Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Camping Anyone?

If you want a real budget vacation, try camping. Watch the blog for my latest camping advice and adventures.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Final Experiences of a Grade 8 Chaperone-Quebec City



EVENING OF DAY 3

5:15pm- We board the bus to a buffet restaurant. The girls look very sweet in their dresses. You can tell they spent much time and effort on their appearances…The boys look similar to how they did this morning. My son changed his shorts but that was only because he’d spilt a slushy on them during the day.

6:00pm- Supper time! The kids are pretty quiet, too busy munching I guess.

7:00pm- We arrive into the lower town. We have a free hour. Quebec City is so romantic…that is if you’re there without the 200 teenagers.

8:15pm- We board the boat. There are a number of schools on the boat for the dance, probably a good 800 kids, maybe more. Once again, the boat supplies a lot of uniformed chaperones. You’d have to be Tom Cruise to get into mischief with that many security staff watching. The teachers and parents have a private lounge they can go to when not walking around the dance floors.

We pull away from the dock and the DJ plays the Black Eyed Peas, “I’ve got a feeling, that tonight’s going to be a good night…” Everyone starts dancing, (except parents and teachers because that would be too weird).

The lights of Quebec City pass us as we glide down the St. Lawrence. The Chateau Frontenac looks amazing, almost magical at night.

10:30pm- Too soon it’s over. We pile onto school buses and head back to the hotel. It’s a full moon. We all check Montmorency (spelling???) Falls to try and see the ghost of the dancing bride. She’s supposed to be there when the moon’s full. No luck. I wonder if I would be able to see her after a few glasses of wine…something to try next time I’m in the area.

11:15pm- People crash awfully quickly. At least I did.

DAY 4

7:00am- The alarm goes. Everyone packs and we’re down to breakfast by 8:00am

9:00am- On the road again. It’s a pretty subdued group. Some of the kids watch movies, some sleep and others take pictures of the ones that are sleeping.

7:15pm- After a few food and bathroom breaks, we roll into the school parking lot. Tired but happy kids get off and head home.

The kids were well behaved. My son informed me that I behaved appropriately as well.

So, was the free trip worth the effort? Would I do it again?

You betcha! In a heartbeat!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Even More Experiences of a Grade 8 Chaperone- Quebec City




Day 3

6:45am- I wake to an overcast, rainy day.

7:45am- Everyone behaves in a civilized manner at breakfast.

8:45am- We board the bus and visit Chez Marie for some fresh baked bread and delicious maple butter.

9:45am- We arrive at Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupre. We are instructed to be very quiet when in the Basilica because mass is going on in the sanctuary. You can tell the adults are a little concerned about keeping a large group of fourteen year olds quiet.

The kids were wonderful. Respectful and soft spoken. The church was beautiful.

11:00am- Lunch time.

12:15 pm- We stop at the house that was the inspiration/replica for the Adam’s Family home and take some great pictures. It’s actually up for sale!

Next we visit Atelier Pare where we learn a bit about the French Canadian sculptor and legends.

The rain actually stopped for our visit to St.-Anne Canyon. The canyon and waterfalls were beautiful. They reminded me of Athabaska Falls in the Rockies. The kids enjoyed the suspension bridges.

2:15pm- We returned to hotel to rest and clean up for our big final night. We go to a Chinese buffet for supper, then on to the big dance on the boat. I can hear the girls busily getting dressed and putting on their make-up; brings back memories.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Adventures of a Grade 8 Chaperon-Quebec City



Day 2

6:00am- Alarm rings. I slept through the night but there had been one disturbance at about 1:15am. A group of boys had been making crank calls to the front desk.

7:00am- My son refuses to make eye contact at breakfast. That’s ok, he’s acting like a typical 14 year old.
The hot and cold buffet is quite good. There’s a choice of many items including crepes, yogurt, cereal, bacon, sausages, home fries, scrambled eggs, pain au chocolat, juice and lots of fruit.
I sighted our bus driver at breakfast. Hopefully this means our bus is fixed or else it will be an extra long walking tour of Quebec City.

8:00am- We head out to Quebec City. It’s overcast but warm. We tour the Citadel. After a re-enactment (without weapons) of the battle on the Plains of Abraham, we meet our local tour guide. As she begins her tour some of the girls notice a used condom on the street and start to squeal. Some of the boys kick it which makes them squeal even more….We move the tour to another location.

Noon: After touring the upper and lower city we have free time. I grab a quick bite and savour the atmosphere in the lower town and check out the inside (and ghost stories) of the Holy Trinity Cathedral.

2:00pm-We meet up to tour Chateau Frontenac. The students are tired and some of the guys are restless. My son informs me that I have been well behaved so far.

3:00pm-Free time again. I walk the Chateau boardwalk, taking in the views and return to the old town. I discover a shop selling French linens. The prices are a lot higher than they were in France. I guess to save money, I should go back to France to purchase my linens….hmmm, I wonder if my husband would buy that viewpoint.

4:30pm-We take the bus to the Sugar Shack. It’s an hour and a half drive. Many of the kids (and I) fall asleep.

