Quebec: a Travel Post

Cough Cough.

Yes. The earth has rotated around the sun many times since I last blasted my ponderings onto the world wide web.  It’s just that sometimes, when people go through change, it’s best to be silent. And for awhile there, I thought perhaps I’d be silent forever.  But in the last while that little seed of creativity has been brooding.  So.  I think I shall return to writing again after all.

Now.. skipping right to the meat of this post, what I want to write about is my trip last month to Quebec.  Because I think more people should think about, and go, to Quebec.  So, consider this a little bug in your ear. 🙂

Quebec: The Europe you can drive to.

Language: French and English.  Don’t be afraid to speak English, btw.  They really aren’t as snobby about it as everyone likes to make it seem.  But also, don’t be afraid to speak French, if you can!  Aren’t languages so beautiful, how they connect us across cultures and worlds?

History: In short, Quebec lost the war with England, making it part of Canada, but England decided to let them stay ‘French’ so they wouldn’t revolt like the Americans during the Revolutionary War.  Esther says it better with more words and facts, if you want to read that here

Planning: My friends and I decided to go over our Spring break, because that’s when we were all available to go.  However, spring in Quebec, I think, is pretty hit or miss.  We hit it. And it was phenomenal.  But there were still mounds of snow on the ground.  Not enough snow for the toboggan run in Quebec City to be open though.  So, if you want winter, go in winter.  And if you want summer, go then. If you want an adventure, go anytime!

What we did: We started with plans to drive from PA to Quebec City (~ 10 hrs), and realized that about 7 hours into our trip we would be passing Montreal.  So, we added an overnight pit stop.  In general we tooled around town, as the expression goes, looking for the best views and foods.

What not to miss:

Montreal Locations and Food:

Crew Collective & Cafe.  Used to be a bank.  Now it’s a coffee shop.

The Notre-Dame Basilica. 

  

Maison Christain Faure. Has one of the top pastry chef’s in the world. We could tell! YUM!

  

La Banquise. Known for it’s varieties of poutine (Canada’s heart attack meal of gravy and cheese curds over fries).

Quebec City Locations and Food:

Chocolat Favoris. Hand dipped chocolate cones.  Need I say more??

  

The Morin Center.  An English library that used to be a prison!  Cool, but smaller than we expected.

  

Feu Sacre. We chose from the limited preset lunch menu options and were surprised to discover our most relaxed, enjoyable, affordable meal of the trip. (Two hours of slow, fine dining for about $13!)

Château Frontenac. Built for customers of the Canadian Railroad and most photographed hotel in the world.  Our walking tour guide told us we had to take at least 35 photos to do our part.  We happily obliged.

     

Montmorency Falls and Il’ d’Orleans. Higher falls than Niagara’s and narrower too; island with beautiful views.  Both about a 20 minute drive out of the city.

  

Things to keep in mind:

Foods. Be sure to try all the French foods (including French onion soup, macaroons, and eggs Benedict).  My happiest discovery on this trip was a whole new group of foods to love!

  

Many parts of Montreal and Quebec City (especially in their respective Old Towns) offer free wifi.  This is especially helpful in downloading maps if you are driving without a Canadian GPS.

Google translate is a great app.  You can download a language ahead of time and then use your phone camera, holding it over the foreign language, and it will translate it on your screen without you having to type it.  So helpful in reading parking signs and menus!

Parking.  Probably my least favorite part of the trip. Words of wisdom: read the signs (and avoid parking tickets!).  Also, feeding the meter is a pain.  What helps, 1. downloading the app so you can pay remotely, 2. remembering your space number so you can pay at any meter (and not have to return to the one by your car), 3. having an accurate guess of how long you will be in an area.  Adding $$ every few hours, on the hour, is annoying (have I mentioned that yet?).

Money.  We mostly paid for everything on credit cards.  But one of us did exchange cash at a bank, so, whenever cash was needed, she paid.  We used the app “Cost Split” to enter all of who paid what.  The app splits all the bills and calculates it so everyone only has to pay one person at the end.  Easy peasy.

