Carnaval de Quebec 2018 - Vacation Tips Sought

IncenjucarIncenjucar Audio Game DeveloperSeattle, WARegistered User regular
edited August 2017 in Help / Advice Forum
Hello! You may remember me from such failed adventures as moving to Montreal! But while that didn't work out (yet), I've been drooling over the idea of going to the Quebec City winter carnival for years, and 2018 is the year I at least accomplish that!

What is known:
  • This is a very long fete. I will certainly not be there the whole time, and will probably do a Thursday-to-Tuesday trip to get the most out of it.
  • It will be cold unless climate change has gone way too damned far. I will plan for layers.
  • I speak very little French. I hope to pick up a bit more before I get there, but I'm going to be relying heavily on local bilingualism.
  • I have Canadian/US Dual Citizenship This is not super helpful because it's basically a giant piece of paper I can't safely carry around!
  • I need to renew my US passport. I don't have a Canadian passport yet so I'll mostly just be going as a USian. Also so people are less angry about my lack of French.
  • I'm not going to want to spend a ton on lodging, but I'm not comfortable with crowd sourcing options. I need to find a cheap hotel or maybe a well-kept non-youth hostel (I am oldish).
  • I have never been to Quebec. Or really any part of Canada other than Vancouver.
  • I will be limited to public transport. I hate driving in the best of times and there are just too many variables for me to rent a car here.
  • I am not super timid as long as I am not required to socialize or eat organ meat or get surrounded by worrisome substances. I'm pretty comfortable with ending up in strange places otherwise.

So, with all that said, does anyone have any tips?

Places with just too many bedbugs?

Areas with amazing bus transport to the fete?

Good not-fast-food places to eat that won't make my wallet deflate?

A best week to visit?

A worst week to visit?

Scenarios in which my being an out-of-country tourist will cause me problems?

Wonderful events that happen during the fete but which are not on the itinerary?

Events which are a huuuuuuge waste of time?

Great places to people watch?

Great places to be a gentleman wallflower?

Insanely cliche Parisian-style cafes with little tables on cobbled streets but also with poutine?

Complications to doing laundry while there so I can get away with packing super super light?

Thanks in advance!

Incenjucar on

Posts

  • NewblarNewblar Registered User regular
    edited August 2017
    I've only been to Quebec City once for one night and it was around that time but not during the festival (it's more expensive at that time). It's one of the most beautiful cities I've seen and I should go back to see it in the summer or fall.

    When I went It was cold, like brutal cold. I live in Ottawa so I should have been prepared but Im used to walking around in the cold, not standing still to take pictures. Bring long johns, wool socks, scarf, etc. You can sneak into stores if needed.

    Stay in Old town or walking distance to it. I assume most of what you want to see is around there so no need for busing around. I never took public transit so I can't comment on its effectiveness. I missed it because I took a wrong turn and was too cold but a significant part of it will have Christmas type lights up on the streets. In general use the Chateau Frontenac as a landmark.

    I can't remember the name of the place I stayed but there are several small house like hotels that are basically hostels for old people with shared common areas but seperate bedrooms (a little more hotel like than a B&B). The only other guest I met there was a 50 something year old guy from a Nordic country and I'm not young myself.

    I didn't find my lack of French to offend anyone and everyone I met tried to speak English with me (generally limited and heavily accented). The people I talked to were very friendly. Note, I stuck to old town which is a tourist area and likely much more accommodating but I found it better than other similar areas in other cities. Ive found people getting offended about my inability to speak French to be much more of an issue in Montreal even though English is more common.

    I would recommend doing the military base tour. The tour itself is a bit meh but it does provide an amazing view of old town at one point. My best pictures probably came from that. Surprisingly I was the only Canadian on the English tour (American, Brazilian and Chinese were the others).

    Somewhere to research traveling to by bus or tour is Village Vacances Valcartier. I think it's around 30 minutes away by car. They have an ice hotel which you can take a tour of. They also have an outdoor winter tubbing park and an indoor water park. Both of which would be quite fun but I wasn't aware of them before I arrived. It's all part of a resort.

    Laundry advice is to do your own. You can buy single use packets of laundry detergent and wash things like tshirts, underwear and socks in the sink. Or just do them in the shower everyday. Grab a hanger and hang them up on the towel wrack or find somewhere in your room. Alternatively you could macguyver a laundry line with floss.The hotel may offer laundry services (not sure if they do in Canada) and a small one may let you use their machines. I would assume there are also laundry mats somewhere nearby.

