Nine ways to enjoy summer in Québec on a budget

So school is over, your last pay packet is a distant memory and now you’ve had to move out of the place you’ve been calling home for the past 10 months. As our work permit only allowed us to legally live in Canada while employed by the Commission Scolaire, getting a paid summer job was out of the question. Here’s how I made July work on a budget

  1. Workaway at La Malbaie, Charlevoix

For those unfamiliar with the concept, Workaway is a website where you can sign up to volunteer all over the world, usually in exchange for food and lodging. A friend and I decided that a hostel seemed a sensible and fun place to do this, so the Auberge de Jeunesse de la Malbaie became our new home for some of July and allowed us to see more of the beautiful Charlevoix region. It was a pretty sweet deal; in exchange for 4 hours of volunteering (usually weeding or other menial tasks) we had free bed and breakfast, half price food and drinks at the bar and 100$ to spend on groceries for our kitchen. The hostel itself is in a beautiful place, with the back garden opening out onto the beach and the delicious Pains d’Exclamation bakery only a few minutes walk away. The day we arrived was Canada Day (1st July) so we enjoyed free pizza and fireworks by the beach and felt slightly better about having left our homes behind.

P1110066P1100598

2. Ice cream for lunch is a cheap and acceptable life choice

When it’s a lovely sunny day and you know your remaining number of opportunities for a crème molle (soft serve ice cream dipped in all kinds of exciting chocolate, sadly not a thing in the UK) is beginning to approach single figures, it only seems logical to replace the odd meal here and there with this amazing creation. After careful and extensive sampling, Lizzie and I decided that the salted caramel chocolate at Chocolaterie de l’Île d’Orléans was to be crowned the dairy champion of summer 2018.

P1110184

3. Wallet-friendly whale watching

We made the most of being in Charlevoix by taking the picturesque drive back to Tadoussac, the whale-watching destination we’d all visited in autumn and paid 70$ for the official cruise so as to see the whales up close. This time however, we spent more time at the beautiful sand dunes and decided to go and sit at Pointe de l’Islet as we’d heard rumours that if you’re lucky you can sometimes see whales from there. We couldn’t believe our luck when we saw whales within minutes of arriving! Free Willy..?

P1100639P1100661P1100728

4. Nature is free and wonderful 

With our picnic groceries kindly paid for by Bob, our boss at La Malbaie, hikes suddenly became an extremely cheap daytime activity. Another assistant paid us a visit for a few days and we celebrated his birthday with one of the most impressive views of the year from the summit of Parc National des Grands-Jardins, with the Lac des Cygnes satisfying our daily body-of-water quota on the way up. We were even lucky enough to see shooting stars during our evening venture for some stargazing on a nearby golf course. As birthdays go, he could have done worse!

P1100832P1100811

5. A bicycle shared is a bicycle… quartered?

We took the scenic route back to Quebec City one day by stopping to get the ferry across to the magnificent Île-aux-Coudres. We made the tactical error of thinking that a quadracycle would be the most cost-efficient way to see the island, without factoring the significant loss in distance covered caused by our combined body weight. It was still great fun, but we were disappointed to note the absence of a bar laitier on the island and decided it would need to catch up if it were to ever stand a chance of competing with Île d’Orléans.

P1110017P1110034

6. Reaching new heights, literally and figuratively

Everyone we met in Charlevoix insisted that we couldn’t possibly leave without completing l’Acropole des Draveurs, a challenging and extremely vertical hike located in Parc National des Hautes-Gorges-de-la-Rivière-Malbaie. We were slightly apprehensive as we’d been told the first few kilometres would be the most difficult, but my friend Lizzie’s endlessly motivational company and Florence and the Machine’s new album gave me the boost needed to reach the top, and it was positively gorge-ous. We definitely felt we’d earned Bob’s picnic that day!

P1110139P1110124

7. Festival d’Été de Québec

The FEQ was one of the cheapest and most fun live music events I’ve ever come across. It was on for 10 days and you could buy a wristband for 100$ that would grant you access to the whole thing, but if you only wanted to attend one event there was a Facebook page where people would hire their wristbands out for the night. I couldn’t believe how cheap it was – we paid 25$ to see Frank Turner and Greta Van Fleet supporting the Foo Fighters at the Plains of Abraham and it was one of the best live performances I’ve seen. I would have paid twice that just to see Frank Turner, so to be able to see Foo Fighters as well was incredible, as they were so good live. The atmosphere was buzzing as the crowd was mostly full of Foo Fighters fans who had been let down when the same concert had been called off at the FEQ 3 years ago due to a thunderstorm, but the band were determined to play for as long as they wanted to and they did not disappoint. Another wonderful aspect of the FEQ were all of the free shows that were going on every night. Lizzie had introduced me to Hubert Lenoir as she had his album Darlène in her car, and we were lucky enough to see him for free twice, once at a pop-up gig in Saint Jean Baptiste and another at a jam-packed gig at Place d’Youville. His album will now always make me think of those last sunny few days spent dancing in the streets of Quebec City. 

P1110202P1110218P1110252

8. Pretending to be interested in football

England were doing quite well in the football at this stage, so we decided to watch the semi-final a London Jack, a pretentious UK-themed bar in the Saint-Roch district of Quebec City. It would have been good to come home along with the football, but sadly it was not to be.

9. The wonderful realisation that it’s never too late to make new friends and party with old ones

I spent my last full day in Québec (for now) sailing up and down the Saint Laurent on our friend’s mum’s boat with his other friends, who had been so lovely and welcoming and let us tag along. If you work in Quebec for three years on 75% of your salary, you are entitled to a paid fourth year off, so his mum and her boyfriend had decided to do just that; they’d spent several months on safari and now owned this beautiful boat. Even on our last day, the Quebecois were so kind and eager to hear my story, and it couldn’t have been a nicer way to take our minds off the fact we were leaving the next day. It wasn’t over yet however; I then went to Badri’s new place in Limoilou where we sat on his balcony and drank a lot of gin before heading out to Le Drague in town, as he was determined for me to have a proper send-off.

P1110333P1110350P1110312P1110357

À tantôt, Québec!

Nine reasons I’m glad I stuck around in Saint-Georges even after finishing work

Some of the other assistants moved out at the end of May, some went travelling, some flew home. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye just yet and was excited to welcome some friends from the UK to my new home, and here are all the reasons I’m glad I parted with another month’s rent in June even long after my salary had stopped coming in (cry).

