Quebec City – Winter Wonderland

It has been a very long time since I last posted anything, but I have made a new years resolution to post at least one post each week to catchup with where I have been over the last year and a half; beginning with the most recent and working backward.

Over the Christmas holidays I returned to my parents home in Montreal and had the pleasure of spending a night away in Quebec City after a 50cm snow fall. I last visited Quebec City when there was no snow on the ground and hard to pin point how many years ago – more then 5 is my best guess. I have never been to Quebec City in the winter time and it simply took my breath away.

We began our first day with a quick bight to eat after a slightly nervous descent on the Escalier Frontenac (Frontenac Stairs) and then down a slippery side walk along Cote de la Montagne. The view from the top of the Escalier Casse-Cou is a stunning at ay time of year. We stopped at a pub that has an age restriction of 18+ which is wonderful when you’re a group of adults wanting to escape children. We tried several different sandwiches and provincial beers, but we could all agree that the French Onion soup was the best part.

After lunch we roamed the narrow streets, made even smaller by the snow and blocked off sections of men up on ladders clearing large snow heads hovering dangerously off of the roofs lining the small streets.

After wandering around for a while, we came to a square with kids sledding down a huge snow bank to the left of a simply decorated and snow covered Christmas tree. Just behind it is the Musee de la place Royale. To the left of the museum is a small cafe called La Maison Smith where they serve out front Maple syrup on a stick. These little stands are in a few spots around the old town.

As a child I can remember heading into the forest to an old log hall where everything was covered in Maple syrup for an event called “Sugaring Off”. It happens in the spring, usually around Easter time. We stopped for a little sample of Maple syrup poured onto ice and then rolled onto a stick. It can be a very mess affair when you eat it – you’ve been warned!

Afterwards some sweet delicious-ness on a stick we wandered around looking at the art not only in shop windows, but also beautifully painted on several buildings in the old town. We also stopped into a little restaurant called Queues De Castor, for another shot of sugar to the blood stream in the form of a beaver tail. I have one of these treats once every few years.

After our second dose of sugar we took a ride up the Funiculaire du Vieux Québec to the beautiful and majestic Fairmont Le Château Frontenac. This hotel is a place of excellence, beauty, and is iconic of Quebec City. A few years ago, when I was last there, they were fixing the Terrace Dufferin along the front of the hotel and discovered old ruins from the fort buried beneath (des Forts-et-Châteaux-Saint-Louis). At the far end in winter there is an ice toboggan run and beside that an ice rink.

This was a lovely end to our trip in Quebec City.

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Polar Bear’s Club – Piedmont, QC

My mother is an avid subscriber and purchaser of Groupon, LivingSocial, and Tuango. A few months ago, she purchased 3 spa passes to the Polar Bear’s Club in Piedmont, QC.

The Polar Bear’s Club is located an hour drive north of Montreal City (excluding morning and evening traffic). We left around 10am Friday morning and missed all the traffic going there (and back), arriving at about 11am. You are not allowed to bring any food; however, due to my many allergies and limited budget, my mom and myself (and our friend Jenn) packed little bags of nuts and dried fruits. Just something small in case we got hungry –  which of course we did! You are asked to bring a towel, bathing suit, water bottle, sandals (that you are okay with getting wet) and a bathrobe/cover-up. You can also rent a towel and robe, and purchase water and food at reception. On their website it says to bring a lock; however, when we paid they handed us locks so we did not end up using ours. Be prepared to see and hear very little English.

The Polar Bear’s Club is designed to promote health and relaxation. They follow the Scandinavian principle of putting oneself through warm to intense heat and then immersing in cold water to improve ones health. “Thermotherapy contributes to better blood flow in the circulatory system. It promotes relaxation of muscles, stimulates the immune system and  provides complete and deep relaxation allowing stress to leave the body while replenishing your energy” (Polar Bear’s Club website).

View of the river – so refreshing!

