but in fact a hotel entirely constructed of ice. This genuine prodigy is unique to the whole of the American continent, because only in Quebec with its freezing days that could uphold this structure over several months. Every year, 500 tonnes of ice and 30 000 tonnes of snow are required in the building of this 3000m2 hotel, which comprises of forty bedrooms. This bar may hold 400 people and there is even a sauna, in which you can take a hot bath to warm yourself up before spending a night in -8 degrees. Classic bedrooms are simply equipped with an ice bed in which guests sleep warmly in cosy sleeping bags provided. But the suites vie in creativity seeing as the ice-sculptures have been adapted to the taste of the decorator. Some are futuristic, others medieval or even poetic. As it is impossible to select a suite, these are randomly allotted. But as for the Quebec carnival, it is best to reserve rooms well in advance, as the success of the Quebec Ice Hotel is such that there is more demand than there is space! And if you find that you can’t book a room at all, you can still visit the hotel during the day, as hundreds of thousands of onlookers have done every year for the past fifteen. The Quebec Ice Hotel is open every year from the start of January until the end of March.
A wonderful alternative to hotels in the heart of Quebec itself is to stay in the small village of Wendake, a ten-minute journey from the city. And the descendants of the Huron Wendat, the first inhabitants of Quebec, manage this zone. But this is a long way from the often-deprived Indian reserves that you find across America. Here, these ‘first nation’ members have admirably taken destiny into their own hands. They have built a magnificent hotel-museum. In the hotel, guests are housed in superb bedrooms decorated with traditional paintings and beaver pelt cushions. There is also a sophisticated outdoor spa and the restaurant, La Traite, offers cuisine inspired by northern forest herbs, grain and meat traditionally consumed by the Hurons Wendat. This is without a doubt one of the best restaurants in Quebec, both original and sumptuous. With the museum adjoined to the hotel, this offers visitors a chance to understand the lives of these natives, before the French arrived in Canada. A spectacular traditional ‘longhouse’ has even been built inside. Here, you can spend a night as the locals do, on a wooden bed base around a log fire. This is a unique opportunity to embrace the daily existence of this neat little village, which bursts with treasures. In the small church, go and observe the statue of Kateri Tekakwitha, nicknamed the ‘lily of the Mohawks’ and the first American-Indian Saint to the canonised by Benedict XVI in 2012. And finally, don’t miss the Gros Louis boutique, which makes what many consider to be the best snowshoes in Canada…
Quebec may be a metropolis, but it is surrounded by easy-to-access countryside, offering quite a change of scene. So, make the most of your trip by exploring the Monts-Valin National Park. Here, it is easy enough to organise a snowshoeing excursion in the Vallée des Fantômes, renowned for its frozen snow-covered trees, which offer a mysterious aspect. The panorama is idyllic in winter. Then, make sure that you initiate yourselves in the art of ice-fishing in the village that establishes itself in the Bay of Ha!Ha! every winter! Here, you can rent log cabins poised upon the frozen waters and comfortably catch fish from the must sumptuous shoals. And lastly, try to guide a team of sled dogs to the top of the Saguenay fjord. It is easy and exhilarating. In terms of accommodation, the Cap au Leste outfitters are ideal. These wooden homes are ultra cosy, scattered around the preserved area. And the dining experience is of the highest quality. Here, you can taste game and trappers dishes. From your balcony, survey the frozen Saint-Laurent, in the middle of which an icy breeze maps out a narrow channel. It is poetic, and larger than life itself. Much like winter in Quebec!