1. Having friends visit made me re-appreciate everything about my home

I had two friends visit over three weeks in June, with a 3-day overlap in Montreal. It was so nice being able to show them around without having to factor in all of the travel complications that came with winter; it was a relief to know that we could spend time just sitting outside in nice places. A theme of “bodies of water and trees” seemed to emerge from all of my suggestions for things to do, but it just seemed like the right thing to do given the temperature and the abundant surrounding natural beauty. We sunbathed at Lac Mégantic, walked to the foot of Chutes de la Chaudière, had a narrow miss with a bear in Parc National de la Jacques Cartier, drove the breathtaking Route du Fjord du Saguenay, popped to Maine for the afternoon, tried out Acroyoga at the Vieux-Port de Montréal, ate probably too many bagels and were kindly invited to a pool party by some friends I’d made at the Soirée Anglaise. My friends were also good-spirited enough to accompany me to some cultural events they probably found quite bizarre when I suggested them, such as a line-dancing festival at the oldest covered bridge in Quebec, and a torch-lit walk to celebrate the summer solstice. I’m not sure it’s quite how either of them imagined I’d spent the year, but everyone needs to be shown how to have a good time in Beauce!

P1100020P1090866P1100170P1100270P1100425

2. The public piano came back!

It had been a long time coming, but the piano was finally back by the river in Saint-Georges. There was a welcome back ceremony and weekly concerts, including a collaborative showcase with La Cabane à Swing and the local choir, Echo Beauceron.

P1100481.JPG

3. I carried on dancing

Speaking of swing, I thought I’d danced my last number at Down by the Riverside as the next classes weren’t supposed to start up again until September, but the Cabane decided to put on an accelerated “Swing 2” summer course at Café l’Aléa so as to prepare their dancers for “Swing 3” in autumn. It was fantastic to still be able to go along with a new mix of people and learn even more material, and even have a few more social dances. When they heard I was leaving, they made me do a “Swing Jam”, where you have to dance in the middle of a circle with as many different partners as possible before the end of the song, which was fun but exhausting!

4. I saw my other home from a Quebecois perspective

I took one of my friends, who is now living in London, to the “Ici Londres!” exhibition at the Musée de la Civilisation in Quebec City. We had a guided tour of our capital city, which came to life on the floor thanks to a London map carpet and a Thames projection with moving boats. It was interesting to listen to how the Quebecois think we Brits always have tea three times a day and to hear the two-stage translation from Gherkin to pickle to cornichon

P1100066

5. I zipwired over Montmorency Falls

Again, had a friend not been here for a limited time only, I would probably not have allowed myself to be talked into this, but she convinced me to spend a very reasonable 26$ on what turned out to be one of the adrenaline highlights of the year! It was so much fun and we were impressed with how easy it was to acquire the video footage; all my friend had to do was download a free app and keep the phone in her bag during the zipwire, and by the time we’d removed our harnesses our perfect souvenir was all ready to go.

P1100083.JPG

6. There were plenty more wonderful evenings to be had with old and new friends

Our friend Marie-Eve had been saying for ages that she had a great scone recipe, and our friend Badri had been wanting us to make curry for a while, so we eventually decided to combine this into a slightly unconventional event and just had the loveliest time in Badri’s beautiful flat in Lévis with its iconic view of Quebec City, eating great food and talking for hours about how interesting other languages and cultures are. It’s amazing how a shared interest in cultural exchange can bring people together like this. We hope that Marie-Eve and Badri will get on a plane together soon and come and visit all of their UK friends!

marie eve

7. My contract at school may have been over, but the staff were still partying

Even after my surprise leaving do in May, the staff were all keen for me to come to the end-of-year party at the end of June at a chalet belonging to one of the teachers. We had great fun competing in the staff olympiades, enjoying a dinner of méchoui (barbecued lamb) and serenading Isabelle, who was leaving the school for a promotion at the commission scolaire and in doing so was causing many tears as the staff just didn’t want to let her go. After dinner, we all sat around a fire and had a sing-song, accompanied by Isabelle’s husband and the music teacher on guitar. Their favourite was “Salut les amoureux” by Joe Dassin, which will always make me think of that night and the sad-but-in-a-nice-way farewells that went with it.

P1100469P1100464

8. I wasn’t quite ready to part ways with my car

Aside from the fact I didn’t exactly have potential buyers flooding my inbox, I was grateful to have held onto my car for another month so that he could accompany me on my final few Beauce adventures. It wasn’t always the smoothest ride, but he was a legendary part of this Quebec experience for me and I couldn’t picture having had any other car. As the license plates in Quebec are assigned to the driver and not the car, I still have his plate as a physical reminder of the 23,400km (exactly) that we spent together. I hope he’s making another hockey mom happy! 

P1100498

P1100509P1100511

9. I got to spend a glorious last week in my home with my best friend

The last week in Saint-Georges certainly wasn’t the easiest, with difficult goodbyes left right and centre, imminent issues regarding certain logistics of my plans for the summer, and having to sort practical things like closing my bank account and selling the car (which finally happened at the last possible minute, after a week of being laughed out of garages and insulted by Kijiji customers, cry).  Despite all of the uncertainty, I am certain that I wouldn’t have made any of it work out without my best friend, who sat patiently by my side all week, said all the right things, vacuum packed my heavy clothes into my suitcase and always knew when to appear at my door with an iced cappuccino. We punctuated the leaving blues by organising nice farewell meetups with our local friends, trial-running his new tent in my back garden and ticking off the last few things on our Beauce bucketlist. This involved a really lovely hike up Mont Morne laden with camping and cooking equipment among other things (I’d packed the essentials such as Alsacien wine and blankets) and enjoying the sunset before scrambling around on our hands and knees in the dark for at least an hour trying to make a fire with hardly any lighter fluid and some damp kindling. We (he) eventually made a fire big enough to cook our dinner on, and it was the most perfect last night together we could have had. Of all the people I was fortunate enough to cross paths with this year, Dan was the one who made it all as special as it could have possibly been.

P1100501P1100526P1100523P1100548

P1100567

Nine ways to enjoy your last month at work (and celebrate the return of warmth!)

Time is suddenly going way too fast, you’re not sure if or when you’ll next see some people, and all you want to do is just slow everything down and enjoy being able to sit on the porch rocking chair again. Here’s how I made May a memorable one:

  1. Organise a cultural soirée for the locals

Having overheard several customers at the local cultural board game café (Café l’Aléa) complaining that they never get a chance to speak English outside of school, and having spoken to the owner about his recent concerns regarding the business, I decided it would be fun to organise a “Soirée Anglaise” for the residents of Saint-Georges in order to bring in some customers and get everyone speaking English. I was lucky to have two good friends on board who helped bring my idea to life; the night was an excellent success and featured PG tips, vegan scones, fleur-de-lis shortbread, a cultural presentation, discussion activities and board games. Our only regret is not having organised it earlier in the year, as the attendees were so friendly and made us too many follow-up offers for us to fit into our remaining few weeks in town!

