We like to travel with our grandson to enrich his life. I see how much he loves the places we take him. And when we go somewhere like Quebec City, which this piece is about, I get to see it all anew through his eyes. He learns the culture of another country. He learns the language. He sees that the world is not only made up of where he lives, but so much more. In this story I tell you how we took him to Quebec City and several other places. This summer is going to be another Caribbean Cruise, and then the summer of 2016 he wants to go to Paris and Venice. I was so surprised when as I told him some of the things he would see, that he already knew about much of the two cities like the Eiffel Tower in Paris and the Gondolas in Venice.
My grandson isn’t your typical kid that only wants to go to amusement parks. Does he enjoy them? Sure, but he is so much more than that. He has been on 3 cruises to various Caribbean Islands. He has been on the usual Disney Trips. He has been to Lake George in Upstate NY. He goes to the Beach in New Jersey. He wanted to do Williamsburg Virginia but somehow that trip never happened. How old did I say he was? He does get around thanks to his Grand Parents and His Father and Mother.
My wife and I have been to Quebec City at least 6 times. Mostly in the summer but we did do Winter Carnival one year. We have been promising Tyler we would take him to that. But last year we took him to Quebec in August.
We had told him about all he would see, and he was very excited. On the drive up, it wasn’t the usual “are we there yet?” It is about a 5 hour drive from our town to Montreal. We stopped on the way up at a small town on Lake Champlain for lunch. We had been there before, a small marina on the southern tip of the lake. There is a restaurant at the Marina with a good kid friendly menu. So we stopped there for lunch. He loved the views on the Lake and the Adirondack Mountains that surround it. And after lunch, we let him play a game of darts before we headed out again.
On to Montreal. This part of the trip wasn’t GREAT. We got to the hotel we had reserved. Unfortunately there was some kind of mix up. They had our name on the reservation sheet, and had accepted our deposit, we had a confirmation number, but somehow they didn’t save a room for us. My wife found out all this while I was parking the car. Tyler just sat on the stairway taking it all in. My wife saw a room door open next to the office. She told the Manager, “We will take this room then.” They said, “No, that is for another guest.” My wife tells them, “Well guess what, we are here with a minor, we have a reservation, and you have this room. We want this room. Let the person you saved it for find another place to stay.” They finally gave in. Now we had stayed here on a previous trip to Montreal/Quebec, but the owners had changed hands since then. It wasn’t the cute little French hotel it used to be. But it was a place to sleep and rest up for the next 3 ½ hour leg of our journey the next day. Tyler was a trooper but, he thought the place was dirty and wouldn’t even get under the sheets in bed.
We have some time to kill so we drive to Old Montreal. We walk the usual streets, see the usual souvenir shops, and see the Notre-Dame Basilica. We tell Tyler we will go in all these places when we are on the return leg of our trip. We planned on spending more time here after Quebec City. But he does spot a baseball cap kind of thing that says “Montreal” on it, that he wants. He said he would remember where it is for when we return.
Then we tell Tyler about the Buffet that we had been to in the Casino De Montreal. And he was excited to try it. Tyler not only likes to travel he likes good food and is becoming quite the chef. We get to the Casino, and unfortunately they just changed the rules and NO CHILDREN UNDER 18 ALLOWED! We ask, not even to eat in the Buffet? They say, no, there have been some problems with kids in the Casino so they had to step entry to all parts of the facility. Oh well. Off to find a restaurant to eat back in Montreal. We have dinner at a small restaurant near our hotel and then turn in for the night. Then it’s off to Quebec City.
I had made reservations with a B&B just north of Vieux Quebec. About 20-30 minutes away. Just past the bridge to Ile d ‘Orleans. We picked it out with Tyler in mind. It is on the Saint Lawrence River. With a view of the Island across from our place. There is a heated pool and a hot tub. Breakfast is included naturally, but there is a twist. They have chickens and quail so you get fresh eggs from both each morning. As it turns out, Tyler got to be the one to gather the eggs each day. He loved this. We get to the B&B, meet the owners, tour the grounds, put away our luggage and it’s off to Quebec City.
Parking in Quebec is a challenge. It is usually very crowded and there is NO free parking anywhere. There is the upper town and the lower town. Lower is along the river. We decide to start there. Its lunch time and we are all hungry. We find a parking lot. Leave the car and start looking for a place to eat. We find a small café with tables outside. We check the menu and decide this place is fine. As we are eating, Tyler notices a game going on in the small Circle shaped park opposite the Café. They are playing a French game called Petanque. It is a ball game similar to the Italian game of Bocce. Tyler is fascinated watching them as we eat.
Lunch is over and Tyler wants to get a closer look. There is a man there who as it turns out is Ukrainian. He and Tyler strike up a conversation. He tells us he has three children back home, one around Tyler’s age. He works in Quebec, but travels back and forth to his home country. He takes a liking to Tyler and asks if he wants to play. The man goes into the Café, they give him the balls, and he proceeds to teach Tyler the game. He couldn’t have been happier. The man asked Tyler where he was from. Ty said New York. So, good naturedly, the man in his thick Ukrainian accent starts calling him “New York City Boy”. We all got a good laugh out of that. So here we are in French Quebec and the first person Tyler meets on the street is Ukrainian.
Next stop, Musée de la Civilization. The museum of the History of Quebec. We pay for tickets and off we go. The museum is broken up into sections. There are exhibits on the History of Quebec. Exhibits dealing with famous Quebecois people. For more on this museum go to https://www.mcq.org. They wouldn’t let us take photos inside the Museum so you will have to check out the web site.
