Monday, February 8, 2010

Station Touristique Duchesnay: Dog Sledding


Dog Sledding with Aventure Inukshuk was one of the highlights of this trip. Mushing your dogs through the forest is an amazing adrenaline rush! From beginning to end this experience is transcending; as you, your dogs and nature unite in expedition.

Upon arriving, you are taken back by the dozens of barking dogs. Their energy is apparent, as if barking "pick me! pick me!" The dogs are not only beautiful but well trained and cared for. After a tour grounds and approximately 100 Huskies, you are introduced to your dog team, receive an introduction to the basic sledding techniques and finally journey the 50 minutes ride.

Hugo Tranchemontagne, our guide and dog sled racer is certified in the protection and exploitation of the territories.

It's a two person sled, one person sitting in the sled comfortably with a blanket while the other person rides standing in the back maneuvering and guiding the sled; always keeping your eyes on the lead dog. It can be a very physical activity, but you can go at you own pace. The nature trail takes you through a magnificent winter scene. You'll see nature at it's purist. Once you return, you congregate in a small rustic wooden cabin where you are met with hot chocolate and puppies playing inside. They are so cute!

30 des Aventuriers
Duchesnay Resort
Québec G3N 2X8
(418) 875-0770

Station Touristique Duchesnay: Auberge Duchesnay Hotel

A trip to Quebec is not complete without visiting Station Touristique Duchesnay in Sainte Catherine de la Jacques Cartier, only a 30 minutes drive from Quebec City. Here you will find everything you need for your winter eco-adventure, such as dog sledding, snowing shoeing, cross country skiing and Hôtel de Glace (The Ice Hotel), which without doubt will be one of the "coolest" places you will ever visit.

Snowshoeing  Tours
are available and highly
recommended as a fun
activity for an everyday city sidewalker.  It's a wonderful way to get to know  the  surrounding area while getting a new found respect for nature. Snowshoeing  up  and down  the trails seeking local beaver dwellers is definitely fun, specially when after you  may  find yourself sliding most of the way down the cliff on your rear end... AAAAH!

Auberge Duchesnay is a 48 room lodge style hotel nestled in a pristine natural environment on Lake Saint-Joseph. The staff is cordial, hospitable and eager to help with any questions. Spa treatments and a restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner is found on the premises.

Bistro-bar Le Quatre-Temps is located inside Hotel Aubege Duchesney. A large yet cozy restaurant with a country feel, roaring fireplaces and views of Lac Saint-Joseph offers a bistro style cuisine made with regional Québec products. Bistro-bar Le Quatre-Temps is a wonderful place to warm up with a hot meal after a day of winter activities.

Tourism packages can be purchased at
Station Touristique Duchesnay
140 Montée de l’Auberge
Québec G3N 0J5
Telephone : 418-875-2122
Telephone : 1-877-511-5885
Fax : 418-875-2868

*Directions to Station Touristique Duchesnay/Hotel de Glace from Hilton Québec
(easier to book a package that includes a transfer)
Québec City-Duchesnay Shuttle available in the winter only 418-527-1010

Station Touristique Duchesnay: Hôtel de Glace "Ice Hotel"

Hôtel de Glace (Ice Hotel) is one of the "coolest" hotel you will ever sleep in, LITERALLY! A trip to  Québec would not be complete without seeing this impressive hotel made purely of ice. Hotel de Glace is erected fresh and new every year with a new theme and architecture to entice and impress even the most jaded urbanite.

Upon arriving to The Ice Hotel you will be truly impressed! It is massive and beautiful! The question was; would I be able to endure the cold? Afterall, I've never been inside a giant freezer. But, hey how cold could it actually be? Um... yeah.

The Chapel hosts many Winter fairytale weddings every year.

