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It's All About Bonhomme
February 21, 2008

I've always wanted to meet Bonhomme, the cheery, yet somewhat disturbing, snowman representative for the Carnaval de Québec. I'm not really sure why I wanted to, or why his image was so entrenched in my mind, but I'm sure it must have something to do with 7th grade French class.

The only way to meet him of course, is to visit the Québec Winter Carnaval, which is smack dab in the middle of the coldest month of the year for Québec, which is February.

Day 1: Wednesday

- Landed in Montreal, and fought with the (Take) Advantage Rental Car agency. They absolutely refused to rent the car to me without their liability insurance, which I didn't need, because I'm covered. Every car rental agency tries this, but these guys wouldn't budge, and they had me by the you-know-what because it was 10PM and everyone else was closed. What would Bonhomme think of this tourist treatment?

- Checked in at the Auberge Montreal Espace Confort a decent little hotel/B&B in a great location, right on St. Denis.

Day 2: Thursday

- Had breakfast at the B&B and headed towards Québec City, the location of the Carnaval. We checked into the Hotel Marie Rollet, which was an old Victorian house built in 1867. Damn, this city is old! It's a lot older than that, they were celebrating their 400th anniversary this year. The Marie Rollet is full of steep staircases, and you have to take off your slushy boots and put on slippers when when you walk in. It's set in an excellent location, right in the middle of Old Québec.

- Hungry for lunch, we stopped at a creperie, and had some decent crepes. Next we walked up and down Rue St-Jean, and stopped in at the so called oldest grocery store in North America, J.A. Moisan.

- Next we walked by Bonhomme's Ice palace, so very close to the man himself! A lot of snow sculptures were built out front. After that we went to the actual Carnaval site, which had some more snow sculptures, snow tube rides, and life-size foosball. Wanting to be more like Bonhomme, I bought myself a red scarf, but unlike Bonhomme I placed mine on my face, not around my waist.

- Feeling the chill in the air, we went shopping for some warm boots, a necessity if you're doing any sort of walking around Québec City in winter.

- After that, we turned the corner, and there he was....Bonhomme, skating on an ice rink, with groups of children following him around the ice. "Bonhomme!" I screamed, hurrying to lace up my skates as quickly as possible. Being the celebrity that he is, it was hard to isolate Bonhomme. As soon as he stopped skating, scores of children (and me) would surround him, posing for pictures.

Our persistence paid off though, and we eventually got to take a picture with Bonhomme, he even said 'Hello', which was surprising, since we didn't know Bonhomme could speak. All in all, I have to say, Bonhomme definitely lived up to the hype.

- Fresh off our exhilarating encounter with Bonhomme, we headed to Grande Allée street for dinner at Voodoo Grill. They had great food, loud DJish music, great beer selection, and belly dancers. After dinner we went upstairs to the nightclub portion of Voodoo, which had loud mainstream crap music, terrible beer slection, and people without Valentine's dates.

- Wrote in the snow. With fingers.

Day 3: Friday

- Woke up, ate at Tim Hortons, and went to Mont St Anne a great ski hill only 30 minutes from Québec City. It was an excellent day of snowboarding, with plenty of powder. The cafeteria food wasn't the greatest, and they wouldn't let me have free crackers (25 cents a pack!) but I tried not to let it ruin my day.

- On the way back into town, after a lot of searching, we stopped at Montmorency Falls a large waterfall just outside the city. They're 275 feet high, and Quebecers love to brag that they're 98 feet higher than Niagra Falls. (Although to be fair, I think Niagra's claim to fame is their volume of water, not the height).

- Back in town we cleaned up and went for dinner at La Piazzetta. Pretty good pizza! Tired from a long day of skiing and waterfall searching, we headed back to the hotel.

Day 4: Saturday

- Woke up and went to Le Cochon Dingue in lower old town.

- After that, we took a toboggan ride, from high up on Terasse Dufferin which had a luge-like run back to the bottom. It had some pretty cool views of the St. Lawrence and I froze my hands trying to take a video of the quick ride down. Then I almost got hit by the next incoming toboggan.

- Watched the St. Hubert Horse Derby at the Plains of Abraham and had some free food samples.

- Drove to the Ice Hotel and had a look around. We were pretty impressed by it, it was a lot bigger than I thought it would be. It covers about 3,000 square meters, and has a lot of rooms. We had a drink at the ice bar, using a glass made of ice, and then sat at a table made of ice, on chairs made of ice, you get the idea.

- We rushed back into town and had a mediocre dinner but great beer at Pub Saint-Alexandre.

- Bundled up, we made our way out to Grande Allée street to watch the Carnaval Night Parade. To keep ourselves warm we bought plenty of Caribou, a local drink made of brandy, vodka, sherry & port. Suffice it to say, you don't need to much of it to keep warm!

- The parade itself was really well done, it wasn't overly long, which I think is a good thing for parades, had some nice techno music, and really well done floats. I have to also say, the citizens of Quebec City were incredible. I can only imagine the drunken hooliganism that would be going on if my city allowed alcohol consumption on public streets during a parade. Everyone was just out for a good time, and to say goodbye to Bonhomme of course.

- Speaking of Bonhomme, he showed up at the end of the parade of course, carried on a float by his snow-peasants, and everyone followed him back to this ice palace, where it turned out to an all out Bonhomme dance party. Bonhomme even loosened up a bit, performed a few dance movies, and made his way into the crowd, where he was promptly mauled by his loyal subjects.

Day 5: Sunday

- Woke up, had some croissants, and headed back West, towards the town of Sutton. Along the way we stopped at St. Hubert, a popular chain that serves up delicious rotisserie chicken. I had been craving it ever since I landed in Quebec, I remember going to one as a child, and I think it started me on my life long chicken addiction.

- Arriving in Sutton, we checked into the Bonne Nuit. We didn't have a dog with us, but we read that this B&B was dog friendly, and well, we like dogs. Unfortunately, upon arriving, there were no dogs, oh well.

- The real reason we were here was to ski & snowboard at Mt. Sutton. When we got to the hill however, it had turned into a giant slope of ice. We debated just forgetting about the skiing, and heading back to Montreal instead, but decided to give it a shot. It turned out to be a pretty decent day, as the ice slowly melted. Sutton is a pretty nice family run ski-hill, with a more authentic feel than you get at the newer resorts. It also had some great food in the lodge!

- That night we had dinner at Tartinizza, great pizza!

Day 6: Monday

- Ate breakfast at our B&B, and headed back to Montreal. There wasn't much to do, I guess Monday winter nights are even slow in Montreal, lots of places were closed.

We had dinner at an absolutely terrible Chinese buffet, this was my fault! We were in one of the finest culinary spots in the world, and I chose a really bad Chinese buffet, don't ask me why.

- The rest of the trip was great though, and Bonhomme was well worth the journey!