P1090432P1090427P1090428

2. Showcase the talents of your hard-working pupils

My oldest students (grade 6) had been working for several weeks on their own presentations for the younger students; these involved a play they’d written themselves, a dance routine, science experiments, magic tricks and art techniques. It was in May that these talents were brought to the stage, and it was lovely to see how fascinated and keen the younger children were to learn from their older peers. The group who had written the play presented it to the whole school in a very special lunchtime assembly, and we then went on to perform it at the old peoples’ home opposite the school and ended up featuring in the local news! I was so proud of the students and it was really rewarding to see the positive impact that these performances had on the local community.

3. Enjoy the colours and goings-on of Montreal in the sun

We were lucky to spend one of the first warm weekends enjoying the beautiful colours of Montreal in the weather in which they deserve to be seen. We stayed with a good friend in the Plateau who had begun working at Luna Yoga, so I was able to use her free pass on Sunday morning for a relaxing start to the day in a very cool studio with all the Montreal yogies. We marvelled at being able to just wander the city streets and not feel pressured by the cold to reach any destination, and spent Sunday afternoon lazily enjoying the free monthly Tam-Tams festival by the George-Étienne Cartier monument. The song “Shedding Skin (Beloved Friend)” by MC Yogi was playing when we arrived at my friend’s apartment and will always make me think of this sunny, chilled-out weekend.

P1080842P1080843P1080855P1080869P1080866

4. Support your colleagues

Some of the most unexpectedly fun outings I had this year came from the motivation that “someone knows someone who’s doing something and we should go and support them”, and this time it was our friend Mary performing with her gospel choir in Montreal. It was a great excuse to bring some of the other assistants together and Mary is so fabulous and talented that it was an enjoyable night all round, followed of course by a night out on the town.

P1080907

5. Make use of the Véloroute de la Chaudière

Our landlord was kind enough to provide us all with a bike at the beginning of the year, but we were so distracted by cars and yellow school buses that we didn’t properly make use of them before winter arrived. It was therefore a joy, once the snow had melted, to cycle along the Chaudière river all the way to Beauceville (where Tim was waiting to greet us with open arms).

P1090298P1090098P1090101

6. Take advantage of Eurovision being broadcast during the day

Eurovision seemed as good an excuse as any to rally the assistants in Saint-Georges for an afternoon screening, day drinking and a barbecue in the newly acquired sunny climes. We then spent the next day as any Sunday in Saint-Georges should be spent; brunch at Les Pères Nature followed by a hike and then back to Pères Nature for an ice-cream shaped reward. The golden days.

P1090258P1090206P1090219

7. Celebrate with the other assistants 

One very organised assistant decided to arrange a “Brit Awards” ceremony for all of the British language assistants, which involved another fun weekend in good old Saint-Georges with another huge barbecue spread, a hilarious award ceremony, and poutine cake! I was honoured to win half of “Couple of the Year” and “Pun-hit-wonder”! 

P1090568P1090643P1090638P1090690P1090688

8. Cover yourself in mosquito spray and go night-hiking

Had my friend not been flying home two days later, I might not have agreed to drive him and another friend to Mont Morne in the dark for some stargazing and building a bonfire. It wasn’t until I turned the engine off that we realised there could be anything out there in the woods, and as my friend so eloquently articulated it, “this is absolutely bat-shit lads and I’m so here for it!”. Thankfully he had torches and sustenance so we made it to the top, eventually got a fire going and had a lovely evening. As the friend in question didn’t drive, and I was the only one around at the time with a car, it felt nice that I’d been able to make this happen for him as a parting gift.

P1090791P1090727

9. Make sure to properly thank those who have made the year so special

My wonderful headteacher’s birthday happened to coincide with the end of term, so I made her a collage of all of the hard work her pupils had done and presented it to her in a surprise birthday assembly. She is such an inspirational lady, everyone in the hall adored her and she has this way of never making you feel like you’re being a nuisance (even though I most definitely sometimes was). My last day of school was an emotional one, with a framed poem written by the students, an announcement about me on the intercom, kind letters from parents, lots of cute cards and cuddles from the students and a surprise pool party from the lovely teachers. Perhaps the most memorable moment for me however was when it was 32 degrees in my classroom and one of my pupils knocked at the door with a Mr Freeze he’d been given in class but wanted to give to me instead. I know I keep saying how lucky I was but I really don’t think I could have been placed in a nicer school, surrounded by people who just wanted to do nice things for each other. I’m very jealous of the new assistant as I would do anything to go back!

P1090808P1090371

Nine things to do when it’s still cold in… April?!

Having only ever experienced the mild inconvenience of April showers in the UK, I was decidedly unprepared for the series of “false springs” and extreme weather (freezing rain, still?) that were waiting to greet us this month. We could hardly believe the forecast when the temperature finally reached 13 degrees around mid-April, and I waited for at least a week of positive temperatures to pass before committing to the removal of my car’s winter tyres. Here’s what to do when you’re not sure if it’s going to be sunny or slippery tomorrow:

  1. Experience a cultural sugar crash

Springtime is sugar shack season in Québec, as freezing temperatures overnight and temperatures just above 0 degrees in the morning are ideal circumstances for maple production. Having always associated the whole of Canada with its iconic maple leaf, I didn’t initially realise that 91% of maple syrup is produced in Quebec produces 91% of the country’s maple syrup, and most of this is produced in Beauce. One of our Québecois friends was kind enough to invite us to her family-run sugar shack in Saint-Théophile where she showed us the maple water running out of the trees and into a Mission Impossible-style maze of blue tubing. Her father explained the process to us (in possibly the most Beauce of all Beauce accents I came across during the whole year) and we were given maple sweets and mugs of syrup as well as samples of tire d’érable, where hot syrup is poured onto the snow and then eaten in what I can only describe as the most wonderfully Canadian thing I’ve ever seen. 

P1080484P1080498P1080495

2. Once recovered, accept another invite to a family meal at a sugar shack

Think of this as “rinse, repeat”, only you’re rinsing in maple syrup and repeating putting your body through the strange phenomenon of a sugar hangover. After a long debate in the staff room, my teachers decided which of them would get to host me at their family sugar shack, so I was lucky enough to go twice. This one was more old-fashioned as they collected the maple water from the trees in buckets rather than tubes, and of course I was asked to drink from said bucket because “c’est la tradition!”. We then had a fabulous meal of all kinds of meat, pancakes and bread covered in as much maple syrup, sugar and butter as my arteries could handle.

P1080511P1080520P1080524

3. Dance all night (and all day) at Down by the Riverside

My 12-week session of beginner lindy-hop lessons seemed to end in perfect timing for the Beauce’s annual swing dancing festival, which was great as it meant I felt ready and able to take part in what ended up being one of the most memorable and fun weekends for me. We danced all night on Friday and Saturday with live music from Les Royal Pickles, and Saturday was spent dancing our way in and out of professional workshops with teachers from all over Quebec. On Sunday the guest band traditionally leads a parade along the promenade in Saint-Georges, but this year it was too cold, so the band put on a very intimate performance in a room above a restaurant and led a very interesting discussion about musicality. They also debuted their album, Jouer dans l’trafic, which is on Spotify so you have no excuse not to check it out really. We felt lucky to be in the audience and I’m so glad to have taken part in the whole thing, as it’s certainly not something I imagined myself doing this time a year ago.

