How one can Fake You’re in Quebec Metropolis Tonight
While your travel plans may be put on hold, you can pretend you’re somewhere new for the night. Home Around the World invites you to channel the spirit of a new place each week with recommendations on how to explore the culture from the comfort of your home.
When the snow falls and the wind howls, Quebec City people don’t hibernate. Rather, they bundle and Celebrate with one of the most picturesque winter carnivals in the world. Overlooking the St. Lawrence River, with cobblestone streets and quaint stone houses, Old Quebec looks like an enchanted snow globe village – especially at Christmas time. In fact, the historic district of this former French colony is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, also because it is the only city in North America that has preserved its city walls.
If I were there, I would enjoy a breathtaking view of the river from the Dufferin Terrace promenade and the Fairmont le Château Frontenac, the castlelike hotel where Alfred Hitchcock shot scenes for “I Confess”. In the evening I strolled among evergreen plants and twinkling fairy lights in the Rue Petit-Champlain and stopped in Notre-Dame-des-Victoires, one of the oldest stone churches in North America. Hours were spent ice skating, warming up by an outdoor fire pit, and refueling with hearty foods like poutine and turtière (meat pie) from popular restaurants.
But as the song says there is no place like home for the holidays. Wherever you are, you can enjoy the coziness of the season like Québécois – with maple syrup-inspired recipes, craft beer, outdoor activities and a good mood – even when not a single snowflake is falling.
Cook comfortably with meat and maple syrup
“Blow up a cheesy Celine Dion song on your iPhone in deafening decibels, find a good recipe for poutine – that breakneck dish of french fries, cheddar curd and gravy – and go outside when you’re in cooler areas Snowman, ”advises Dan Bilefsky, the Times’ Canadian correspondent. Quebec-born Bilefsky wrote about the “cultural battle over who deserves credit” for Poutine: Québécois – or the rest of Canada. Fortunately, all you have to do is decide on one poutine recipe. Try one from Saveur, CBC / Radio-Canada or Chuck Hughes, the co-owner and head chef of Garde Manger and Le Bremner in Montreal.
Organize your own winter carnival
Participate in some typical Quebec winter carnival activities from your hometown (although you might skip the local ax throwing tradition). Make snow sculptures and go sledding or snowshoeing. Not living in a winter wonderland? You can put up white fairy lights, sing “Au Royaume du Bonhomme Hiver” with Renée Martel (after “Winter Wonderland”) and enjoy Carnival Grog, a hot, usually alcoholic drink. The Quebec Winter Carnival website has a recipe that you can use to make maple syrup, cranberry juice, cinnamon, cloves, and sweet grass at home.
On days, it’s too cold to sit outside, study or brush up on French, the official language of government in Quebec (and a sensitive issue in a French-speaking province surrounded by English speakers). Keep up with “Would you like to learn French? Italian? Russian? There is no time like the present for language tools that are free or don’t break the bank.
Curl up with a pile of detective novels
What better way to spend long winter nights than with intrigue and riddles in a little hamlet in Quebec? Light a fire, real or virtual, open one of Louise Penny’s best-selling crime novels and spend the evening with Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec Police. In the latest book “All the devils are here”, published this autumn, the inspector travels to Paris. But the 15 books in the Gamache series that precede it are shaped by Quebec culture and cuisine (with the occasional murder), starting with “Still Life.”
Spend a movie night with Quebec directors
Stay up to date with Canada’s Top Ten, the Toronto International Film Festival’s annual list of the best films in the country (10 feature films and 10 short films). The 2019 selection includes several from Quebec directors like Louise Archambault, whose “And the Birds Rained Down” (“Il Pleuvait des Oiseaux”) is about elderly hermits who live in the wild and a love that blooms there; and Sophie Deraspe’s “Antigone,” a riff about Sophocles’ tragedy that revolves around an immigrant family in Montreal (named Best Canadian Feature Film at the Toronto International Film Festival). Also on the list is “Matthias and Maxime” by the writer and director Xavier Dolan, who regularly attends the Cannes Film Festival and who in 2014 shared the jury’s prize for his film “Mommy” with French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard. (The 2020 list was recently put online.)
Sing with Celine Dion
For a road trip through Quebec in 2018, Times correspondent Bilefsky created a playlist of songs that he believed embodied the identity of Québécois and also provided an atmospheric soundtrack to the provincial landscapes. There was music by Samian, an indigenous rapper who sings in French and Algonquin; Leonard Cohen; Éric Lapointe; Les Cowboys Fringants; the dead obies; and Arcade Fire. Obviously, Celine Dion, born in Charlemagne, Quebec, was on the list with “Destin”. After all, you haven’t really sung Celine until you’ve done so in French.
How are you going to channel the spirit of Quebec City into your home? Share your ideas in the comments.
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Stephanie Rosenbloom, author of “Time Alone: Four Seasons, Four Cities, and the Delights of Solitude” (Viking) has been writing travel, business, and style features for The Times for nearly two decades. Twitter: @Stephronyt. Instagram: @StephanieRosenbloom