When I was a teenager living near Toronto, I would dream of visiting Québec City.
During our Canadian winters, French teachers would speak about the Carnival de Québec: the hot ciders, toboggan rides, ice rinks, shows and, of course, the mascot, Bonhomme (de neige – he was a gigantic snowman). Of course, there was also the carved ice castle that functioned as a hotel for the right price.
Long story short, Québec City was 8 hours away from me back then and it wasn’t practical for two full-time working parents to make the trek. They were discouraged by the drive, the language barrier, and the cost. As fate would have it, I ended up moving to Canada’s capital city: Ottawa.
I think some part of my mind still thought it was a far drive because I still haven’t gone to the Carnival de Québec, but I definitely will next year. The strenuous 8-hour drive was now merely 4 hours and, even with the whiteouts that frequent the area, it was still a relaxing drive. I’d booked an Airbnb for the weekend, and T. and I were excited for the adventure.
We were excited up until I pulled up to the location of our Airbnb and got out of the car. The wind stopped us in our tracks. Our breath crystallized onto our faces. I quickly checked my phone. It was -31°C or -23.8°F, for my American friends.
It was bloody cold.
We entered the house and were immediately greeted by the host and his friends. He was in his 20s – 30s, bilingual and welcomed us with genuine warmth. We joked around with his friends a little in both languages and then were shown to our room. After a putting on more layers of clothing, we headed out and were ready to explore all that this gorgeous city had to offer.
For a settlement built-up in the 1600s, Québec City has certainly maintained its beauty and charm. The Petit Champlain district’s cobblestone streets are lined with bistros and boutiques, the colonial core consists of stone building and narrow streets and the usual tourist attractions – Vieux-Québec, Place Royale, Château Frontenac Hotel and the Citadelle of Québec – are absolutely stunning. But we found something thrilling a short distance from Château Frontenac.
A massive hill, built for toboggans.
After paying a small fee to the individuals running the attraction, T. and I lugged this massive toboggan up a hill and a worker set it up for us. We quickly learned that this was one of the oldest attractions in town, and we’d be zooming down the hill at speeds of 70 km/h.
We rushed down the Toboggan Slide Au 1884, struggling to keep our hats on. The gorgeous view we’d been enjoying at the top of the hill quickly melted into a blur of icy winds, white and blue until we collided with the sandy track, forcing us to slow down. My heart’s never beat so fast in my life.
When we got too cold, we hid away and ate dinner at Les Trois Garçons, a local bistro. I have to say that their pulled pork burgers are to-die for. It’s one of the best burgers I’ve ever had and I’m sad that I’ll have to drive 4 hours just to grab another one.
After a thrilling evening of watching Netflix and eating maple cotton candy, the next day started off with packing up the car. We cleaned up our rented space, left the key on the counter and bid our little hideaway adieu. I wanted to visit one last place before heading out.
Le Croquembouche, the infamous baked goods and pastry shop.
While the workers themselves weren’t the greatest people, the food and beverages were wonderful. It was one of the best brunches I’d ever had, to be honest, and I couldn’t recommend the food more. Enjoy the Canadian Shield on your way out!
Next stop: Lexington, KY