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.