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Monthly Archives: February 2017

Carnaval 2017- Day 2

Brent woke me up as he returned from the gym, I did not care as I felt great after ten and a half hours of sleep. I took forever getting ready because I could not decide between wearing regular leggings or fleece-lined ones under my jeans because it was -12C outside. We were starting out the day near the hotel so I opted for the regular ones, with the thought that I could just go back to the hotel if need be. The in-room coffee was just awful, nothing can substitute for real milk. I chased it with a cup of Cold 911 tea, which I was actually starting to like. That and the Mrs. Fields cookie I had packed from Toronto, washed away the memory of the bad coffee. As I was slowly getting ready we watched a house-flipping show, not the usual trash reality TV because it was a Saturday morning.

We started out our day walking on the terrace by the hotel and looking down into the lower city and out across the river. We bought tickets for the ice slide and started heading up the hill. Halfway up we noticed a sign saying to bring a sled with you from the bottom. They could have made that more clear earlier on. At the bottom there was just a crowd of people and it was tough to tell what was going on until a lady told us, in French, that there was a line-up. The ice slide was not at all what I had imagined. I honestly thought we would be sliding down an ice chute to the lower part of the city. Instead it was three tracks down a small hill running parallel to the wall. I was surprised at how fast it was, the bumps along the track really hurt my butt and the wind was so cold and it whipped my hood back. No matter, we won the race.

We walked to Montmorency Park and past the seminary. There were cannons in the park and great views of the city down below. At City Hall there was an Inukshuk version of Bonhomme. The city was Carnaval crazy, with Bonhomme’s face everywhere. All around there were gorgeous old buildings. Up next on our tour was an old hotel from the 17th century which was now connected to an Augustine nunnery with a nice little old white church. From there we went over to the military park, it was not open and we could not go inside the barracks. I made jokes about the soldiers having snowball fights.

We stopped in at Place D’Youville to see what was happening there for Carnaval but it was just an outdoor skating rink and they were giving away free McDonald’s coffee (no thank you, one bad cup of coffee is more than enough for me in a day). On the way to lunch we passed by an SAQ (liquor store) and stopped in to see what they had. I found a carbonated maple wine and as was quickly becoming the theme of the trip, I had to try it. A few doors down we found a convenience store that had a better beer selection and so Brent topped off his haul. The plan was to have lunch at La Pain Gruel. Alas it was a small bakery with no seating. We got a loaf of bacon cheddar bread for snacking on later, and each got a pastry and ate it as we walked. The praline one I had was so good, much better than the chocolate croissant that Brent had. It was so cold out that I had to eat with my gloves on.

The next stop was another Carnaval site. At Le Park Amerique-Francaise there were snow sculptures. Those in the international competition were still works in progress, whereas the national wons were completed and had been judged. It was cool to see them in all different stages. They were very well designed and it made me wonder how exactly one gets into this hobby?

The Plains of Abraham was a giant expanse of a park. There was a cool-looking watch tower looking down over the hill and towards the river. As we walked through the park, looking at the cross-country skiers I noticed on my map that there was a citadel up ahead. We had to go check it out. Up on the citadel it was so windy and unbelievably cold. But the views of the river down below were amazing. Totally worth it, even if my fingertips did go numb and putting on my mittens over my leather gloves barely helped. It was so much nicer once we were back down and away from the wind.

As it turned out, our next stop, Esplanade Park, was the Carnaval site where we had gone the night before, with the ice bar and Bonhomme’s ice palace. Even still we decided to go check it out in the daytime. It was a lot busier and we were glad we had gone the night before. There was a huge line-up to get into the ice palace and there was a marching band playing outside of it. The walkway the other Carnaval site, on the other side of the wall was now open. It turns out the site we had tried to enter the night before was the children’s site at Carnaval. There was a weird and small petting zoo that had only a few animals, including a very fuzzy donkey. There was a radio station giving away marshmallows on sticks to roast in the firepits. Again, I did nto feel like taking out my Invisalign, not in the cold and when it was so crowded. Brent got one and it turns out it was strawberry flavoured, he was not pleased.