    Newblar on
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]
    Incenjucar
  • McKidMcKid Registered User regular
    edited August 2017
    I've lived in Québec City (I'll just say Québec for the rest of my post, it's the city's name in French) all my life so I can give you a little pointers about nice but not too touristy things to do here. But, I don't have much experience with Carnaval activities per se, so I can't help all that much on that front. The only consistent interaction I had with the Carnaval as a child and a teen was the Charlesbourg Night Parade, because it was very close from my parent's house. As an adult living in downtown Québec, I don't really participate.


    About the cold : It will be cold AS FUCK. The Carnaval is during the coldest period of the winter here. I don't know where you are from in the US, but it might be the coldest temperatures you've ever felt. And since the Carnaval is outside, you need to be able to sustain those temperatures hours at the time to participate. Definitely bring hand and feet warmers. You need a tuque and you need something to cover your face, I'm sorry if this sounds pedantic but I often see tourists hatless in -30 C weather, which is just dangerous.

    Lack of French : No problem about it. Québec is a very touristy city and, you won't have any problems communicating in English, everybody will understand that you are a tourist and no one will give you shit about talking in English.

    I can't really comment on hotels and hostels in my own city. Just be sure to take a hotel near the Carnaval events, so you'll be able to walk to pretty much everything. It's not that the public transport sucks (it doesn't), you'll just have a much more pleasant experience. Like, if your hotel is in Sainte-Foy or Limoilou, that is just too far. I can clarify for you if a particular hotel will be appropriate if you want.

    If you need to use public transport, the 80X buses are the main bus lines in the city. Very frequent and run until late. The 800, 801 and 807 all converge on the Carnaval area.

    You'll want to see a Night Parade. There both the same, but the Haute-Ville would be more pratical for you. So schedule to be there for this week-end. If you can't, the Charlesbourg Night Parade ends up downtown, so it shouldn't really more complicated. I'd avoid anything to do with the Duchesses. It was an old kinda sexist tradition that controversially came back about 5 years ago. It's essentially a pageant.

    Look at last year's map here. All of this is the Haute-Ville (because it is literally on top of a huge cliff). It's the traditional touristy and rich part of the city. Can you see the vertical street labelled Honoré-Mercier ? Everything east of this is inside the Walls (Québec is a fortified city). This is where you can find your cobbled streets and old style houses. But don't eat or drink there, this is rich people and tourists restaurant there. The Quartier Petit-Champlain is very cute in the winter, but I wouldn't more than wander there. West of Honoré-Mercier, there are 3 main streets : René-Levesque, but in this sector there isn't much to do on it, Grande-Allée, very touristy with nightclubs and Saint-Jean, which is where I would hang out as an actual resident of the city. Any restaurants here would do. For bars, look for La Ninkasi (some easy food), Le Nelligan (if you like scotch), Le Sacrilège (cheapest), Le Projet (which has food too) and (specially) Le Bateau de Nuit (best craft beer bar in Québec). La Brûlerie Saint-Jean is a great café.

    I highly recommend that you go into the Basse-Ville (north of the Carnaval map), wander into Boulevard Charest and Rue Saint-Joseph. These two feel a lot like rue Saint-Jean in the Haute-Ville. For bars (with good food too), check out Le Noctem, Deux 22 (mexican food) and La Korrigane. For restaurant, any will do, but avoid Le Bureau de Poste (it is always crowded for no particular reason). For coffee, either La Brûlerie Saint-Joseph or Le Nektar.


    "Scenarios in which my being an out-of-country tourist will cause me problems?" Nope

    "Insanely cliche Parisian-style cafes with little tables on cobbled streets but also with poutine?" Nope. You won't find any tables outside in the winter. You can find your cobbled-streets in the Old City and Quartier Petit-Champlain. For poutine, oh boy. You'll find poutine in various degrees of quality about anywhere, especially in bars that serve food. People in Québec swear by Ashton's poutine, which is a local chain, but it's not that good imho. The best authentic poutine experience in Québec is at Chez Gaston in my opinion. It's a little hole in the wall in the Basse-Ville.


