Taking a train rather than flying short distances can be wonderful-- first, no long security lines and extended waits in airports; second, you get a lot more space and room to breathe; third, wi-fi lets me post and blog while traveling; and fourth:
You just don't get views like this while flying.
Quebec City is enchanting from the moment you pull into the train station to the moment you leave. It's as if someone just scooped up some of the prettier old cities in Europe and just dropped it in snowy North America. I've been here before, back one summer when I was twelve years old, and fell in love with it way back then. I remember wanting to move in right away, wishing to have lunch at one of the cute little sidewalk cafes and watch the buskers all day long (instead, we had sandwiches in the car while parked near the Plains of Abraham. Talk about killing a place's fairytale charm.) I said I'd be back, so it was a wonderful to be there, speeding in a taxi to my hotel. The rest of the afternoon was spent getting situated, picking up my effigie (a little plastic doll of Bonhomme, the carnaval mascot, that acts as your ticket to all Carnaval events-- you tie him to your jacket in a visible location), and getting a basic idea of where everything was located. My hotel was just alongside the Plains of Abraham, a short walk to the two main carnaval sites and right along the parade route. Not as stunning as my Ottawa hotel, but nice.
Although everyone was lamenting the lack of snow, I still got a kick of seeing parents pulling their children on sleds through the carnaval grounds alongside the snow sculpture competition. These were just as amazing as the Ottawa ice sculptures (and just as gravity-defying)
A bit of dancing at the Telus video pavillion, a wander by the snow hot tub site, and I hurried back towards the hotel in search of dinner. A Quebecois coworker had suggested poutine at Chez Ashton, so I hurried into the crowded restaurant and ordered a small poutine.
Poutine: Take fries. Put cheese curds on top. Cover in gravy. Try not to have a heart attack.
I think I finished about a third of that thing- it was good, but there's only so much fried food that I can take in one sitting. Sorry, Quebec, but your most famous food makes me ill if I eat more than two forkfuls!
Then, it was back to the festival grounds and over to the ice castle, where the (outdoor) dance party was waiting to begin (and burn off the poutine!) It's hard to stay cold when you're keeping up with some crazy aerobic warmup followed by country-western style dancing.
(Of course, some people definitely didn't have any trouble keeping warm, thanks to their caribou-filled walking sticks. And I'm not talking about caribou the animal! Caribou is apparently a pretty potent liquor and fairly easy to obtain at either the SAC ice bars or other shops. I don't drink, so I had to content myself with lots of layers and dancing like mad!)
Following the dance party was a concert with fireworks at another site-- apparently, the singer was very well known to the Quebecois and possibly other Canadians, but I didn't know who she was... not my style, but the fireworks were fantastic and the energy contagious.
Worn out and finally getting cold, I headed back to my hotel. Since I couldn't find a place that would definitely be showing the Olympics, I just made myself cozy with my knitting in my hotel room and watched the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics. It was pretty awesome to be in the host country watching the CBC/CTV coverage, especially for an olympic geek like me!
(I'm trying something new with the pictures... click on the thumbnail for the larger versions)