Quebec City … Days of Snow and the Cold

After our nice time in Montréal, we were headed to Quebec City…

The drive was totally ok and the only thing worth mentioning was the fact that the temparatures dropped and dropped as we were getting closer. by the time we arrived, we were down to 4 degree fahrenheit, the lowest I had witnessed so far in this car.

our hotel was pretty nice and central. a Best Western… nice size room, fridge and awesome tv.

after we arrived, we actually ordered food from room-service and can only say that it was very good. Creme Brulée for my beauty… ;-)

The next day, we went out to find a walmart to get some swim wear because the hotel had a nice pool, but we had left our swim stuff at Sabines house … so smart.  but no big deal…. went to walmart and got some cheap ones.

you do notice the french influence here as we saw more european products. especially ferrero and Überraschungs eggs and all their good stuff. we had to get some chocolate for sure.

after that we drove to Montmorency. ;-) that is actually the town in the suburbs of Paris were Anne-Sophies grand parents used to live. We went to see the Chute of Montmorency, a waterfall going into the Saint Lawrence river which is actually higher than the Niagara Falls.

everything was covered with snow in that town and we had to park at a restaurant instead of the parking place of the park as that was closed.

we thought they might have closed that park but saw some girl walking into the park anyway. literally climbing over piles of snow and just walking through it then. so, we just followed her. ;-)

we got to the bridge right above the waterfall which we had already seen on many pictures. most of the water was frozen… looked pretty cool. most of the waterfall and a little area below were not though. as you can see on the picture.

we then saw a plattform below and walked down there and took some pictures. the girl that “led” us into the park was down there eventually and we started talking after her taking a picture for us and we for her. comes to find out she was german, too…  :-)

Vanessa does a work and travel program in canada and was also in quebec for a few days. she came up here via bus and we offered to take her back to the city which she accepted. we then tried to find the street below the falls to take some pictures from there. but no luck. we drove around Montmorency without getting anywhere. Our next stop was the Hotel de Glace, the Ice Hotel in Quebec City.

Vanessa was fine with going there with us … we did not kidnap her. ;-)

The Ice Hotel we actually had discussed a few days earlier already as I was open to spend a night there. but doing that is not really cheap. actually the prices started at $199 per person per night. that means, for a simple room for both of us, we would have to pay $400+ after taxes. and that wasn´t even available more at this short notice, just a suite, which would have been almost $600 for both of us after taxes. My minister of finance did absolutely NOT want to spend that much money for one night. My point was that this was a chance in a lifetime and we´ll probably never be back to do it again. but ok, we just went there and took the tour of the hotel without spending the night.

so, back to the hotel …  it is built every year now out of snow and ice. Due to the warm days in November in December, they were behind schedule finishing the builidings. the day we came to visit, they actually had their grand opening as they just finished the hotel.

A band did their sound check, a lot of extra people and stuff going on during our tour but we could see more rooms than people thad had visited days or weeks prior.

the hotel really looked pretty cool. all structures were built out of snow and ice and were self-supportive or however you would call it. there was no wooden or metal structure beneath the snow. and ice sculptures everywhere. below you can see some pictures of the hotel, some rooms and suites and the social areas they had in there. inside the hotel it was constantly -5 degree celsius (23 degree F) and it never got warmer or colder, they assured us.

The suites actually had a fire place in the room but it was only for atmosphere and not heat. all the heat is directed outside rightaway … surprisingly. ;-) each suite also had a specific theme to it and carvings in the wall accordingly. you could even find some benches and tables out of ice in some rooms. the beds had some fur on it and wood under the mattress. to spend a night there, the hotel provides you a special sleeping bag from North Face made to be keep you warm even at -40 degree C / F …

The rooms and suites basically just were a room to sleep in. your luggage and stuff was kept in a building next to the hotel … also the rest- and bathrooms were all in that building. there is no water or plumbing inside the ice hotel. so, if you had to “go” at night, you had to run over to that building in the super cold.