    This is getting long, so don't hesitate for things I might have missed or any follow-up questions!

    McKid on
    IncenjucarMichaelLCPsykoma
  • IncenjucarIncenjucar Audio Game Developer Seattle, WARegistered User regular
    Thanks for the tips, folks!

    I am going to take the very good advice to see the Night Parade and try to get a ticket for Feb 1-6. Given that's over 20 weeks away, shouldn't be too hard to find good deals.

    McKid
  • FiggyFiggy Registered User regular
    I'm in Montreal right now. Took a short trip with the wife. If QC is anything like here, half the people we have met are fluent in English. The other half seem to be first-language English.

    Did AirBnB to save cash. Not only is it cheaper than a hotel, you usually get an entire place, so full kitchen, laundry, etc.

    XBL : Figment3 · SteamID : Figment · Website : www.nathanswyers.com
  • SwashbucklerXXSwashbucklerXX Swashbucklin' Canuck Registered User regular
    edited August 2017
    Figgy wrote: »
    I'm in Montreal right now. Took a short trip with the wife. If QC is anything like here, half the people we have met are fluent in English. The other half seem to be first-language English.

    Did AirBnB to save cash. Not only is it cheaper than a hotel, you usually get an entire place, so full kitchen, laundry, etc.

    Quebec City is decidedly more Francophone than Montreal. Most folks in the tourist area will speak English, but if you want to go off the beaten path a bit you're highly likely to encounter folks who only speak French. It's still worth going off the beaten path for things like amazing food for a far cheaper price, and as a tourist I found people to be very patient with smiles, hand gestures, and my highly rudimentary, verbless French.

    Oh, and food suggestions: Try tortiere (meat pie), especially if you find a place that does it the traditional way with game meat. So good. Also try something traditionally savory that has maple syrup in or on it. Quebecers do amazing things with maple syrup.

    SwashbucklerXX on
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    IncenjucarKetBra
  • McKidMcKid Registered User regular
    Oh yeah, definetly eat some tourtière if you can. Be warned that what exactly constitute a tourtière is a never-ending debate in Québec. I would suggest going to the Restaurant Là Là, their tourtière is a "Tourtière du Lac" (Lac Saint-Jean is a big rural and industrial region 2-3 hours north of Québec), which some people consider to be the only true tourtière. I won't get into that, but it's generally better than a classic ground beef pie. While there, I would also eat a pouding chômeur for dessert (and get your maple syrup fix taken care of), for a complete old-school Québécois celebratory family dinner experience.

    Incenjucar
  • IncenjucarIncenjucar Audio Game Developer Seattle, WARegistered User regular
    I think it's safe to say that some of my Stay Warm money will be spent on internal insulation. :D
    Thanks for the tips, folks!

  • IncenjucarIncenjucar Audio Game Developer Seattle, WARegistered User regular
    Quick Update:

    Passport Renewal - Get
    Plane Tickets - Get
    Lodging - Pending

    I'm probably going to see if I can find a hostel so I don't pay more for a room than my tickets (which were pretty reasonable!)

    Also bonus, I happened to meet one of my Quebecois family members at a wedding last month, and they were quite pleasant. All the more reason to visit the area again in the future.

    Any additional suggestions or ideas are always appreciated!

    McKid
  • IncenjucarIncenjucar Audio Game Developer Seattle, WARegistered User regular
    Another quick update:
    Booked a room at a hostel in Old Quebec for the duration of my trip. I have been a coward about hostels for my whole life, so this is a big deal for me, even if it's old news for a lot of folks.

    All that I have to do now is plan for things like phones and money and figure out public transportation, but all of that shouldn't be that big a deal. The trip is pretty much 100% ready to go. Sadly, I've been too busy with work to learn much French, but that will just have to be part of the adventure!

  • legallytiredlegallytired Registered User regular
    edited November 2017
    Public transportation really isn't too great. You should get the Nomade application from the RTC (Réseau de Transport de la Capitale) for info on buses.. and that's pretty much it!
    A bit fuzzy on the uber situation in Quebec as there are conflicts with the taxi industry and the local governement but I think it works at the moment.

    I'd expect encountering some people working in the service industry who do not speak english at all but there's pretty much always someone around that can help out. Really shouldn't be an issue.

    legallytired on
    Incenjucar
  • PapillonPapillon Registered User regular
    I wouldn't worry too much about not knowing French. I did French immersion in school and tried to get a bit of practice in but almost everyone responded to me in English :(.

