For my full gallery of photos, go here.
What does a New England fly fisher do when the rivers and lakes freeze over?
Head south, one might expect. Bonefishing in the Bahamas? Redfishing in the Gulf? Trekking for trout in New Zealand?
These are all excellent and desirable options. In fact, I've heard from various friends this winter who have done each of the above, reporting back with great photos from warmer climes.
But me? No. I had always wanted to go to Carnaval de Quebec, so this year Cheryl and I headed north along the frozen Kennebec River following the historic Arnold Trail in the steps of Benedict Arnold's famously disastrous expedition to Quebec City. Unlike Arnold's force, we had a pleasant trip and crossed the St. Lawrence River after just 5 hours of travel.
Upon arrival, we chose not to put the city under siege, and instead went out on the
town for a frosty good time enjoying the Old World charm and gastronomique delights of this grand city of the North.
We had booked a luxurious room at Hotel Manoir d'Auteuil, an art deco-style boutique hotel owned by a lovely couple, Dan Cross and Linda LaFollette, who we met when our sons played hockey together in prep school. What charming accommodations! Right in the heart of the Old City, just a few blocks from most Winter Carnival venues.
Before leaving home, we had ordered our "Effigies" (cute plastic icons that give you
access to various carnival events) and started planning a long weekend chock full
of activities, from axe-throwing to a thrilling toboggan run. We bought tickets to the Quebec Remparts vs. the Drummondville Voltigeurs, a Quebec Major Junior Hockey game, on Sunday.
Of course there was the usual shopping, visiting spectacular art galleries, gawking at the ice and snow sculptures, wining and dining in the many quaint pubs and restaurants.
We happened to catch Bonhomme, the Carnaval mascot, strolling through the narrow streets of the Quartier Petit Champlain, the oldest city street in North America dating back to 1608, while we sipped Caribou, the local specialty drink - a sweet and tasty fortified wine.
Easily the most sensational event was Odyss Land of Ice, which we almost skipped, but were soooo glad we did not. Odyss is a nighttime light and sound show in the Ice Palace, just a couple blocks from our hotel. The lasers, fog and interactive sound technologies (playing a lighted percussion gizmo with your hands, and throwing balls at a lit-up wall of circles that make different sounds) made for a fantastic - one might say "trippy" - sensory extravaganza!
We actually could have gone fishing- ice fishing, of course. In an igloo, no less. When we wandered into the indoor market down on the waterfront, we noticed a long line of families with kids and couples renting ice-fishing gear and big plastic buckets, then rushing out the back door.
Curious, we followed them to the Village Nordik behind the market on Louise Basin, an enclosed lagoon in the Port of Quebec. There, dozens of families were happily jigging for stocked trout through the ice on the marina's frozen surface.
Fairly odd, for sure, but these families and couples were thrilled to be ice fishing right downtown!
Urban ice fishing wasn't something I had on my bucket list, so we just watched the excitement and moved on to more adventures. This time it was lunch and a half liter of wine at the historic Cafe le St Malo. More wining and dining. And so on.
While enjoying our window seat, we marveled at the cold weather fashion worn by les Quebecois. Hooded parkas with fur trim, rugged warm boots, long scarves wrapped many times around... they sure don't mess around up here. The Great White North isn't so bad if you dress properly.
Anyway, you get the picture. What a delightful, memorable weekend!
If you haven't been to Quebec City for Carnaval - put it on your calendar.
We can't wait to go back to see this beautiful city in its summer dress.
For more photos, go here.