OK, I’m back. Where were we? Right, my former page Quebec City.
We were going to Les Secrets Nordiques in the town of Beaupré. This area is covered with snow for 8 months each year. And dog sledding season runs til May. It is a popular activity, and given a limited number of dogs available, booking at least a week in advance is necessary.
Now meet my Siberian Husky team, led by Hamac.
The arts of dog sledding (mushing or inukshuk) is quite interesting. There are 5-6 dogs per sled, each with different role. The lead dog is in the front row on the right. How do they choose a leader? The smartest one, of course. Dogs show their intelligence levels since they’re puppies. You can’t train them to be intelligent. It’s something you have to be born with. The other dog in the front row does not have much important role and could be a trainee dog.
The second most important role is the puller dogs in the back row, right in front of the sled. The pair has to be the physically strongest dogs in the team. And the one(s) in the middle row is (are) the most amicable. As the bridge between the front and the back row, he/she has to get along with all the teammates.
Beautiful scenery in the forest
Since the only orders you can give are verbal, you have to learn basic mushing lingo. And you have to be able to connect and bond with the lead dog in order to communicate effectively. ‘Gee’ for turning right. ‘Whoa’ for stop. And since this is French Canada, you use ‘Aller’ for go. So ‘Aller Hamac!’ And if they do well, we should let them know so by shouting anything (e.g. ‘Good boy, Hamac!’) in a high-pitch tone. Dogs interpret high pitches as compliments and low pitches as frustrations.
In the forest, we had to stop twice for the dogs to rest for about 5 minutes each. During the break, we were encouraged to hug and cuddle our dogs to let them know that they did a great job and that they were loved.
It was a pretty fun, though a tad expensive, once-in-a-lifetime experience. But I don’t think I would want to do it again. I’m not sure if this is considered animal cruelty. They treat the dogs well and give them love and everything. And I read somewhere that it’s their nature. Dog owners claim that they just love pulling sleds and running in the wild. But I don’t know. It’s probably a gray area.
Back to Quebec City
On the way back to Quebec: gigantic slide right in the city center. The city was filled with winter wonderland atmosphere. During our stay at the Hilton, the hotel was flooded with professional-looking snowboarders, skiers, and other winter athletes carrying all the gears in and out of the hotel. We later found out that they were real professionals. We bumped into some of them in the elevator and saw their badges. These guys were Canadian Winter Olympics Team!
The next morning, we strolled the Old City again via rue St-Jean. And we saw a cafe called ‘Paillard’ which reminds me of Au Bon Pain. It says ‘voted the best croissant in Quebec City’. In Quebec, you simply cannot find a bad croissant anyway. So to be voted the best, it must tell something. And it does. Not to be missed!
There was another restaurant opposite Paillard that we wanted to try: Casse-Crêpe Breton. We walked past this place the night before, and it was jam-packed with tourists. This place is also recommended by Fodor’s. So it must be good, right? Well, the salad was poor. The crepes were ok and cheap (by the city’s standard). BUT the attitude! What was that all about?!? I know that in general, French hospitality, if any, is nothing to write home about. But the staff was the rudest team I’ve seen in all my globe-trotting experience. If you want a cheap place to have food in Quebec and don’t mind being treated poorly, this is probably the place to go. But otherwise, please avoid.
Then we went to Morrin Center which was a former prison. Unfortunately, since it’s the low season, they only offer tours during the weekend. Thus, we couldn’t see the underground cells. But that’s alright. I’ve seen too many prisons during the European trip already.
At least we could sneak in and peek at the library inside.
We walked towards the Lower Town again. It seemed they had managed to clear all the snow from the footpath now.
Musée de la civilisation
The entrance ticket is steep @ $17. But it’s free on Tuesday. So if you want to learn about the history of New France (Quebec), time your schedule to visit here on Tuesday. It has some cool interactive stuff, especially if you have kids. But for adults, it might be a little boring. My husband just kept complaining how expensive the ticket was :P
Hotel de Glace – The Ice Hotel
Hotel de Glace is one of a few ice hotels in the world, and it is THE largest with over 40 rooms, each with a different theme. I had always wanted to go and spend the night there. But since the hotel is open only from Jan-Mar each year, it gets booked up pretty quickly. There was no room available during our stay, so we only went there as visitors which proved to be better. We timed to arrive the hotel around 4 pm and stayed until dark, so that we could see the place both in daylight and at night time.
The slide was great fun for adults and children alike.
There was a display of a traditional Arctic way of life. An Inuit was grilling meat, and we got to taste it. There are two types of igloos: a winter igloo made with snow and a summer igloo usually made with caribou or seal/walrus skin. (Sounds a bit scary.) This one is so small!
I don’t think this display tent was made with animal skin, though.
This is my favorite area, the Ice Chapel. It was not only beautiful, but also very peaceful. Later that evening, they had a wedding rehearsal. It must be so romantic, unique and memorable to wed there. Hmmmmm…
Overnight guests can enjoy hot tubs under the stars at the Arctic Spas.
It costs $400++ for two people per night to stay in the most basic, smallest room here. Ouch! That’s a lot. And there is absolutely NOTHING else in the room. Not even a closet or toilet. (There are lockers and shared bathrooms to use in the main building.) Overnight guests can check-in at 8pm and have to leave by 8am. And this is one of the larger, more expensive rooms, you know. We were so glad that it was full and we couldn’t book a room there. It would have been a waste of money. Entrance tickets for the tour only cost $17. So I recommend everyone to just come visit and not stay overnight.
Each room has a different theme, created by different team of contestants. This room won first prize. The theme is ‘Haute Couture’.
After going through every single room in the hotel, it’s time to ‘chill’ out at Pinnacle – The Ice Bar.
These ice mugs are slippery. So be careful. I almost dropped it :P. And you need a pair of waterproof gloves to hold it. When you’re done, take your mug to get a refill. It’s much cheaper than to buy a new glass. (I can see here that Porsche is a sponsor.) I wanted to bring the mug home so bad, but it was just impossible. They should have sold an ice mold to make one at home.
Twilight brings even more beauty.
On the way back to the city, we finally got to stop by at another Les Chocolat Favoris shop. (Read my former post.) Let’s just say that it was disappointment. We bought a box of chocolate ($45) which was plain overrated, overpriced and too sweet. Godiva is better.
Driving through snowy and icy weather wasn’t fun. The licence plate was completely coated with ice which I think was kinda ‘cool’. :)
Before leaving Canada, I had to stop at Tim Hortons for a donut and a cup of coffee. It would have been an insult not to do so. Tim Hortons is the Canadian equivalent of Dunkin’ Donut. It’s actually better.
Driving in the hazardous weather is dangerous. Visibility was bad.
As time went by, it got worse. We could see nothing but white (and some headlights). We were driving like blind men. This was exactly what we saw from the windshield. No photoshop. :P
The weather seemed to improve as we drove down south and reached the border. From there, another 6 hours of driving before we finally arrived home.
I’ll end this note with a funny Canadian joke here. It’s a bit long but funny and totally appropriate for the occasion. :)
Bye bye, Canada. Til we meet again!