A Nation Within A Nation
Born and raised in Canada, Elliott has always been told of the unique culture that Québec brings to Canada. Living in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, however, has meant that Montreal is almost 3000 km away by car and an expensive flight from Elliott’s home city of Regina. After parting ways in Thailand six months prior, we decided to meet in Montreal as a “halfway” point between Elliott in Regina and Lisa, who was living in Portugal at the time, to finally see what the province of Québec is all about. Our trip included:
The majority of our time in Québec was not particularly adventurous or off the beaten path of the average visitor, despite perhaps the fact that we decided to visit at the same time as an “arctic vortex” of bone chilling temperatures descended on the province. Nonetheless, after only two weeks in Québec we have now begun to understand the unique contributions the province makes to the rest of Canada.
Our Québec holiday started with the city of Montréal. There are plenty of things to do and see in Montréal that are covered elsewhere in much greater and better detail. We certainly enjoyed some of the city’s classic offerings- a classic poutine at La Banquise, a smoked meat sandwich and cherry coke at Schwarz’s, and a stroll around old Montréal.
Our local anglophone friend and guide Jacob also showed us McGill’s Redpath Museum and one of his favourite places in town, Juliette Et Chocolat, where you can get an entire giant glass full of rich melted chocolate. Be warned- it’s not for everybody.
From Montréal we headed out for the real highlight of our trip- snowshoeing in the Pimbina sector of Mont Tremblant “national” park! We rented ourselves a little car (Elliott had ample reward points at his disposal with a car rental company he used regularly for work. It cost us very little in the end.) and headed into a blizzard, passing multiple-car pileups on the way, yet safe and sound as the only car heading our direction in the other lane. Tim Hortons coffee in hand, the drive to the park was slow but luckily uneventful.
We arrived at the park office just in time to have a chat with the employee there, who was incredibly helpful in instructing us on where to find the trail and our cabin and what to do in the case of an emergency. We strapped on our borrowed snowshoes (compliments of Jacob) and headed off into a magnificent winter wonderland!
The trail was recently used and didn’t require hard trail breaking. There was a larger shelter to stop along the way for lunch, and after a few hours of walking we arrived at our own private little cabin, La Lariou!
The cabin was stocked with plenty of wood and we were able to make a toasty fire that soon warmed the entire cabin in no time. It was so warm, in fact, that Elliott couldn’t resist to jump into the snow- naked. Lisa considered it, but eventually decided that it was a little too insane for her yet-to-acclimatize European sensitivities.
That first night we made a hearty meal of canned beans and Kraft Dinner (mac n’ cheese) to enjoy cozily by candlelight and the gentle crackling of the fireplace. Through a small portable speaker the pining voices of classic love songs serenaded the rest of our evening, and it was truly one of the most romantic and memorable experiences we have ever had together.
We didn’t see another soul for our entire time in Mont-Tremblant, although recent tracks in the snow indicated that somebody had snuck by at some point during the day. Plentiful and recent moose tracks alongside the trail had us hoping that we would also see one of those residents of the park, but unfortunately we seemed to have missed them on our wanderings by as little as about half an hour in some places.
After a tasty warm breakfast the next morning and an arduous hike out on an apparently unused trail that required breaking, we were forced to leave Mont-Tremblant behind, though our memories of that incredible experience will linger and last forever.
Next stop: one of Canada’s oldest cities, Québec City!
Québec City is a wonderful place. It’s old town, founded in 1608, certainly looks the part. It is a beautiful place with many offerings (Elliott recommends a tour of the Parliament Building, but he’s into that sort of thing), and as with Montréal, we’ll leave other more informed sources to give you all the info you ever needed on visiting the city.
Our experience in Québec City was made extra special through the generosity of friends Amelie and Joe, who hosted us in their lovely little house throughout our stay in the city. When we weren’t hanging around with them, our activities centered mostly around eating poutine and joining Bonhomme in enjoying the festivities of Québec’s famous winter carnival! There’s something for everybody, really: frozen maple syrup, beaver tails, dog sleds, a ferris wheel, tobogganing, ice fishing, hot tubs (actually), you name it!
If you’ve ever thought about visiting the province of Québec, don’t be afraid to do it in the winter. We had a fantastic time, and you will too!