Monday, January 14, 2008

Les Vacances Quebecoises!

We did the unthinkable and took the boys on a six-hour car trek to Montreal for the better part of this past week. They actually were amazingly well-behaved, much better than at home! I asked Colin what his favorite part was and he just keeps saying "All of it!". From their reactions, they seemed to like the elevator and the key cards in the hotel the best out of everything. Every SINGLE time Liam opened the door with the keycard, he let out a soft, awed "Wow!" The first morning after we arrived and they woke up in the hotel room, they asked if it was "time to go back to our yellow house now?" For them, the hotel itself with its tiny fridge and French TV was more exciting than any museum or attraction they saw after it. Next time, Chris and I vow we're just going to rent a room at the closest Motel 6 and let them have at it.

Two of the biggest attractions at the hotel were the elephants at the entrance and the elevator. Hours and hours of fun to be had there.

Liam got so good at "surfing" on the Metro that he could do it "all by mine self!"

We ate one night at St. Hubert, a Canadian chain restaurant kind of like a glitzy KFC meets Cheesecake Factory. The decor was sort of fancy, the food was adequate (and had animal-shaped chicken for the kids, oh, the joy!) and miraculously, especially after a long day out sight-seeing, it had a PLAY ROOM. Why every restaurant in the U.S. doesn't have one of these is beyond me. We got there early for dinner and got seated right next to the play area where we could see the kids, they could play blocks and gawk at Dora the Explorer in French (the trilingual irony!) and we could enjoy our wine (yes, WINE, at a fast-food BBQ chicken place. Again, why doesn't KFC do THAT???) Enjoy, that is, until Eamon threw up and we finally called it a night.
(Did I mention we had a crappy--no pun intended-- stomach bug the first few days? Thanks, Kel!)

Elevators aside, the next best thing on the kids' fun list was probably the Biodome. It has four complete ecosystems set up in what used to be the velodrome built for the 1976 Montreal Olympics. The boys pretended they were on "Rocket" and zooming all over the world as we went from one climate to another and very much enjoyed all they saw. Liam particularly liked the fish in the Tropical Rain Forest, and they both went nuts over the penguins in the Arctic. They slid down the kid-size slides in the Laurentian forest and were lucky enough to catch an otter sliding down his own slide seconds later!

The big boys overlooking a beautiful scene depicting the St. Lawrence marine ecosystem, complete with seagulls and a pretend sunset.

We were lucky enough to be in town during the special "Caillou" exhibit which was directed towards preschoolers. Colin has seen the show a time or two, and Chris and I always wondered why we thought it was a bit "strange". Now we know: it's Canadian! If you've never had the pleasure of catching an episode, it's about a whiny bald four year old boy and his lack of adventures. At any rate, Caillou did help walk the kids through the different ecosystems and introduced them to the native Innu people so it was informative. We also got to meet Caillou in person, but much like Santa, the big boys were leery of large strangely-dressed individuals and only Eamon would let the big bald guy touch him. Truth be told, we hope poor Caillou couldn't smell a darn thing through that costume because at that precise moment Eamon let loose with another diaper full of filth from his crummy stomach bug. Caillou didn't seem to notice, thankfully.

Liam with Caillou and his Innu friend, Maniss. At the end of the last exhibit, they had a great kids play area with all kinds of Innu stuff set up. It was really nicely done and the kids loved it.

Eamon gets cozy in an Innu tent.

Eamon discovers the cute boy in the mirror!

Liam shows his prowess at fishing in the stream. He then cooked his catch over the "fire" with some veggies. This kid also loves anything cooking or kitchen-related. He is his father's son!

Eamon keeps the wildlife in check.

The Biodome also had a real beaver lodge in the St. Lawrence marine area with a camera inside so you could watch the inner workings of the dam. Colin found the pretend version just as intriguing and brought his own catch of fish inside!

We walked the entire length of St. Catherine Street the next day. I mean the ENTIRE way, from the sex shops to the couture shops. We also ate at a great old school diner called Reuben's Deli.

Eamon had his first sip of beer, and this is what he thought of it! (It was empty, okay?)

On our last morning, Eamon finally felt well enough to eat something and we really
owed the cleaning staff an extra tip for the cracker caper that ensued.

We spent an afternoon at the Musee des Beaux-arts. The boys mostly enjoyed it (with a few "I Spy" games to keep things interesting). And Liam summed up my opinion of most modern sculpture when he exclaimed: "Look, Mama, a big potty!"

Okay, so Ben&Jerry's isn't Canadian, but we weren't THAT far from VT. Also, the boys needed incentive to make it through a lunch at the Winston Churchill Pub, a very upscale place on Crescent Street, which, to the best of my research, has NOTHING to do with Winston Churchill despite the name and decor. They did have excellent food, waitresses in short, flimsy black attire, a raging cocktail party going on at 11:30am, and no changing stations in the bathrooms. Can you blame us for bribing them with ice cream if they could make it through just ONE Mommy and Daddy-style lunch?

The men take to the streets.
As an aside, our last night we found a local restaurant within walking distance of our hotel called Pacini's. It's an Olive Garden-esque chain restaurant, but with really good food. And curiously, their claim to fame is an all-you-can-eat Bread Bar where you go up, select your bread, add one of a number of flavored butters and then toast it on a huge community grill. Needless to say, the kids were thrilled with the whole process and Liam was in all his glory, being the Toast-Master that he is. I forgot to bring the camera, but fun was had by all and we got to enjoy a right nice dinner to boot.

Au revoir, Montreal! We had fun!


Luke said...

Les légumes sont très délicieux! Je préparerai une salade.

As you can see my French is still workable as long as you're discussing vegetables, salads, singing songs or listening to jazz records. I think Paul and Marie-France would have approved of your vacation; there were a wide variety of activities they would most certainly have wanted to discuss.

Seriously, it was cool to read about your trip. Canada rocks and it looks like everyone had a great time. I hope 2008's been treating all of you well!

ELK said...

What a blast!Some culture and fine dining mixed with a good dose of elevator antics and poopy diapers...sounds like a perfect family va-ca. Come to California...we can give you all of that and more!

FG18 said...

HAHAHHAA. Luke, your comments are hysterical. I am going to remember Paul and Marie-France all night now.

Montreal looked fun carebear....a whole side Matt and I did not see....with playrooms! LOL.

FG18 said...

and....i love the biodome too!