P1080504.JPG

4. Support your school and everyone in it

When I discovered that one of my students was tragically afflicted by cancer, I was more than happy to come in to work at 6:30am on his birthday to help welcome parents and serve breakfast at a special event the school had organised to raise money for his family. The event ended up raising enough money for the school to buy a specially adapted bike for Hugo, and it was an honour for me to have been a part of such a generous community.

dejeunons avec hugo

5. Showcase your newly acquired talents

Speaking of fundraising, some of the other Quebec assistants decided to organise a talent show to raise money for Alzheimer’s Research. The event took place in Ninkasi, Quebec City’s infamous karaoke bar, and I was persuaded to have a swing dance on stage as part of the line-up. We all had a sing-song afterwards and again, it felt great to be a part of something so good-natured.

P1080589P1080577

6. Support those who support you

Some of the other Saint-Georges assistants were competing in Boston Pizza’s bar staff competition wherein they had to sell as many drinks coupons as possible, so we all pitched in to help them and rallied our local friends for a night of “helping”, which seemed to descend into more karaoke. I remember being most touched by a gift from my friend Audrey – the same friend who invited us to her sugar shack – who saw me admiring her “feministe tant qu’il le faudra!” badge that evening and decided to offer it to me there and then. It is now adorning the red Québec hoodie of my activist racoon friend, Ralph. The next morning, my friend and I went along to a children’s singing competition at the high school because my headteacher’s daughter was competing, and as she’d had the courage to serenade us at a dinner party we couldn’t not go and support her! She had the voice of an eight-year-old angel and was undoubtedly much more pleasant to listen to than our karaoke from the night before, and she rightly won the coup de coeur prize after capturing the hearts of the judges.

P1110876.JPG

7. See familiar areas from new angles

We’d paid many a visit by this point to our friend who was living in the town of Lévis, situated just across the river from Quebec City, but we hadn’t really seen much more of the town than his house and the commercial sprawling area as you enter from the highway. We therefore decided to spend what we decided to be the first official day of spring at a beautiful marina as we reflected on the long winter which we had definitely made the most of, and with which we were more than ready to part ways.

P1080653.JPG

8. Marvel at Beauce sunsets

It got to the point where, when we would drive together at sunset, I didn’t even need to ask my best friend to stop his car anymore; he would see me gazing out of the window and my hand twitching towards my camera, and he would find somewhere to pull up along the side of the road. A Beauce sunset was never one to disappoint.

P1090405P1080739

P1090010

9. Organise a stylish send-off for a departing assistant

As Maria, our favourite Mexican muchacha, was flying home at the beginning of May, it was only right that we came together to send her off with a wonderful evening of Mexican music, feasting and enjoying her hilarious company. We’d all gotten so used to having her around that her sudden departure sadly felt like the beginning of a lot of endings to come…

Nine road trip destinations for March

I was lucky to have planned two road trips for March; the first across part of the East Coast of the US with some friends during Spring Break, the second from Saint-Georges across as far as Niagara Falls with my parents. Here are my highlights and (mostly food-based) recommendations from the trips!

  1. Portland, Maine

Our first stop on the road trip was Portland. Before you raise your geographically-confused eyebrows, I feel the need to specify that I mean the one in Maine, not Oregon! It’s about a 4 hour drive from Saint-Georges and we stayed in the nearby town of Westbrook as we’d found a fabulous Airbnb there. We enjoyed lobster rolls at Rosie’s (when in Maine!) and had amazing pizza at Otto.

P1070270.JPG

 2. Cape Elizabeth and Old Orchard Beach, Maine

The next day we enjoyed driving around the beautiful Cape Elizabeth and trying to not get blown off the edge of the cliff during a particularly blustery walk along to some of the oldest lighthouses in Maine. We’d also heard promising things about one of Maine’s most famous beaches, so decided to factor Old Orchard into our trip. As the weather wasn’t quite adhering to the “spring” guidelines by that point, we had pretty much the whole thing to ourselves. It was mostly just really lovely spending time with 5 of my best friends and exploring new places.

P1070370P1070422

P1070464

3. New York, New York

Nothing, not even our New York themed playlist (featuring Frank Sinatra, Elbow, Alicia Keys, Paloma Faith, Sting and many more…) could prepare me for the breathtaking moment as we drove over a bridge into Brooklyn and were presented with the New York skyline in all the glorious colours of a perfect sunset. Our excited chatter fell silent and I slacked on my navigational duties so as to take it all in; we were driving straight towards this iconic image I’d only ever seen on TV or in films. I’ll never forget that moment, and it set the stage for a dizzyingly exciting few days in the Big Apple, hosted in Brooklyn by an extremely cool couple from Puerto Rico. We met friends for amazing Vietnamese food at the Saigon Shack in Greenwich Village, stood on the steps of Times Square surrounded by lights, ambled over the Brooklyn Bridge, saw the Friends building and Carrie Bradshaw’s front door, rediscovered a treasure trove of British confectionery at Myers of Keswick in the West Village, strolled along the beautiful High Line, were moved by the 9/11 museum and memorial, took shelter from the snowstorm at Andrew’s Diner, the Public Library and Grand Central Station, soared to the Top of the Rock, wandered through Central Park and Strawberry Fields, and I enjoyed many a circular carb in the form of bagels from Pick-a-Bagel and the legendary cronut from Dominique Ansel’s bakery in Soho. The trip of a lifetime!

P1070476P1070537P1070558P1070633P1070650P1070759

P1070832

4. Boston

As sad as we were to bid farewell to the Empire State, it wasn’t long before our excitement for New England and being reunited with the other two members of our group sank in and we had an enjoyable 5 hour drive from Brooklyn to Boston. We were staying in a beautiful Airbnb in Back Bay, and spent our friend’s 21st birthday walking the historic Freedom Trail, chowing down on some clam “chowda!” at Quincy Market, and having a legal beverage or two. Another highlight of the trip for me was spending the following afternoon at the JFK library and museum with my best friend, as it was just in a really nice part of the city and we saw the sun set over the Boston skyline as we left.

The week had gone far too quickly, and we were sad to find ourselves deciding where to spend the final morning of our American adventure. We opted for a wander around the prestigious Harvard campus before parting ways with our road trip companions and having a peaceful drive back to Saint-Georges as we reflected on what a fabulous week we’d been lucky to have.

