Sam left her teenage years behind her this past month, and in honor of the big two-oh, six of us piled into an oh so glamorous mini-van and drove to Quebec City.
Quebec is absolutely beautiful during this time of year as it transitions from summer to fall, with gardens abounding and the river flowing and accordion music drifting through the warm air. This was our second trip to this charming city. The first time we went it was the middle of February – Carnival time. The rides and ice castles and maple taffy in snow only partly distracted us from the frost crystallizing inside our noses.
Our first trip was just for the day so we only saw the city itself. This time around we booked an AirBnB outside the city limits in a rural house that was only mildly creepy (see above photo of the backyard, and then imagine it at night). Our host, a cheery Quebecois man named Bernard, was great, especially considering he didn’t mind renting to six 20 year olds. He kept enthusiastically asking us to send him a “texto” if we needed anything.
The iconic Château Frontenac was, of course, one of our main destinations. We had snuck inside during our last trip and actually managed to explore some hotel rooms and secret elevators, and had scribbled our names on a windowsill in some turret (yes, we’re crazy bad-asses, please don’t be intimidated). This time we were determined to find that signature from two years ago, but unfortunately never did.
Old Quebec during the winter is basically the North Pole, except there are more tourists. And, unfortunately, fewer reindeer.
There are Christmas trees lining every block, wreaths strung out along the shutters, and tinsel and fairy lights everywhere you turn. It has a very different feel in the summer, but was just as fun to walk through the narrow cobblestone streets and explore.
Of course, we had to get Beaver Tails. If you don’t know, a Beaver Tail is basically fried dough with a glob of insanely sweet topping. They were delicious, but guaranteed to trigger a food coma.
This photo of us jauntily frolicking on the Plains of Abraham looks like a soulful folk-rock album cover. The green, rolling hills that we delighted in (again, we are hard-core bad-asses, be scared) were a world away from the cold wasteland we encountered during our first visit. Mid-winter, the plains were the frozen setting for the main attractions of Carnival.
The next day we went to Montmorency Falls. It was stunning! There were so many happy dogs and rainbows. No pots of gold, though, but maybe you’ll have better luck if you go.
The waterfall (or Chute Montmorency in French) was spectacular. We hiked all the way down to the base and got soaked in the spray. Fun fact: the poet John Keats was so inspired by the waterfall that he referenced it in his poem Sleep and Poetry.
“Stop and consider! life is but a day;
A fragile dew-drop on its perilous way
From a tree’s summit; a poor Indian’s sleep
While his boat hastens to the monstrous steep
So that’s pretty cool.
For some reason I really loved the car we rented. Maybe I’m a bit behind the times, but I was amazed at all the functions and amenities new cars have these days. (Please note this is not a Chrysler ad). There’s also something really satisfying about driving a big obnoxious van; I felt like I could run over any dumb small car that pissed me off.
On the way back to Montreal we noticed odd hazy puffs of smoke floating above the highway, one every couple hundred feet. At first we thought, with some alarm, that they were from forest fires, but eventually we realized, with much more alarm, THEY WERE BUGS. We had driven into a giant bug storm. For some reason the bugs are attracted to the highway, and we made it out with thousands and thousands of disgusting dead bugs on our windshield. Sorry, Hertz Rentals.
That night we made it home in time for the Super Moon (remember that? we are posting from the ~future~). It struck us, as the moon slid out of view and re-emerged, red and majestic, that we would have been able to witness that phenomenon from wherever we were – Quebec City, Montreal, even home. Maybe we are always home, and maybe that’s why we love travel. Even as we struggled to communicate with francophone waitresses, even as we drove, hungry, confused, and downright disgusted, through storms of mosquitoes, even as we shivered through the throes of winter, we were getting to know more of this weird, majestic world we call home.
Or maybe we’re overthinking it, but hey, who ever said that was a bad thing?
– Kelly & Sam