After the museum we decide to take Tyler for a ride thru the upper town, thru Port St Louis, the main gate to the city (If you didn’t know, Quebec is a Walled City. The only one left in North America) down Rue St Louis, the first street you encounter when you arrive. Down the hill past the Hotel Frontenac which looks like a huge castle, then driving thru the shopping districts. We leave the walls and take him up through the Grande Allee. This section of town is known for its Restaurant Row. So many places, so much good food.
Now it’s time to head back to the B&B and have some R&R. At this point all Tyler wants to do is get in the pool. We arrive at the B&B change into swim clothes and Tyler gets in the Pool and my wife and I get in the hot tub. Life don’t get no better than this. The owners have a dog that befriends Tyler and runs and runs around the pools edge playing with him. While they soak I get out and walk the grounds. There is a Foot Bridge crossing a small pond behind the house that leads to a strip of land along the river. The tide is low and all the sea grass in the river is exposed. So beautiful. It’s going to be a nice week here.
Now this story is supposed to be about taking children on vacations that are NOT amusement parks. But in Quebec City during the week we are there, Expo Quebec is going on. Hey, even I want to go to this. It’s like the State Fair of the Province of Quebec. Yes there are rides, but there are so many cultural exhibits also. Not to mention local FOOD. Hey, when in Rome right? Eating French carnival food isn’t much different than eating it in the states. But did you ever have “poutines”? That is a twist on the French Fry. But it has cheese curd and light brown gravy on it. Not bad.
That was the excitement for that day. Back to the B&B and back to the pool and hot tub. Hey, it’s not all about visiting places and doing things. Nothing wrong with just chilling by the pool and hot tub. I did buy a bottle of wine while we stocked up on snacks. So what could be better? A hot tub and a glass of French Wine. “Yeah baby, that’s what I’m talkin about”
Next day it’s off to the Aquarium du Quebec. It’s a combination Aquarium and Zoo. Nice grounds. Great exhibits. A play area for the kids to play on. They need to burn off some energy. They have shows, unfortunately the entire dialog was in French, but the actors were very expressive and we kind of caught the gist of what it was about. I have studied French for some other trips. France, Quebec, and St Martin, but I am not fluent. I tried teaching Tyler the basics before we went. He caught on quick. He has a great French accent. Many times when I would speak French, using all I knew, people thought I DID speak French and started speaking in French to me and rather fast. Same thing happened to Tyler. He loved it. Most kids would get upset over the language barrier. Not my little buddy.
Next day was Changing of the Guard. The Changing of the Guard has been a tradition at the Citadelle of Québec since 1928 except for a brief hiatus between 1939 and 1945. The ceremony features soldiers of the Royal 22e Régiment decked out in their scarlet regimental dress and bearskins as the “new guard” relieves the “old guard” after 24 hours of sentry duty at the Citadelle’s entrance. It is based on the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace and is the only such ceremony in the province-a must-see experience for visitors to Quebec’s capital! After that experience it was more of Vieux Quebec. Walking the streets. Popping in and out of shops. Tyler saying “bonjour” to everyone he met. Then back to the B&B till evening when we would see a fireworks display.
Every August there is a Fireworks Competition in Quebec. We happened to catch the last night of it. We came into town early to find parking. Then walked to where the Horse and Carriages were. Time for a ride. The “driver” dressed in period costume, drives the horse and carriage and gives you a history of Quebec and its buildings. It was getting dark, and we were off on a quiet street and the driver asked Tyler if he wanted to drive the horses. “OF COURSE” he said. So he stopped the cart, Tyler climbed up front, and off we went. Tyler kept looking back at us with this look of amazement on his face.
On different days while in Vieux Quebec, we caught street performers. Tyler was mesmerized by them. Acrobats, jugglers, clowns, musicians. He couldn’t get enough of them. At one point, we were going to have lunch. The restaurant was opposite one of the locations where they perform. The restaurant had windows that were open, wide open at each table.
When Tyler saw that another show was starting across the street, he almost jumped out of the window. I told my wife, Jaci, let me take him over and signal me when the food arrives. Off we went, and getting him to come back to the table was almost impossible.
I just spoke to Tyler and told him what I was writing. He told me to make sure I told you all what his favorite parts of the trip were. In this order; Expo Quebec, the B&B, the Shops in Vieux Quebec, the Horse and Carriage ride, Changing of the Guard, The Street Performers and THE FOOD.
Once back in Montreal we stopped at the Insectariums. We also went to the Biosphere where you see animals and habitats from 4 different climate zones. Both places were rather interesting. We did go back to Old Montreal, and he DID remember where that hat was he wanted to buy. And of course we bought it for him. He had a leather bracelet made at a street vendors stands. We took numerous pictures of him in different locations in the Historic District. We had and he LOVED crème glacée (ice cream for you Americans). And the ice cream there is like in Europe; much more cream is used in the making of it.
So, there you have it. A week in Quebec/Montreal with a 9 year old. Not Great Adventure, not Disney, not Hersey Park. But culture, history, the food and language of another country. Oh one thing I forgot, and this was rather interesting. He wanted to go back to and go inside the Notre-Dame Basilica. He and Jaci stopped first in the gift shop. He bought a crucifix. It was silver in color. When we all went inside the church, Jaci asked Tyler if he wanted to dip the cross in the holy water to bless it. He said yes. As he took it out of the holy water….IT TURNED GOLD…I am not saying it actually turned to gold, but the color changed from silver to gold. Seemed like a small miracle to Tyler. And now we all can’t wait for the next adventure together.
Oh, one more very important mile stone. Tyler exorcized one of his demons. We have taken him to Lake George New York on many occasions. There is a Wax Museum there that has many “monsters” inside. Outside, they always have someone dressed up as Frankenstein. Tyler would never even walk on the same side of the street as “Frankie” as he called him. We would even have to drive down past that place at night to make sure “Frankie” was not out and he was in his bed. This trip, check out what happened.