 

P1080041

P1080083P1080116P1080160

5. Montreal

Enter Mum and Dad, slightly jet-lagged and sleepy after a 7-hour delay but just about coherent enough to take in the tourist highlights of Québec City and Saint-Georges. I was lucky to be working in a small enough school that it was easy to rearrange my hours for special occasions, so I took advantage of the long Easter weekend to plan a few days off so that we could enjoy a week-long Canadian road trip together at the end of March. I was excited to show them Montreal, one of my favourite cities in the world, and it did not disappoint. We were spellbound by the Aura light show at the basilica, sampled Cantonese cuisine in Chinatown, enjoyed smooth jazz at Upstairs, had blueberry Fairmount bagels with strawberry Philadelphia for breakfast (trust me, it’s a thing and it works), took in the classic view from Mont Royal, decided that the queue for Schwartz’ smoked meat sandwich deli was definitely worth the wait and marvelled at the ceiling over coffee in Crew Collective

P1080277P1080289P1080298

6. Mont-Tremblant

We took the wonderfully smooth hire car (I loved my 14 year old banger to pieces but he didn’t half make a racket) from Montreal to Mont-Tremblant, a popular ski resort 2 hours north of the city. Whilst we weren’t quite geared up for skiing, it was a pretty mountain town in which we could wander around and spend the best part of an hour trying to relocate my dad among similarly dressed “outdoorsy” Canadian men…

P1080303

7. Ottawa

We then took a beautiful country road and an exciting ferry from Quebec into Ontario as we arrived in Ottawa. We had a delicious dinner at Aroma Meze, where they brought just enough small plates to leave us wanting more but not in a dissatisfied kind of way. As luck would have it, one of my best friends from the programme was also visiting Ottawa at the same time, so we met up with him the next day for the parliament tour, some Canada biscuits and a hilarious evening at the Loft board game lounge. I’ve never been to a capital city that is so sleepy in comparison to its metropolitan companions, but Ottawa has a lot of hidden gems and I would definitely recommend a visit.

P1080310

8. Toronto

Perhaps it is because my heart is in Quebec, or perhaps it is because both of my visits to this city have been at particularly quiet times of the year (Easter and New Years), but I remain somewhat whelmed by Toronto in comparison to Montreal. This being said, we stayed in a stunning high-rise apartment with gorgeous views of Lake Ontario, and I really enjoyed taking the ferry to the islands for a sunset view of the skyline on our first evening in this huge city. We also experienced a strange but enjoyable Hungarian/Thai fusion at the rather aptly named Hungary Thai in Kensington Market and, after a confusing exchange with a ticket officer where I learned that a “tram” is a “streetcar” in North America, we headed to Graffiti Alley to admire the artwork.

P1080325P1080345P1080388P1080445

9. Niagara Falls

I consider myself very lucky to have seen this natural wonder twice in one year, and it was interesting to compare it to my glacial memories of the waterfall from December. Another difference was that this time I had my dad and his tripod in tow, meaning he could show me how to make full and impressive use of my 10-stop neutral density filter and I could take probably the fanciest photo I will ever take:

P1080432

Nine ways to spend (probably) the coldest month of your life

February was the month they all warned us about, the month where we would realise we’d forgotten what warmth felt like and Christmas too would seem a distant memory. Here’s how I not only survived, but thrived during this exceptionally cold month.

  1. Glissade

For those unfamiliar with the term “tubing”, this basically involves sitting inside a large inflatable doughnut and sliding down various snowy slopes. Perhaps just as fun (if not more so) is the method of ascension of said slopes, where you sit in an inflatable-doughnut conveyor belt system whilst dragging your doughnut up the hill. Great stuff. The most popular place to do this is Valcartier Village, which is a massive water park (called Bora Park) in the summer, and a glissade paradise in the winter. I would highly recommend this as an accessible winter sport, particularly as there’s no risk of falling over!

P107012028460803_1984186091594720_1015747533_o

 2. Leave the dangerous winter sports to the professionals 

As the bitterly cold temperatures meant we sometimes had no choice but to sit in and watch TV, we thought we’d justify this activity by keeping au courant with the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. Team Canada put on an incredibly impressive display – I still remember getting (even more) chills watching Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir’s figure skating finale to Moulin Rouge, and I never thought I’d get so into the men’s bobsleigh. Perhaps most exciting however was the women’s ice hockey final, as Marie-Philippe Poulin, the captain, is from Beauceville (20mins from Saint-Georges) and had met all of my students when she came to my school to teach them hockey and sign the sticks of any aspiring young female athletes. What a woman!

canada olympics

3. Take up a new hobby

While searching for an extra-curricular activity to give some weekly structure to my 9-day working cycle, I decided to take up swing dancing classes with the Cabane à Swing in Saint-Georges. They had weekly 2hour classes and regular social dancing evenings, including introduction sessions on particular dances, such as Frankie Manning’s version of the Shim Sham. Given that I’d never considered myself to be much of a dancer, I was surprised at how much fun I ended up having! I love the style of music and it’s an extremely sociable hobby, particularly as we would usually finish the night with a drink at the local bar. I would recommend anyone looking for a new activity to give this a go, as the lindy-hop beginner classes were very accessible and it’s a great way to meet new people.

28082084_10213720776006955_869128355_o

4. Admire the local snow sculptures

The outdoor ice rink in Saint-Georges was home to the annual snow sculpture contest. Here are some of the very impressive contenders!

P1070143P1070141P1070145

5. Organise a Galentine’s you’ll never forget

Two of my best girl friends came down to Saint-Georges for an evening of skiing at the local slope and a delicious meal at everybody’s favourite Rock Café. It was a perfect way to celebrate!

6. Say yes to everything (again)

Ever since the day I met her in September, my headteacher had been promising (threatening?) me with the proposal of us bathing in her hot tub and then rolling in the snow. She said it would be exfoliating. I’m glad I did it, and again count myself ever so lucky to have met her, but it was definitely among my top ten coldest moments of the year!

7. Roll up the rim to win

As if we needed any further incentive to visit our good friend Tim Horton during these chilly winter months, their “Roll up the Rim to Win” campaign involved rolling up the edge of your coffee cup to see if you’d won a Honda Civic or, more likely, a free doughnut. I never quite managed to find a way of doing it that didn’t involve making a mess, but it was always satisfying presenting my empty cup to the cashier and being rewarded with another delicious beverage to warm my hands and heart.

roll up

8. Supervise Winter Sports Day at school

Given that it was evidently going to be completely different to any other sports day I’d ever witnessed, I jumped at the chance to supervise the “bobsleigh” at my school’s winter sports day. It was a beautiful sunny day with just the right amount of snow, and the children in their olympic country “families” had a wonderful time pulling each other around in a plastic sledge.

9. Plan Spring Break

March is just around the corner, and our plans for our Spring Break road trip were coming together very nicely. A group of six of us were to take two cars to visit the beaches in Portland, Maine, before four of us would zip off to Brooklyn while the other two visited Cape Cod and Providence, then we would reunite in Boston for an unforgettable birthday celebration for one member of our group. How exciting to be able to access all of these movie-set locations by car!