the hotel is cleared from visitors at 7 or 8pm every night and the guests can get settled in the building next it while the staff is preparing their rooms for the night. (putting the sleeping bags in the rooms, as we did not see them there… and turning on the lights and fires etc.) then they recommend that the guests go into the hot tubs or sauna to heat up your body temparature. those are actually located OUTSIDE… so sitting in hot tub and looking into the sky. must be nice.

they also had a chapel, bar and disco where you could socialize and take some drinks in the evening. the drinks would also be served in ice block with a round cylinder drilled into. you might be able to see it if you click on our picture and it opens full size as AnSo is holding one.

it was really cool to see everything but we were glad to get back inside a heated building. it really had cooled down a lot that day.

we then drove back to Quebec City and dropped off Vanessa at her hostel.

it really was nice talking to her and hearing some of her experiences she made over here, either on short trips to the US or about living and working in Canada. we hope she has a wonderful time for the rest of her time over here.

back in the hotel, I gave Michel´s (colleague and friend at Syniverse) sister a call. Michel grew up in Quebec and his parents and his sister live there. she was very friendly and fun to talk to. We would meet up the next day and she would show us down town quebec city.

I sent Michel a text and told him that we´ll meet his sister and told him that I hoped she was not as crazy as he is. lol. he said crazier. ;-)

after a relaxed start into the next day, Liliane picked us up at the hotel and off we went. I must admit, the resemblance is def there.

Quebec City is one of the oldest cities on the north american continent. the fortified city walls around the core of Old Quebec are the only remaining north of Mexico and are a World Heritage Site by Unesco since `85.

Liliane drove up to the Old Quebec and walked around with us. very fast paced I must say. ;-) but thats the method to stay warm up there she said. we also walked past the school which Michel and his Dad actually attended. I heard a lot of stories about you, my friend. you were a trouble maker back then already. some things just never change ! looool !!! ;-)

we then walked to the world famous Chateau Frontenac which is a huge hotel and the most significant landmark in quebec city. Liliane told us that it is the most photographed hotel in the world. It really looks very beautiful. and you have a nice view across the St Lawrence River to Levis. but I must say, that the River looked really wide here … and it was mostly frozen. I thought it looked wide and huge in Montreal already but in Quebec City even more.

we then walked down from the Chateau to Petit-Champlain … a lot of small little stores next to eachother. it was so refreshing … very european and old … lots of cobblestone roads etc.

And it seems that every canadian city has its own Notre-Dame church. :-)

we then walked back to the car and drove towards the citadelle de Quebec. we could not drive where we wanted to as it was blocked for traffic or because of winter. I am not sure. but next to the Grande Allée was the battlefields Park where a lot of people were doing winter sports. just plain running, snow shoeing, skating or cross-country skiing. pretty active people up there.

we then went to a restaurant and ate and talked a lot with Liliane… she is so much fun. always laughing and happy, we definitely had a good time with her.

after dinner, she brought us back in the hotel and offered to see more the next day if we wanted.

Thank you, Liliane, for your time. we are really thankful and appreciate it !!

it was actually good that it did not get that late this evening as we had a lot planned for the next day. so we just jumped into the hot tub, warmed us up and went to bed early. 

Sunday morning we had to get up really early for us, around 7 am. I must admit that during our trip, we never got up before 9:30 or 10 am. (or later sometimes…)

nevertheless, we got up and ate breakfast down in the hotel restaurant. the first and only time, as it is over early. ;-) we ate as much as we could and ordered our car from the valet service. we had about 40 minutes to get to Mount Sainte-Anne. 

it was freaking super cold !!! the coldest we had felt so far. for the first time the car showed below 0 degree. -2  degree to be exact. the car started no problem. it is a good Volvo built for winter… heated seats, heated side mirrors and all that stuff.  but WAIT … something was not working !! our radio … CRAP!! but not because of the radio and lack of music or so … but the radio is connected to the GPS. so we had no directions where to go and we were already running late. they would not wait for us. 

exaclty what we needed early in the morning when we are in a rush. ok, just took off and guessed which direction… then decided to activate 3G and to pay data roaming (only positive aspect is about that is that we are generating records for Syniverse to process…)  … so we used the iphone to navigate in the right direction until the radio / GPS unit was willing to work again. nothing going on on these roads in the morning. lets say, we were speeding a little to make time up. no interstate but something like a highway with some traffic lights towards Mount Saint-Anne. 120 kph where 90 was the max. 

we did make up some time and arrived at a few minutes to 9am at our destination. 

we were going dog sledding !!!! 

