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Changing of the guard-And not at Buckingham Palace- Québec City with Children

Changing of the guard-And not at Buckingham Palace- Québec City with Children

Changing of the Guard-Québec City I had always assumed that the changing of the guard only occurred at Buckingham Palace and the craziness of trying to see when you’re buried in a hoard of tourists can be overwhelming (especially if you don’t like crowds!). Imagine our surprise when we arrived in Québec City and discovered that they, too, had a changing of the guard, in the same uniforms with similar bearskin hats and a much better view!  At the Citadelle of Quebec-which is still an active military installation-people were able to surround the parade grounds, but it was only a few people deep even at the height of the summer season, allowing for great views of the ceremony performed by the Royal 22e Régiment.  The boys were able to sneak right in front and got a perfect view of everything.  We were running late, but a guard at the entryway said the last 20 minutes were the best and the entire ceremony was a bit much unless you were really a history buff.  The guard was right, the last 20 minutes included the actual ceremony on the parade grounds, the band and the formal exchange between the troops who have been on duty for the previous 24 hours and their replacements. Queen Victoria’s goat My son’s favorite part of the changing of the guard was the regimental mascot, Batisse the goat who must be the most well-groomed goat I’ve ever seen!   While officially the Batisse symbolizes the “will to succeed”, unofficially, the goat symbolizes the headstrong nature of the regiment.  Batisse the 12th is a direct descendant of a Kashimir goat given to Queen Victoria by the King of Iran in 1837.  The goats live on a small farm outside of Québec City where they are cared for by the Goat Major who is always an active duty soldier. Tour of the Citadelle After seeing the changing of the guard, we went on a tour of the Citadelle.  Since it is still an active military base, you must be accompanied at all times.  Tours are offered in English and French and our guide was great at giving us the history of the Citadelle and the role it had played in various battles.  The...

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Review:  The Secret Subway – New York with Children

Review: The Secret Subway – New York with Children

Did you know that the first attempt to build a New York subway system occurred in 1866?  Traffic was already a nightmare, a combination of pushcarts, wagons, stagecoaches and buggies.  Lots of ideas were proposed: moving sidewalks, double-decker roads, a railway on stilts, but nothing was ever accomplished.  Ely Beach had another idea.  A pneumatic train, just like the way mail was sent through old buildings.  He knew that permission to build an underground train would be difficult to get approved, so he proposed building an underground mail tube.  “It wouldn’t be that big, it wouldn’t be that messy.  It wouldn’t be that complicated.” He rented the basement of Devlin’s Clothing store.  For 58 days, under cover of darkness, he loaded wagons with dirt and rocks and hauled them out.  He built a tunnel 8 feet across and 294 feet long and February 26, he opened the tunnel for rides, making the train depot warm and inviting.   “Gaslights glowed, illuminating paintings and flowers and a fountain that glittered with goldfish.”  The opening went perfectly and throngs of visitors climbed aboard to ride the pneumatic train.  But when he asked for permission to expand, he was stopped; and by 1874, the train that went nowhere was abandoned and was forgotten. Construction on the current New York subway system started in 1904.  Lots of things were found as they dug: sunken ships, fossilized bones, subterranean streams, and in February 1912, a brick wall.  When they broke through the wall, they found the forgotten subway including a pneumatic railway car.  The Secret Subway was once again, no longer a secret. If you’re visitng New York with children, The Secret Subway is a great lesson in the history of the city, especially if you’re planning on taking the modern subway. If you’re interested in adding The Secret Subway to your child’s collection, click here :  The Secret...

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Ghosts and ghouls and a little bit of history – Québec City with children

Ghosts and ghouls and a little bit of history – Québec City with children

The night we arrived in Quebec, we took a walking ghost tour of the city.  While it was hard to be spooked by the stories under the bright summer sun, it was a perfect way to explore the city and learn about its early history.  Definitely not too scary for kids, ours found the tales of people dying a little sad, not frightening.  Our guide definitely got into her role, telling us about the execution of Jean Duval for his attempted assassination of Samuel de Champlain, the Father of New France.  “To set an example…Jean Duval was hanged and strangled and his head put on a stake to be exhibited in the most prominent part of our fort…to set an example for those remaining, that they wisely fulfill their duty in the future, and that the Basques and Spaniards of whom there were many thereabouts could not repossess it.” Walking along the St. Lawrence, we learned about the sinking of the Empress of Ireland after a collision with another boat.  Within 10 minutes, the boat lurched to its side before sinking taking 1,012 of the 1,477 people on board with it.  Even today, we were told, there is a chillevery time you pass the spot where the boat sank… Of course no good spooky tour is complete without a witch! Despite an official recording of death by horses’ hooves, rumors and gossip of murder of her second spread rapidly through the neighborhood.  Inspite of the official finding, Marie-Josephte Corriveau was sentenced to death by a military tribunal held in the Ursuline Convent shown below.  With each retelling, the story has continued to grow.  Now, instead of killing One husband she has killed seven husbands who had discovered she was a witch.  She was accused of vowing that a grave would not hold her and urban legends and tales grew from there…. The tour finished at the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, where we entered the nave in complete darkness and listened by the light of a single candle to the mysterious origins of the lady in the balcony who was seen by Queen Elisabeth II in 1964….. This was a great way to learn about the city and get our bearings. The scariness was...

