This summer has been packed with all kinds of great things (that I hope to record here as soon as school is in full swing) but one of our favorite adventures of the summer was our little trip to Montreal.
We were all itching to leave the country (I was starting to feel an intense case of wanderlust like I did back here), to experience another culture, to re-live some of the glory of our England adventure but didn’t think we could make it happen within our limited time and money budget. And then it dawned on me that we live really close to another country. Canada! Du.
So we found a great little place on airbnb (cheap as all get out) and booked it for 3 nights. It took us 4 hours to drive to the border….and man you would have thought the kids were approaching Disneyland, they were so excited. When we handed the border control lady our passports she asked us why we were visiting and the most honest answer I could come up with was “we wanted to use these puppies!”
We were all surprised to discover how different being in Quebec felt from the US. I figured it couldn’t really feel that foreign, so close to home, but I was wrong. It was refreshingly new and I walked around with those adventuring butterflies in my tummy, my brain firing off in new ways, feeling alive.
I think we all wheeled with the thrill of that foreign fluttering. Navigating a new currency (super cool bills) and transportation system, the beauty of French being spoken all around us, new words and phrases to learn, the slower and quieter pace (at least we felt like everyone was slower moving and quieter than we were) the little markets and cafes and patisseries……and mostly that food.
Charlie is finally starting to get over his fear of trains after his traumatic (but not really) experiences in London. Peter and Em, who were so young in England, felt big and capable and ready to take on the city. As we negotiated our way through our few days there I stopped to remind myself that Em was Peter’s age when I was hurdling these four around London alone….and Peter was a baby. This felt so much more manageable. I loved that adventure, but it’s certainly more satisfying to me to have more older-ish people to absorb it all with me. I had to take this ^^ picture of Peter on the train. Reminded me so much of this one of Em. There is just something about such a little person surrounded by such a big city. Hazel was especially aware of all the art and design surrounding us. She especially loved this rainbow wall. You couldn’t see the colors within the grooves unless you were facing it head on….but you could see this awesome glow of colors as you passed by. Every Metro station was different and beautiful in its own way. We were impressed with the thought and effort that seemed to go into making things not only functional, but visually pleasing. I think my favorite part of the city was Old Montreal. It was just, well, old and European feeling. We ate Poutins (a French-Canadian dish consisting of fries with cheese curds and gravy, yum) and smoked meat in this charming little back patio (trying to stay out of the rain). And walked around these old streets in search of the best pan de chocolate. They had these cool frames everywhere that the kids loved. Lots of framable things in Montreal. Since it was raining pretty hard we hopped on the metro to go to the Olympic park and check out the Biodome. They’ve converted one of the Olympic venues into a sort of indoor zoo with 7 or 8 different habitats. Truthfully it wasn’t my favorite and as we waited in lines and pushed through crowds (especially in that hot humid tropical habitat) I was longing to be back in Old Montreal in the rain. I decided right there at the Biodome that I hate stuff like that. It just feels so contrived and so stuffy and so far from the glory of the real thing. But, the kids enjoyed it for the most part, I mean, they got to see little sharks and penguins and alligators. What more could you want? ^^Here’s the living room of the little apartment we got to stay in. See those two chairs bungeed together? That’s where Peter slept. The first night as he was lying in his new little bed he said, all grins, “I’m the luckiest boy.” Our apartment just happened to be about a mile from the Mormon church. We could have driven it in about 2 min, but the prospect of taking a bus to church was just too exciting for the kids. So here we are on our way, after eating some delectable chocolate croissants for breakfast. The kids were trying to get all reverent….it didn’t really work. After Church we stopped to climb the 293 steps up to St. Joseph’s Oratory of Mt. Royal. Peter climbed every single one. We were mesmerized watching those pilgrims kneeling on each step up to the top. Here we are ^^ coming home from church to change. Oh, the grandeur of our apartment. It was a perfect place to stay though because it was right across the street from Mt. Royal park which, among lots of other really cool things, had this fantastic playground. The kids thought they had died and gone back to England. We played and spun and ate cheese and bread and fruit. And then walked to the top of Mt. Royal where we had this view. Spectacular. Especially with that curly blond hair in it. This is the plaza up in the park where people gather to listen to music and take in the view ^^. It was worth the climb. And here we are climbing down through the park, following the sound of drums in search of the Tam Tam, a summer Sunday festival where hundreds of people gather to play their drums (and do some other stuff that we were hoping the kids didn’t pick up on….lots of burnt grassy smells). Maybe one of the most exciting things to do on the trip was to push the stroller. Who knew these kids would fight so much over a job I hate to do. Peter was quite entertained by their shenanigans, especially the driving the stroller game that Hazel played with him. Jeff was a nervous wreck trying to keep it under wraps so that those nice quiet Canadians didn’t get run over.
Here we are at the Tam Tam which takes place at the monument at Fletcher fields. The kids felt like they were back in Trafalgar Square (expect for that strange smell :)). We walked up and down St. Laurent street in search of some Shish Taouk for dinner. Yum. And full of culture and design/art. These three pictures are of our little neighborhood. All these things clustered around the metro station. It was so perfectly different from the hop in and out of car life that we live at home. We had a little fruit stand (didn’t think to take a closer picture) a fantastic bakery ^^and a little Metro grocery store. ^^ One of my all time favorite things to do in another country is to go to the grocery store. Of course there were a lot of the things we’re used to in this one, but there were also fantastic cheeses and a lots of new frenchish foods on the shelves. And, the croissants and oatmeal cookies in the bakery were taaaasty.
Jeff had to leave to fly to Toronto for work first thing Monday morning, so I got to take these four around the city one last time by myself before leaving. To make it through the day (and mitigate the potential for a whole lot of whining and complaining) we decided to make a music video. We did Boston this way this summer and boy, it’s one of my best parenting ideas ever. The kids stay so engaged as I Sheppard them around to see things that will be good for them. I didn’t want to leave Montreal without seeing their Notre-Dam cathedral and spending some more time in the old city. While making the music video really did help, these pictures show how real life still moves on, despite our best parenting ideas. Poor Emmeline wasn’t too happy about something here…..not even sure we knew what it was at the time. Boy, that was a beautiful cathedral. So big and vast and full of detain and beauty. Hazel was taken with the turquoise ceiling and Charlie was even old enough to beg to listen to the English guide. Peter sat in his stroller struck with awe, taking it all in. I pointed out Jesus up on the cross at the front and he sat for a while processing that. Then he pointed to the heavenly sunburst behind the alter and asked, “Mom, is that Heaven right there?” All there little brains were firing in new ways, and that, to me, is the most satisfying part of motherhood. We learned from the guide that that organ has over 7000 pipes!!! We ended off our little adventure eating sweet and savory creeps and some French onion soup at this little cafe on the street. It was really pretty perfect.
After three days, we defiantly haven’t had enough. Quebec City will be our next within-reach-out-of-the country-experience.
Check out our little music video, we don’t even have to try, it’s always a good time (yeah right!)…but mostly it is. ^^^
*special thanks to our two soccer dad friends who gave us all those insider tips for what to see and do