Our last stop of the walking tour had the word “ursuline” in it, that was all I could remember. I was convinced we were going to a bear museum. Turns out it was a nunnery. Not as nearly as interesting but still a nice old building to see. On our way back to the hotel we stopped at a convenience store. I found a maple Mars bar and of course, had to buy it. I also found some rather expensive maple butter and bought only one, for my mom as a souvenir.

In the hotel I discovered that we were close to a PokeStop and I didn’t even have to leave the room! The plan was to rest a bit before heading out for dinner- the perfect excuse to set a lure in the PokeStop and hunt Pokemon. And for the next half hour I found myself cursing as all I caught were Magnemites. The Mars bar was delicious, the  bread was amazing and the wine was good but a little bit weird. It was the perfect snack break. Except that the wine had a cork and now I could not reseal the bottle and I had to drink it all. Thankfully it was a small bottle. I managed to make the bottle last an hour and a half as I wrote and caught Pokemon. Somehow I was so exhausted, I ended up plotzing and watching a reality TV show about tattoo artists.

For dinner we went to Poutineville on a recommendation. We were hoping that on a Saturday night it would not be too busy. It was anice walk, we got to see City Hall all lit up in the evening. I ordered the signature which was smashed potatoes and topped with braised beef. I did not want to look like a light-weight so I ordered the regular size instead of the junior. It was just a bit too much food, but migawd, the smashed potatoes were incredible. It was easily some of the best poutine I have ever had. Nothing on the drink menu caught my eye so I stuck with just regular old Dr Pepper… until I saw that they had sparkling cider! Damnit! The bathroom door at Poutineville cracked me up, rather than the usual lady symbol, it was a lady who really had to go, there was a real sense of urgency.

We took a different route back to the hotel, stopping at PharmaPrix to get me some more cold medications. I had been expecting a Shoppers Drug Mart, not a tiny little mom&pop-seeming shop. Needless to say, the snack selection was subpar. However we passed a grocery store on the way. There I found some maple sugar (and cheaper maple butter, grr) for more souvenirs. We passed by a David’s Tea and I could not pass up a chance to finally get some Honey Lullaby tea.

Back in the hotel we looked up nearby bars that had good craft beer selections. We were still tired and so full, rather than head out we watched Homeland while I refueled with more tea. By the time we decided to head back out we were still very tired. Instead we went to the ice bar to see what was happening and maybe have some more Caribou. It was not very busy inside. It was nice to stand by the fire pit, it was so cozy and something I could get used to. We finally got to see some people drink Caribou from the plastic Carnaval canes. Not a good souvenir, $30 and its plastic and it would be awkward to pack. There were lots of people out and about walking the streets in their snowpants. We were too tired for the bar, we headed back to the hotel instead. It was so nice to have a hot shower, the steam did me a world of good. My cold was just awful. This had not been our original evening plan. We were supposed to go see a Carnaval parade but it aws happening at the other end of town, a 20 minute drive away. Instead we stayed in, whiel I nursed my cold with more tea and we started watching Man In The High Castle on Amazon Prime. As we walked up to the hotel a horse-drawn carriage pulled up to its parking spot to wait for passengers. In the backseat there was just a dog in a coat, it looked like he had hired the carriage and it amused me to no end.

 
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Posted by on February 15, 2017 in Adventures of Pinka!, Travel

 

Carnaval 2017- Day 1

Fri. Feb. 3, 2016:
Toronto flight to Quebec City

For an early Valentine’s Day present, Brent planned out a trip for us to visit Quebec City for a long weekend and enjoy Carnaval. The morning of I had slept right through my alarm clock, Brent woke me up, informing me that I had oh, about 20 minutes to get ready and out the door? I had taken a NyQuil the night before, in the week leading up to the trip I was sick with what I thought was a mild cold. I woke up Friday morning to realize that my cold was in full-swing and was not as mild as I had thought.

Our flight was not until the early afternoon, we did not have to be at the airport until noon. We were heading out early to grab a cinnamon bun from Rosen’s Cinnamon Buns on our way to the airport. We had a nice leisurely walk from College and Ossington to the islands airport, catching Pokemon in between bites of cinnamon bun.

