Student Life

Being a tourist three hours from home

Moments captured at the Quebec Winter Carnival amongst friends

When my best friend moved to Quebec City this winter, I knew I had to visit her as many times as I could. What better time to do so than during the Quebec Winter Carnival?

Quebec City has a special spark. There is something about the friendly people of this city that makes you feel warm and cozy while navigating the narrow streets. Everyone smiles at you.

As my two best friends and I headed towards the carnival in Old Quebec last Saturday, a father of two sitting next to us on the bus asked where we were from, since we were speaking English. His name was Moussa Sarr. He has a PhD in sociology and is the ex-deputy for the federal minister of transport, infrastructure and collectivity. Sarr emphasized the importance of education and embracing different cultures when we told him we were there to explore the city.

Many families gathered in Old Quebec for the annual Quebec Winter Carnival’s numerous outdoor activities. Photo by Mia Anhoury.

He asked us about the languages we speak. We determined that all four of us could speak French, English and Spanish. “I know a language you don’t know,” Sarr added enthusiastically. The language was Wolof, which is native to Senegal, the Gambia and Mauritania.

Once we arrived at the Grande Allée near the Château Frontenac, a snow sculpture caught my attention. Made by local artists Charles Fleury, Blaise Carrier Chouinard and Péïo Éliceiry, the sculpture was called Toboggan. It depicts a man sliding down a hill on a toboggan. Dressed in a bulky coat and mittens, he seemed immune to the cold, despite being made of snow. His open-mouth smile showed he was amused by the imaginary ride.

Little did we know, the imaginary ride was real. Despite the cold, dozens of people waited in line further down the street for a chance to slide down the hill on a bright red sleigh. Tourists and locals alike were enjoying themselves as they used selfie sticks to captured the fast, slippery moment on camera.

Near the base of the slide, the Bonhomme Carnaval snowman stood behind a frame with a colourful background, creating the perfect photo opportunity for families and friends. Although no one was skating on the rink nearby, the laughter from kids running—or, should I say, gliding—on the ice filled the air. All afternoon, people took turns huddling around a small fire pit near the skating rink, trying to stay warm.

All day, people took turns huddling around a fire pit to stay warm at the carnival. Photo by Mia Anhoury.

My friends and I decided to end the day by going skating at a different rink where we could rent skates. As we glided around the rink — my friends showing off their skating skills while I tried to catch up — we bumped into our new friend Sarr from the bus. A big smile broke out on his face when he spotted us on the rink.

“I knew I was going to see you girls again,” he cried out. We told him about our day at the carnival, and he said he would be headed there the following day.

Throughout our excursion, my friends and I spoke English to one another, which prompted many people to ask us where we were from. Being a tourist in your own province is quite an experience, and it’s funny to be able to respond: “I only live three hours away from you!”

The Quebec Winter Carnival runs until Feb. 11 in Old Quebec.

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