Every year around the second week of February - when the weather gets cold, the snow stays around a little longer than normal - with clear blue skies, crisp stars and when thoughts of "where can we go to get warm" creep into my mind - I think of Quebec. Specifically - Carnaval de Quebec. It is a reminder to celebrate the season and what it brings so instead of fighting or complaining about this time of year just jump in.....and that is how the Quebecians "celebrate" winter.....Carnaval de Quebec....so a couple of years ago we decided to give it a try. It is a time I will never forget and I want to share some of that with you.
Carnaval de Quebec is the biggest winter Carnaval in the world. We flew from Denver through Toronto to Quebec City. It was an easy trip - even when you would look out at the frozen tarmacs and snow covered planes as we entered and departed both Canadian cities. It looked cold.
When we arrived we grabbed a taxi and headed straight to the hotel. It looked cold.
We stayed directly across from the Frontgate of the Old City - the location was perfect giving us access to virtually all the activities of the Carnaval - which were in walking distance on the "Plains of Abraham" as well as very close access to the main streets of the Old City.
Well - it didn't just look cold.....it was cold! Many people who have been to Quebec would probably be familiar with the Fairmont de Chateau Frontenac and the promenade or boardwalk that fronts the St. Lawrence.....well here is what it looks like in winter. Crowded and beautiful in summer....almost deserted, cold with a different beauty in February.
The Carnaval lasts for about 10 days. Every day has something new to offer from Fireworks to Ice Sculpting to Night Parades - Ice Canoe Races across the St. Lawrence (those people are crazy) to enjoying music - the building of the Ice Palace, the sledding hill and so much more - including.....snow shoe races ....which were extraordinary........did I mention it was cold.
The evening we decided to see the ice sculptures and palace was very cold .....it had been a bit windy earlier in the day....they said with windchill it was close to -28......yes that is below zero....but it was still incredibly beautiful. But it was so cold that day - ice formed on the INSIDE of our hotel room's window due to the condensation from the shower. INSIDE the room......now that is cold!
One local merchant had told us that sometimes during the winter it gets cold and windy for so long that shops just close.....she mentioned that a couple of years ago she closed for almost 10 straight days horrible weather that year...but it was unique. Quebec is such a world class city with kind and wonderful people. Hearty souls no doubt to deal with the adversity of very tough winters and still a joyful place to visit.
One of the interesting things about Old City - Fortress is that is sits high above the river. The Old City has the commanding view and position but the lower part of Old Town...closer to the water is amazingly attractive and fun too.
Shops along the streets - especially at the bottom of the funicular located by the Frontenac Hotel (which runs in the winter as well as the summer) will take you down and up so you don't have to walk. I honestly don't even know if there is a trail in winter that you can traverse....summer yes....winter - not so sure.
Ice sculptures, beautiful shops with warm and inviting window displays, food, drinks, games - fun - around the corners - museums and crafts. The entire time we were there for Carnaval - I don't think there was a moment that we didn't enjoy any place we visited.
There is a saying in cold "Scandinavian" type countries......"no bad weather-just bad clothing" and since we had come prepared nothing stopped us.....EXCEPT.......maple syrup poured onto snow blocks which freeze as you slowly roll them with popsicle sticks !!!!!! That stopped us......to enjoy......
Finally - of all the activities and food and wine.....and the best French Onion Soup - ever....we made our way to "Hotel de' Glace"...the Ice Hotel.
Starting in November - this hotel is built with blocks of ice. It takes months to completely finish. As each month gets colder new sections are added on. The size is somewhat dependent on the weather.
Their are normally 42 rooms and themed suites. Each has a different theme and/or colors and snow sculptures in the walls. The entire experience is made to make you feel like you are in an igloo. I felt like we were in an ice sculpture museum. Very quiet, very different rooms - different lighting - different shapes - very cozy - very intimate. Fur blankets abound.
There are hot tubs and saunas and an eating area that is not in the hotel of ice itself....but close by. But the draw is the hotel and the ice bar. It is something to behold and enjoy.
We didn't stay here overnight we just hung out and slid down the ice slide - had a drink at the bar - sat by the fireplace and inhaled the colors - and the smiles of the people who visited with us. Pure Vida !!!!
If you decide to spend the night - they will send you a "Preparation Guide" to get you ready for your stay..........how cool is that. (Wish I had an emoji for that last one).
We have been to Quebec a number of times. We love Quebec but had no idea what to expect at Carnaval.
