Quebec 2019

Quebec Day 2: Chambre à Air

We woke around 9am after a sleep that was less than satisfactory. Both Sarah and I had woken up in the middle of the night and heard pacing in the hallway for a steady five minutes. Either someone in our party is an unaware sleepwalker, or the house is definitely haunted.


The one downside of our awakening: we had zero food. No coffee, no sustenance, not so much as a stale box of cereal. So our day began with a very exciting (albeit very necessary) trip to Walmart.


Because nothing says international travel quite like a trip to Walmart.


The building itself felt like an “old” Walmart. Low ceilings, undampened fluorescent lighting, you know what I’m talking about. However the products seemed to be a little nicer than an American Walmart, so there’s the trade-off. We loaded a shopping cart full of breakfast items (and lactose-free yogurt that we would later deem to be questionably edible) and made our way back to the house.


Of course, by this point it was about 11am, and while we’d originally had grand plans to make Geof cook us up a latke feast, we were ravenous and desperate for speedy food. So we decided upon frying up some eggs and bacon and devouring croissants while we waited. Also Sarah and Carolyn did their best to try and eat the dairy-free yogurt. The pain in their eyes was palpable.


After we’d eaten and cleaned the kitchen, it was time to bundle. We were on our way to Valcartier Winter Playground, which bills itself as the “Largest Winter Playground In North America.” Basically it’s a tubing park that takes itself SERIOUSLY. So it was our time to get some slipping and sliding in. The one drawback was that it was 30 degrees outside, so we needed to pad ourselves with as much insulation as humanly possible. I passed out a stack of handwarmers to everyone, stuck some in my pockets and my socks, and we were off.


The park was about 30 minutes away, but the drive went quickly. Before we knew it, we’d pulled up to the complex. What caught our attention first were all the colorful water slides–not running, of course. But we figured that the establishment needed a summer attraction for their “off-season.” But once we looked more closely, we got glimpses of the tubing runs, and of clumps of tubes booking it from top to bottom. We were pumped.


We parked the car, made the trek to the lobby, and bought our tickets. Before we knew it, we were outside with tubes (or in Canadian French, chambre à air) in tow.


Our first “ride” of the day was up the lift. We all decided that while stressful, we love the lift. It’s a little conveyer belt with tubes attached that you board while it’s moving. So it’s a bit hectic getting in, but once your butt’s in the donut, you’re good to go. And then you’re just sitting, awkwardly, dragged to the top of the hill until it lifts your butt up a little bit and you’re dumped onto the snow/ice combo and pray you don’t slip. Basically the middle bit is relaxing and fun and then it’s sandwiched by danger. It’s great.

Once at the top of the hill, we had options to choose from for slopes. Now, pretty quickly we realized that this was not an American tubing park. How so? This place had zero safety regulation. You were allowed to link up to six tubes and slide down all together, and there was limited direction on how to accomplish that. Of course, if you needed help, you could ask one of the five attendants to be working the 30 slides, all of whom were definitely under the age of sixteen. But this lack of safety gave us free reign to be as stupid as we wanted, which made our experience that much more fun.


The first couple of times we went down the slides, we had no idea what we were doing. We just all kind of hung onto each other and screamed bloody murder as we loosely hurled ourselves down the slope. One time they almost LET GO OF ME. So now we know, if my friends are going to ditch one member of the group to fling off a mountain, it’s gonna be me.


It took us about ten runs to finally nail the technique: you gotta circle up, with your tube’s handle/tail in the middle, then you pass everyone’s tail twice to the right. That’ll get us nice and tight, and aerodynamic. Once we got the technique down, we were WHIPPING down those slides. It was awesome.


We also went down one of their “specialty” slides, known as the Tornado. The tornado is a circular raft that we all got into, no individual tubes. The beauty of the raft? You hit the rail immediately and it spins you like hell. Curious what it looks like? Here you go.


That one almost killed us.


We were all really enjoying ourselves. In case the adrenaline wasn’t already enough to put us in a good mood, the atmosphere of the park was really fun. The music was good, the sixteen-year-olds were nice and helpful. Also Carolyn started dancing at one point and not one but two small children started staring at her in awe for a full minute. So that was fun.

We’d gotten to hang out at the park for most of the day, and long enough to stay for the sunset, which was really gorgeous that night. It was really pretty to observe as we slid slowly up the lift with our butts in inner tubes.

We took one last slide on one of the bigger slopes, which conveniently took us back to the lodge. This was our best run in my opinion. The slope was steep with a couple of dips in it, which gave us a lot of air, and we were nice and tight to keep us going fast. It was a good way to end the day. We returned our chambre à air and made the long trek back to the car. Also I dropped my phone in the snow mere SECONDS after Sarah told us to make sure our pockets were all zipped.


Back at the house, we prepped for dinner. By that I mean, Sarah took a shower and transformed back into a human while Carolyn, Bob, and I went to the convenience store down the street to go for a wine run. Cuz priorities. I knew there was no saving my hair without a two-hour commitment, so I devoted myself to more worthy efforts.


Dinner was in town again. We mentally prepared ourselves, after all, there was going to be no meal as good as the feast we’d had at Sam’s Bistro the night before. So we piled into the little restaurant and prepared realistic expectations.


This meal still fell below our expectations.


We got nachos that basically tasted like they’d melted mozzarella over tostitos, Sarah and I had both requested to have different cheese instead of blue cheese on our burgers, but that request went foregone, and then Carolyn’s risotto was bland and flavorless. We’d spent way too much money to be so disappointed.


Thankfully, we decided to save our night with a walk in the Old City with the goal to find ice cream.


Because nothing says “It’s 28 degrees outside!” quite like an ice cream dessert stop.


It was such a quiet quaint little stroll through the city’s Old Town. Unfortunately I took no pictures because A. It was dark and I knew they wouldn’t come out and B. It was really cold and my fingers didn’t want to. But trust me when I say the streets looked straight out of the 1600s, with all the charm of Europe and not a speck of city debris. Quebec takes good care of herself.


Before we could make it to the ice cream place, Carolyn pulled us into a candy store because she has control issues. It was one of those ones where you can fill a cup with whatever you want. Unfortunately she got into a fight with one of the dispensers and wound up filling half of her cup with these little baby pacifier hard candies (basically Smarties shaped like pacifiers) and had to go get another cup. Tragedy struck tonight.

After purchasing our sugar, it was time for more sugar at Chocolato, an ice cream and chocolate chain cafe. Immediately when you walk in, you get a powerful whiff of milk chocolate. Also the ceiling looked like dripping chocolate, which I thought was stationary, but then apparently everyone else said it was moving? I missed it. I was too focused on getting my ice cream. Carolyn and I each got a dipped cone–hers Nutella, mine cookies and cream–and Bob got dulce de leche hot chocolate. We were all thoroughly satisfied.

Thoroughly stuffed, we boarded our Uber home. Our driver was a very nice man, originally from Algeria, who talked to us about moving to Quebec and how he knew Arabic, French, and English. He was cool.


It was about 10pm by the time we got home, but after such a high-energy day, we were ready to collapse. So we did. Goodnight, Canada!

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