I bring you now the highlights and lowlights of our East Coast (i.e. Ontario to Quebec to New Brunswick to PEI and back) adventure:
- We realized right before we left for the 16 hour journey that the in-van televisions were not in working order. Had to stop at Canadian Tire along the way to buy new ones. Tried to install new ones; they were defective. Went back in to return them, left receipt in van. Figured it all out, and discovered that we had left our DVD in the returned system. But believe me, it was ALL worth it. You just can’t drive that far with kids without TV’s. Other tips: Children’s Gravol works for car sickness. We also kept a small cooler in the front of the van with cheese strings, granola bars, cut up strawberries, etc. to keep snack breaks to a minimum.
- French Mass in Shediac. Not because it was French, or Mass, but because the priest used the word “pouvoir” and Maggie very loudly demanded to know why he said “poo”! Other than that, it was actually a bit of a cultural highlight for me.
- Did I mention it was a 16 hour journey? We did it over two days, stopping in Quebec on the way down and the way back, but it’s still a lot for two children, a driver daddy, and a not-so-patient mommy.
- The “cottage” was more of a “huge beach house”. My parents had a room, the girls shared one, and we got a huge room with ensuite and jacuzzi tub! We woke up every morning to this view of our private beach:
- Crystal Palace: an indoor theme park for kids in Dieppe, New Brunswick with rides and games. Buy the wristbands and everyone rides all day.
- Shediac, New Brunswick: This is where we resided for the week, and it was a fantastic little town. We were there for the Acadian festival, so the girls and I got matching bracelets (which, despite my awareness of the Acadian culture and reasons for their symbolic colours still made me feel strangely Texan). Though the parade was brief and unremarkable, we did get a photo of Canadian Liberal leader Bob Rae and his wife with local MP Dominic Leblanc (below). This may not be a big deal to you, but my 78 year old grandmother has quite a crush on Leblanc.
History lesson in a nutshell: “Acadia” refers to portions of Quebec, the Maritime provinces and Maine which were originally part of New France. In the 1700’s, residents who refused to swear unconditional oaths of allegiance to the British Crown were deported. Many have since returned, but a large number settled as far south as Louisiana, where “Acadian” was eventually pronounced “Cajun”. Learn something new every day, don’t you?
- Avonlea Village in Cavendish, PEI: Anne of Green Gables fans would LOVE this authentic village, complete with buildings, wagon rides, and costumed actors. (Wristbands were good for two days, so if you get rained out, you can always come back.) Gift shop note: the large Anne dolls can cost more than $40 (and will likely just sit on a shelf). I talked Frannie into the $6.99 figures of Anne, Diana and Gilbert which have already been fodder for hours of interactive play. Check out our little girls-of-Green-Gables in the dressup building:
- Anne of Green Gables – The Musical in Charlottetown, PEI: Frannie was absolutely enthralled, and it even kept the attention of three year old Maggie (who had no shortage of – loud – questions throughout the performance. “Why did she do that? Where is he going? Who is that boy? Why is her last name Green Gables?”)
- The World’s Biggest Lobster photo op in Shediac. Just because it was cheesy.
- Quebec City. Arguably the most beautiful city in North America, it never fails to take my breath away. My girls and my brother’s children were particularly captivated by the street performers. Though I cherished all of the family time, I wouldn’t recommend trying to navigate the narrow European streets as a group of ten with a double stroller. It’s more a “divide and conquer” kind of place. No historical reference intended.
- It was fantastic to spend so much quality time with family, including my parents, brother, sister-in-law, niece and nephew. I mean, the girls coloured Grandpa’s fingernails with markers and played Princess Yahtzee with Grandma…you can’t get that every day. (Usually Grandpa does his own nails. Ha ha.) I am the type of person who has a very hard time slowing down (so the Internet access was an absolute must) but even I was proud of myself for just taking some time to stop and smell the seashells. (Though I don’t recommend that particular olfactory sensation. There was a “mystery smell” in our van upon our return, and a couple of days later the same overwhelming smell was in Frannie’s room. When I walked in one morning and gagged, she told me “It’s just the seashells!” They have since found a new home.)
- Coming home. Or as Maggie put it: “Our real home!”