Posted by: Hannah | 08/20/2013

and we’re back

*taps mic*

Is this thing on?

Oh, vacation was so lovely. I mean, it had some shitty bits too, because it’s impossible to drive 5000km in two weeks with three children under 8 and not have those… but they were few and far between.

I kept a daily trip log for my own edification and memory-jogging in later years, because I didn’t take nearly as many pictures as I would have liked. Reason being, we had a toddler with us. Dear George, I love him to distraction, but I’d forgotten how much freakin’ luggage is required to get a 19 month old around. Every day, every museum trip, every dinner with friends or zoo excursion or baseball game we needed to bring as a minimum:

  • extra diapers
  • wipes
  • blankie in case of naps
  • sunscreen
  • bottled water
  • Goldfish crackers
  • granola bars
  • stroller

These all needed to be rammed into my shoulder bag, or Michael’s man-purse, or carried, or pushed with two hands.

Then George would need to be lifted out of the stroller to see the animal / museum display / horsies at Medieval Times. He would suddenly realize “hey, I can see ALL THE THINGS from up here! Also, mommy is awesome” and he would thus refuse to get back in the stroller.

So, until I learn to operate my camera with my feet… nothing doing.

I won’t torture you all with my (very rough, unedited, usually-written-late-at-night) log entries, but here are some highlights from our trip:

We found the world’s cleanest hotel

OK, so this was really only a highlight for me, but I can only stay in hotels if I studiously pretend that no one else has ever, ever slept there. I find one stray hair, one crumb, one hint of evidence of another human, and I get thoroughly grossed out. So when we checked into L’Oiseliere in Levis, Quebec I was beyond thrilled to find out that it has NO CARPETS. Hardwood floors throughout! There was no evidence of ‘hotel smell’. And before you ask, we didn’t hear any footsteps overhead – good soundproofing.

The kids went on a boat ride

Michael’s uncle fired up the boat and took the kids for a spin on Lake Manitouwabing. I’m enough of an east coast girl to be slightly contemptuous of what my old boss used to call “plastic fantastics” – moulded fiberglass boats that go like hell but can’t be taken out when the water is a little choppy – but the kids had a great time, and I was able to mock the 12-bedroom ‘cottages’ that ring the lakeshore.

Medieval Times is the best restaurant in the history of the world

Good friends of ours recently moved to Toronto for work. They have no kids of their own and have kind of adopted ours, which is fun – and they invited all of us to dinner at this amiable money-suck. If you’ve never been, it’s NUTS. You walk in the front door well before dinner is served, and mill around in the “medieval fun fair”. There are over-priced souvenirs. There is a ‘knighting’ ceremony where people who paid extra for their tickets get brought up in front of everyone, draped in a cape, and knighted by the King. The alchemist serves ‘potions’ (better known as ‘delicious slushy drinks with copious amounts of alcohol’). The meal itself is served by “lords” and “ladies”, and there are no spoons, forks, or knives. You can have anything to drink as long as it’s Pepsi or water. As the meal is served there is a long play about a King, and a Princess, and a barbarian invader and some knights.

Basically it’s dinner theatre, but with trained horses, and honest-to-god jousting, and a display of falconry with a real live bird that swoops over your head.

All three of the kids were enraptured, as was I. I’m a sucker for that stuff. We had the best time. When it was all over, we got to meet ‘our’ knight, and he jovially signed the kids’ souvenir swords with a Sharpie. We would absolutely go again, even though the cost is slightly foolish and George stood on my lap the whole time because they don’t have high chairs.

Running the bases at Rogers Centre is magical

Bucking the statistical trend for this season, the Blue Jays managed to beat Oakland 5 – 4, in a close and interesting game that included home runs, a run-down, stolen bases, and other stuff only interesting to baseball fans. Maestro Fresh-Wes threw out the first pitch (he bobbled it). After the game, we lined up so the kids could run the bases. When we stepped out onto the field, it took my breath away. Seeing the inside of the Skydome (yes, I know, it’s the Rogers Centre now) from that perspective is difficult to describe. How on earth they can focus on playing a game of finesse and concentration down there when the stands are packed and noisy is beyond me.

The look on Harry’s face when his feet finally touched the field is something I’ll never forget.