Airbnb. Just consider it!

 

Oh, and, obviously, go with friends. It’s always the best way to travel!

 

A new normal: building and avoiding it, all at once.

Labor day weekend, 2012, I moved from rural Indiana to Brooklyn, New York.  Four years later and I’m 3 hours from that old home, trading sky scrapers for silos and cockroaches for beetles and moths and cicadas and ticks (ahh, so many bugs here!).  It has been quite the adjustment, to be honest.  Pennsylvania is nothing like Brooklyn, and also not very much like Indiana or Honduras or anywhere I have ever lived.  So I’m learning new things.  Like how to drive on curvy roads, understand Puerto Rican Spanish (which all my kiddos speak), and how to make friends again.  From what all the professionals have told me, it’ll take a while for this to feel like home.  So, in the mean time I’ve been keeping busy.

I went home to Indiana for my baby sister’s wedding.  It was a beautiful day and, according to the flower girl, Briana was a princess.

I began my new job and the never-ending search for therapy materials.  I work with preschoolers now.  And I travel between (so far) 6 locations.  That means a lot of toys have to stay organized in my trunk.  So glad I insisted on a hatchback!

I’ve also been hosting people- one of which was my friend Allison.  If you are here more than 1 night, I will not know what to do with you in my little town and will probably plan trips for us to my closest cities.  Also, I love and miss cities, so having friends here is a good excuse to visit them.

First stop was Baltimore.  We visited these pretty painted Victorians in Charles Village where we also got our morning coffee.

We did a drive by of the Washington Monument in Mount Vernon.

And we went to the Inner Harbor, for the National Aquarium (where I got to pet a jelly fish!) and roaming the boardwalk.  We got Shake Shack for lunch, because we can.

After church the next day we headed to Philadelphia.  Allison is a speedy tourist and we raced our way from a Reading Terminal Market lunch and old town walk through history to hang out at the pier for a while to speculate about passer-byes.  On an unrelated note, since moving to PA I seem to have a chronic eye infection situation that requires me to wear my glasses.  Oh bother.

We ended the day, and our weekend of adventuring, in this spectacular coffee shop, sipping drinks, munching cookies, and reading books.  Ahhh, that’s the life!

P.S. Sometimes Allison is a goof. 🙂

p.p.s. My blog has officially met its photo quotient.  Currently, it has taken to deleting photos from older posts.  Until I figure out how I plan to remedy this situation, see them here- while they last!

Wall art:

 

Anything is Possible

July 9th was moving day.

Before moving day was goodbyes.  Days after days of goodbyes.  My last day of work was June 28th, giving me roughly a week and a half to finish packing up my life – it’s items and heart strings and routines- and prepare to start a new one.

My goodbyes included cakes and dinners and final adventures.  It looked something like this:

{Cakes from co-workers to share.}

{Dinner with our favorite family. (Blurry picture or not,  it deserves to be posted.)}

{Final- big tourist adventure- New York 4th of July Fireworks.  Definitely a long day event. We arrived around 4:30? to get a seat for the 9:30 show.}

The security line.

My adventurous friends.

The view

Yeah, we got rained on.  But how do you decide when to leave when you’ve been waiting so long???

The fireworks were pretty cool too!

But the wait to get into the train station was no joke!

{One. Last. Laundromat visit.}

{One last walk through the financial district.}

 

{And a snapshot of a sleeping stranger.  Iconic New York life for me.}

And then it was July 10th, and I was moved.

My hellos looked something like this (and included painting and unpacking and learning to drive on curvy roads):

 

And suddenly I didn’t know anyone, or any of the places I was driving, or half the social rules of these people.  So many days I feel lost.  And homesick for my city.  But I’m reminded that God is big enough for change.

And the grass is green here, and that helps some days too.

Also, eating take out Chinese and driving through hilly “cities” to church reminds me that I don’t have to leave everything I love behind just to move forward.

