When thinking of what to write for this month’s post, I was quite stumped. I figured there would be far too many articles floating around everywhere on the web regarding the holidays. So how about what happens after? How to spend the remaining winter months? Personally, I will be spending the months of January through April in Québec City, which happens to be one of my favorite places in the province and even the North American east coast. Although beautiful in the summer months, the winter activities in the area are hard to beat.
For starters, after the holidays have come and gone, once we’ve all started to perhaps grow weary of trudging through the slush everyday, the splendid winter carnival begins. Le Carnaval de Québec this year starts January 27th and remains for two weeks until the 12th of February. The carnival, though widely known in general for its variety of activities, is quite possibly most renowned for the ice sculpture exhibit and competition, which is remarkably extraordinary and goes on for the entire two weeks. Throughout the carnival, there are an endless amount of activities, ranging from snow slides and rafting, a 400-foot ice slide on the Plains of Abraham (where if your imagination is as active as mine, you can think of yourself as on the starting line of an Olympic bobsled race), or horse-drawn sleigh rides (Disney-driven images abound in your head). We do our northern heritage proud, when during the opening weekend, there is a six kilometer dogsled race around the old city. For those who think it looks like fun, throughout the two weeks you can also partake in your own mini-dogsled ride.
The second weekend (that of February 3rd through the 5th), there is a rather spectacular canoe race across the St. Lawrence River (for those who have never been to Québec City, the river is rather wide at this point – and early February means ice floats abound). My personal favorite, though not as impressive, is a giant table-soccer (otherwise known as foosball) game. You have to get together a nine-person team (although knowing the vibe of the carnival, a nine-person team is easily made last-minute), where you attach yourself to wooden rods on the giant board, and you can only move sideways…. but you all have to agree on which direction! Guaranteed fun, both for the players, and perhaps more so for the spectators.
Nighttime is as fun during carnival as daytime (though maybe more for the grownups). Not only is there a superb parade through the entire Old City, but there are also numerous arctic spas and saunas spread throughout the Plains of Abraham. Be it before or after the sauna, you can partake in the outdoor dance party every Friday and Saturday night (where live folk bands play until the wee hours). Bar hopping is also made infinitely more interesting during the carnival weeks: though not officially a part of the carnival, many bars on the main strip (La Grande Allée as it is called) relocate their bars outside on their *sparsely* heated terraces. The general lack of artificial heat is necessary, as the outdoor bars are constructed out of pure ice – giant blocks of ice are carved into bars, tables, and seats – numb-butt-cheek-syndrome is easily combated with the numerous glasses of warm caribou (an absurdly sweet maple-based alcohol).
And when that’s all over, come back mid-March for the Red Bull Crashed Ice World Championships, a delicious combination of speedskating, boardercross, and downhill skiing called ice-cross downhill – think: over 100,000 people packed into Old Québec watching 4-athlete heats (the finals have whittled down the initial 15,000 athletes to a few dozen) skate down (I say down since the starting chute is at an approximately 40 degree angle) an obstacle-laden ice-course at over 60 kilometers per hour…
Whoever said Canada was boring….?!
Images from: www.redbullusa.com and www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com