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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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Exercise with kids aka Hiking

Exercise with kids aka Hiking

As always, one of my New Year’s resolutions was to increase the amount of exercise I’m getting. All was going well until my husband started traveling more for work. I obviously can’t take an exercise class at 6:00 am when he’s gone and try as I might I haven’t managed to make going to the gym at other times of day work. Same thing with videos, webcasts, apps, printouts, whatever, I don’t stick with them once the novelty wears off. So after six months, I’ve decided the kids need to help me out. (Work with me on this). First problem-buy in. Calling it exercise isn’t going to get the kids interested in doing pretty much anything.  So I bought three books on hiking locally:  and   and and I’ve added them to our bed time reading.  Of course, they’ve picked the first five hikes as the ones they want to try… Second problem-finding time (and continuing that whole buy in thing).  Hiking with children can be time consuming.  Depending on their mood, they will either race ahead of me or need to be coaxed every…single….step (more on that later).  We sat down with the calendar and they picked a day to try.  They have 11 weeks of summer vacation, so my goal is one hike a weekend.  So far we’ve managed three so fingers crossed! Tips for Hiking with Children Plan shorter trips. Assume you won’t make it to the end. Remember that most hikes are out and back.  If you’re pushing to reach the end, the hike back is going to be really, really painful. Pack lots (and lots) of snacks. Don’t forget to bring water. A good rule of thumb is that a child can hike about 1/2 of a mile to a mile per year of age.  You know your child, you’re the best judge (of course we’re going to try 8 miles next weekend which may be interesting). The other thing I looked at before we went hiking was if there were any geocaches or letterboxes along the trail.  Hidden objects make everything more entertaining.  We’ve also enjoyed scavenger hunts like this one from Makes and Takes or this one from How to Nest for Less....

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Monhegan Island-Maine with Children

Monhegan Island-Maine with Children

Trying to get away from it all? Visit Monhegan Island, Maine! A square mile in area, the island is only accessible by boat.  Commercial boats leave from Port Clyde, Boothbay or New Harbor and if you have access to your own boat, there are a few private mooring spots as well. Once your step off the boat, you quickly realize there are very few cars.  This makes for beautiful scenery to explore and undisturbed views, but also means that cell phone reception and places to stay are limited.  If you’re planning on staying overnight, make sure to make reservations in advance! There are seventeen miles of hiking trails that criss-cross the island.  The hike around the outside of the island can be a bit strenuous so make sure your children are wearing sturdy shoes and are up for a climb over the rocks.  You also need to keep an eye on the clock if you’re just making a day trip. The Monhegan associates rate them for difficulty and length of time to complete; we found their estimates to be pretty accurate.  You can plan your trip using their online map, but it’s worth buying a map from one of the island stores once you arrive. The Monhegan Museum of Art and History is housed in the former keeper’s house on the Lighthouse grounds, recently added to the Registry of American Historic Sites. The first floor is devoted to the Island’s long and colorful history. The second floor has bird and wildflower pictures to help you identify that specimen you just saw. You can also see the equipment that was used to harvest ice from the ice pond as recently as 1974.  The old equipment is displayed in a shed behind the Museum at the Lighthouse.  While ice is no longer harvested, there’s still good ice skating on the ice pond in the winter! Keeping an eye the ferry departure time, We decided to hike through Cathedral woods, home of the fairy houses. There were fairy houses everywhere! People had built them on fungi, out of sticks, leaves, skulls, and flowers, frequently leaving water and food for the fairies.  Everywhere we looked in the Cathedral woods we found them, in the trees, at the base of the trees, in branches,...

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Why yes, this was our first rodeo!

Why yes, this was our first rodeo!

Rodeos conjure up images of the Wild West and a bygone era, though there are still big cattle ranches and cowboys who ride out with the herds. For those of us who live in the city, there are guest ranches where you can try your hand at driving cattle and after watching this, we’re tempted to try out the barrel racing! While not exactly on our bucket list, a rodeo was still something we wanted to see at least once, especially with our family’s Texan heritage! We went to the 64th annual rodeo in Coulee city, Washington, a stop on the professional rodeo circuit and a town with a population of 600 people.  Even for such a small town, the winnings reached $32,000 with the annual rodeo including traditional events like tie down roping, team roping, saddle bronc riding, bareback bronc riding, bull riding and barrel racing. I must admit I was a little concerned about the treatment of the animals, until during the bull riding competition, two of the bulls decided they didn’t want to play today and they just sat there and were allowed to sit until time ran out.  Those Cowboys weren’t going to be winning any prizes that day! Each rodeo starts off with a parade, with rodeo queens galloping their horses around the arena carrying flags from their various states and towns.  In our case, two of the riders lost their seats and ended up in the dirt, but they got right back up.  I guess coming off your horse isn’t all that unusual! The bucking Broncs stopped as soon as their riders came off with many riders not lasting the 8 seconds required for a qualifying ride, even to us it felt like a long 8 seconds!  Points are awarded for both how the horse bucks (Broncs buck differently than riding horses) and how the rider holds on.  We tried to figure out what the judges were looking for, but most of the time, the ones we thought did really well got fewer points than the ones we found less impressive. Our favorite event was barrel racing, where a horse and rider attempt to complete a standard cloverleaf pattern around three barrels in the fastest time, with...

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