Pardon my French – or more specifically my Frenglish (Get it?). I don’t actually speak French. Thanks to various mini-immersion experiences throughout my life, I am comfortable hearing and seeing the language. Basically, I can find my way around and maybe even order food in a butchered attempt at the language (at least I try!), but I cannot really speak the language. My husband is currently in school to be a French teacher – following in his Mama’s footsteps! Until this past summer, he had never actually been to a french-speaking country or heard native speakers outside of a classroom.
Last summer was a big deal for my husband. He was separating from the military for the third (and hopefully final!) time AND he finally finished his Associate’s Degree almost 20 years after starting it! He actually had the opportunity to request vacation time without having to use it for National Guard duty and I was determined to make it a good one. We blocked off a chunk of time back in February, got the extended family on board (all of mine with the exception of the busy Veterinarians), and started dreaming!
You know those people who book their vacations a year in advance and have everything planned down to the minute, including restaurant reservations? This is not us. Growing up, last-minute vacations were not uncommon. I remember calling my grandmother from Florida to let her know we weren’t home. Or spending a month touring the West when we really only intended to go backpacking in the Tetons.
Same deal with Summer Vacation 2015. Over the next several months, we planned out many different vacations – Camping in the Adirondacks, Roadtripping through the Midwest, Houseboating in Minnesota, Exploring Bruce Peninsula…
About a week before we left, we finally chose a destination – National Parc du Fjord-du-Saguenay in (French-speaking!) Quebec. Good thing we got our passports in order months earlier – you know, just in case! By the way, trying to get an 8 month old baby to take an acceptable passport photo is definitely a challenge!
Here was the itinerary:
Day 1: Drive from Roanoke, VA to Littleton, NH (12 hour direct drive – took us 17 with the baby)
Day 2: Hike Mt. Washington – up the Ammonoosuc, down the Jewell Trail. We almost made it to the treeline before turning back due to dangerous hiking conditions with babies (slippery rocks from the thunderstorm the night before and an impending storm). For the record, hiking down the Ammonoosuc with a top-heavy baby backpack is terrifying. I actually have no pictures from this day. I was too busy trying not to die. Trust me though, it was beautiful!
Day 3: Cross the border and drive to Quebec City. We made a last minute decision to spend most of the day at Lost River Gorge – loved it! Also no pictures of the Gorge, but it was really fun! (4 hour direct drive – felt like it took forever)
Day 5: Explore the surrounding area. We picked raspberries on Ile d’Orleans and toured Canyon Sainte-Anne.
Day 6: Drive to National Parc du Fjord-du-Saguenay. Celebrated Boo’s first birthday in our own style – on a grand adventure with $50 pick-your-own raspberries on a store-bought flan…no fancy themes, smash cakes, and expensive photo shoots here! (Google says 3 hours. I would say 10…easily.)
Day 7: Drive to Tadoussac for the whale watching (didn’t see any). Hike through Baie-Sainte-Marguerite to see the belugas (didn’t see any). Apparently this is the wrong season for whales here. (2 hour drive time – each way)
Day 8: Hike La Statue Trail at Baie-Eternitie (This is where we camped). What a surprisingly challenging hike! You make it all the way to the top and then there are about a thousand steps to actually reach the statue. Well worth it because of the view. Too bad it was pouring down rain by the time we got there!
Day 9: Start the trek home and make it as far as Watertown, New York. (8 hour direct drive – took us longer because we got lost in Quebec City.)
Day 10: Made it home. Decided I should start a blog about roadtripping with babies – I am pretty familiar with the topic by now. (9 hour direct drive)
This place was amazing! Everything I wanted from this vacation. Something new (for everyone!), French language immersion (I had forgotten exactly how much French was spoken in Quebec), and we actually got to leave the country for the first time in 9 years (has it really been that long?!). I would absolutely go back – but hopefully with more time to explore!
Here are some things I learned about this trip:
- Cell phones do not work in Canada without an international plan…unless you happen to be driving along 401, which parallels the border.
- GPS (Garmin) doesn’t work either. My brother-in law hacked ours so we would have something, but it looked like we were off-roading the entire time!
- Canada is really big and driving distances are much longer than they seem.
- Rest stops are amazing! Clean, educated and bilingual personnel, kitchen access, private rooms for nursing moms…I could go on.
- The weather really wasn’t what I was expecting. Quebec City was ridiculously hot and it rained regularly in Saguenay (like 4:00 every day…and then some).
So why I am posting this now? We just chose our dates for Summer Vacation 2016 and we have absolutely no idea where we are going! I can’t wait to see where we end up!