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Review:  Who Stole the Mona Lisa-The Louvre with children

Review: Who Stole the Mona Lisa-The Louvre with children

What would it be like to spend your life hanging on a wall?  If you are the Mona Lisa, you preen as a constant stream of admirers pass by, the guides describing how famous you are and remembering what it was like to be painted.  Who Stole the Mona Lisa is told from the Mona Lisa’s point of view; she enjoys the constant adoration and listening to the guide telling the story of how she was painted by Leonardo Da Vinci, admired by kings and given to the Louvre by Napoleon Bonaparte.  As much as she enjoys her current fame, she thought posing for her picture was very boring, even falling asleep during a sitting! Then in 1911, she was taken from the wall of the Louvre.  She did not enjoy being stolen!  “First I lurched sideways, then upside down.  I felt sick.  My veil slid over one eye.  A honey cake fell from my lap.”  Going from thousands of adoring admirers to being hidden under the stove with the cobwebs was not her idea of fun!  Even though she was no longer at the Louvre, people still came to view where she had been hanging leaving flowers, letters, poems and songs.  “They wanted to see where I WASN’T.” She was that famous.  The police searched everywhere. After two years, the thief decided it was not safe to keep the Mona Lisa in Paris and he returned to Florence where he tried to sell the painting, claiming that the Mona Lisa was an Italian treasure and needed to be returned to Italy. She hung in the Uffuzi Museum in Florence for over two weeks where over 30,000 people came to visit her on the first day.  Finally she was returned to Paris by express train and once more placed on the four hooks on the wall where she remains to this day, enjoying her admirers. If you’re visiting the Louvre with children, the Mona Lisa is of course on your list of paintings to view.  Who Stole the Mona Lisa is a great introduction to the history of the painting and the panic that ensued when she was stolen by Vincenzo Perugia in 1911. If you’d like to add Who Stole...

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Review:  The Stolen Smile

Review: The Stolen Smile

The Mona Lisa, painted between 1503 and 1506, is one of the most famous paintings in the world and probably Leonardo Da Vinci’s most famous work.  Any visit to the Louvre requires at least an attempt to see the Mona Lisa though she is sometimes hidden behind her crowds of admirers!  While painted in Italy, Leonardo sold the painting to King Francis the 1st of France and after the French Revolution (1787-1793), she was hung in the Louvre Museum where she remains to this day. In 1911, an Italian by the name of Vincenzo Peruggia was overcome with the need to repatriate the Mona Lisa, and take it back to Italy.  Told in the first person, The Stolen Smile tells Vincenzo’s story of how he snuck into the Louvre where he had been a former employee, carefully removed the glass hanging in front of the painting and quickly stuffed her in his sack!  Of course there was a panic and through the great illustrations by Gary Kelley, we are given a peek into other areas in the Louvre as they search the Oriental art gallery, the Renaissance, the sculptures, and Egyptian antiquities.  Sixty policemen were dispatched to track down the painting and the city was combed with Guillaum Appolinaire, the poet, and the painter Pabolo Picasso both suspects in the theft.  Vincenzo was himself questioned twice!  Even in the absence of the Mona Lisa, there were queues out the Louvre’s doors, with people waiting hours just to view what was now an empty spot on a wall! Everyone in the city was obsessed and Vincenzo was unable to leave his apartment without seeing headlines of the theft.  Everyone blamed everyone else.  Patiently, Vincenzo waited for the furor to die down and the prominence of the story of the Mona Lisa’s theft to disappear.  For two years, he hid the painting in his tiny Paris garret, waiting for a chance to leave the city with the painting.   Finally, other stories such as the reaching of the South Pole by the Norwegian Roald Amundsen and the sinking of the Titanic eclipsed the story of the Mona Lisa and he felt it was safe to take the Mona Lisa home to...

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Review:  D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths

Review: D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths

All of the books my son is currently reading are based on mythology.  Whether it is one of Rick Riordan’s series or the Lord of the Rings;  Greek mythology, Norse Mythology, Egyptian mythology, they’re all refernced in some form or oanother, so we (well I)  thought it would be good to explore the original myths an not just adaptations.  Reading the original myths led to some great discussions about early beliefs, modern adapations and sources of inspiration for writing. He kept reading ahead, wanting to discuss the stories that I had forgotten about how the world was formed and while I didn’t read under the blackets with a flashlight to catch up, it did cross my mind… D’Aulaires’ Books on Norse and Greek myths are both excellent choices for children’s books on mytho9logy.  The book of Norse Myths begins with the Frost Giants at a time when there was no earth, no sun, no moon, and no stars.  The first gods, Odin, Hoenir and Lodur set the sun and moon to moving and the earth grew out of the bones of the old Frost giant they had vanquished.  The only thing they did not have was someone who would worship them, so they created man. Each chapter tells the story of a different god or goddess, from the more well-known Odin, Thor, Loki, to Sif, Loki’s children, Odin’s children, Balder the God of light, the world of the Vanir gods who controlled the mild and gentle winds, Freya the goddess of love and beauty, the Valkeyries, Frigg-Odin’s favorite wife, and of course Skade, the ski-goddess! Someone we definitely should know more about!  The gods were full of mischief and always getting into entertaining trouble or losing their favorite possessions like Thor’s hammer and Freya’s necklace, ruling until they were defeated by Christianity.   D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths is a great start to learning Norse mythology and it’s been fun sharing the stories my parents read to me as a child.  If you’re interested in adding D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths to your child’s library and sharing the stories you grew up knowing, click...

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