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First Lasts

In a few short weeks my adventures as a New Yorker will be coming to a halt and life will change.  In related news, in July I am moving to Pennsylvania.  Some things will stay the same, like living with my roomie (she is, coincidentally, also moving to PA), doing speech therapy, and being me.  But I think pretty much everything else will change.  No more time sucking train ride, no more mice in my couch (fingers crossed), no more bumping, cursing strangers, and unionized approaches to education.  Also.  No more New York. Sob.

It’s just one of those bittersweet things that I don’t really WANT to do but know I need to do because I can’t do this for the rest of my life.  And when God works out employment and housing with only one trip to your new home, you trust Him and try to walk through the doors He’s opened.

That said, I have officially begun the season of my life known as ‘goodbye’ and started doing some things for the last time.

So here we are, babysitting these kids for one of the last times and having a tea-party.

Soaking up my last adventure days in the city that has my heart.

My face when I am impressed by gelato roses.

I’ve officially had my last visitors.  Mom and sisters are great people to help you say goodbye to a place. (And check off some things remaining on your bucket list, like Coney Island.)

  

Manhattan Bridge views and visiting DUMBO

 

One last selfie at our reoccurring selfie spot.

And one last visit to my alma mater.  Doing the student life here already seems so far away, but still so dear.

So it is the beginning of the end of my city life (for now).  Which leads me to the drawn out process of goodbyes and farewells and I WILL visit promises.  It is so hard for me to imagine being anyone but who I am right now, but I know leaving here will change me, just like coming did. And change, that’s what it’s all about.

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:18

A Chile Fall

Last week I went to Chile for Spring break.  It was a sister/cousin girl trip to visit my cousin Carissa while she still lives there.  Not to mention it helped me knock off 2 times from my 30 x 30 list (cross the equator and travel with my sisters).  All in all, the week was a smashing success.  I wasn’t so sure when we started this dream how it would turn out.  And I felt a lot of the responsibility being the oldest, the only fluent Spanish speaker, and the planner of the trip.  But where I fail, Christ abounds.  And somehow all the details worked together to remind me again, what an incredible gift it is to travel.

Now, chances are, you know every little about Chile.  You may know it’s in South America.  Win!  But what I don’t think you know is that if there is anything you want to experience while traveling- you can experience it in Chile.  Don’t worry- you will soon see what I mean.

Great Things about Chile:

  1. Alex and Carissa.  They live there.  They hosted us.  And Alex let Carissa traipse around the country with us for a few days, while being 5 months pregnant.  They are fantastic, brave, loving people.  And I’m so lucky to call them family. 
  2. The spectrum of views.  Chile actually has a law against restraining people from enjoying its natural beauty.  Which means we got to hike through someone’s hill side to chase a sunset and stop along the side of the road to capture a river.  And no one stopped us, even when we had to climb barbed wire fences! 
    Now, this law is not without its merit.  Chile is a beautiful country.  Chile is 2,653 miles long.  That’s roughly 800 miles longer than the US is wide.  With the ocean to the West and the Andes Mountains to the East, the length of the country faces a variety of climate shifts as it crosses each longitudinal marker.  In planning the trip it was my goal to see the spectrum of Chile’s infamous geography.  So, we started in the South and moved our way North.  Here’s a summary in panoramas.
    {Coyhaique, Chile, in the Patagonia region}

    {Hilltop view in the capital, Santiago}

    {Hillside view in Valparaiso, a coastal city made up of 45 hills}

    {The colorful Valparaiso streets} 
    {Another Valparaiso view.  We loved our day trip here!}
    {Salt flats in the desert of San Pedro de Atacama, the driest desert in the world.}
  3. The culture.  It’s an interesting combination of ‘cold-climate’ culture and Spanish culture.  It includes kissing your friends on the cheek and squeezing by strangers on the train.  The Spanish is a delicious flavor of sloppy pronunciation and unique vocabulary that was just close enough to Honduran Spanish to keep me mostly in the loop.  And the country, as far as I can tell, is safe to travel.  As a leader of a group of girls, I was concerned about safety.  I was intentional about not being out after dark unless I felt safe in the neighborhood, which turned out to be almost everywhere we went.  Which was a good thing because the sun set at 7 there.
  4. The varietous weather.  As Chile is on the other side of the world (hemisphere wise) it is currently fall in Chile.  However, the farther North you go, the warmer it gets.  Makes it awfully tricky to pack when you anticipate snow capped mountains and desert flats in the same one week span.  To give a picture:
    {Guess the weather today: but ask a local.}

