With a vast expanse of natural lakes, mountains, and forests, a unique French heritage, and an enduring multicultural population, Canada offers an array of family adventures to suit a range of interests and budgets.
Early February, we traveled to Mont-Sainte-Anne ski resort, in Beaupré, Quebec, for the third time in as many years. Though getting there is a 9-hour haul from Toronto, we have found the staff at Mont-Sainte-Anne friendly and easy to deal with and we always enjoy a stop in Montreal or Quebec City (20 mins. from the ski hill) along the way.
Instead of skiing, one day my husband and I explored the steep hilly neighbourhoods surrounding the mountain. We were captivated by the diversity of the chalet architecture and charmed by the bold exterior paint colours the owners had chosen.
Part of the joy of visiting a locale more than once is appreciating its more prosaic aspects - like local paint colours.
We look forward to next year's visit; let the journey of discovery continue.
Encountering Bonhomme is a highlight to visiting the Quebec Winter Carnival. Instantly recognizable to most every Canadian, the event ambassador embodies joie de vivre or "joy of life."
Four years ago, my friend and I were strolling Montreal's waterfront when we spotted the billowy white figure, in town to promote the world's biggest winter festival. Without exchanging a word, my companion and I both uttered child-like squeals and ran to accost Bonhomme, who was - as always - surrounded by an admiring crowd. Gently escorting several children out of our way with feigned adult authority, we giggled up to Bonhomme's side and had our photo taken.
This year, I got to repeat the thrill when my daughters and I were at Quebec Winter Carnival and - after enjoying some maple taffy - turned around to see the jolly snowman. Walking a delicate line between objectionable parent and tenacious memory maker I wormed my girls into the Bonhomme sphere and snapped my photo.
Bonhomme Carnaval (his full name) became the official emblem of the Quebec Winter Carnival back in 1955, when the Quebec City celebration was incarnated as the festival we know today. As the ambassador to the festival, Bonhomme evokes the vitality and joy the annual event brings to the city. If you visit Quebec City Winter Carnival, keep your camera ready; you never know when you will run into Bonhomme.
My family and I ran into a friendly Quebec City local last night. Like so many Quebeckers, he didn't have the pained hunch of the truly freezing, but walked casually, coat open, hands in pockets, his cowboy hat and desert boots looking wildly insufficient in the -17 temperature.
Our conversation began at a cross walk, where he warned us about the drivers in Quebec: "Barbarians," he said. Well, no sooner did the words come out of his mouth than a car - that we couldn't see because of a parked bus - came flying through a red light, barely missing our group of pedestrians.
Our quirky new friend turned out to be a valuable resource and as we strolled Rue Saint Jean, he intermittently pointed out his favorite restaurants and shops and waxed philosophically on the decline of civilized behaviour. He explained that this part of Rue Saint Jean that we were on - outside the walls, meaning not touristy Old Quebec - was a progressive friendly neighbourhood and we would find more authentic places and more affordable prices.
Last night we had a wonderful dinner at a tiny crepe place on Rue Saint Jean, today we have so much more to explore, and I have a new mantra for the rest of our time here: Eat Outside the Walls.
Just getting ready to head east for Quebec City's famed winter carnival. Even as a hardened Canadian with some 45 winters under my belt, my first time visiting Quebec City in winter, I fell short when it came to packing properly. Dress shoes? Seriously?
Since that first packing calamity. I've learned a thing or two and compiled a list of packing and clothing tips: How to Pack and Dress for Quebec Winter Carnival.
Crossing another country's border requires some research and planning. Not just what ID you need, but what is prohibited (how about that banana you forgot about in your knapsack?), how long can you stay and other questions that you may not have fully explored before coming face to face with a very serious, uniformed Canada Border Services agent.
Imagine planning a trip to Canada, packing up the car, making the drive, waiting in the border crossing line only to be told you have to head back home. This could happen if you don't brush up on the reasons why you may be denied entry to Canada.