I signed up for a class with Mass Bay community college back in December. For the au pair visa, you need to take classes worth 6 credits to fulfill the visa requirements. A lot of au pairs take English classes, some enroll in special interest classes at community colleges (like a language, or photography), but for me, while I’m still studying full-time at home, I just wanted to get the credits done the easiest/cheapest way possible, and the Mass Bay ‘Journey Through America’ course designed specifically for au pairs is exactly that. We spent 3 Saturdays going to class from 9am until 3pm and learning about a few interesting American things – the American Presidents, slavery, and terrorism.
And then, as the final part of the credits, you’re required to take a trip with a ‘learning laboratory’ – which was this weekends’ trip to Quebec City, in the province of Quebec, Canada.
The bus ride to Quebec City was long and slow. Just before we finally hit the US/Canadian border (which we passed through with no problems) it started to snow, and continued on. By this time it was about 8pm, and of course the plows don’t really come out at night when there is only an inch of snow on the ground, and so as the snow kept coming we had to drive slowly, delaying our arrival into QC by at least an hour. Long and boring.
We finally got here and go into our rooms at the hotel about 11pm. I shared a room with a Finnish girl, a Swedish girl and a German girl. We managed to luck out and got one of the biggest rooms of our group of 52. The Best Western Plus Centre-ville Quebec is a pretty hotel, and we had 2 queen-size beds, a nice bathroom, a big TV… really nice. I brought my cozzie with plans to swim in the indoor pool, but after a long day I’m really too tired to consider moving from bed (practically everyone else has gone out clubbing… and I’m the nana who stayed at the hotel).
We headed off this morning on a bus tour around Quebec City, which was informative (if not a little boring… haha) and fun. We got off the bus to walk around, and we walked through Rue du Petit-Champlain, which is the oldest street in Quebec. It is little and cute and narrow and has little boutique-y shops. There is also a funicular (which is like a hillside elevator) which takes you between the upper and lower towns – Quebec City has some interesting history, and is the only city in North America that still has a wall around part of it.
The Saint Lawrence River, which interestingly enough, is the same river that was practically in our backyard when I lived in Upstate New York at the end of the 2010, runs alongside Quebec City, and at this time of year is very icy. A ferry travels back and forth across it, carrying cars and passengers. We saw a great view of it from the Upper Town.
After our tour, we had a few hours free time, where I went with my friends Lisa and Maggie to the winter Carnaval de Quebec, which opened last night. It boast snow rafting and tubing, ice slides, dog-sled races, and a whole lot more ‘winter’ fun. We walked around and stood on line for the ice sled slide for about half an hour, but it was so much fun! Then we got some lunch (the basic hot dogs, even in Canada!) and then Lisa and I rode the raft down the big hill (Maggie was a chicken)!
There are a few ‘interesting’ activities at the carnival, like outdoor jacuzzi’s (spa’s) where you can sit, but the rule is that you have to wear a turque (hat/beanie) while you are in there! There is also a ‘snow bath’ where you can basically jump in a big ‘bath’ of snow in your bathing suit, but you have to be wearing boots, socks, mittens and a hat! Haha. We did not do either of those things! We walked past the outdoor jacuzzi’s and took a picture, and some guys in the spa waved to us! So funny!
After we got back to the hotel I went out with my roommates to eat Thai for dinner (not that great, but better than McDonalds!!) and then we went with our group out to the Hotel de Glace (Ice Hotel) about 20 minutes away. This place is CRAZY – basically they start in December, and they build the whole thing from scratch. It is based on the first Ice Hotel in Sweden, and they use big metal moulds to make the outside (with blown snow, not natural snow) and then deck out the inside.
It has a bar where you can drink (expensive) mini-cocktails from ice glasses (which surprisingly don’t stick to your lips) and even an indoor ice slide. There is a wedding chapel, and 33 hotel rooms where everything except the mattress is made of ice, and you pay $300-400C for the pleasure to sleep in a North Face cocoon sleeping bag in a room where the temperature is -5 degrees celcius!
It’s been a great day in Quebec City. It is a rather long drive (7-9 hours, depending on the traffic, weather, border control, how much you stop) and really deserves more than one day to be explored (as in the morning we will check out of the hotel at 11am and get straight on the bus to head back to Boston). The majority of the group has headed out to bars and nightclubs, but being the grandma of the group I am back at the hotel ready for bed at 11pm!
Some highlights of the trip were definitely the fact that Quebec is a French-speaking city, so everywhere we went people would try to talk to us in French, before we gave them a puzzled look. Most people can manage at least a little English, or are willing to find someone to interpret!
We saw a long of ‘interesting’ things at the Carnaval, including multiple dogs wearing shoes (smart owners) and one dog wearing a full doggy Juicy Couture snowsuit (LOL). The popular way for children to travel around here is, in fact, not in a stroller, but in a sled towed by a parent. We saw numerous babies and toddlers flat on their backs, asleep, covered with blankets in these things, being pulled through the snow by parents. Kinda crazy and ingenious at the same time. AND we saw one very smart Dad, who was wearing a harness around his waist with a carabiner attached, which then attached to the cord pulling the sled. WOW. Handsfree!
It’s not the most popular of East Coast Edventures trips (compared to the DC and Niagara Falls trips, where there are normally 2 or 3 buses), but it’s one that I’d definitely recommend if you are an au pair in Boston taking a Mass Bay class, and want to see something a little different! You don’t even need to take the class – you can take the trip for fun!
(I have included a few photos in this post, but there are lots more to see – check them out HERE on my facebook!)