Saturday, February 18, 2006

from quebec city: ice

A high of -2? Fahrenheit? With a wind chill that refuses to type itself here because it is so daunting? Interesting.

You read about how the Quebecois deal with winter and you try to copy them. Wear layers and embrace the cold. I think it’s a toss up if I embraced the cold or it embraced me, but we were indeed one today.

My answer to the question of how is it pleasurable to do a getaway to a place even colder than Wisconsin had always been – hey, I’ll catch up with my reading and writing and I’ll take a few photos in the 5 minutes I step outside and I’ll eat well. Good deal, no?

With only a short occasional pause to catch our breath, we spent four hours outside, Ed and I.

It was worth it: a search for ice pushed us to extremes.

Initially, I wanted to find the ice sculptures.

Through lower vielle ville streets, up the road to upper Quebec, sliding terribly on the planes of Abraham, peering out with tears freezing on the lids, Lara’s theme playing in my head, we search and find nothing.

Why would a city dismantle ice sculptures just because its winter festival has ended?

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snow and houses and snow

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where are they? where is anything?

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out and about: embracing the cold

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...but first you bundle up

Then came the brilliant plan to do the ferry crossing. The St Lawrence is traversable, even though the ferry has to crash through floating bricks of ice. It is nothing short of an awesome trip. The sound itself is tremendous.

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the city spills into the river

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ferries, passing each other

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St Lawrence close up

Looking out we see canoers. Nuts, these guys are nuts. I found a bunch of people even more insane than I am! I watch them get in their boat, paddle furiously…

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…and when the going gets tough and they can paddle no more, they hop out and jump between floating chunks of ice.

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...and jumping ice

Standing at the helm of the ferry takes every last ounce of warmth out of my veins. The only solution, ONLY solution is to find a creperie and order something hugely satisfying. Maybe filled with apricot puree and roasted almonds?

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hot and fulfilling

from quebec city: whiteout

Remember whiteout? How useful it was before it caked around the edge of the bottle and left clumps on your page, like snow mounds on a smooth road surface?

It’s gusty outside, the pilot says as he lands in Montreal. Are 80 mph winds gusty or are they more like a slap across the face?

Charming little Kia, waiting for us. Ed had been working all night, I had been working only half the night. I’ll drive, I say. CNN said expect snow, heavy at times, but the skies look star studded here in Montreal.

It’s less than 300 kms to Quebec City. We leave the airport at 6:30. The speed limit is 100. A breeze. In time for a late dinner. I turn on the radio. French music. Ed sleeps, I zip forward. The wind adds bounce to the drive. I’m up for it.

Fifty kilometers outside of Quebec it happens. Suddenly the car in front of me is flashing parking lights. So is the truck. A gust brings a sheet of snow from the side. Above, there are stars. Around me -- snow. I slow down to 5 mph, Ed wakes. It’s no use, I am moving randomly, I see nothing. The wind is coming from my left. Ed looks out his side. You’re too far to the left. The white shroud recedes. I am nearly off the road.

The next one comes, and the next. In between – nothing but the blown snow, now in clumps on the road. In front of us, a roll over. People get out to help. I can do nothing but move forward. The cars are crawling now. You hope each gust is the last. It isn’t.

And then, suddenly, there is the bridge, with the city on the other side. Snow-covered. Beautiful.

Almost 11 at night now. The hotel clerk guides me into the snow-covered lot. I do it for you, madame! He says and proudly spins the car into a spot. You drove today from Montreal? Brave! Bad winds.

At midnight, in a bistro across the street, pommes frites and moules, with crusty bread and Canadian wine. Heaven.

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