At the airport we tried to check-in at the kiosk but it was not working. We tried the next kiosk over, and as I looked at Brent’s phone to ensure he was entering the correct confirmation number I realized a terrible thing. We could not check-in because our flight had already left. The night before when determining what time we had to wake up and be at the airport at, Brent had been looking at our return flight! Ack! The most painful part of it was that we had missed it by barely an hour. And there were no more direct Porter flights until the following day. A mild panic washed over us. Brent was googling flights at Pearson, I was looking up train schedules. We eventually settled on a connecting Air Canada flight via Montreal, leaving from the islands airport. It was better than rushing to Pearson. I felt like we were on the Amazing Race as the agent was looking up options for us on the computer. Looking back I am surprised that in 7+ years of travel this has yet to happen, it’s a good thing it was just a short domestic flight and that we did not have a crazy amount of stuff planned for the day.

We had a two hour layover in Montreal. We went to Brent’s go-to place in the airport, the microbrewery restaurant Archibald’s. It was a longer wait for a seat at the bar than at a table, it was around lunch time so why not? We had the time. We split a pound of chicken wings. For non-sauced wings that you had to dip yourself in sauce, they were amazing. I usually like my wings super saucy but these were good because they were meaty and smoked. The sweet and sour sauce was spicy, and the beer sauce was smokey. Because it was a microbrewery the selection was limited, especially for picky people like me. I opted for coffee with maple whisky. It’s maple, you gotta. We had plenty of time still, so we stayed for another round. This time I had the iced cider that I had not noticed on my first look-through of the menu. And I couldn’t resist a slice of sugar maple pie. You gotta.

On the way to where we thought our gate was we stopped at David’s Tea. I was in desperate need of Cold 911 tea, my cold was only getting worse. As soon as we left I immediately realized I had forgotten to grab some Honey Lullaby tea which had been sold out when I checked in Toronto. Damn it! There was no time to go back, we had gone the wrong way to our gate and had to backtrack.

The two short flights were nice, I had a chance to catch up on reading Brothers Karamazov, which I had been reading since December. Alas our second flight was even shorter and this time there was no free alcohol (on the first flight I had a glass of white wine). By the time we had boarded our second flight I’d had: wine, whisky and iced cider. Top it off with a DayQuil and a worsening cold and I was doing great.

The sun was setting as we took off, it had been such a long day. I both couldn’t believe and was not at all surprised that it was already almost 5 in the afternoon. I was tempted to nap on the plane, I even started nodding off but in the end I resisted, it was only a 35 minute flight after all. By the time we landed in Quebec City it was dark out.

Our hotel, the super-fancy Chateau Frontenac, was only a 20 minute taxi ride from the hotel. On the way we passed some of the Carnaval sites. We got a sneak peek of the snow sculptures. We drove by parliament, which was across the street from the ice bar. It was going to be an easy walk from the hotel to the Carnaval ice bar. At the hotel we found out that we could buy the Carnaval Bonhomme effigy at the entrance any of the sites, granting us access to all the sites.

Once I had on some layers we headed out. It was cold, but not cold enough for fleece-lined leggings, regular leggings under my jeans would suffice. It was the perfect amount and I was neither too hot nor too cold. It was a nice short walk through the upper part of the old city. Everything looked so European, I was mesmerized. We got to see part of the wall enclosing the city.

Once inside the site there was no sign of Bonhomme, just his ice castle and a statue of him. At the ice bar we ordered shots of Caribou. In my mind I had picture a warm drink, sipped slowly from a cup. Not a shot in a hollowed out cube of ice. It was a premixed drink consisting of red wine, whisky and maple syrup. I was picturing the bartender mixing the ingredients into a nice glass of warm wine. This was better. I could still feel the cold of the ice through my gloves. The girl in line in front of us dropped her change on the bar and it immediately stuck to the ice. The bartender had to grab a metal scraper and loosen the coins. There was no sign of maple taffy, another item on Brent’s Carnaval to-do list. I was tempted by the Beaver Tail truck but the idea of taking out my Invisalign in the dark and the cold dissuaded me.

We walked through Bonhomme’s ice palace which featured an art exhibition. On our way in it had been closed but now there was no line. There were paintings and sculptures throughout the maze-like structure. There was even an ice couch. The place was lit up and the colours kept changing, it was a bit disorienting. The site also had an indoor bar with a small stage. A folksy musician was just finishing up his set when we went in. It was nice to have a chance to warm up. Brent had a maple brown beer, and after sitting and reading over the menu again I spotted a maple drink. It had maple, therefore you gotta. I went up to the bar and tried ordering a “diable a l’erable” but my pronunciation was so bad that at first the girl had no idea what I was saying, I tried to say it again and she was like “oohh a maple devil?” I blushed and sheepishly said yes, apologizing for my poor attempt at pronouncing it. The drink was amazing, it hit so many spots! It had rum, reduced maple water and 7up and was garnished with a mint leaf.