Entering this fabulous life size ice sculpture was an adventure in itself. Clear ice walls that look like crystal, ice chairs,  ice bar, ice cups, ice floor, ice ceiling, ice slide, ice, ice and more ice! An unbelievable spectacle that must be seen in person to be appreciated. So bundle-up because there's no escape, well unless you run next door to the Auberge Duchesnay Hotel to warm-up. But this is an adventure, so wear your long underwear and your warmest water-proof winter pants and jacket and never stand still. MUST GENERATE BODY HEAT!
The Ice Hotel has a small heated building sectioned off to the side which houses the bathrooms and lockers. Outside is also the hot tub area amidst the surrounding beauty of nature. There is a scheduled information session that every overnight guest must attend which explains the sleeping procedure. Everything from what to wear (nude being the best option) to how-to open and get into your sleeping bag. But the night was still young...

The night started with drinks at the Ice Bar, shots of Caribou served in pure ice cups and dancing on the ice dance floor and when tired relaxing in what else, but ice chairs. There was an ice sculpting contest and scavenger hunt too. There is a fireplace but it is purely decorative since no heat is aloud for structural reasons. The hotel must be keeped under freezing temperature at all times. IT IS COLD! But, it is colder outside since wind is not a factor once indoors. So party it up! Roam the halls, check out the decor and remember it's all made of  ICE! And don't lick the walls.

BED TIME. Each room is decorated in themes. Mine was the VOTEX Suite.  There was an ice bed, table and chairs. Florescent lights add a mystic Je ne sais quoi that completes the mood. The ice bed has a wood board to keep you dry. Artic sleeping bags are provided by the Ice Hotel. Once in the sleeping bag, you are border line HOT! Except your face since it is exposed to the cold elements. I dove into my bag, zipped-it all the way up... face and all. Getting any real sleep varies person to person. We didn't get much more than an hour sleep total because we were too hyped-up on adrenaline and too excited. But there was a silence in the halls as if everyone was having the best night sleep of their lives.

A trip to Québec is not complete without visiting Station Touristique Duchesnay in Sainte Catherine de la Jacques Cartier, only a 30 minutes drive from Québec City. Here you will find everything you need for your winter eco-adventure, such as dog sledding, snowing shoeing, cross country skiing and Hôtel de Glace (The Ice Hotel), which without doubt will be one of the "coolest" places you will ever visit.

75, Montée de l’Auberge, Pavillon Ukiuk
Station Touristique Duchesnay
Québec Canada G3N 2Y5
Tel.: 418-875-4522
Toll free: 1-877-505-0423
Fax: 418-875-2833

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Québec Winter Carnival: Le Champlain Restaurant

A visit to Québec City is not complete without a visit to Fairmont Le Château Frontenac. Québec City's popular attraction and very own castle luxury hotel.

Fairmont Le Château Frontenac named after French governor Louis de Buade, Count of Frontenac is over a century old. It was designed by New York architect Bruce Price to resemble the style of the Renaissance Era and built for the Canadian Pacific Railway to lure tourism to Québec.
Le Château Frontenac is truly beautiful with its regal decor in elegant warm colors. It prides itself on having old world charm with modern hospitality and amenities. It truly is a charming and luxurious hotel that can realize a guests fairytale dream or fantasy.

Le Champlain is the fine dining restaurant at Le Château Frontenac where French Contemporary cuisine is overseen by Executive Chef Jean Soulard.

"Fairmont Le Château Frontenac’s cuisine is lively with an air of freshness evolving towards regional and local products – produits du terroir."
Dining at Le Champlain is a treat for the senses. The dining room overlooking the St-Lawrence River is formal but not stuffy with rich wooden columns, lavish upholstered chairs, finely dressed tables, candles, fresh flowers and a fire place. Service is on point and the quality of the food is a gastronomic delight, which adds to the pleasant and refined atmosphere.

À la Carte, guéridon table service, pre-fixe and degustation are offered from $35 to $99. *Wine pairing optional. Sunday Brunch is offered 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

The Pre-Fixe Menu offers five courses with delicious selections. sure to make you palate happy.
Bon Appétit!

Pâté with Duck Foie Gras, Apple and Celeriac, Port Coulis with Truffle

Parsnip Velouté with Basil Oil

Citrus Sorbet

Guinea Fowl “Ballottine” stuffed with Pear

Dark and White Chocolate with a Cherry Mousse

A stylish yet less formal dining alternative is available at Le Café de la Terrasse and cocktails can be had at the St-Laurent Bar & Lounge.

