Sunday, January 5, 2014

Cruising Into 2014, part 1

Happy new year to everyone. We had a nice one, and for the first time as a family we partied it up. I used to go to parties all the time on New Year’s Eve, 99% of which were a disappointment. I’m just not that into parties, and the ones I have enjoyed were ones I hosted, though it was usually not my idea. Otherwise, I’m all for a quiet night at home.

Since we haven’t done much traveling, R wanted to have a few days off, and it worked out beautifully having a hockey game in Burlington. We spent the night prior to the game in Burlington, then after the game drove over the border and into Quebec. It was a bit of a trek, and since we got a late start, we were driving in the dark, which made conditions less than optimal. In fact, they were downright daunting, with gale force winds, poor visibility, and slick and icy roads. The locals up in Canada seemed unfazed by the conditions and drove amazingly fast, so much so that a few of them ended up on the side of the road.

I was glad to arrive at our hotel, and that night we ventured out into the old section, where we were going to spend New Year’s Eve. The hotel itself was actually really nice for a Holiday Inn (Express, no less). Now I’m biased in favor of the Euro experience, but I do think when you get out of the U.S., the low budget motels/hotels still have a little more style and panache than what you get here. One of the most obvious is the breakfast, one of my favorite aspects of staying in a hotel, and that alone can make or break an experience for me. The Holiday Inn in Quebec had a simple breakfast, but it was nicer than what you usually get, with more choices and less of the pre-fab, synthetic stuff. I could be deluding myself, it’s been known to happen, but I liked it better.

After breakfast, with the sun shining and balmy weather hovering around 5 degrees, we decided to explore. The first thing I noticed about Quebec is that it’s a really cool town, so very Euro, and they speak French. There is a strong nationalist spirit in this part of Canada, and you can feel it. I think most of them can speak English but they won’t go out of their way to accomodate you. Don’t get me wrong, they were very friendly, and we had no problems, but for the most part, they size you up and realize you’re not from around there.

The first day after our arrival, the storm seemed to have passed and it was sunny and beautiful. In fact, you wouldn’t have even had a sense of how cold it was outside, but you became painfully aware of that fact the minute you walked outside. It’s really the wind that kills you. We were, however, pretty well prepared for the cold, which meant snow pants, snow boots, and many layers. I have to say, we did okay, but even when you’re bundled up, standing around in -10 wind chill will get to anyone. I couldn’t believe some of the stylish people walking around in form fitting pants and nice shoes. Being fashionable sure comes at a price.

We checked out the local ice rink and we were tempted to go for a skate. We’d even brought hockey sticks if the occasion allowed for it, but this never came to pass. We did do a fair amount of skating, however, but later in our trip. We headed back over to the old section because that seemed to be where everything was happening.

There is a big park near the old section that was really nice, I think it’s called the “something” of Abraham. I can’t recall, but it was huge, and they had these amazing groomed XC-ski trails and a beautiful skating loop. The park is just outside the walls of the city, and we had a lot of fun. The kids just got a huge kick out of playing in the snow, and there was plenty of that. Some of the snow drifts were over 10 feet high, I kid you not.

After some fun in the snow, we looked for some food and piled back into our car and searched for our next hotel, the Saint Pierre, which is right on the edge of the old town. It’s a beautiful hotel, again so very Euro and stylish, but most importantly, they had a wonderful breakfast that came with the room. Say no more.

More on our trip later. Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Sofica for the pic.

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