The look on Michael’s face when he realized that he, unlike most of the adults, would be allowed to run the bases as long as he was carrying George was also pretty special. Less so when George, overstimulated and stuffed full of nine innings’ worth of Goldfish crackers, grapes, and popcorn, barfed hugely all over the pair of them just as their turn to came up. (Of course they ran it anyway, god hates a quitter).

I touched an elephant

The Bowmanville Zoo was another high point. It’s small, but the animals are obviously very well cared-for and loved. They have some young animals, including two giraffes who had just arrived and were still in quarantine, and then some older ‘entertainment’ animals that used to work in the film industry and are now living out their (well-deserved) retirement at the zoo.

I have some opinions about trained animals, but I’ll leave those aside. The zoo does daily shows with them, and uses it as a platform to discuss saving endangered species and consumer decisions we can all make to help protect animal habitats around the world (like not buying any products that contain palm oil. I didn’t know about that but I’ll definitely be watching for it now). The animals and their trainer clearly have a tight bond. The high point for me was meeting a 50-year-old Asian elephant. She had spent 23 years at a zoo in Quebec, housed with a group of hippos. Apparently now she dislikes other elephants and has most closely bonded with her trainer, to the point where he moved into a trailer at the zoo permanently to be near her 24/7.

Anyway, the boys got to ride her. I didn’t, because the saddle they were using that day had a weight limit. The trainer did allow me to scratch her head, and it was a very emotional experience for me.

So, I cried at the zoo. But it was a good kind of crying.

We had a ‘private’ audience with two polar bears

At the Aquarium du Quebec, we were all very impressed with the facility. It was clean, spacious, carefully laid-out and a true pleasure just to be in. There was a show with trained walruses, which we skipped because it was too crowded… and it meant that we were literally the only people viewing the polar bears for a good fifteen minutes. Another high point, as George had been demanding to see “poe-der BEAWS” for days, and he got his fill of them.

It’s the little things that make a memory

We stayed one night in Sharbot Lake with friends of ours from university. They have an RV in the yard for guests. Harry was THRILLED to be sleeping in one, having never seen the inside of an RV in his life. “This isn’t a camper!” he cried, excited. “This is a HOUSE! ON WHEELS!”

Michael and I sang “Sunglasses at Night” as we drove into Quebec City, while doing our very best Corey Hart pouty lips. The kids were killing themselves laughing.

In Ottawa we stayed with some very old friends of Michael’s father. They welcomed us with open arms, clearly want to be surrogate grandparents to the boys, and were genuinely sorry to see us leave. Family, as I keep telling Michael, is where you find it. Those folks are definitely part of the family.

Ron loved walking around Old Quebec City, despite being exhausted and needing to pee. “This place is LOVELY!” he enthused. “It is very interesting! And beautiful! AND THAT IS A CASTLE!” (It was the Chateau Frontenac, but you can see how he got confused.)

George woke us up every morning after the zoo visit by whacking us in the face and yelling the names of animals at full volume. “Gi-waffe! Elphadent! Zee-bra! Wein-deers!” We went to the Canadian Museum of Nature, which has a large exhibit of taxidermied mammals. George was delighted and asked earnestly for a “pehw-wet” to feed the long-dead prong-horned sheep, as he’d cheerfully fed many animals at the zoo compressed feed pellets by ramming his hand up to the wrist in their slightly-startled mouths.

I could go on and on, but at this rate you might have liked the trip log better, heh heh. Suffice it to say it was a wonderful vacation, and if anyone can figure out a way for me to be independently wealthy so I can travel more, please let me know.


Because I don’t understand how this whole ‘leveraging your blog into swag and tiny amounts of money’ thing works, I was not compensated in any way for the facilities or companies mentioned in this post. I wish! Hey, Medieval Times – hit me up, yo. A lifetime supply of slushy potions ought to do nicely.





  1. Sounds like such a great trip! So much fun. I thought of you, because I watched Blue Jays games with my grandma this weekend. She’s a longtime hardcore fan. I mentioned your kids had run the bases and she was happy to hear that.

    I do remember how much stuff you have to take while travelling with littles and I do not miss it!

  2. Sounds like a really fantastic vacation 🙂

  3. I’m glad you had a good time. Funny that we were both in Ontario at the same time!

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