AWESOME !!! AnSo was soooo excited to do this!! 

as we had a reservation, we had to be on time. finally got a parking spot and kinda ran towards the house. but we weren´t the last people to arrive. good. 

so, we were wearing our ski clothes and were ready to go. luckily for us, they gave you some fur filled boots for the trip. it was supposed to take about two hours. we got ready, signed our waivers and were really excited. the dogs were already outside in groups of six in front of a sled and waiting for us. a lot of huskies (my student Sensei Michele would have loved it here !!!). probably like 50 or 60. i think we might have been 10 sleds or so. 

we met a german up there who was with some swiss people … they all lived in canada. 

the bigger group got the instructions in french, and we and two other girls got the instructions in english then. the girls were a mom and daughter from what it looked like. the instructions were as following: one person driving and one person sitting on the sled. the passenger can help the driver if needed. but the driver is in full control and always has to work with his lead dog of the pack. 

to get going, you push the sled so that the leash is a little loose and yell the name of your lead dog,first we had Bacon and next to him Saki, (in french) “Allez” which means go … so, you would say “Bacon, Allez …” 

and the dogs start running. now you just have to hold on. :-)

 to slow down, you have to step on the brake of the sled and yell “Bacon, dou …. ” dou is short for doucement which means slow…  but this is only to go slower. to come to a full stop, you had to yell “Bacon, wooooooooohhhhhh …. ” and jump with both feet on the brake until the sled is stopped. you have to stay on the brake at least with one foot until you really want to get going again. 

that was stop and go now. going into corners was not that easy … the driver had to lean to that side we wanted to turn in… was not that easy for my wife with me sitting in the sled. ;-)  

also, you were tasked to watch your dogs very closely. especially if they would fighting or so and the leash would be were it shouldn´t. like wrapped around their legs or so. the legs of the huskies could break if the driver did not stop and untangle them… so, they would fight sometimes if one was not acting right. that was actually very true und you could really see it. some dogs were acting up and the others were correcting him. not always the lead dog but others too. very strict pack order!

you had to get them focussed again sometimes as they began sniffing on the side while running … or trying to pee or … in our case on the first trip in the morning … a few actually tried and did poop while running … looked awkward as they can´t do it like horses and just let it drop … so, one always slowed the pack down.

a quick “Hey” … and “allez … allez” got them on track mostly. 

the drivers also use some hand signals to communicate with eachother. an arm in extended straight from the shoulder with the hand pointing up in a 90 degree angle (fist towards sky) symbolized, we are going to stop and had to be repeated from driver to driver so that the last sled knew what was going on. 

also a closed fist held to the top of your head from the instructor was asking if you are ok… answering it the same way signalized that you are. a lot of things to remember just after a few minutes. but we are Karate-Ka´s … just a new Kata for us. ;-)

so, Anso wanted to be the driver. I was fine with that and sat down in the sled. we were assigned in the sled behind our instructor and the girls behind us with the last sled. our three sleds were the last of the whole convoi. we were told right away that the dog in the sled behind us was not running with his usual pack and some dogs did not like him in that pack. so, when we stopped, the sled in front of you was tasked to hold the lead dog of the following sled. especially we had to hold Norco, the lead dog of the sled behind us. no problem… we love doggies and were comfortable doing that. 

Here you can see some of the dogs.