P1080206

Nine things I did for the first time in the first month of 2018

With so many exciting new things going on this month, I almost forgot that January blues are supposed to be a thing!

  1. Popped to the United States for lunch

When you only live half an hour from the US border, it’s only a matter of time before you decide to drive to Jackman, Maine for lunch. This was my first visit to the US and was certainly a memorable one given the beautiful drive and excellent company. I’m looking forward to venturing further into the States for our exciting Spring Break road trip!

P1060599P1060667

  1. Fished for trout on a frozen lake

In what ended up being perhaps the most Canadian day we have thus far experienced, a very kind teacher named Ruth invited us to spend the day with her family participating in the Sainte-Aurélie ice fishing tournament. While there were no prize-winners among the six trout we ended up catching, the breathtaking views around the lake and the incredible generosity of the family who let us have a go drilling holes into the ice before feeding us many varieties of Canadian meat pies made this a pretty victorious day in my opinion.

P1060733P1060722

  1. Starred in the Sainte Aurélie Top Gear special

This was the same day as the above but was so exciting it definitely merited its own paragraph! Ruth’s family happened to own three different snowmobiles (including an ATV worth 20,000$!) and let us take turns whizzing around the lake on them whilst we waited for the trout to take our bait. I can’t really articulate the incredible adrenaline/life rush that this created, so here are some photos and I’ll let your imagination do the rest!

P1060779P1060783

  1. Had an “ice day”

Whenever I tell a Québecois how many centimetres of snow it takes to close a British school, I am met with a derisive laugh and les Anglais, ils ne savent pas c’est quoi, l’hiver!. I was therefore not expecting to have any days off work due to weather conditions, but one night of verglas midway through January was apparently enough to close all of the schools in the region as it was too dangerous to even walk outside without an elevated likelihood of falling arse over tit. My memories of snow days at home are exciting ones of snowmen and sledges, and so I feel bad that it’s too dangerous here for children to play outside when they have the day off school, but I guess they’re certainly not short of other opportunities for wintry fun!

P1060588

  1. Welcomed an old face into my new place

Towards the end of January I received my first visitor! Alice, one of my best friends from university, did extremely well to survive the mixture of jet lag and temperatures well below freezing, and showing her around Montreal, Quebec and Beauce made me appreciate once more how lucky I am to be living here. Given that someone visiting me from the UK requires a lot of time, money and in Alice’s case time booked off work, I wanted to make sure she had the best possible time. Fortunately, she’s the sort of wonderful low-maintenance travel companion who seemed perfectly happy chilling with a cup of tea at my house after a few tourism-heavy days, which made for a smooth hostess operation and subsided any stresses I had previously had about logistics and unpredictable weather-related travel complications. Now that I’ve had the test run, I’m excited to welcome two very special guests at the end of March!

P1060863P1070037P1070080

  1. Seen a good friend’s artistic vision come to life, and eaten there 

As fortune would have it, I am now living within reach of the daughter of my responsable from the school in France at which I worked during my year abroad. Leah is a graphic designer living in the Plateau, perhaps the coolest district of Montréal I have experienced thus far, and I have stayed with her pretty much every time I’ve passed through the city. Before Christmas, she was keen to show me the designs she had been working on for her friend’s new vegan café, the Dugout Patisserie, which would be opening just before Alice and I would be staying with her. I’ve never been to an all-vegan café before and so was unsure what to expect, but we had a wonderful time enjoying doughnuts (filled with homemade Nutella) and matcha soy lattes and admiring Leah’s designs, especially having seen them as little more than ideas on a screen a few weeks prior. If you’re ever around the Plateau I would definitely recommend that you pop in and support Marie-Charlotte’s new business!

P1060837P1060838P1060842

27605474_10213610923620714_1728048736_o

  1. Enjoyed the ice and snow sculptures at the Carnaval de Québec

We didn’t see the infamous Bonhomme, but we did see these incredible works of chilly art:

P1060875P1060884P1070104

  1. Went tobogganing with an incredible view

Another reason to pop to Québec City during winter is to ride the toboggan in front of the Château! We were very lucky with the weather meaning we could fully appreciate the beautiful view, and I’m glad to have experienced this with Alice.

P1070036

  1. Learned to “ski”

When I say ski, I mean I just about mastered stopping and starting, and didn’t quite reach double figures with the number of times I fell over. As terrifying as it was to begin with, I was starting to get the hang of it by the end of my lesson and so am looking forward to returning to the Saint-Georges slopes with my best girl friends for some Galentines fun this evening!

 P1070084

All in all, a very exciting start to 2018! I’m hoping this is a good sign for the rest of the year!

Nine reasons I’m glad to have spent December in Canada

In the run-up to Christmas, I was asked many times why I wasn’t going to be returning home to the UK for the holidays. My response was that I wanted to make the most of being in Canada for Christmas, and here are the reasons why I’m glad that I did:

  1. The atmosphere at work

Cute primary students become even cuter when they’re writing you Christmas cards and asking you to deliver their letters to Santa Claus. I’ve also recently started working in a nursery, where I was treated to a wobbly rendition of Jingle Bells from children who are still young (read: lucky) enough to have naptime on their timetable. As well as leading a “giant soap bubble workshop”, I spent my last week of a very busy term organising a Christmas concert where my grade 4 students sang three songs we’d been working on, complete with heart-melting gestures, to the whole school. My favourite festive occasion however was the staff Christmas party, where we waited until the children had toddled off home before enjoying a Chinese fondue and several drinks and turning the school cafeteria into a dance floor. It was certainly a bonding experience for all involved and I feel lucky to be working alongside such fun and welcoming people!

P1060007P1060012

  1. The Narnia situation

Whilst winter has brought temperatures so low that sometimes all of my limbs begin to hurt at once (I’m talking -25 degrees with the wind chill causing it to feel like -40!) and has certainly made the driving experience more interesting, shall we say, I am still constantly in awe to be living here in the middle of the snow kingdom and to have the chance to skate on frozen lakes and snow-shoe through magical fluffy forests. More on my white Christmas later!   

P1060023P1060129P1060322

  1. Pretty places became even prettier

A stroll through the beautiful Old Québec is always lovely, but what made it more so this month was the generous sprinkling of Christmas markets and festive lights and the sound of carol singers as we eagerly warmed our hands on many a mulled wine. Nothing however could top the seasonal electricity bill going into one of the houses in Saint-Georges, which turned into a Beauce-wide tourist attraction!

P1050920P1050903P1050895P1060173

  1. When in Saint Georges…

To celebrate the winter solstice, our town held a torchlit walk across the bridge and around the island, followed by free soup and hot chocolate. It’s always good fun to go out and get involved with whatever the local community are doing, and we happened to bump into a very kind couple who invited us to their Christmas Eve celebration (known as a réveillon) which would culminate in an outing to midnight mass. It was a wonderful opportunity to experience a real Québecois Christmas in such lovely company, and certainly added a touch of magic to our own Christmas Day celebrations.

