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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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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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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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Now that the children are older-The 10 things we still take on every trip

Now that the children are older-The 10 things we still take on every trip

Now that the children are older we’ve changed the travel gear we take a little bit, but most of it is still the same.  We still take packing cubes, a travel scale, Kidz Gear Wired Headphones For Kids, a retractable headphone splitter, and Clorox Disinfecting Wipes, To Go Pack! A water bottle   Everyone carries a Klean Kanteen now.  They’re sturdy, most airports have places to fill them once you get through security, they keep certain someones from constantly asking for a drink and we use them all of the time no matter where we are. A laundry bag How did I not think to bring a laundry bag before?  Usually dirty clothes end up in a random heap in a corner and I was finding that the children were mixing up dirty clothes with their clean clothes and then insisting that they didn’t have any clothes to wear.  Having somewhere specific for them to put their dirty clothes has solved a number of issues and if it’s a car trip we can just throw the laundry bag in the trunk which saves unpacking chaos at home.  A wet bag While we’re past the diaper stage, we still always seem to have something wet that we need to pack.  Swimsuits, random clothes, you name it.  It’s great when we’re planning a last minute swim before heading back, I can stuff suits in it and through them in our luggage or in the carry on without thinking twice and if laundry gets um delayed, I at least know which bag must be emptied.  This Itzy Ritzy Zippered Wet Bag has served us well on more than one occasion. Packing Cubes I still love packing cubes.  I initially thought they were a little silly, but they’re great and we’re using the same ones we used when they were small.  Even though the children are now capable of each wheeling a carry on suitcase, it seems more complicated to keep track of four bags and everyone’s carryons, especially once people get tired and don’t want to pull their luggage any more….   If we’re staying in different rooms, I can just hand the kids their packing cube and they’re all set.  Packing cubes compress things and just make...

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Chinese New Year-Welcome to the year of the monkey!

Chinese New Year-Welcome to the year of the monkey!

Chinese New Year falls on the new moon between 21 January and 20 February and the Year of the Monkey began February 8, 2016! The Chinese New Year is also known as the Spring Festival, which is perfectly timed in Portland as everything, like this Chinese Paper Bush, is coming into bloom. People born in a year of the Monkey (1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, or 2016) are witty, intelligent, and have a magnetic personality but personality traits, like mischievousness, curiosity, and cleverness, make them very naughty! (I can think of a few people who fall into that category!) We enjoyed the New Year celebrations at Lan Su Chinese Garden, an unexpected and lovely walled oasis in the middle of the city.  Covering a full city block, Lan Su was built by Chinese artisans from Suzhou in the Jiangsu province and is modeled after Ming Dynasty gardens  designed as spiritual uptopias.  Even with the crowds for Chinese New Year, it was still remarkably peaceful and if I worked downtown, it’s somewhere I’d love to escape to in the middle of the day! There are events at the garden nearly every day from walking tours, music in the teahouse, folk art demonstrations, traditional floral arranging, craft making, Tai chi classes, discussions about the plants in the garden, performances from local cultural organizations, Chinese calligraphy classes, Chinese conversation classes, and even children’s Mandarin lessons! The garden definitely made the most of the year of the Monkey celebrations.  As soon as we walked in the main entrance, there were monkeys to find, with ten monkeys hidden throughout the garden, including a spider monkey visiting from South America and shadow puppets of the Monkey King.  There were also lantern riddles to solve like this one-“It’s been around for millions of years, but it’s no more than a month old. What is it?”, a wishing tree where you could toss a red ribbon to wish for prosperity, happiness and longevity and monkey themed puppet shows by Tears of Joy Theater to watch. Of course a Chinese New Year celebration wouldn’t be complete without traditional Lion dances.  The Lee On Dong Association lions regaled us with danced stories about the origins of the lion, how the lion overcame its fears to...

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