    Second the Citadelle -- the place itself is kind of meh, but I thought the tour itself was interesting. It's apparently still an active military base, so at least when I was there tours were lead by Canadian Forces personnel.

    Incenjucar
  • NewblarNewblar Registered User regular
    edited November 2017
    The citadel is still active but it’s extremly small and being winter you won’t see much of the military. When I went the tours were all being led by civilians. The tour has people outdoors a lot so I would highly recommend dressing warmly at that time of year which is quite frigid.

    I forgot to mention it earlier but there’s a giant slide somewhere near the chateau Frontenac. I didnt try it so I don’t know if it’s fun but it’s certainly different.

    Newblar on
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]
    Incenjucar
  • RichyRichy Registered User regular
    Around the same time you'll be there (first week of February I think?) it'll be Poutine Week in Québec City. Meaning many restaurants will serve absolutely unique gastronomic poutines for only $10. It's definitely something you should look into if you want to try one and have a unique foodie experience to talk about. Last year I had six, and I don't regret a single french fry. The website is not up yet, but remind me when it gets closer to your trip and I'll send it to you.

    Québec City also has an abundance of microbreweries. I can point you to the good ones near where you'll be, if you're into beer.

    If you have a decent food budget, I suggest dinner at the Ciel, the panoramic rotating restaurant near the Old Town. The view is unbeatable. Be sure to book ahead and get a table by the window, and plan for 2 hours for a complete 360.

    sig.gif
    chromdomMcKidPsykomaIncenjucar
  • RichyRichy Registered User regular
    Also I live in Québec City, so give me a shout-out when you're in town!

    sig.gif
    Incenjucar
  • RichyRichy Registered User regular
    As promised, the Québec City poutine week line-up:
    https://www.lapoutineweek.com/city/quebec/view

    They are 10$ each, and the week runs from 1 to 7 February. Enjoy!

    sig.gif
    IncenjucarMcKid
  • IncenjucarIncenjucar Audio Game Developer Seattle, WARegistered User regular
    Thank you all for the info! Tomorrow night I fly out! Je suis excite!

    21stCenturyKetBraMcKid
  • IncenjucarIncenjucar Audio Game Developer Seattle, WARegistered User regular
    So the whole Coldest I've Been in my Life bit is making exploring more daunting than expected. I'm thankfully in a really great spot in Old Quebec near... the McDonald's... so there are tons of ...pizza... places and pubs galore, and I'm surrounded by carnival events which could use a lot more fire pits.

    I haven't quite figured out where to get bus passes to explore around the city. Is there a place near Old Quebec, or am I going to need to use cash to get into another area first?

    Really freaking gorgeous out here. Just. So. COLD.

  • WiseManTobesWiseManTobes Registered User regular
    What are you using for outerwear etc, maybe we should have used this thread to get you properly outfitted for a canadian weather newbie.

    Steam! Battlenet:Wisemantobes#1508
  • IncenjucarIncenjucar Audio Game Developer Seattle, WARegistered User regular
    Layers of clothes under a leather jacket and jeans, plus a hat and some gloves. It was fine on the first day - didn't even need gloves - , but when the slushie winds pick up it gets pretty harrowing. I will absolutely go a bit more gonzo with the insulation next time, but it mostly just keeps me from relaxing outdoors.

    Mostly it's just that I wander aimlessly and there don't seem to be a lot of good places to sit down in without buying anything - or I can't identify them properly. I see a lot of museums but I'm not sure if any of them are open or free - the endless construction doesn't help. :p

  • RichyRichy Registered User regular
    edited February 2018
    Incenjucar wrote: »
    So the whole Coldest I've Been in my Life bit is making exploring more daunting than expected. I'm thankfully in a really great spot in Old Quebec near... the McDonald's... so there are tons of ...pizza... places and pubs galore, and I'm surrounded by carnival events which could use a lot more fire pits.

    I haven't quite figured out where to get bus passes to explore around the city. Is there a place near Old Quebec, or am I going to need to use cash to get into another area first?

    Really freaking gorgeous out here. Just. So. COLD.

    You can get bus passes from practically any convenience store, and most grocery stores, and even some pharmacies.