Fairmont Le Château Frontenac
1 rue des Carrières
Québec, Quebec
G1R 4P5
TOLL FREE: 1(866) 540-4460
TEL (418) 692-3861
FAX (418) 692-1751

Québec Winter Carnival: Canoe Race Finals

The Quebec Winter Carnival Canoe Race is a not to be missed event. This is the sport of all sports. Where athletic men and women canoe there way through the practically frozen St Laurence river to the delight of cold, red cheek spectators watching. This competition is something you would not imagine was even possible.

This is how it works. Each canoe has 5 teammates, the leader in the front. There are three race categories. Classe Élite Homme, the Competitors Men Division; Classe Élite Féminine, the Womens Division; and, Classe Sport, the Participants Division. The first to go are the Competitors Men who are in the professionals stage of the sport and vigorous in their pursuit of a win. The second to go are the Women, who are just as tough as the men and impressive to watch their determination. Third are the Participants, these guys evidently woke up one day and decide they wanted to canoe the frozen river. They are definitely dare devil type madmen with a lot of enthusiasm. And in my opinion the most fun to watch! The race consist of crossing the river, touching the buoy and then returning. The Competitors must do this twice.

When the race starts the Competitors paddle the canoes strategically through the icy water trying to get ahead of each other, sometimes getting stuck in clusters slowing them down. The river is frigid cold, icy in some areas and frozen in other areas. The teams paddle some of the way, and must also get out of their canoes to push and carry them when they approach the frozen areas. It is really impressive to watch the connection between the river and the teams as they navigate nature in such usual circumstances.

While the Competitors raced, I was able to speak to Alain St-Onge a Participant racing in the 3rd round with Team Assurances et services financiers des Amériques, canoe #33. I asked him what compelled him to do this? He answered, "I really just wanted to try it, it was just something to do." I then asked him what his family thought of his endeavour? He said, "My wife has not talked to me since, but my sons are very proud!" Meanwhile, I noticed his teammate had a hole in his wet suit, oblivious to the frigid cold temperatures. These are some tough guys!

The race finished with Team Le Château Frontenac as the winners, which has become standard for over a decade now. I had the pleasure of dining with Eric Fraser from team Le Château Frontenac whom had injured himself a few weeks earlier and was unable to participate in this years race. He seemed very passionate about his sport and eager to talk about it. He explained how historically this was how the mail was distributed in Quebec and how very dangerous the river can be. He says the sport requires much preparation, dedication and endurance. He described his teammates as having different temperaments and coming from very different professional careers, his being an industrial engineer of medical devices. Eric explained that their different backgrounds and personalities bring a different element to the team, which helps make it stronger; which furthermore, allows them to be incredibly in sync with each other when in their canoe on the river. It was apparent that Eric has a profound respect for his team and his sport. He represented himself and his team as true winners.

Congratulations to Team Le Château Frontenac Canoe #79!

Québec Winter Carnival: Restaurant SSS

  • SIMPLE: easy going, which needs nothing else to produce the expected effect
  • SNACK: cafe-restaurant assuring a prompt service and proposing simple meals
  • SYMPATHETIC: enjoyable, pleasing... harmonic and appealing to others
Restaurant SSS is absolutely the best restaurant I dined at in Québec. It is centrally located in Québec's Old Port and is quickly becoming a hot spot. Chef and owner Christian Lemelin clearly takes great pride in his food and business. Attention to detail is apparent in his casual yet thoughtful approach to food and the cosy decor of the restaurant; which, is in a restored burned building, where a beautiful brick wall was uncovered still bearing stress. The menu is an interesting read. It's comfort food with an eclectic edge. Imagine duck wings instead of chicken wings, goat cheese jalapeno poppers and barbecue octopus.
Yes, this is a foodie haven!
Appetizer: Crab cake, homemade ketchup, arugula salad. Pan fried freshly made crab cake with an abundance of crab sered with a sweet and spicy ketchup and bitter arugula salad.