6:00pm- We arrive at La Cabane a Pierre (the Sugar Shack). After a short tour and explanation of the maple syrup process we head into the cedar log cabin hall for supper. A band performs lively French Canadian tunes while students play on the spoons.
Supper is served family style at the tables. Our feast included pea soup, sausages, ham, potatoes, eggs, baked beans, tourtiere which we drizzle with maple syrup. Yum.
Soon everyone was up and dancing to the chicken dance, Makarena and YMCA. What a hoot!
We all had maple syrup toffee served from troughs of snow before driving back to our hotel.

10:43pm- It’s pretty quiet in the halls. I think their pooped. What a fabulous day.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Experiences of a Grade 8 Chaperone-Quebec City



As mentioned in the last post, my summer holiday budget was eaten up by the purchase of a new roof. Desperate for a holiday, I’ve offered my services as a chaperone for my son’s grade 8 school trip to Quebec City.

DAY 1

6:35am- My son gives last minute instructions on appropriate parental chaperoning behaviour: Don’t talk to him unless it’s to offer the use of my Visa card, Don’t sit anywhere near him, Don’t relate any childhood stories, Keep my mouth shut if I plan to doze on the bus…heaven forbid that I should drool or something.

6:40am-We arrive at the parking lot. My son grabs his luggage and jumps out of the car before my husband and I can demonstrate any form of affection. After kissing my husband goodbye, I notice four buses lined up, ready for the twelve hour drive. A teacher informs me that there are 200 students on the trip.

7:10am I see it as a good sign that after doing sooooo many of these school trips, the bus drivers and tour guides are still smiling and friendly. The kids name the bus, The Bat Mobile.

10:25am- I’m pleasantly surprised. The 47 fourteen year olds on my bus are really well behaved. I actually manage to enjoy a conversation with the vice principal and to read three trashy magazines

10:30am- We stop for a 20 minute snack and bathroom break. Deciding which fine dining establishment to eat at was a tough choice. McDonald’s is inundated with at least 100 kids. The others disperse to a few of the alternative restaurants.

11:00am- Seven buses are lined up in the parking lot. I’m about to get on one before I notice that none of the students look familiar. I take my place in the bus beside it.

11:10am- Refreshed by our 20 minute break, we hit the road again.

5:55pm- We stop three more times for food and washroom breaks. I enjoy more reading, snoozing (with my mouth firmly shut), and movie watching. I notice a dinging sound coming from the bus dashboard. We are half an hour away from our hotel.

6:00pm- The bus breaks down. We pull over to the side of the highway. Everyone stays calm and the bus driver goes out to check up on the Bat Mobile. I continue to read a few more chapters of my book.

6:30pm- We’re on the road again.

6:55pm- Our hotel is on a hill. We notice the bus moving slower and slower as cars continue to speed past us. I start to question whether we’ll make it to the top or not. The group chants, I think I can, I think I can….

7:00pm- We arrive. I quietly hum The Wheels on the Bus as I go to my room and clean up for supper.

8:00pm- After a buffet meal, my chaperone duties continue at the dance.

9:30pm- The kids all head up to their rooms. Everyone seems to be too pooped to boogie.

So far, so good.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Off to Quebec City


Tough times call for creative measures.

Recently my family had to spring for a new roof which ate up the summer vacation budget. Being a travel addict, I knew I needed to think out of the box to get a trip fix.

Next week, I’ll be a volunteer chaperone on my son’s grade 8 school trip to Quebec City. I’m pretty excited. The agenda is action packed, the teachers are fun and interesting people, the students are a relatively well behaved group and I love Quebec City.

If you too are trying to come up with a way to travel on the smallest of budgets, let me recommend a great book called You Can Travel Free by Robert William Kirk. The book was written twelve years ago but still is great for helping you come up with current free travel opportunities. Kirk’s ideas open the doors to unique and innovative ways to see the world. Flexibility and an open mind are required if you take this route.

To order the book, you need to go on line. Try Amazon.com.

In the mean-time, watch for my next posts from Quebec City.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Lavender Boutique in Niagara-on-the-Lake



Sometimes stopping somewhere on a whim can lead to a really neat discovery.

Recently, when travelling with friends to Niagara-on-the-Lake in Ontario, Canada we spotted a sign for Neob Lavender Boutique. We hit the brakes, pulled a u-ey and made a stop.

Not only did we find a lovely boutique filled with lavender products and foods, but were also offered a free tour of the growing area.

We were introduced to a number of different lavender plants and shown the distillery. Neob also grows different plants which they use in their products including calendula, lemongrass, luffah and more.

The free tour was an educational and fun experience and the boutique had many tempting products. This was a great way to spend a half hour.

For more information check out Neob Lavender Boutique's web site.

If you want to find out some really interesting facts about the history of lavender, check out travellingrubberchicken.com.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Multi-Purpose Plastic Ties to the Rescue


We all know not to lock our luggage when travelling by plane, just in case security needs to check it.

This makes me feel a tad vulnerable because it would be so quick and easy for someone to zip open my bag and grab something.

My sister gave me a suggestion for a cheap and simple deterrent: multipurpose self-locking plastic ties.

Wrap these around the suitcase zipper heads to keep them closed. If security decides to search your luggage, they can cut the ties. It does however, make it just a little more difficult for a thief to get in.

You can find these ties for under $3.00 in most hardware stores.