Quebec: Snow Big Deal

By Cindy Loose
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 21, 2001

I put off climbing to the top of L'Everest for as long as possible. The trip down involved a straight drop of 100 feet before the snowy path began to slope.

But lots of little kids were surviving the fall, so I grabbed a snow tube and mounted the stairs for what turned out to be an exhilarating journey. In fact, when it came time to leave the Village des Sports just outside Quebec City, I felt like stomping my feet and refusing to drive to the plane that would whisk us away.

My family and I had fallen in love with the nearby city that grew out of the first European settlement in Canada. I wanted to spend the entire day hurtling down mountains via tube, toboggan and a raft filled with a dozen screaming people, then return to the city for coq au vin and crepes in a warm, cozy restaurant.

Three days in and around the most underrated city in North America just wasn't enough.

I'm not euphoric about every travel destination. I'm not pushing you to take your kids in winter to Montreal, for example, where our trip started.

Granted, if Montreal were a U.S. city, it would be considered one of our best. There's nothing wrong with it. Except that whenever you ask for directions, you always get dispatched via the underground.

Not the Metro. The vast city underground. Like a Tysons Corner times 10, with a mysterious power to lure people off the streets. If you love shopping malls, you should go there every winter. Personally, I think sinners unworthy of purgatory should spend eternity in Montreal's underground, with a daily assignment to shop for something the stores don't stock. Like sleds.

Moments after arriving, with only a few hours of daylight left, my husband rushed out to buy sleds for the promised adventure at Parc du Mont-Royal. He returned grumpy, empty-handed.

To my credit, I reminded him only twice that we'd already be sledding at the park if he'd let me pack our inflatable snow tubes, as I'd suggested. Well, maybe three times. Then my 8-year-old announced that her throat hurt and threw a tantrum befitting a 3-year-old. Our two days pretty much went downhill from there.

But our spirits soared the moment we hit Quebec City -- after a three-hour drive -- and never crashed.

The window of our hotel looked directly down on Parliament buildings worthy of London. Glancing outward, we could see many of the three miles of fortified walls surrounding a town of 100-year-old granite buildings with tin or tiled roofs. Towering above it in the distance was the Chateau Frontenac, a stone-and-brick, copper-topped hotel built in 1896 in the style of a medieval French castle.

Bundling up in record time, we headed straight for one of the massive stone gates leading into the oldest section of the city, settled by the French beginning in 1608.

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