One of the pure pleasures of travel is discovering that people in places around the world find ways to find joy and to celebrate their lives and where they live no matter where that might be. It is cold in Quebec in February....but as they might say...."habillez-vous pour rester au chaud.....et profitez des bons moments ave de bons amis".........loosely translated: "dress to stay warm...and enjoy the good times with great friends".
Travel Safe Travel Well "Vivre galamment"
Divine Beauty and Inspiration - in my own backyard Our Lady Of Loreto - Catholic Church, Foxfield CO
"The Virgin of the Grapes" - the original painted by Pierre Mignard in 1640 hangs in the Louvre.....but this "recreation" greets you as you enter the main offices of one of the most beautiful "churches" which I have had the wonder of not just visiting but attending and... in of all places just 3 miles from my home....in my backyard.
Located in Foxfield, Colorado.....just off Arapahoe Rd and about a quarter of a mile east from the Parker Rd intersection. It sits to the south. Although the exterior which has grown dramatically due to the increase in the school looks like so many other - large - churches - the interior is something to behold.
The Parish was started by Father Ed Buelt - in his garage. I didn't know Father Ed who is now Monsignor - but he had a vision. He organized and grew the parishioners and they kept growing - moving to Regis High School until finally in 2001 they broke ground for the new church. Father David Bluejacket is now the spiritual leader and the parish continues to grow.
Much of the information I am going to share is from a brochure they have that traces the history and symbolic meanings of the architecture and design of the church. I give them all the credit for the information in this blog. Not trying to plagiarize but I did take some comments directly from the brochure. I hope they will forgive me but I couldn't have said it any better......
Enjoy and when - you have a chance to visit or take part in the services - sit in awe as we have and rejoice in the divine "nature" and inspiration of "Our Lady Of Loreto".
The entrance was inspired by the Basilica of St. Ambrose in Milan, Italy. It faces the west and in Colorado our western sun glows brightly...bathing the interior with light in the afternoon. The golden bronze doors - invite you to enter and to leave the secular world behind as you are called to worship.
As you enter the "Narthax" - entry way before the sanctuary - you walk on a red carpet with white four armed crosses which symbolize fish which combined evokes the Red Sea...Exodus to freedom.........in this case not just physical but spiritual as well. The carpet continues into the santuary......where:
.....your gaze to the alter and the surrounding pillars - of wood and stone and none with any right angles makes you feel as if you have entered a heavenly dome....which you have.
It reminds me of the the Cathedral - Sagrada Familia in Barcelona Spain - Antoni Gaudi's magnificent cathedral that symbolizes and embodiments the beauty and diversity found in nature created by the divine. Like tree trunks the pillars reach to the heavens another reminder when Moses lead his people through the desert to the promised land singing......"The trees of the wood shout for joy at the presence of the Lord".
The sanctuary was also very reminiscent of the Stave Churches in Scandinavia...or the Norwegian Longships. The pillars looking like the "ribs or bones" of the ships that were built.....so functional and yet so beautiful.
Everywhere you look - you are uplifted. I was fortunate to be there early in the morning to capture the elegance, the beauty, the artistry and fascination as the light danced around the walls. The peacefulness and grace of the symmetry. It was something to behold.
Around the walls are magnificent stained glass windows. They are called the Rosary Windows and are dedicated to the Virgin Mary. I tried to capture them but the light was so bright - I couldn't get a good shot.
Additionally are the Stations of the Cross. They were designed by the Italian sculpture Marcell Tommasi and they are unique to Our Lady of Loreto. No other copies were made.
The stained glass windows and the sculptures are worth a visit all to themselves......but the majesty and simple beauty of this entire structure is something to enjoy.
The alter is a focal point. It is elegant and again full of symbolism. The edges are rough and stand for the world in which we live...the base - cut in two to remind us of the intervention of God in the created world and in sending Christ as the intervention of Love.....and all made of stone....."the cornerstone that the builder's rejected". I could go on and on about the Ambo, the Baptismal Font, the Tabernacle......more and more but what I want to finish with is this:
The Church building - maybe any church building is not what it is all about. It symbolizes and reminds of the the deeper meaning of the Ministry - in this case Christianity. Our Lady of Loreto - in all of its beauty and splendor and it is amazing ... also oversees Fellowship, Prayer, Faith Formation, Liturgy and Worship as well as supporting Outreach Programs like:
Habitat for Humanity
Nursing Home Outreach
Funeral Reception Help
Cookies, Sandwiches and More
Food Bank of the Rockies......and many more.
It is a magnificent building but like so many things in it..........it means so much more when you take the inspiration with you when you leave......and turn it into action.
Be good to someone today..
BK Travel Tips
To enjoy travel and see the world and often yourself as if for the first time and with with the eyes of a young child.