“KIDS”, I yelled. “Pack your bags, we are moving to Quebec”. Not quite the reaction my kids were expecting when I returned home from my trip through the beautiful province of Quebec. The fact that it is cold, constantly snowing and I don’t speak French didn’t seem to matter to me at that point. All I knew was that I loved that province.
Quebec is truly a haven for snowshoers, skiers, outdoor lovers and eco conscious folks. From the breathtaking topography of the towering Laurentians to the European feel of Old Quebec; visitors to the province will delight in a variety of landscapes and outdoor pleasures. Starting a journey from Montreal and travelling to Quebec City allows visitors to travel through the Lanaudiere and Maurice region exploring eco-friendly resorts, Scandinavian inspired Nordic spas and charming towns loaded with character and friendly locals. Ending in Quebec City travelers will have a chance to experience the world famous Carnival while traversing the cobblestone streets of the old city. This journey throughout the beautiful province of Quebec opens visitor’s eyes to exciting new sports, beautiful snowshoe treks, winter festivals and world class dining and accommodations.
From Montreal I headed north towards Le Baluchon, an eco-lodge located on a beautiful property. At first glance the property is stunning and bathed in a blanket of white snow. The expansive landscape dips over hills along winding paths; the silhouette of snowshoers and skiers in the distance. The property is made up of a number of buildings including recently renovated lodges and cozy restaurants. A sleigh ride around the property was necessary to cover the enormous landscape. As the sun was setting in with stunning shades of pink and orange and the sound of the horse hooves clopping on the trail, I could think of nowhere else I would rather be.
Back at the lodge I opted to hike along the trail rather than catch a ride to the building where my room was housed; conveniently in the same building as the Nordic Spa. As I hiked along the trail amongst squirrels, birds and rabbits, I began to understand why this place is truly an oasis that visitors come to year after year. After a long sleigh ride and a hike, I was more than ready to relax my muscles; but once I entered my room I couldn’t decide which would be better. Did I choose the huge jet whirlpool that was my bathtub, the glassed in rainfall shower that was set at the perfect temperature or the outdoor Nordic Spa that promised the utmost of relaxation? The Nordic Spa won my heart and an exceptional dining experience, followed by a wonderful sled dog adventure through the surrounding forests rounded up my short stay at this wonderful oasis.
The charming town of St. Come was next on the list of places to visit on my journey through Quebec and I was fortunate enough to be there at the time of the Saint-Come en Glace; a winter carnival that was created to help the locals embrace the cold harsh conditions. Why live in such a cold wintery climate if you can’t celebrate it? The town is decorated with over 50 ice sculptures along the main street; in front yards of houses, parking lots and at the main carnival site. Truly incredible they ranged from miniature houses complete with rocking chairs on the front porch to giant eagles and hockey rinks complete with players. Along with looking at these fascinating sculptures there are plenty of activities to indulge in; including the most epic ice slide I have ever been on. From performances to music to sleigh rides to kid’s activities, Saint-Come is a wonderful town that is embracing winter and making it fun for both the locals and the visitors.
What is a trip to Quebec without experiencing not just one but two Nordic Spas? I headed to La Source Bains Nordiques for some down time and to truly experience this age old tradition of relaxation. La Source is a place of quiet and peace and while talking is allowed in specific areas; for most parts silence is the rule. This environmentally conscious spa offers visitors a special space that includes numerous hot baths, cold baths, steam room, saunas, a natural pond and a huge variety of relaxation rooms. My favourite part, other than feeling totally and utterly relaxed, was the “dark room”. A pitch black relaxation room in which I couldn’t find my chair to sit down in. I ended up bursting into laughter which immediately caused the entire “silent” room to join me and finally left because I couldn’t stop laughing. If there was a hidden video camera in there; I would sure like to see it. A beautiful lunch area with a roaring fireplace overlooking the grounds sets the perfect stage for a pitcher of sangria and a light lunch. Located only 60 minutes from Montreal this spa is the perfect way to enjoy the wintery wonderland of Quebec.
Onwards to Quebec City I left the relaxation of the Lanaudiere Region behind and headed to the biggest winter event the city has to offer; the Carnaval. But first, a stop to the epic Hotel de Glace; a work of art made entirely of snow and ice. The enormity of the hotel and the detail and creativity that goes into this yearly hotel is a must see for anyone. The location of the Ice Hotel and the theme change from year to year as this hotel melts away in the warm months. In 2015, I had the opportunity to visit and the theme was Space; time frozen from past to future. Fancy spending the night on a block of ice in a room? Or how about getting hitched in the ice chapel? The Hotel de Glace in Quebec City is full of unique opportunities and even if you choose to wimp out and just tour it (like me); you will never see anything else like it in your lifetime.
Back to the main reason why I chose to visit this charming city in the -30 degrees Celsius weather in the dead of winter; the Carnaval. Lucky enough to arrive on opening night, I got the chance to see firsthand the crowning of the queen and experience the outdoor dance party; where the caribou (a local Quebec drink full of liquor) was flowing and the locals were getting down. The next day brought a day full of Carnaval Fun where I proceeded to ice fish, slide down the ice slides, play human foosball, learn about the Plains of Abraham and tour Old Quebec City. This magical winter celebration is truly for all ages; plenty of activities for kids during the day and adult fun in the evenings. The infamous Bonhomme loves to show off his fantastic Ice Palace and take pictures with kids, adults and even grandparents. Getting outside and celebrating winter is so important to the people of Quebec and showing visitors from all over the world how much fun it can be is an important part of this carnaval. I LOVED it.
The province of Quebec surprised me. I knew that it was beautiful and that it was cold but I didn’t realize how much I would fall in love with it. From the ever changing and surprising landscapes to the friendly people to the charming villages and towns to the best winter celebrations I have ever seen; I am ready to pack my bags and call this place home.