    {What about here?}
  5. The food.  To be fair, it’s not ALL the best in the world.  But they do literally have the best ice cream (it’s rated in the top 25 in the world).  And, I really enjoyed that shrimp empanada I had!  {See, even Carissa approved!}
  6. The dogs.  In Chile, stray dogs abound.  But unlike anywhere I’ve been in the world thus far, stray dogs are cared for.  Fed.  Petted.  Enjoyed.  And they followed you everywhere. 

So, that’s what I loved about Chile.  Now it’s time for some trip highlights.

  1. {Drinking tea in the Andes after a steep hike to chase the sunset on our first night.}
  2. {Our last night of blitz, golf, and parting conversation.}
  3. {Gasping at views as we drove.}
  4. {The sunrise through our floor to ceiling apartment wall of windows to wake us.}
  5. {Crossing the equator. Here we are  when the flight map showed we were there.}
     
  6. {Traveling with these all-stars.  They didn’t get mad when I accidentally booked a tour for the wrong day and daily told me how much they liked my planning.  Travel isn’t just what you see, it’s who you see it with.  And these gems, they made that 13 hour flight worth it!}

Things I would do differently next time:

  1. Stay longer.  Short trips mean you miss things, like experiences or sleep, or both.  I think we crammed a lot of things into our week in Chile, so I have no regrets about what we missed out on, as I don’t think we would have had time for anything else.  But what we didn’t get much of was sleep.  You can tell sometimes in these pictures by the looks on our faces and our post taxi nap hair.

What I would do next time:

  1. All of it.  Again and again. I mean, what’s not to love?
                             

“Travel. As much as you can. As far as you can. As long as you can.  Life’s not meant to be lived in one place.”

“The purpose of this glorious life is not simply to endure it, but to sour, stumble and flourish as you learn to fall in love with existence.  We were born to live my dear, not be merely exist.” – Becca Lee

New York. I love you. And I hate you.

When I first arrived, I walked slowly, looking up.  Eyes darting.  I soaked it in.  And began to feel the magic.  Began to connect my visuals to the things I’ve only heard of and tried to slow my brain down, tried to picture a scenario where this was all normal.

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And before it know it, it was.  New York sucked me in.  I walked faster, talked faster, looked down instead of up.  My routine pushed me past the tourists and musicians on the street and there was a moment of time when it all froze, in perfect harmony, and my purpose aligned with this New Yorkness.  And suddenly, New York became me, and I it.  My vocabulary changed. Life expectations, favorite past times.  They all changed.  And I was eternally effected.  And in love.  I signed at the skyline, a wisp of a smile as I realized I recognized it as home. And I felt the pull… as tiny ants march in a row.. and I cued up.. to join the march of the New Yorker.  Savoring each moment, each pizza and bagel. Each walk through the village and night on the town.  Each cell screaming- in all the crazy world- in all the crazy places- can it be?!? It’s the greatest city in the world- and yet- somehow I fit.

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And then time passed again.  Winter came to the city.  My routine changed.  and I felt New York sucking me under.  The commute changed from naps and entertainment to the dull ache of wasted minutes in time.  And strangers, once so beautiful, now carried with them odors  and personalities that rammed into my personal space.  And I realized that there was very little romantic about getting screamed at by strangers or having peoples’ bodies and belongings pressing my skin as I balanced on a moving train.  And I wondered if I could ever love New York again the way I once did.

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But now.  It’s spring.  And I feel that Manhattan energy steeping out to my borough, pulling me in.  Calling me to match the stride.  And suddenly there’s hope again.  I do love New York!  Even with all it’s energy extremes.  And I will not let winter subway commutes take that from me.