Main Course: Salmon tartar with sesame and avocado, fries. A light yet fulfilling dish of fresh raw local salmon, mixed with avocado, sesame and crisps served with double fried potatoes.

Main Course: Ribs, cole slaw, fries. You can't go wrong with fall off the bone sticky, sweet, bold ribs along side of tart vinegar coleslaw and double fried potatoes with house made eggless creamy aioli.

Dessert: Pot de Crème. The rich and decedent flavors to this homemade dessert are more than delicious. Layers of cream cheese custard, crumbled graham crackers, caramel and whipped cream.

WARNING: A feeling of euphoria might come after eating this and calling it pudding would be criminal. (Not for sharing, get your own!)

Seldomely am I blown away anymore by restaurants due to the superb eating establishments found in New York City, but restaurant SSS is just that good! It's a fresh concept with old fashion care. Perhaps an additional "S" should be added for So Magnifique! I just wish this restaurant was in New York City.

71, Saint-Paul
Vieux Port, Québec
G1K 3V8
TEL: 418-692-1991

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Québec Winter Carnival: Rôtisserie St-Hubert Restaurant

Rôtisserie St-Hubert is chain restaurant found in Québec, Ontario and New Brunswick. It is a family friendly eating establishment known for serving rotisserie chicken dishes with a side of their popular sauce that is marketed and sold in supermarkets all over Canada.

"St-Hubert serves only grain-fed roasted chicken, which means that the chicken is only fed a mix of grains (corn, wheat and soy), vitamins and minerals that contain no animal fat or by-products."
St-Hubert is a casual sit down restaurant with table service and is kids friendly. There is a large and extensive menu with a variety of menu items at reasonable prices. Soups, salads, burgers, sandwiches, chicken, ribs, steak, etc. There is something for everybody. Service is prompt and consistent.

Among the appetizers to share is the standard mozzarella cheese sticks served with marinara sauce.

New and exclusively at St-Hubert are the Chicken Rings. Fried round shaped chicken served with red pepper spread.

Rôtisserie Chicken ordered by quarter or half chicken portion comes with one side and gravy BBQ sauce.

Rôtisserie St-Hubert is a wonderful place to get a no frills hot meal on a casual night out.

Rôtisserie St-Hubert
Various Locations

Québec Winter Carnival: Day 2

Québec Winter Carnival is fun! There's so much to do and see at Place Desjardines where the festivities are held. It's a huge outdoor winter amusement park on the Plains of Abraham with many activities on site. International Snow Sculpture Event, The Natrel Ice Slide, West Jet Zip line, Arctic Spas Village, Children's Village, Dogsled Rides, Giant Table-Soccer Game, KRAFT Snow Rafting, METRO Outdoor BBQ, SAQ Bistro, Sleigh Rides, Sugar Shack, TELUS Interactive Zone, Parades, Dance Parties and Concerts. It's a snowy playground!

The International Snow Sculptures lined the park as if in a massive outdoor museum. The sculptures were being worked on daily throughout the Winter Carnival until completion. The sculptures are made completely of snow by artists and teams from around the world and were masterpieces in their own right.

Bonhomme is the Carnivals mascot. He is well loved by the festival's revelers and is a quite a character. Bonhomme’s Palace is an impressive ice display that illuminates the park. It is an Ice Palace which is made by deoxygenating water and freezing it to produce substantially clear ice.

Desjardines is definitely family friendly. There are events and fun for everyone. Children enjoy the introduction to Alpine skiing, snow slides, sleigh rides, even skating with Bonhomme! Children are everywhere having a winter wonderful time! Babies are seen being pulled around on there sleds by their parents who are also exploring their inner child enjoying all the festivities too. New this year is Club Penguin Ice Garden, a fantasy world made of ice and snow displaying beloved cartoon characters illuminated with lights recreating adventurous scenes and enjoyable by kids of all ages.

