A travel journal
to Quebec City by Ben the Grate
Quote: Quebec City is a great place to visit, any time of year. But few Americans are aware that Winter Carnaval presents a slightly more sophistocated (but every bit as naughty!) an experience as Mardi Gras...just a bit colder...
Walking is pretty much the only way to get around Quebec City, it's so small. You can walk to ALL of Carnaval's major attractions save one: The Ice Hotel. The past two years the Ice Hotel has been built outside town above the Montmorency Falls, and you must take the bus to get there. This is a worthwhile excursion whether the icehotel is built there or not. Buses are cheap and easy to use for this excursion, ask directions at the hostel.
Hotel | "HI Auberge de Jeunesse"
It's huge, with plenty of room options, both dorm and private. Rooms are simply, as in all hostels, but quite functional. Restrooms are shared, but not communal, and they are always spotless.
The kitchen is the true gem here. It's HUGE! The hostel used to have a cafeteria, so the kitchen is actually an industrial kitchen, complete with all the huge pots, pans, and gadgets that you'd expect from a restaurant kitchen.
What this means is: there's enough room and dishes to go around, but it ALSO means that, with a little organization, you can make COMMUNAL MEALS where everyone participates and eats! See the photos at the bottom for a prime example.
The hostel coordinates activities year round, especially during Carnaval, and it makes a great way to get to know people. Go on their pub crawls and Snow Rafting trips. Phoebe is the event coordinator there, and she's a DOLL!
There is a communal room downstairs that is open to the dining room. They also have a pool table room, vending machines, meeting rooms, and a warm-up room with fireplace for when you come home all icy and chilled to the bone. There are two internet access stations in the main lobby.
The hostel has ice skates and sleds that you can borrow, too!
Rates are as follows:
DORMS - (3 to 10 beds per room)
$18 ($11US) per person, HI member
PRIVATE ROOMS - (2 single beds or 1 double)
$46 ($28US) per room, HI member
Non-member rates are $4 higher, and they take each $4 that you pay and add it towards the $25 membership fee, so if you stay long enough, you leave a member.
Reservations are a MUST at this hostel. If they are booked up, they may offer 50 beds on standby each morning at 9am, ask them for details.
SLEEPING BAGS ARE NOT PERMITTED at this hostel. They provide all the linens you need.
The hostel is located at the corner of Ste Ursule and Ste Anne just inside the city walls. If you enter the walls via Grande Allee (also St. Louis, the main entrance near the Carnaval grounds), walk past the first street (Rue Auteuil) and take a left on the next, Rue Ste Ursule. The hostel will be 2 blocks down on the right between Ste Anne and Ste Dauphine.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on March 1, 2002
Auberge Internationale de Qubec-Hostelling Quebec
19 RUE SAINTE-URSULE
Quebec City, Quebec
DELICIOUS and EXPENSIVE!
By far, your best option is to walk down the hill from the hostel to Rue Ste Jean, hang a left, and leave the city walls. All down this street are cheap cafes, including some good Greek, but if you keep going, there will be a well-stocked grocery store on your right. The hostel's kitchen is so huge and they have like twelve refrigerators, so you've got no excuse!
But you simply MUST try POUTINE while you're here in Quebec. The Quebecois invented it, and it sounds horrible: French fries and rubbery white cheese curds smothered in brown gravy. YUK, eh?
THINK AGAIN! Poutine is WONDERFUL! You can usually get a big plate of it for under $4 at fast food joints, and it's an entire meal itself. You've got protein from the cheese, carbs from the fries, and you're good to go!
Otherwise, if you're really wanting to dine, you'll drop at least $20 per person, before wine!
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on March 1, 2002
Attraction | "Winter Carnaval"
That's Canadians for you... Any excuse to drink!
Winter Carnaval has been celebrated in Quebec for more than a century. Each year for 17 days in early February more than 1 MILLION people descend upon the city to take part in the revelry! (So make your reservations early!)
It's important to buy an "effigy" as soon as you arrive. You can get them in every store or from street vendors. The "effigy" which changes each year is a small rubber image of Bonhomme (no one really know what he is, probably just a big friendly snowman). They're usually about $6, and not only do they make great souveniers, they get you free stuff on different days.
There's no way I can tell you everything that goes on. They don't even list everything on their website. Following are a few highlights:
THE CANOE RACE. This is the most famous event at Carnaval, where brave men in primitive canoes plunge into the icy St. Lawrence River in a race to the other side. They must leap into icebergs and portage their canoes to the other side, often falling into the frigid waters. It's really exciting.
INTERNATIONAL SNOW SCULPTURE CONTEST. Teams from countries all over the world compete and you can watch while they carve for several days. Some pictures below.
