Category Archives: Christmas

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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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

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!

Moving beyond beginning – a new year!

Blogging has been overtaken by boxes – I checked 163 items of furniture and boxes in through the door as our worldly goods arrived here from the UK on the day before Christmas Eve!

All the boxes have been emptied since then, though some have been filled up again with the things we don’t need or have yet to find a home for. Quite apart from the urge to be settled, with some damage to key items of furniture, we wanted to be clear about any additional casualties, thankfully minimal.

One has to be pragmatic; my antiques have been passed down through our family and, in some cases, have already travelled the world. Lovely as they are, their significance rests as much in their history and usage by people I have loved and people who loved them. They have in their own way lived and they bear the scars of that living. Now, having swung through the air in a container, slumbered in a cold hold across the ocean, rattled along the rails from Montreal, miraculously these old familiars surround me once again, if a little battered. Hopefully their newest injuries will be made good once we get the insurance claim sorted!

Anyhow, carrying every book we own up at least  two flights of stairs, wondering where to put this and how on earth that came to be included in the packing seems to have absorbed as much time and energy as I have had available!

However, it made this New Year, which fell on a blue moon, particularly poignant; it was on New Year’s Eve that I emptied the last box . . .

Happy New Year!


Things to do before I get too much older . . .

I refuse to think in terms of ‘things to do before I die’, but I do have a list of ‘things to do before I get too much older’. On Saturday evening, I was able to tick one of these off!

Having read Noel Streatfield’s White Boots avidly as a child, I fell in love with ice skating and skated regularly at Bournemouth through the school holidays. But I’ve always longed to skate in the open air.

On Saturday we found ourselves on the ice under the freedom arches of Nathan Phillips Square, Christmas lights twinkling all around use under a brilliant frosty moon. We craned our heads to follow the fireworks as they scaled the twin towers of city hall in the opening ceremony for the annual Toronto Cavalcade of Lights to triumphal strains. Then, as the applause subsided, skated for over an hour among the throngs to a DJ mix of Michael Jackson and contemporary R&B. Even with hire skates, it was the best skate we’ve had in a long time – in the Canadian vernacular, ‘awesome’! We are looking forward to skating in our local parks when our own skates arrive, as well as on the harbourfront.

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At 10.30, after the best Pitta Gyros we’ve had outside Greece, we headed towards home through streets still bustling with families past the animated Christmas windows of The Bay.

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Either I’m seeing the world through fresh eyes or the spirit of Christmas really does seem to be stronger, more full of the wonder that echoes childhood memories. And we haven’t even had snow yet . . .

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