P1060169P1060264

  1. Christmas Day in my home away from home

Probably the highlight of the month was spending Christmas Day with two of my best friends at our home in Saint Georges in the whitest Christmas-card-esque setting imaginable. We’d been slightly wary of how the day might go, especially as for two of us it was our first Christmas away from home, but as soon as we woke up we knew we’d made the right call. We all Skyped our families briefly in the morning to show them the snow and then set about preparing Christmosas and a very relaxed dinner, which we enjoyed as we gazed out of the window at more gently falling snow. The rest of the day was spent watching all the right films, playing games and walking the streets of Saint Georges to admire everyone’s lights. Of course, we missed our families, but it felt incredibly adult to embrace the day as a whole new experience and do everything ourselves. I can safely say that Christmas in Canada was one I’ll never forget!

P1060230P1060284P1060305

  1. A place to entertain and to be entertained

One of my favourite places to spend an evening in Saint Georges is Café l’Aléa, a space which describes itself as ludique et culturel. This means that as well as boasting a vast range of board games (to which the lovely owner is always all too happy to introduce us), they often host a variety of events such as tea tasting, swing dancing taster sessions and writing classes. I went along with my friend Tom to a packed-out comedy night at which one of our friends was performing, and while we may not have caught every single québecois pun, it felt great to understand most of what was going on and thus be able to appreciate just how hilarious our friend’s performance was! There’s always a nice atmosphere in the café and on some cosy winter evenings I’ve even plucked up the courage to play the keyboard in the corner for a couple of hours. Here’s one of the photos I took for their competition (in which I was the runner up!):

 P1040429

  1. Sharing the journey

Whilst driving on my own can often turn my car into a cathartic stage as I serenade my sat-nav, it’s not always the most cost-efficient way to travel and new company is always welcome! This is why I decided to start offering several journeys that I was already planning to take this month as covoiturage trips, something in which I’ve only ever participated as a passenger when I was travelling around Lyon during my year in France. I was pretty nervous turning up to my first passenger’s house as it had just begun to snow heavily and I’ve only been driving since September, but she was an architecture student about to head to Lyon for six months and so the amount we suddenly had to talk about did well to take my mind off the stressful driving conditions! Following this success, when my flatmate and I left for Montreal, we did so with two happy Canadian guests in tow. They more than covered our gas money and were very patient when we got lost while searching for a Tim Hortons, the latter now being an essential character trait for anyone wishing to get in my car!

P1060667

 

  1. Natural wonders in dramatic settings

We were incredibly lucky to spend the morning of New Year’s Eve Eve gazing in awe at Niagara Falls. I’ll let the photos do the rest of the talking:

P1060515P1060498P1060472P1060427

  1. Seeing in 2018 from Toronto

The rest of our New Year’s Ontario trip was spent in Toronto itself, where we ate all kinds of wonderful things whilst warming up from our freezing endeavours on the streets of the endless city. We welcomed in the New Year from Nathan Phillips Square with the rest of Toronto (and baffled everyone around us with our enthusiastic rendition of Auld Lang Syne!) and then took the subway home for free thanks to a drinks company that had impressively covered the public transport home for the whole city to make sure people made the right call and didn’t drink drive home. Other highlights of the trip for me included having dinner with my friend Julie, a fellow language assistant from my time in Saint-Étienne, and the wonderful collection on display at the Art Gallery of Ontario, where the first piece I stopped at was a photography exhibition of the Norfolk Broads. Both of these occasions had me marvelling at the paradoxical way in which the world can seem so vast yet so small all in the same moment.

P1060582P1060545P1060585

That’s it for now! Come back soon for some 2018 musings 😊

Nine wallet-friendly ways to look after yourself upon the arrival of a long Québecois winter

A little something for when the weekend adventures are taking their toll on your bank account, it’s slightly too early to go full-on Christmas (even though Walmart’s been treating us to Mariah since Halloween) and it’s suddenly a lot colder and darker than it was before.

P1050846  

Picture the scene: you get in from work with significantly less energy after a day of primary children shouting “SANTA CLAUS!” at you and a slow drive home behind a road gritter, it’s 3:30pm and it’s already getting dark, it’s too chilly to sit on the porch anymore and the public piano (of blog post #1 fame) has been removed for the winter. Your evening stretches ahead of you rather dauntingly as it still feels a little too early to commit to the pyjamas, and you find yourself wondering if you’ll be able to handle 4 months of this.

  1. Reach out

Put the kettle on and talk to somebody. I remain convinced that there are few things a cup of tea and a cuddle can’t fix, and whether it’s a quick moan to another assistant or a Skype call with a friend from home (though I try and limit these to no longer than an hour), I find that the same conclusion emerges: the change in the weather is still taking place in the same exciting country I landed in back in August, and was always going to be a part of this once-in-a-lifetime experience. Talking about it with friends always puts things into perspective, meaning I can relax, wonder where Trudeau buys his knitwear, and go about my evening!

P1050700

  1. RSVP

I found that at the beginning of my stay I was too overwhelmed by everything that was going on to properly take people up on their kind invitations to things we should do au moment donné (at some point) because it felt like I didn’t have a moment to donner!  Once things begin to slow down, it’s important to realise that the offers these people once made still stand, it’s just up to you to make them happen. With this in mind, over the past week I have chased up the headteacher who invited me for dinner with her family, the friend who proposed an evening of mulled wine and chill, and the girl who commented on my Facebook post when I was car-hunting saying she loves the UK and that we should hang out sometime. It was absolutely worth putting in the effort to follow these invites up, as I had a brilliant time at all three!

P1050844

  1. Be OK with your own company

It is essential however to be prepared for the quieter periods on the Québecois social calendar (!) so that you can ensure to spend some quality time with number one and be on top form for the next get-together. Some of my favourite ways to do this are to switch up my Spotify playlists and go for a walk or a drive (hello one-woman concert, if the latter) and to rediscover the joy of reading for pleasure, something I’d feared my final-year studies may well have beaten out of me. After resigning myself to the fact that Cosmo probably doesn’t count, I’m currently enjoying turning my phone off for a few hours and dipping into Yuval Noah Harari’s fascinating yet terrifying Homo Deus or Ralph Ellison’s powerful Invisible Man. We don’t have to be connected and reachable all the time, and it can be refreshing to escape once in a while.

snow

  1. Try exciting new winter activities

While we may currently be at the stage where there’s not enough snow to go snow-shoeing but it’s far too cold to play on the outdoor basketball court, there are still plenty of interim activities to be trialled. The sports centre in Saint-Georges offers free skating sessions on weekend afternoons, so I am slowly conquering a deep-rooted fear by donning my second-hand skates and developing a deep and meaningful relationship with the arena wall as I wobble along. The current goal is to be able to make it around the beautiful rink at Place d’Youville in Old Québec without needing to grip onto anyone so tight I risk cutting off their circulation, but… baby skates.