Here is a description from the Polar Bear’s website for what you will find:

“The Polar Bear’s Club is:

  • 3 access points to the river
  • 5 outdoor whirlpool baths
  • 2 waterfalls
  • 1 steam saunas
  • 2 dry-heat saunas
  • 2 outdoor pools
  • Several indoor and outdoor relaxation areas
  • On-site lodging
  • Divine health, beauty and massage treatments
  • An array of beauty and massage treatments”
Jenn & Myself pre-relaxation and sun bathing

Jenn & Myself pre-relaxation and sun bathing

The last time I visited Polar Bear’s Club was several years ago with my aesthetics class for a graduation trip. There have been some beautiful changes and I was much more relaxed leaving this time. We found a spot towards the end of the club, near a cold pool (with a waterfall) and a warm pool above. I like these two because the warm pool is not too hot, another pool (with a cave) closer to the changing rooms was so hot I felt as though I was in a hot bath. The kind of bath you want to spend 30 seconds in and get out. That’s me anyway, I much prefer the cold water, especially the river (which I spent most of my time in). Click here to view a map of the hot tubs, saunas, river access points, pools and general layout. Throughout the club there is relaxing music being played, which helps drown out the nearby highway.

This seemingly peaceful river is quiet quick & when you walk out of the reception are mini rapids.

This seemingly peaceful river is quiet quick & when you walk out of the reception are mini rapids.

Having grown up in a warm climate and cold ocean, I love spending time in water. After making my way up the left side of the river, through a very strong current by pulling the rocks (you cannot swim into this strong current) I made it up to the middle where I could swim up a less powerful current and let the river push me down. It was so relaxing. I did it several times and everyone who got into the river wondered how I had gotten there. Guess you all just learnt the secret 😛

On a rock in the middle of the river, above the fast current

We spent the day alternating between sun bathing and relaxing in the cool and warm pools. I began my day with a wet sauna that is to the right of the change rooms. Before you decide on a spot to settle for the day, walk around to the different rooms and pools and get a feel for the place. There may be a spot with fewer people which might entice you (as it did for us). You can also book a massage or body treatment. Maybe you would prefer more time there, in which case you can stay over night in their lodgings. If you wish to have a massage or body treatment make sure to book pre-arrival as this is a popular option for many people spending the day at the club!

Overall it was a wonderful day. When we left around 2:30pm the place had filled up and become a little too crowded for my liking. The best days to go are a Tuesday or Wednesday as people are more likely to take a long weekend and come on a Monday or Friday.

Enjoy your time if you make it to Piedmont and explore the nearby outlets, making a day trip of the whole experience 🙂

Jean-Talon Market (Montreal)

This morning my dad, gran and myself headed to the Jean-Talon Market. We took along a metal shopping basket (on wheels) and the shopping list my mom made up and headed off for yummy treats! During the winter there are far fewer stalls, but in the spring/summer/fall the market is bustling with activity. There is nothing better then shopping and supporting local 🙂

If you’re driving, it is a few blocks east of the intersection of Jean-Talon and St-Laurent. By metro, the Jean-Talon station is closest. 

An abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables are carefully laid out on tables and friendly stall workers are eager for you to sample (yum!) and buy their items. There also many stalls that carry beautiful, bright flower arrangements and garden items. Surrounding the market (and some at the centre) are many delicious restaurants and bistros. We always make our way down the right hand side of the market, cut through the middle, and walk back up the left side so we can stop at a cute coffee shop for a delicious coffee and decadent dessert (which I can never partake in). We also buy our eggs here as often as possible, they are very large and delicious!

If you’re in the area be sure to also take a walk through Little Italy.

Here are a few pictures from our morning 🙂

 

Montreal Botanical Garden

Today I took my gran off to the Montreal Botanical Gardens, with a detour to Premiere Moisson at the Atwater Market, as a surprise. We hopped on the bus and then the metro and got there in no time at all. It was a stunning day, not too hot and not cold. We bought ourselves some lunch at Premiere Moisson and ate once we found a bench in the shade once inside the gardens.

My recommendation is to go during the week when there are fewer people, and the best time to go if possible is before schools break up. For entrance I was able to use my student card and my gran got in as a pensioner. As a tip, book and buy your tickets online, print the receipt, and skip the line up when you get there. For the basic fee the gardens and insectarium is included, so make us of your purchase and check out the creepy crawlies (and some beautiful butterflies).

Although we took a little picnic, there are several areas you can sit down and buy lunch. After June 21 (2014), you can have tea in the Chinese Garden which would have been lovely! Also check the website for fun events and when the train runs (for services click here). Allow for enough time to walk the grounds, I still haven’t seen everything and I have been several times!

Here are a few pictures of our afternoon together.