need of a Caribou’ I say aloud without looking up from my laptop. ‘What?’ is the startled response. ‘I’m in need of a Caribou.’
‘One of those Québécois concoctions: hot red wine, whisky and maple syrup’ –I try to clarify lifting a hand in the air and signalling a ‘ you know what I mean?’
‘It is hot out here, you know, this is Sydney and we are coming into summer’ – comes the logical reply from Australian friend.
‘But I am reviewing these stunning images of Quebec in winter and I am in need of a Caribou, preferably inside the Ice Palace.’ I say incongruously. ‘You are mad…’ is the closing phrase.
If you are also puzzled, dear reader, come with me and have a look at these images. I would like to introduce you to a realm of white magic, ice chapels, red berries in the snow, frozen sunrises, dog sleds and ordinary urban landscapes transformed into Breughel-like paintings captured by Lauren Bath’s lens.
Let the magic start now!
This ice chapel is part of Quebec’s Hotel de Glace (Ice Hotel) that has a life span of three months.
Yes, the hotel melts and gets rebuilt every winter, 5km north of the city. It takes about six weeks for 50 workers to complete the buildings each year.
There is something chillingly sobering about the concept of impermanency, the idea that you cannot hold to things forever, that everything is impermanent, that we are but passing…
A lonesome trek in the countryside -where your only companion is the sound of your feet crunching the crusty snow- is a calming experience.
Frosty the snowman
Has someone built a snowman to break up the solitude; to share the landscape beauty with? Even a snowman with berries on his head will do.
What is it about playing in the snow? Is it the softness? The whiteness? The pliable nature of it?
The fact that we know it will cushion our fall? The inner child in us takes over and tries to fly. This time the landing will be soft but will it always be so?
A human touch: Someone –who remains invisible- has decorated these trees on the Abraham Plains for our enjoyment. Thank you.
Thank you for lighting up my path. Thank you for the incongruence of it all. It is whimsical. Unexpected…
Dog sleds, squirrels and taffy
An adrenaline rush is brought about by an exhilarating sled ride thru the woods. The dogs think so too.
‘Pick me, pick me!’ – they seem to be saying at the start, straining at their leads, blue eyes flashing.
You might think you are alone in the woods. But some one is always watching. This squirrel is taking a break from gathering food to make eye contact with the lens.
What could be more Canadian than maple? Maple trees, maple syrup and maple taffy. Being outdoors, playing in the snow, it all requires some calorie intake. This maple taffy will do excellently.
Magic of Quebec in winter
For a change of pace let’s abandon the bucolic landscapes for something different. This image is not of a rescue, nor is it an emergency.
Nobody has fallen into the frozen river by accident or is about to perish. But February is approaching fast, the month that marks the beginning of the annual Quebec City Winter Carnival when some Québécoise go, well… mad.
Maybe they’ve had enough of the cold (the highest average winter temperature in Quebec in February is about -6C) so some go canoeing in the semi-frozen waters of the St Lawrence River.
Racing, to be exact. Across floating ice that keeps moving, cracking, crashing and crushing against the canoes and their paddlers.
If they cannot find a way around a big ice floe, well they mount it (what else?), drag the canoe across it and plunge into the waters at the other side.
They train long and hard for this competition and the teams are quite secretive about their techniques and strategies.
It all started when there were no bridges across the river and ferrymen rowed or paddled the insane from one shore to another even in winter.
One afternoon, the ferrymen got into an argument about who could paddle faster. To settle the dispute, they jumped into their boats and rowed like mad across the semi frozen river.
I think they probably had a few Caribous before this race but the rest is history. Are you feeling cold yet?
Time for a hot chocolate. Just watching the crazy canoes battling the ice, is enough to create a craving for something warm.
Coming back from the wild shores into this conurbation, feels like being in a painting. The buildings look right out of a cookie-tin image.
I love the way the lens distorts the line of the buildings making them look like a row of toy houses.
The lonely walker, the only human form visible, stands out against the white expanse. Back from the great outdoors, carrying a backpack, human frailty will make this explorer seek shelter for the night.
Or maybe she’s heading for the Ice Bar, which at this point stands unmanned and unattended. ‘Is it too early for a Caribou?’ I ask… What did you think, dear reader? Have you enjoyed the journey into the winter heart of Quebec?
For more ideas on what to do in Canada in winter see Best of Canada.
While in Ontario, visit 1000 islands region for castles and kayaks.