There wasn’t much else going on so we headed back to our hotel. On our way we tried to enter a Carnaval site that was on the other side of the wall but it was closed. We thought maybe they would have a sugar shack. We stopped at a kiosk outside of a restaurant because they had a maple taffy set-up. Brent made some college girls laugh by getting overly excited about it. Again, I did not feel like taking out my Invisalign, so I didn’t try any. The girl running the stand asked if we had ever tried Caribou, we feigned innocence and said no. She gave me a shot of it in a plastic cup. It was warmed up. This is what I had been expecting when I first heard of the drink. It was way better.

Back in the hotel we decided to wander around a bit first before settling down for dinner. The hope was also that Bar 1608 would clear out a bit, as it seemed busy when we walked by. We went looking for the gym but it was misleading. It was down a hallway from the pool. But there were just bathrooms and then a fire exit sign pointing to a door. Turns out that door led to the gym, Brent found out when he asked at the info desk by the pool. We stopped in the room for a quick break. I downed a cup of Cold 911, it tasted so bad therefore it must be good I thought as I caught up writing in my book.

The bar was full but we managed to snag a small table at the back. No sooner had we sat down, the only other two empty tables by us filled up. It was not that surprising given it was 8:30pm on a Friday night. I ordered a cider because it was from Quebec. For some reason it was on the bubbly list, odd I thought. Until I had a sip, yup it was indeed bubbly and refreshing. I had a sip of Brent’s red wine, it was actually good for a red wine. In a wine and cheese bar it’s almost a given that you order a charcuterie board. It had 2 cheeses and 3 meats. One of the cheese was just an aged cheddar, it was ok. The real standout was the soft cheese that was like a cross between camembert and brie. I was in heaven but I cannot for the life of me remember what he called it. The three meats were ham, prosciutto and something like a proscriutto.

We had also ordered a flat bread. Soon after we started regretting not getting it with prosciutto but as luck would have it we ran out of bread from our charcuterie board and had extra prosciutto. We gamed the system! We had also ordered so much food we had to pull the table next to us over. The people sitting there were long gone. For once we were not the first people to leave, we were taking our time. Incidentally the people who had been sitting there were Americans. Brent was amused when the guy tried to order a beer calling it a “Lab-atts” (rhymes with lab rats) and the server had no idea what the guy was saying. Karma acted swiftly, and later that evening Brent ended up spilling a little bit of his martini on himself. We were at the bar for almost two hours. By the end of it all I was exhausted. I had been drinking since 2pm while popping DayQuils, run down with a cold and it took us two flights to get to Quebec City. I was in desperate need of sleep.

 
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Posted by on February 11, 2017 in Adventures of Pinka!, Travel

 

Them Buns!

Best new bakery of 2016 had recently been posted. Great we thought! It’s within walking distance as we were starting to run out of best-of’s near us. All well and good except Rosen’s Cinnamon Buns is not open on weekends and they close at 3pm! What were we to do?! Luckily we were taking a long weekend with Friday and Monday off, to go to Quebec City for Carnaval. We took transit to Ossington and College which left us plenty of time to walk over to Billy Bishop Airport to catch our flight.

We almost walked right by the place as they still have the signage from an old business on the exterior. I suggested we get our cinnamon buns in boxes, as I was anticipating not being able to finish it. That’s how it always is with cinnamon buns, they are too rich and sweet to finish. Yes they are delicious but man alive do they ever hurt your teeth and send you into a sugar coma. Not these buns! These cinnamon buns were so light, fluffy and buttery. The perfect amount of cinnamon and frosting, not overly sweet. And bonus: they were warm. I devoured it in no time.

Best bakery? Tough to say as all they sell is cinnamon buns, so no, not really. Ok, I guess it was not that tough to say. However, I would say they are best cinnamon bun in the city. Hands down. Not sticky hands, cinnamon buns are to be eaten with a fork, duh.

 
 
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