SNOW ACTIVITIES. From Snow Rafting to sledding to ice skating to ice climbing, it's all here, and either cheap, or FREE with your effigy.
ICE CASTLE. Each year, right outside the city walls at Grand Allee, they build a huge ice palace. This thing is GORGEOUS! And after dark at 30 minute intervals, a sound and light show occurs. This ain't no cheesy show, either. Each time I see it, it TAKES MY BREATH AWAY with fire breathing dragons, laser images projected on curtains of falling water, THE WORKS!
CARIBOU. This devilish mixture of whiskey and wine served HOT inside a hollowed out cane is responsible for the drunken street revelries that take place on weekend nights. Many a young man has stripped naked and gone "swimming in the snow" from the effects of this fluid. BEWARE!
NIGHT PARADES. These usually happen on weekends, when there are huge lighted floats and Bonhomme appears and does his little dance.
THE SLIDE. Each year the Chateau Frontenac (that giant castle at the highest point in city) puts up an ice slide on the Dufferin Terrace. Some days it's free with your effigy to plummet down the old slide. Scary!
These are just a few of the many things that go on. Your best resource will be the hostel, but you can check their website at:
Carnaval de Québec
Dufferin Ave near Grande-Allée East
Quebec, Quebec G1A 1A4
+1 877 266 5687 (Tou
A few miles northeast of town, the Montmorency River thunders over a waterfall twice as high as Niagara.
In winter, the spray coming off this waterfall freezes instantly into tiny particles of ice, which collect into an ever-growing mountain that has been called "The Sugarloaf" for more than a century.
By Carnaval time, the Sugarloaf has usually reached a height of about 75 feet.
That's 75 feet of solid ice.
For the adventurous, this poses numerous recreational possibilities, none of them safe. If you desire to risk your neck, there is a 30-story wooden staircase the descends to the valley floor at the base of the falls. Descending this staircase is a hazard in-and-of itself, as it is usually frozen over, and it will be signed with a "DO NOT ENTER" sign.
Supposing you can't read and have made it down this staircase alive, you can trudge through the deep snow across the frozen riverbed to the Sugarloaf, thinking "How on EARTH can I climb a 75 foot mountain of ice with no equipment???"
Think again! Because the mountain is made of tiny jagged particles of ice, you can walk up it with little effort, but place a sled or snowdisc on it and you'll slide down the vertical side faster than you ever knew a human body could travel without mechanical support.
You'll plummet down the Sugarloaf at an ungodly speed and then whiz out over the frozen (you hope) river.
I've never broken at bones at The Sugarloaf, but it's a miracle that I haven't. I've gotten bruises from head to toe, though. And the frozen spray from the waterfall will coat your hair and clothing with 2 inches of solid ice within about 30 minutes, so be careful.
You can take the bus out to Montmorency Falls for about $6 roundtrip. The hostel can give you the appropriate bus numbers, and it takes about an hour each way.
GO DURING THE WEEK to avoid crowds and ice climbers on the waterfall.
Sledding the Sugarloaf
Quebec City, Quebec
To get there, take the main exit through the walls at St. Louis/Grand Allee and walk up Grand Allee a couple of blocks. You'll hear the club on your right.
600 Grande-Allée St East
Quebec, Quebec G1R 2K5
+1 418 522 0393
Attraction | "The Club with No Name"
The dancefloor is small, but there were all types of people dancing there, and the music was GREAT! Best of all, it's only 2 blocks uphill to the hostel!
Just walk down to Rue Ste Jean where Rue Ste Ursule meets it and you'll hear the upstairs club. Coat check is a buck.
Club with No Name
Rue Ste Ursule and Rue Ste Jean
Quebec City, Quebec
Attraction | "Pub Ste Patrick"
It's located just left off Rue Ste Jean a few blocks downhill from the hostel, and the staff can give you directions.
They have several rooms, but I always sit in "The Dungeon," a dark stony room with a low ceiling and a blazing fireplace.
One time I asked to sit there with my friends and they said, "Sorry, there is a private party."
I was a bit toasty so I said, "Well, ask them if we can join!"
They asked the lady who was celebrating her 40th birthday if the kids could join and she welcomed us in to her party. We bought her and her guests a round of drinks, and we all ended up singing the night away. In fact, after her guests had gone home she was still at the pub singing telling stories with us!
Pub Saint Patrick
45 Rue Couillard off Rue Ste Jean
Quebec City, Quebec
Attraction | "Le Ballon Rouge (gay club)"
Le Ballon Rouge
811 Rue Ste Jean
Quebec City, Quebec
Ben the Grate