Hello to friends, family and wayward surfers. It’s Sunday, Leo and Claire are visiting her dad and I’m supposed to be at the office catching up on my mountain of work. But it’s a beautiful day and I’d rather be outside. Illogical compromise: I am seated at my computer, blogging.

Château FrontenacI recently posted a new set on Flickr, taken when my lovely lady Claire and I extended a weekend in February for a romantic getaway to Québec City. It was to celebrate our 5th anniversary, so we did it in high style, flying in (on points), staying at the finest hotel (at the CAA rate) and dining at the fanciest restaurants (couldn’t find a discount on these, but earned lots of Aeroplan miles back on the credit card.) It was a wonderful time.

Ice TrackUnfortunately, Claire came down with strep throat shortly after arriving. Despite the great antibiotics the hotel doctor prescribed, she had to spend a couple of afternoons sleeping in the room. I, of course, spent that time wandering the old city and taking pictures. I soon found some of the classic vistas of Vieux Québec were a bit marred by an ice track they were setting up for some extreme downhill skating thing. Not deterred, I tried to make some pictures featuring it. One of the evenings, I managed to capture a few shots of a fabulous red sky over the old buildings as the sun was setting.

Ice Hotel RoomAs Claire began to feel better, we went on a couple of adventures. One was the Ice Hotel, west of the city, something we’ve always wanted to check out. We signed up for the $15/person tour. Though a stunningly beautiful piece of ice sculpture, accomodations within were spartan. No heat, no room service, no view, one bathroom for all guests. We’ve decided we’d rather not spend the night there at $200/person, which doesn’t include the special underwear you need to sleep in so you don’t become a human popsicle overnight.

The next day’s adventure was dog sledding, this time north of the city. After a 30-second tutorial on how to steer (hit the brake and don’t let go of the sled if you fall) we were off, following the lead sled of our guide. Claire rode in the sled as I “mushed”.

Claire & Sled DogAbout 2 minutes into it, we arrived a gentle uphill grade, which prompted our team of huskies to stop. As our instructor had suggested for such an event, I got off the runners and pushed, which got them going again. When the slope went downward, we had been instructed to apply the brake to keep tension on the line so the front of the sled would follow the direction the dogs were taking. This prevented us from gaining any momentum for the next uphill section, so the dogs stopped again. After a few more hills, I began to sweat in my toque and brightly-colored Ski-Doo suit.

More hills came, and I began to curse these lazy dogs that took a break at the earliest sign of tension on the line. One mutt in particular never had any tension on his rope; he was just along for the stroll. In case you’re wondering, no, they don’t supply a whip: you must yell at the dogs. My own yells were getting progressively weaker as I wheezed and gasped for air.

We arrived at a tight corner where one side of the sled climbed up the snowbank and, despite our best efforts to lean against it, we keeled over. Thankfully, I had just put my camera back into its bag. Though Claire fell out, I was able to hold on to the bar and dragged on my stomach for a while. I eventually managed to scramble back up to my feet and jump onto the brake to stop the dogs. In my increasingly sinister mood, it was not lost on me that now the dogs hadn’t been so interested in slowing.

You can’t reverse a dog sled, so I had to wait for Claire to catch up on foot before we were gone again. One thing I ask readers keep in mind is that there was a whole lineup of other couples on dog sleds behind us, with much less lethargic dogs, always hot on our tail. There was no room for them to pass on the narrow trail, so we always had spectators for our adventure.

We continued for some time, getting more and more exhausted. “Come on,” I pleaded with the dogs, in French, “I know you can pull harder. Heck, our Aussiedoodle back home pulls harder than all of you guys combined on her evening walk.”

Claire MushingClaire heroically offered to mush while I rode the sled, but she quickly tired after having to push the sled, the dogs and my 220+ pound ass up the hills. We eventually settled on a routine of both of us dismounting to scale the hills. We still had to push the sled, because apparently these dogs were unable to haul even an empty sled up a hill.

After descending a hill, on a series of rapid sweeping corners, we managed to flip the sled again. This time, I was too exhausted to hold on and the dogs took off with the empty sled. We were later told that folks up ahead had a good laugh when they saw the sled team sans passengers come over the hill. Claire and I got up, brushed the snow off our Ski-Doo suits, looked at each other and shrugged.

Okay, this was kind of fun.

We took our time catching up, as we knew a gentle walk would be our best bet at some rest. We got on again and soon arrived at the base camp, our starting point.

Much to our dismay, the guide kept going, up a mountain on the other side of the camp this time. This, of course, amounted to an other uphill hike for Claire and I. We cursed some more, swearing too that we’d diet and get in shape.

Our ride eventually ended, and we decided that snowmobiles were our preferred method of winter conveyance. Nonetheless, we had a few laughs figuring it out. That evening, we relaxed with intensity.

Well, those are the trip highlights. I invite you to check the photo set on Flickr to see the moments I managed to capture.