Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Road Trip...To Canada!!

Last Thursday, my Mom, my friend, Marty and I departed on a long 'girls' weekend. We drove from Virginia to Canada in search of a Marche de Noel or Christmas market. My Mom was born in Quebec City. She lived and worked there until she came to the US to marry my Dad. We made the drive from Philadelphia to Montreal and Quebec many times as kids. Back then, our family of 6 did it in a Volkswagon Beetle. Our last trip up to Canada as a family was around 1975.

Since that time, my Mom has only visited the province of her birth once. I had visited in the early 90's with some girlfriends - we went to Quebec for the Winter Carnival - so it had been sometime since I had also visited. Marty had never been to Quebec and was overjoyed at the prospect of going on a vacation that she didn't have to plan. We were all quite excited for the trip.

We left at 5:30AM Thursday morning and checked into our hotel in Montreal by 5PM the same day. The trip was uneventful and we all enjoyed the scenery once we were out of New Jersey. We encountered just a bit of snow on our way through the Adirondack Mountains. Our hotel in Montreal was in the perfect location - a side street in Vieux Montreal. It was just two blocks away from the Notre Dame Basilica . Our arrival was perfectly timed - we had plans to see a light show at the cathedral at 6:30PM. The show, "And then there was light...", is a multimedia presentation of the history of Montreal. It focuses on the founding of Montreal and how the Basilica came to be what it is today. The show was really interesting and the Basilica is just beautiful.

We left the Basilica and found a nice restaurant called 'Crepe Suzette' where we caught a late, but light dinner of hot soup and crepes. Yummy! We were all very tired so we walked the half block back to the hotel and hit the hay. In the morning, we did a bit more sightseeing and shopping before packing up. Our ultimate destination, Quebec City, was just a 2.5 hour drive away.

We arrived in Quebec City and found our hotel (again in seemingly the PERFECT location!)dropped our bags and headed out to explore. It was cold and windy and a light snow was falling. It was just beautiful. We took our time strolling the streets and checking out the boutiques. Around 4PM we found ourselves in front of the famous Chateau Frontenac. It is the most photographed sight in Quebec, not to mention, an elegant hotel.

We decided to stop in and see the Christmas decorations. Then, we decided to stay a while. We found a table in the bar which overlooks the St. Laurence. We ordered a cheese and fruit plate and some of the pomme frites. Mom had a glass of wine while Marty and I opted for warmer treats - I had a Baileys and coffee and Marty - a hot chocolate. We had a lovely time just talking and watching the fog roll in over the river. It was a nice treat.

It was snowing as we left the Chateau. As we headed back to the hotel, we enjoyed looking in a few more shops. We happily called it a day around 8:30PM.

Saturday was when the real 'fun' began. We bundled up (the projected high for the day was 3 degrees!) for the 10 minute walk to the market for the Marche de Noel. We walked out the door of the hotel and it seemed as though the air was frozen in our lungs. It was COLD !! Not only was it 3 degrees, but the wind was kicking at about 25 MPH. I had sunglasses on to protect against the glare and the wind, but when I wrapped my scarf around the bottom part of my face I ended up steaming up the glasses. I ended up walking into a few things... The walk was all downhill, steep hills. We took the walk with baby steps - my biggest fear being that my Mom would take a fall. We made it in one piece and happily shed our coats inside the warm market. We found some really unique Christmas ornaments, farm goods and a bakery specializing in buche de noels (yule log cakes),

Handmade Christmas decorations

My Mom just loved this couple who specialized in apple products - they were so warm and friendly.

Marty with one of the artist at the market

Mom rests with just part of the haul

Once we figured out that we would never get back up the hill to the hotel with all our packages, I ran to go get the car. It took me about 1/2 an hour - walking into the wind (Brrrrrrr) and waiting for the valet to bring out the car. This, of course, gave Mom and Marty a chance for 'tag-team' shopping... One sat with the packages while the other picked up more goodies. By the time I returned and loaded in our packages - the back of the car was full!! Thank God that we drove and didn't fly...we would have never managed!

From the market, we travelled 30 miles east of Quebec to visit Ste. Anne de Beaupre. I remembered visiting this shrine as a child with my parents. It is a beautiful Basilica, with some of the interior pillars holding some of the canes and crutches of those who have found a cure there.

We enjoyed touring the Basilica, but got the 'bums rush' to depart because there was a funeral taking place there about 2 hours after we first arrived. We didn't mind though, it felt a little funny 'sightseeing' while the family started to arrive and greet one another...

We made our way back to Quebec around 2 PM. We managed to stop by the Montmorency Falls on the way home. But, again, it was so cold we just ran out, took our photos and headed back to the warmth of the car and its heated seats!

Marty at the Falls

On the street outside of our hotel, there were Christmas festivities being held - carolers, choirs performing, and Victorian Christmas characters, along with Pere Noel himself. I grabbed them and asked if I could take their photo with my Mom, where upon, they went and dragged her to middle of the street and started calling her 'maman'!

We finished our shopping and sightseeing around 5PM, then headed indoors to enjoy a nice relaxing dinner. Throughout the day we kept hearing about a 'monster storm' that was due to hit on Sunday. Our original plan was to take our time leaving on Sunday and stop somewhere around Saratoga Springs for the evening. That all went out the window when the forecasters were calling for a foot and a half of snow in the Adirondacks. We decided it was best to leave early on Sunday and see how far we could get before the snow started. We left Quebec at 6:15 AM and we were at the US border at 10AM. We missed the snow but hit some rain around New Jersey. We walked into my sister Claudine's house in Maryland at 6:15PM. Darling sister and daughter that she is, she had a nice dinner waiting for us! Thanks, sis!! Marty and I headed out to Virginia about 8PM and had no trouble making it home - exhausted, but happy. It was a wonderful trip and I'm so glad I got to share it with my Mom and my dear Friend, Marty.

1 comment:

Susan Stevenson said...

What an awesome adventure! I enjoyed reading about it and seeing the most beautiful photos!