I am pretty sure we had Équipe Diego but with Norco instead of Diego as the lead dog.

we finally left then… it was shortly after 9:20 am or so … blue sky and sunshine but cold temparatures, heating up in the sun. absolutely beautiful scenery on the bottom of Mount Saint-Anne.

after leaving and mastering the first corner, we heard that the sled behind us did not get that corner and went straight and kinda parallel to us. then they crashed due to the sled falling on the side. as we were not too far from the base, some of the people working there came to help the girls up and on track. the big group was already gone but our instructor was waiting for them and we as well. the girls seemed to have some problems with the group of dogs she heard over radio and asked Anso and me if we would mind switching sleds and taking the other sled and dogs, led by Norco and Yuma. we said, no problem… we would manage that alright. the instructor wanted the girls closer to her to guide them better.

after some delays and switching sleds, we were on the “road” again… but you could feel and see rightaway that the harmony we saw and felt in the pack before was not here. Bacon and his pack were close and loved to run together and listened perfectly to eachother. 

Norco and the pack he was supposed to lead, did not harmonize that much actually which made us a little slower than we travelled before. and you had to yell a lot more “hey..” etc. to get them focussed again as they slowed down and wanted to sniff around and mark their territory. 

when the track went slightly uphill, we were told to jump off the sled and run with it to make it easier for the dogs. ultimately, a full workout for the driver. paying attention to dogs, yelling commands, leaning to the side to get the corners and then run and push the sled uphill was warming you up VERY quick… especially for Anso with fat me in the sled. so, we switched at some point then. she was winded !! and I got my fair share of that too…  cool experience and demanding. 

basically we figured it out pretty good and were constantly engaging and motivating our dogs, as our instructor could hear us yelling a few times, ok … all the time. we might got carried away a little. the girls in front of us were not that lucky and struggled a few times, especially with the corners and the sled getting stuck. that slowed us down a few times but was ok. 

we had a great time !! at some point AnSo and I were both standing on the back of the sled and were riding and running with the dogs. uphill, through the forest and downhill left and right was soooo much fun !!! 

we were running a little late as we got back to the base but that wasn´t a big deal. after we got back, we got time to pet our huskies and take all the pictures we wanted. some were very lovy-dovy, others were just laying and tried to sleep, and others were trying to kiss us. soooo sweet. Anso did not want to leave at all. 

Our instructor had to send us back to the house so that the dogs get some rest before the next group. 

we then got some hot chocolate and some bread to warm up. But WHAT an experience. both of us would have loved to go again rightaway!!

after relaxing for a short while, we walked over to the ski area, rented some ski for Anso, and snowboard for me and got a ski pass for half the day and went snowboarding the rest of the afternoon. 

MAN !!! I don´t even remember the last time we were on ski / snowboard… Maybe Maggo or Ramon know. might have been the “Perfect Sunday” trip we did with Eva and Susi. with the HR3 afterparty ? and that might be three or four years ago. bottomline, I had to start very slowly again … 

Anso was skiing since she was 6 years or so. it was def still in her muscle memory … but snowboarding for me isn´t saved there all the way yet. that meant up the hill all the way and we took the easiest routes down. 

both of us needed some time to get back into it. 

after a few times just skiing up in the upper third of the mountain, I felt comfortable to go down all the way… 

that worked out fine and I never fell seriously bad. actually just fell two or three times.

after going up again, I claimed we could take the medium routes down then. was fine at first but then we got to a part which was very steep. so steep that I kinda shit my pants and could not go down boarding normally. thats the moment when you get humble again and see the height and the mountain as it is. I just slided down most of it on one edge of the board .. which was good because half of this part was just ICE… 

Man was I uncomfortable ! but Anso did not feel any different. and on ski´s you have to make the turns and can´t just slide down easily.  we avoided that route then and went up one more time to go down the easy route again. 

towards 3:30 pm we brought our stuff back and drove back to hotel. jumped in the hot tub again, and ordered food up the room. 

this was one or actually THE most exciting day for both of us so far ! 

it was so much fun to drive a dog sled around … the dogs are awesome. and skiing / boarding again after such a long time was just AWESOME ! 

that was the last day in Quebec and Canada as well!

we had to get up early and head towards Boston the next day. early because I had tickets to the Boston Celtics – Orlando Magic game at 7pm. the drive would be around 7 hours. 

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