  1. Keep going  

As the above can’t really be counted as exercise just yet, I try and fill my weekday evenings with some form of activity that I can convince myself will justify the poutine routine. This includes a weekly Zumba date with my housemate’s teacher, assembling the St-Georges Squad for a few games of badminton, and this evening I had so much fun trying swing dancing for the first time! Even just layering up and going for a wintery walk in the nearby countryside feels better than staying indoors, especially with the fluffy crunchy snow we’ve had recently, so it’s always worth finding the energy to turn off the “household fire” TV channel (yes, this is really a thing) and put those winter boots back on!

P1050758

  1. Be a top bae

What better way to warm up than with that fuzzy feeling that comes from radiating kindness towards those around you? Few things compare to the look on my housemate’s face when I pick her up from work 2 hours earlier than her bus, or the knowledge that the cookies I baked for a friend were what saw him through a weekend of essay writing. I’m not talking grand gestures, but if the change in the weather is getting to you then it’s probably getting to those around you as well, so why not go out of your way to make someone else’s day a bit nicer?

  1. Plan trips

Whilst the trips themselves may not be so kind to your finances, planning them is part of the fun and doesn’t cost anything! I’m very excited to be spending New Years in Toronto and so have been eyeing up Tripadvisor to ensure that no cultural stone is left unturned, while looking further ahead to Spring Break I am hoping to embark on a road trip along the East Coast – having never been to the States before, there’s plenty of research to keep me busy!

  1. Mass Netflixodus

Whilst making it out can be an achievement, it’s also perfectly okay to arrange fun nights in with the squad! Movie dates always feel nicer than watching something on your own (something I for one am terrible at anyway as I usually have too many questions…) and we are currently using the quieter winter evenings to work through a “what do you mean you’ve never seen…?” style cinematic bucketlist.

Back-to-the-Future-Honest-Trailer

  1. Hot chocolate

Finally, whether it’s a Tim’s (let’s be honest, no one can resist those festive cups) or a slightly more extravagant treat in one of Québec City’s tempting chocolate chains such as Chocolats Favoris or Chocolato, this is definitely an acceptable means of warming up after a chilly wander around town!

ch1

I’m excited for a December filled with mulled wine in festive company and hopefully the beginning of ski season! Until next time!

Nine things that made October special

  1. Hikes 

Determined to make the most of the autumn sun, we spent many a Sunday this month conquering local mountains such as La Grande Morne, Mont Orford and Mont Adstock. I’ll let the photos do the talking – as you can see, it’s always worth struggling with the extra weight of my camera on the climb!   

P1040713P1050246P1050660

2. Poetry (and all that jazz)

We began Thanksgiving Weekend in Montréal seeing the sensational Rupi Kaur perform from her new book, The Sun and Her Flowers. We were all welcomed into the beautiful old National theatre with a free copy of the book, which has since become a treasured possession of mine as every few pages evokes another memory of her mesmerising performance. She delivers hard-hitting topics with a refreshing mixture of empathy and sass, and the book does extremely well to mark the transition from wilting to blooming flowers as the poetry that initially weighs on your heart becomes lighter and more hopeful.

This was always going to be a tough act to follow, but my friend and I then spent a wonderful few hours at the Upstairs Jazz club in downtown Montréal where we enjoyed dessert, sangria and the smooth sounds of the Groove Gang. One of my favourite evenings so far!

P1040797P1050011

 3. Road trips

From Montréal we took our time driving through the beautiful Eastern Townships region of Québec. We sampled ice cider in Granby, saw the autumn colours of Eastman, sneaked a free sports massage at a 160km mountain race in Bromont and visited the Magog chocolaterie. We took turns driving my car so that one person was free to take photos and gaze properly at the stunning landscape, and I would definitely recommend taking this route in the autumn (particularly if, like me, you are fortunate enough to find a road trip partner with excellent music taste)!     

                                  P1050053P1050083P1050098P1050123

4. Feeling thankful

We met up with more friends at Mégantic and then spent the night in Sherbrooke, where the next morning we had what can only be described as a Brunch Of Dreams that set us up for a day of exploring. Upon returning to Saint-Georges the next day, we prepared an unconventional Thanksgiving lasagne together and reflected on an excellent weekend spent in company for which we were all very grateful.

P1050145P1050276

5. Celebrations

Having an early birthday in the academic year always makes me slightly worried that people won’t know me well enough to want to celebrate with me, and this time the 5000km between me and home heightened this irrational panic even further. However, just thinking back to the love and kindness with which the day was filled makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I luckily had the day off work, so I spent it treating myself at the nearby NRJ Spa Nordique with a friend before we returned home for a lovely meal out at the snazzy Rock Café with a mixture of assistants (some of whom had travelled from as far as Beaupré to be there for the evening) and their responsables. I was overwhelmed to have spent the day in such lovely company and will never forget turning 23 in this home away from home.

P1050313

6. Breathtaking experiences 

We couldn’t spend autumn in Québec without undertaking the classic Tadoussac manoeuvre, so a couple of weeks ago five of us piled into my car and we set off to see some whales. I was honestly expecting to just spot a couple of distant grey slivers disappearing into the water, but we ended up seeing 5 different species up close, including a blue and humpback whale! This ended up being one of my favourite experiences so far and I would recommend making a trip next season. As you can see, Tadoussac itself wasn’t half bad either!

 

P1050419P1050498P1050573P1050594P1050608

7. The best kind of tour guide  

Having new friends in new places made for an excellent spontaneous weekend of sushi and waterfalls in beautiful Beaupré before we ventured to Cap Tourmente and witnessed thousands of geese arriving for a pit-stop during their autumn migration, which is something I didn’t even know was a thing let alone something that would be so spectacular. Thanks again Lizzie for having me! ❤

                        P1050337P1050346

8. Getting all extra-curricular

As the weekend trips have been excellent so far, it can become easy to just count down the weekdays in anticipation and not make the most of the evenings after returning from work. I am thus grateful for the recent efforts of the Saint-Georges squad in getting out and playing badminton and basketball several times a week, as it’s always a good time and makes us feel slightly less guilty about the whole poutine situation. I was also so pleased to find an opportunity to get my clarinet out as I ventured further afield to Disraeli to try out their wind orchestra a few weeks ago. It’s quite the trek but everyone was so nice and welcoming that once fuel prices have calmed down a bit in Saint-Georges I’m hoping to return!

9. Looking up 

A final memorable moment from this October has to be when we all lay on the beach in Tadoussac and witnessed the Orionid meteor shower (to the ambient sounds of M83 from Ellie’s phone). The universe is always a wonder to observe, and hopefully I’ll be able to take some clearer photos of it one day!

I’m looking forward to seeing what November has in store!