Category Archives: Festivals

A Christmas Card from Quebec City

Fairy tale castles and ice; quaint houses from the seventeenth century and city walls; seasonal decorations – from traditional ribbon and foliage to a very creative use of shiny colanders – and a magical festival of lights; ‘bols’ of coffee and hot chocolate, patisserie to die for (or from!) and wonderful ‘boreal’ food, both traditional and modern; and, above all, a gloriously festive feel.

Quebec City - The Fairmont Le Château Frontenac Quebec City - The Fairmont Le Château Frontenac Quebec City - Aux Anciens Canadiens Quebec City - Aux Anciens Canadiens, the oldest house in Quebec City, built 1675-6 Quebec City - The Fairmont Le Château Frontenac Quebec City - The Fairmont Le Château Frontenac
Festival des Lumières de Québec Festival des Lumières de Québec Quebec City - ice! Quebec City - ice! Quebec City - Novel decorations Quebec City - Novel decorations Festival des Lumières de Québec Festival des Lumières de Québec
Quebec City  - Le Croquembouche - Boulangerie Pâtisserie Quebec City - Le Croquembouche - Boulangerie Pâtisserie Quebec City - JA Moisan Quebec City - JA Moisan, the oldest grocer in North America Gina with a 'bol' of coffe at Cafe Hobbit Gina with a 'bol' of coffe at Cafe Hobbit

Although it was -27C on Christmas Day, the sun was shining and we must have walked over 8km through thesnow on the Plains of Abraham before a short skate a Place Youville, just outside the old city walls.

Quebec City - On the Plains of Abraham Quebec City - On the Plains of Abraham Quebec City - On the Plains of Abraham Quebec City - On the Plains of Abraham Quebec City - Place Youville Quebec City - Place Youville

A definite highlight was the return trip on the ferry across the St. Lawrence to Levis, something a friend had suggested as offering wonderful views of Quebec City, which it did. But even more amazing to us was the experience of cutting through the ice, watching and hearing it crack – mesmerizing and meditative. It also amused us to see two ice canoe teams out practising for the winter carnival competition – only in Canada!

Quebec City - ice! Quebec City - ice!
Quebec City - ice canoe Quebec City - ice canoe Quebec City - ice! Quebec City - ice! Quebec City - Paul on the ferry Quebec City - Paul on the ferry

We also loved an innovative interactive journey through time at the Maison historique Chevalier and re-cap of the military history of the City at Le Musée du Fort using model soldiers and battleships, complete with sound, light and miniature explosions. After five hours at Les Musées de la Civilisation we were ‘museumed out’, but had played our way through the history of computer games, discovered Quebec artist Pierre Gauvreau, immersed ourselves in what it means to be aboriginal in the 21st century and more.

But for us, one of the real joys of any city visit is simply to wander, to notice the quirkiness and contradictions, to find small back-street restaurants and cafés.

Quebec City Quebec City Quebec City Quebec City Quebec City Quebec City
Quebec City Quebec City Quebec City Quebec City Quebec City - ladder for cats only! Quebec City - ladder for cats only! Quebec City Quebec City

Quebec City will be hard to beat for an urban white Christmas!

A counting of blessings . . .

Skies blue enough to swim in, Fall sunshine, still warm but gentler now than summer’s pounding intensity.

Apple Factory - Harvest Apple Factory - Harvest     Apple Factory - Harvest Apple Factory - Harvest

Pumpkin, squash and indian corn; orange dominating, but highlighted in shades of yellow, cream and gold, with dashes of green for contrast – resonant with the gratitude of harvest. Farm-store feeding frenzy – the busiest day of the year; pies, pies and more pies – apple, blueberry, bumble-berry, pumpkin (of course) and more, flying from the shelves.

St. Elias Church St. Elias Church   St. Elias Church St. Elias Church - bell tower    St. Elias Church St. Elias Church

A fantasy of domed turrets from a Russian folk-tale beckons, resolving into fabulous, wooden Eastern Catholic church, St. Elias. Ukrainian folk-song, hauntingly wraps round me as I absorb the sense of shared thankfulness of the apple festival, of a place truly built to the glory of God.

Counting caterpillars as we walk (along with blessings), furry brown and orange, exuberance bursting from us, hearts full.

Hills of the Headwaters Hills of the Headwaters - Rolling Hills in Fall Finery

” Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue”, over a jewelled landscape; flying, flung free a while –  it is not difficult to relate to the thought of “touching the face of God”. (Read more)

Terra Cotta Conservation Area Terra Cotta Conservation Area     Terra Cotta Conservation Area Terra Cotta Conservation Area
Terra Cotta Conservation Area Terra Cotta Conservation Area   Terra Cotta Conservation Area Terra Cotta Conservation Area   Terra Cotta Conservation Area Terra Cotta Conservation Area
Terra Cotta Conservation Area Terra Cotta Conservation Area    Terra Cotta Conservation Area Terra Cotta Conservation Area

Reflected reds, golds and greens; the shimmering of Aspens caressed by a warm breeze; an occasional flurry of yellow leaves, swirling like snow; a single splash of red, spiralling downward; cathedral columns, drawing the eye heavenward.

A perfect day for thanks-giving!

The Saturday of Thanksgiving Weekend, 2013

Another tick on the bucket list . . .

For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to skate a canal. Last weekend we laid claim to some ‘real winter’ and headed to Ottawa to skate the Rideau during the Winterlude festival – pure magic!