The great 400-foot ice slide, snow rafting and the zip line will ensure you get your speed fix. Here are some pointers. Choose to ride Super Mega Round Raft that fits 8 of your friends and spins as you descent the snow slide. It's a blast! Also a word of advice, if you zip line too fast, you will bounce off the net and repel backwards causing the attendant to lose his balance and his glove trying to catch you. (not that that happened to me or anything...okay it did!)

Once hunger strikes, don't fret! There's food everywhere sold on premises. You can choose to eat at the outdoor winter bar-b-cue where you can get chargrilled European hot dogs. Bar Saq provides a comfortable indoor space to get warm and enjoy a cocktail from the bar like a Caribou. A delicious libation of port, brandy, vodka and sherry served hot. It's a perfect drink to warm your bones and start happy hour early. Bar Saq also sells paninis and other snacks. The Kraft Tent houses a food court with pizza, hot dogs, meat pies and egg rolls.

If it's a sweet tooth you need to satisfy? Make sure you high-tail-it towards the Beaver Tail hut! Where the fresh fried dough is being served savory or sweet, powdered with sugar and topped with bananas, chocolate, caramel...whatever you want! Also tempting is the Sugar Shack, where sticky maple syrup is poured on fresh snow ready for you to twirl-it-up with your Popsicle stick and lick away! Hot chocolate and coffee is also a good way to keep you warm in the evening when the temperature drops further.

When it's finally time relax, the Arctic Spas Village awaits. Yes! Imagine it's 15 degrees Fahrenheit outside and you're in your bathing suit soaking in a steamy hot tub watching carnival goers walk by. Saunas are also available on site. In the evening the Arctic Spas Village lights-up exhibiting a rather alluring mood. Ooh-la-la!
At night "The Carnival Makes You Dance!" Desjardines lights up and stage comes alive with live band playing. On this night, a folk rock band played while spectators do-si-dos with their partners. In fact, I          believe that may have been the name of the band, at least in translation. It was a lot of fun and a great way to keep warm.

One last walk through snow sculpture row showed the sculpture teams still hard at work on their art pieces. I stopped to chat with the team Mexico whom explained their sculpture represented Lovers in a vortex of space-time continuum. He also mentioned, that he's so cold, his nose hadn't stopped running since he arrived to Quebec!

Québec Winter Carnival will return for its 57Th Year Anniversary January 28Th to February 13th 2011.

*The Carnival Effigy Pass: Small Bonhomme figure made of plastic costs only $12 and provides visitors entrance and access to activities and is valid for 17 days.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Québec Winter Carnival: Day 1

Once you arrive in Québec City and get settled in to your hotel, there's only one thing to do. Go out and have some fun! The Canoe preliminary races where this evening and not to be missed. They are sure to be like no other event you have ever been to. Imagine men and women pushing and sliding large canoes down a snowy slippery street filled with cheering spectators. Yes, down the street! This qualifying round craziness ensues in Rue St-Joseph, which was covered in snow for the occasion. The teams are energized and ready to show off their bold skills. This round determines the departure order for the final race on Sunday on the river.

Rue St-Joseph, once a dilapidated area where vagrants congregated was converted and is now a charming area with a nouveau bohemian element and wonderful artsy feel where you can wander and make the surroundings your own. There many types of restaurants stemming from quaint to glitzy. Right off the canoe street race was Versa Restaurant and tonight's dinner destination.

Versa Restaurant and Bar is a trendy restaurant with a contemporary menu. The space is sleek in design with a modern edge in a light amber decor accented with primary brights. There's a full bar with house specialty cocktails. The service polite and casual makes this an ideal restaurant to have a nice evening out.

FOIE GRAS POELÉ ET DONUTS Seared foie gras, home made donuts, rhubarb, malbec wine compote

CRU ET TARTARE: Beef Tenderloin Tetaki, yellow beets, white truffle oil vinaigrette

PIÈCE DE RÉSISTANCE: Clam Chowder Linguine with cream, potatoes and clams

LE GRANDE FINALE: Espresso Crème Brûlée

*BEWARE of the pepper mill guy. He loves to offer fresh ground pepper on everything!

Versa Restaurant and Bar
432 Rue du Parvis
St-Roch, Québec