Seventh grade French students have been studying the beautiful city of Québec recently. In a normal year, we would have been able to travel there, but even though we can’t do that we’re still doing our best to imagine ourselves visiting one of the oldest cities in North America.
Samuel de Champlain founded a fur trading outpost in 1608 that would eventually become the city of Québec, although people of the First Nations have inhabited the region for approximately 4,000 years. The city and its surrounding attractions range from visiting the oldest stone church in Canada (Notre-Dame-des-Victoires), to snow tubing and visiting the Hôtel de Glace (an ice hotel constructed each year out of about 500 tons of ice and 30,000 tons of snow) at Village Vacances Valcartier. You can eat a traditional québécois meal at une érablière (sugar shack) where the meal is ended with la tire: boiled down maple syrup poured on ice and rolled onto a stick so that it can be eaten like a popsicle. You can see or stay at the amazing Château Frontenac, a hotel built in 1893 whose chateauesque architectural style dominates the skyline, or visit various boutiques and bistros in the charming neighborhood of Petit Champlain.
When strolling through Vieux-Québec, the old part of town, you feel as if you’re in Europe while somehow still close to home (and the croissants are just as delicious as any in Paris, let me assure you!) Although the city is wonderful to visit in any season, its most famous event is the Carnaval d’Hiver, a winter carnival that takes place every year in February as a way to celebrate winter and embrace the very cold temperatures and immense snowfall instead of hiding out at home under a blanket. There are night parades where you can see floats go by with dancers, acrobats, or the mascot Bonhomme Carnaval himself; you can snow tube or go down an ice slide in Bonhomme’s palace; and you can explore a city that is is alive with concerts and winter fun (just make sure to dress in layers and bring the right gear.)
I took students to the Carnaval d’Hiver for the first time in February 2020, a few weeks before the world shut down, and we had an amazing time. I am so sad to not have had the chance to take my current students, but I do hope you’ll consider adding Québec to your travel list. The people are friendly, the city is enchanting, the food is delicious, the history is fascinating, and the thrills are real–just ask the ice canoe teams that race across the half-frozen Saint-Laurent river during Carnaval! Vive la ville de Québec !