    You mentioned the McDonald's, so I assume you're on St Jean street. Walking west, you'll reach the Carré d'Youville, where the ice rink is, just past the gate. That's a major bus hub (including the 800/801 on the other side of the hotel), and there's a convenience store at the corner.

    Richy on
    sig.gif
    Incenjucar
  • RichyRichy Registered User regular
    Incenjucar wrote: »
    Layers of clothes under a leather jacket and jeans, plus a hat and some gloves.

    Jeans? Jeez. Go get snow pants. I wear them to walk to work every day, and I'm quite thankful for them. Trust me, you'll be a lot happier spending a day outside if your legs are warm and protected.

    sig.gif
    IncenjucarKetBraWiseManTobes
  • RichyRichy Registered User regular
    By the way, if you are on St Jean street, I recommend the Bistro Boulay, the food is delicious!

    sig.gif
    Incenjucar
  • McKidMcKid Registered User regular
    It is COLD AS FUCK tonight too ! The weather as been super chaotic since the end of December. The rest of the week should be manageable. The Jack and Jill at Place d'Youville should have bus passes. Also, the bus service (RTC) has a service point on Honoré-Mercier, very near Place d'Youville.

    IncenjucarRichy
  • IncenjucarIncenjucar Audio Game Developer Seattle, WARegistered User regular
    edited February 2018
    Thanks folks! My legs aren't doing so bad because they're hyuuuge, it's my face that suffers the most so I've picked up a scarf (forgot a few things when packing...). I'll definitely invest a bit more into it next time just to get it from okay to comfortable though.

    Like seriously having your nose hairs freeze is distracting.

    Incenjucar on
    McKidSwashbucklerXXRichy
  • IncenjucarIncenjucar Audio Game Developer Seattle, WARegistered User regular
    edited February 2018
    So, uh, I noticed that there are different locations for the night parade. Looks like I need to figure out how to get to Charlesbourg and back. Can you tell I don't travel much? :P

    Would Simons be a good place to grab snow pants? It's like right there.

    ---

    Got a bus pass... and my first encounter with someone who spoke no English, but survived.

    The bistro is definitely on my list, probably Sunday night so I can properly relax.

    Wandered into Cartier street, this place is cozy. <3

    Incenjucar on
  • RichyRichy Registered User regular
    Simons can be a bit expensive, but you might get lucky with end-of-season sales, and really on St Jean you don't have many options, and you don't want to spend your holiday shopping for cheap pants.

    You can get to Charlesbourg easy with the 800 and 801 busses. They run all day, every day, every 5 minutes in peak hours and every 15 minutes otherwise. Go get the RTC Nomad app for your phone, it'll give you bus schedules and routes.

    sig.gif
    Incenjucar
  • IncenjucarIncenjucar Audio Game Developer Seattle, WARegistered User regular
    Richy wrote: »
    Simons can be a bit expensive, but you might get lucky with end-of-season sales, and really on St Jean you don't have many options, and you don't want to spend your holiday shopping for cheap pants.

    You can get to Charlesbourg easy with the 800 and 801 busses. They run all day, every day, every 5 minutes in peak hours and every 15 minutes otherwise. Go get the RTC Nomad app for your phone, it'll give you bus schedules and routes.

    I'm on the 801 now! Thanks for the tips! Didn't get around to pants but I have some time before the parade and I'll keep an eye out for an extra layer.

  • NewblarNewblar Registered User regular
    If you can’t find snow pants, long johns work well too. They’re basically long underwear that go down to your feet. Not as warm and not waterproof but likely cheaper and easier to travel with.

    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]
    RichyIncenjucarKetBra
  • IncenjucarIncenjucar Audio Game Developer Seattle, WARegistered User regular
    Yeah, I've got an thermal top, couldn't find the lower half in time for the trip. I managed to avoid losing toes by ducking onto the blessed, wonderful Hortons on the route. My snow boots do not appear to be able to handle -5, but my toes are thawing nicely. So happy I came out here. Those wolf heads we're especially gorgeous.

    McKidRichy
  • McKidMcKid Registered User regular
    I don't know why, but it is always ridiculously cold the night of the Charlesbourg parade. My parents live about 2 blocks from it, so we would always go when I was a kid, but never actually stay all the way because of the cold.

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