8.11.2016

Quebec City

Out trip to Quebec City was much easier than our trip to Montreal. We figured out a good traveling "rhythm" for our family; see sites during the morning, eat a big lunch, go back "home" and put the boys down for a nap, and then when they woke up we'd spend the rest of the afternoon at a playground/splash pad letting the boys get out their energy. It worked beautifully, and it was nice that the Airbnb house we stayed at had a park around the corner. I think next time we travel we will plan to stay in a house near a park so the kids have their time to play, scream, yell, and do whatever their hearts desire.


PLACES

Old Quebec City

We took a ferry over the river to the old city. Another simple activity that was a favorite for Sawyer. It was cheap and short, which made us happy!




The city was absolutely charming! It was like we were walking around in France.




After a very brief description of the Battle of Quebec and how the cannons were used, we headed off for crepes. But I guess that the brief description had a big impact on Sawyer's imagination because he spent the next 20 minutes reenacting the battle using sticks and rocks!

Sometimes traveling with little kids can be hard, like really hard. But moments like this we realize that little minds are capable of so much more than we give them credit for. Seeing those cannons, the wall, and hearing a simple story of how people fought here sparked an interest that probably wouldn't have happened with books or pictures alone.
The other experience that made the whole trip worth it was Sawyer being around so many French (and Spanish!) speakers and by the end of the trip he was fascinated with the languages. He would continually ask "How do you say ______ in French?" I was continually reminded of my favorite Mark Twain quote:

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.”




While the kids were playing in the fountains, the fountains turned off and Calvin crawled right to the middle and was looking at one of the spouts when they turned back on. Oh goodness, I felt guilty for getting so much pleasure from watching the whole ordeal. Sadly, he couldn't figure a way out and it was daddy to the rescue!


Parc de Chute Montmorency

We contrasted the old city of Quebec with hiking to the top of this beautiful waterfall. The climb up the stairs wasn't actually as bad as it looks. Sawyer walked the whole way by himself! And thank goodness because I was not in shape to carry him all the way to the top. 
 At the end we took a picture of him in front of the stairs and waterfall so he could remember how far he climbed. He was one proud, and very tired boy!







Seeing the waterfall and the river sparked another good discussion of how water from the waterfall flows to the river, and that water flows to the ocean. Sawyer talked about how he could ride in his kayak down the waterfall and river and go all the way to the sea! Well, at least he got the waterflow idea :) 

EAT

Probably my favorite thing about traveling is eating food. Because we travel fairly often and bring our kids with us they get the chance to try new foods, and can you guess the best part? There are no "safe" foods for them to fall back on, so they ate everything we gave them! Poutine, Proscuitto goat cheese sandwich, vegetable soup, etc.
But of course everyone's favorite place was Chocolate Favoris. If you ever visit Quebec City you must go there. Unless you don't like ice cream. And if that's the case, please get off my blog and go seriously ponder what brings you joy :)


At Chocolate Favoris you pick a basic ice cream flavor and then you can pick one of many chocolate shell flavors to dip your cone in. They had orange-chocolate, cookies and cream, salted caramel, vanilla maple, and many more! It would be a gross understatement to say that we "liked" it.




There were a lot of places we didn't see, we were only there for 3 days. Maybe someday we'll travel there again. We definitely recommend going, it was like going on a road trip to a European country.

7.31.2016

Montreal

As a preface to this post I should explain that Aaron received a job offer from Voya and starts on Monday. He quit his job at the Hartford and his last day was July 8th, giving us three full weeks of vacation time! We spent a week in Portland, OR with Aaron's family and had a wonderful time on the beach playing with cousins. You can see pictures on my Instagram: @nerd_healthnut.

As for the last week of vacation, we've been wanting to take a trip to Montreal and Quebec City for a while now, and we decided this the perfect time to go!


PLAY

Mount Royal Park

This park was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the same man that designed NYC's Central Park. So yeah, it was a good park. We loved the playground and the beautiful landscaping. It is a great place to take kids and let them do the wonderful things kids love to do; climb, run, and scream.


 




Jean-Talon Market

I absolutely loved this market. There were hundreds of varieties of fruits and vegetables and all kinds of artisan foods. Sawyer enjoyed looking at the different meats; there was deer, rabbit, bison, duck, horse, and quail. The best part was that most vendors gave samples of their perfectly ripe fruit. 



Hop On-Hop Off Bus Tour

Aaron got us some free tickets for this on a deal, although normally its ~$40 for adults, and free for kids under 6. It was two hours long, and I thought that the boys would be long gone after 30 minutes, but they were entertained for most of the time, especially on top! The great thing about the bus tour is that your wrist bands get you on and off buses anytime you want for two full days. If your kids are getting tired you can get off and get back on again when you feel like it. I'd highly recommend taking the bus tour if you go to Montreal, or any city that has double-decker buses, our kids loved it!





I noticed that a trend in Montreal is to make hanging banners out of all kinds of materials. I'm kind of obsessed with them now. I saw them all over the city; parties in the park, events in the city, on peoples porches, everywhere. One that really stood out was at a theater playing  Mary Poppins, above the street they had strung hundreds of small black umbrellas. Darling!



Walking Around the City

The city of Montreal has beautiful old houses and buildings. I also love that everything is in French, in language and style. I almost felt like I was back in France!


This is the only decent family picture we got on the trip. It may be blurry, but I love that its genuine: kids moving all over, parents trying to keep it together haha!




If you go to Montreal you must go to Notre Dame. It is a replica of the same one in Paris. Inside is breathtaking. I am always amazed at the talent craftsmen used to have, just the woodwork on the pews must have taken years to create. Aaron and I try to take our boys to beautiful places like this so that they can gain an appreciation for beautiful things. Even babies can appreciate the vast space, colors, and patterns that are so rich in old cathedrals like this.

EAT

We try to spend as little as possible when we travel, yet still experience all that we can while in the city. So we only eat one big meal at a restaurant (usually lunch) and the other two meals are usually light and easy to prepare from our hotel (Airbnb) room. Montreal had so many good places to eat, and if you go you need to try Poutine, a classic Montreal dish made of french fries, gravy, and cheese curds. Another place I'd recommend is L'oeurfrier. It serves lunch and breakfast items, and it is a franchise, so you can find them all over Quebec. At the particular one we went to they gave the kids popsicles to suck on while we waited for our food. Um, brilliant! And the popsicles were just frozen fruit smoothies so they were healthy as well. The food was really good, and there was a lot of it. The price wasn't too bad either, my salmon eggs benedict cost $9 (U.S. dollars). Aaand they have a waffle covered with nutella and bacon. So yeah, you need to go.





There are so many more things to do in Montreal that we didn't have time to go to. We also found out that there are a lot of street festivals in Montreal during the early part of July. I was so bummed we missed it! If we go to Montreal again we will try to visit while all the festivals are going on.

If you plan a trip to Montreal, I'd recommend checking a city calendar of events to see if there is any festivals or special events that you would wan to plan your trip around. Montreal is a great city for families to visit, especially since most attractions don't charge entrance fees for kids under 6 years old. Most everyone speaks French and English, but it is helpful to learn some key directional phrases, like north, south, east, and west. Because all the signs are in French...

The other great thing is that Airbnb was very inexpensive. We had a whole apartment to ourselves for $24/night. The cool thing was that it was an older apartment built in a French style with tall ceilings, a subway tile bathroom and black bathtub! It didn't have air conditioning so that was a downside, but overall I couldn't complain for $24.

As far as traveling with kids, well, Montreal was rough. We made some mistakes, learned from them, and then had a much smoother time in Quebec City, I'll explain more in my next post.