Skating the Rideau Skating the Rideau Skating the Rideau - made it! Skating the Rideau - made it! Paul enjoying a Beavertail! Paul enjoying a Beavertail!

We were lucky – this weekend, as for most of this year, the ice is closed. The ice may have been ‘poor’, but we skated all 7.8km of the world’s longest skating rink (at an average skating speed of 5.25 mph and a top speed of just over 9mph!). We stopped for a free technical lesson along the way, not to mention for hot chocolate and  ‘Beavertails’ (a Canadian classic!).

Snowflake Kingdom - ice slides Snowflake Kingdom - ice slides Snowflake Kingdom - snow carving Snowflake Kingdom - snow carving Snowflake Kingdom - tubing Snowflake Kingdom - tubing

Then on to Snowflake Kingdom, a wondrous winter playground for the young and young at heart (we couldn’t resist the ice slide!).

Later, after night fell, we were enchanted by the ice carvings in Confederation Park, probably not quite as exquisite as when they were carved a week before, given the freeze/thaw cycle of this winter, but still lovely.

Ice Carvings - Confederation Park Ice Carvings - Confederation Park Ice Carvings - Confederation Park Ice Carvings - Confederation Park Ice Carvings - Confederation Park - War Memorial Ice Carvings - Confederation Park - War Memorial

Winter festivals are awesome!!!

Snowflake Kingdom - snow carving I have new aspirations when building a snowman . . . Ice Carvings - Confederation Park Ice Carvings - Confederation Park The phantom statue's return? The phantom statue's return?

(See the Ottawa – Winter Album in the photo gallery for more pictures)

The perfect day–Christmas starts here!

Yesterday was one of those glorious days that nourish you to the core. Our first snowfall – really just a long flurry of motes mixed with the occasional feather dusting the ground – then blue skies; The AGO – Henry Moore (early works, full of the anguish of his response to his war-time experiences) and the Maharajas (fabulous, especially the Rolls Royce and the tabla player and Kathac dancer; too many pancakes (crepes) with delectable fillings (we ate the sweet followed by the savoury!); then on to Nathan Phillips Square for our first skate of the season, this year’s sole Cavalcade of Lights (the square is being refurbished) to launch the Christmas season, with live music, the lighting of the tree and some of the best fireworks I’ve ever seen – City Hall is a fabulous backdrop, the window reflections augmenting the show.

This was also the occasion of our first skate in Canada last year and looks set to be an enduring tradition – I felt the total pleasure and wonder of a six year old for much of the day – what a great start to Christmas!

Recent highlights and milestones

What a wonderful roller-coaster ride! New experiences come thick and fast and I often don’t get around to blogging – the living is more important! So hear is a summary of recent  highlights:

  • Nuit Blanche – an amazing Toronto-wide all-night street party based around weird and wonderful happenings (see my other blog, Passage to Joy, for our impressions).
Nuit Blanche - Smile
Nuit Blanche - Smile
  • Our first Thanksgiving – we were very busy working on our garden and deck, but still managed to celebrate with a walk amidst the fall foliage (very much part of the custom here) and the traditional turkey (sweet potatoes with maple syrup, topped with candied pecans will definitely be adopted for future years), followed by pumpkin pie (we prefer butter tarts, another Canadian sweet treat). In Canada, Thanksgiving is earlier than in the US (beginning of October) and relates very closely to harvest festival.

Back garden Landscaping - the framework for a back garden for next year Back garden Landscaping - the framework for a back garden for next year - Paul did a fantastic job with the deck and arbor entrance way!

  • Our ‘Canniversary’ – one whole year in Canada (and only two more before we can apply to become citizens). We celebrated with a party for over 30 of our friends. Even though it was October, we were able to sit outside on our newly completed deck and begin to have a sense of our back yard as the garden it will become.
  • Halloween Canadian style – although we were here last year, we were still in B&B accommodation and didn’t really experience Halloween. Ours is a young neighbourhood, so it swarmed with small and not so small people in strange costumes, not all of them scary (a football field stands out!).  We hung out with our neighbours at the front of our house, enjoying the spectacle and dispensing candy (ours ran out way too soon – we’ll know better next year, though one young friend spent $120 and still didn’t have enough!). Joining in the spirit, Paul fashioned an expert Jack O’Lantern whilst I delved into the traditions of Samhain to create an incarnation of the blue faced crone for our door.

Blue-faced Crone Halloween 2010 - based on Samhain traditions, I created the mask to represent one manifestation of the crone connected to cutting away those things you no longer need. Blue-faced Crone Halloween 2010 - based on Samhain traditions, I created the mask to represent one manifestation of the crone connected to cutting away those things you no longer need. Jack O'Lantern Halloween 2010 - Jack O'Lantern

  • CARP (Canadian Association of Retired Persons) Conference & Zoomer Show – I volunteered for both of these as a way of developing links within the field of re-visioning aging (Paul joined me at the Zoomer Show). I was given the key role of presenter liaison at the Conference and a similar role on the activity stage at the conference (I will be writing these up shortly!). The events are produced by the same organization as IdeaCity and the conference in particular was similarly inspirational.
  • This week, our first frosts of this winter; the grey-green of the grass lit up by the blaze of fall trees in the hazy morning glow took my breath away!

Coming soon . . .

  • Winter – in an El Nino year, rumor has it that we may be in for a particularly cold and snowy winter. The first flurries are expected in Toronto tonight. We are very glad we had arranged for our snow-tires to go onto our car this week and are looking forward to getting our skates on . . . ! I wonder how we will feel by April?