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Because no matter what, New York will always be where I first became me.

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The Great Winter Escape

In the fashion of every good single young woman, I travel when I get weeks off from work.  If you don’t, you really aren’t doing it right. My opinion, of course.

This year for midwinter break I took a straight up vacation.  None of that typical adventure/culture stuff I pick.  (Don’t worry, that will come for me during my Spring break.)

Midwinter break could NOT have arrived at a better time, when it was freezing in New York and NOT in my final destination, which was Florida.

My flight was at 9 am from Newark, which meant I had to leave my house at 5:45 am.  Pathetic. Wish I wasn’t too stingy to call a cab sometimes.

That said.  I caught all the trains at just the right time to still have time to pick up bagels at Penn Station, although I did not have time to get them with cream cheese. Oh. And did I mention, it was 5* that morning.  Sigh. So. Many layers to wear.

Newark was surprisingly full I thought.  Also, of note, the convayor belt for the luggage wasn’t working.  I left my bag in this pile and took this picture to document it’s last sighting.  It’s the blue one in front.

This was the security line before the security line.  They were so busy I was put on the prechecked security line and didn’t even have to take off my shoes.  Handy.  But a wee bit inconsistent.

Following this I did some airport hustling as my plane was boarding by the time I got through the lines… and then waited an hour and a half to take off because our plane was awaiting luggage that couldn’t be found due to the luggage mess inside.  You guessed it, we departed without it and mine was of the lucky 1/3 to arrive the following day via a personal delivery guy.  Hooray for staying with friends!  The only thing I ended up buying was contact solution.

When I landed I was greeted with happy hugs and Florida orange juice and spent the evening at the state fair.  Some of our group thought it was odd to have a fair day in February.  It made perfect sense to me though, I had obviously tele-ported to summer.

Me and Malachi.  My favorite one year old!

The first 3 days of my vacation I practiced being a stay at home mom with my friends from high school.  He works from home and she cares for her 14 month old while expecting baby number 2 (which has since been born- eeee! 🙂 ).  So.  Our days fell into a pleasant routine of a late breakfast and playing in the living room between naps, during which mommy and I petted the dog and sat out on the covered porch.  P.S.  Gideon is my favorite dog.  But this is what happens when I try to take selfies with him.  You’d think he’d be more cooperative, I only spent hours petting him.

A dog and his ball.

An evening walk with the fam bam. My how we have changed since 8th grade! 🙂

This pleasantness lasted until Wednesday, at which point my parents and their friends arrived from Indiana and picked me up on their way from the airport my grandpa’s house in Sarasota.  We spent Thursday at the beach before picking up my sisters at the airport that night.  Obvious win.

Friday we went to Orlando to hang out in Disney Springs and see Cirque du Soleil.  Which was so fun to watch with my sisters!

Dad and Dan, with toys from their ‘era.’

Our Orlando group, sisters, parents, and aunt and uncle (aka family friends).

Saturday we went shopping, ate food, and played put-put.  I thought for sure I was winning for a while there.. not so.

Sunday – Briana’s boyfriend was picked up from the airport to join in on the fun. Here’s my dad and my grandpa playing shuffle board before we walked the beach.  Florida does not disappoint.

They are so funny… errr… goofy.

That time at the beach when my feet looked 100 years old.

We were very serious about documenting the sunset… errr.. ourselves.

These kids.  Acting like our whole walk was about getting cute pictures of them from every angle. Obviously, we fell for it.

Monday morning was perfect.  Beach side breakfast and one last beachy walk before heading home.  It was hard for me to leave knowing my family would still be in Florida for the week, enjoying the sunshine.  To make it worse, I left knowing this one would be getting engaged on the beach that week without me there to watch.  Sometimes being a grown up and going to work means you miss out on the best moments. Sigh.

And then I came home.  Uneventfully, with all my luggage, a kiss of sunshine on my skin, and pleasant sense of accomplishment of having filled my midwinter break to its max.

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