What would we not be ready to do to please our kids! And so, we’re officially coming out: the Turbis-Charbonneau are campers… lazy campers! (don’t ask us to do too much cooking or do the wash during our holidays!) Once a year, a balance is struck that helps maintain our parental mental health and that entertains our youngsters’ desire to become one with nature… and of course we have to do it just like our friends and neighbours, Pierre, Jean, Jacques! (you have to understand the way they think, according to them, everyone camps, it’s the ‘’in’’ thing to do!). Normally we travel some distance for our getaways, but for a first this time, we did it right here in Quebec! No joke, we succeeded in getting away, having fun, finding happiness and getting a change in scenery, all not too far from home! What misery, we were out of our comfort zone, we had to pay in Canadian dollars without exchange rates, speak French and eat poutine?! What a tragedy (yes, my writing is ironic! And yes, I was happy to discover my home province of Quebec and not lose 40 cents on the dollar!). So, here’s an overview of 4 days of pure pleasure with the family in a magnificent region that’s worth discovering.
Day 1: The departure!
An early morning! The three kids are excited! Lac Etchemin or Walt Disney World, when you’re 3, 6 or 8 years old its all the same thing. They know what it means to be on vacation - lots of quality time with mom and dad, lots of fun-filled activities, no more rules and sugar to the heart’s delight! Chaudière-Appalâches here we come! They’ve been waiting for this trip! Ever since we told them that we were the happy winners of this contest, Laurence, the intellect of the family, has been researching and giving us a little preview of what the expect. Each of them already has their favourite activity that they’re excited to do!
After playing a little Tetris to jam all the bags into the car (we’re experts with suitcases thanks to all our travels, but when it comes to camping… we still have a lot to learn! We always have the impression that we’re bringing too much and end up realizing that we’re forgetting the things that are most important! But we’re learning… This year the first things we packed were the lighter, the air mattress pump and toilet paper!). After only a few minutes on the road we crossed into a new region! Crossing the bridge, even if we do it regularly, becomes cause for celebration when its depicted as part of an expedition! The first stop, the Chaudière-Appalaches tourist office. The official start of our 2016 annual camping trip.
Our family is officially spoiled! A special thank you to Pomme-Grenade for the wonderful feast to tote along with us! Much better than the sandwiches without crust that we would have prepared! Thanks also to Tourisme Chaudière-Appalaches for all the generosity, the picnic blanket (lesson 1 of this adventure: when you go camping, pack the following: a lighter, an air mattress pump, toilet paper and a picnic basket! 10 years from now we’ll finally have figured it all out!). Vacation here we come!
A positive side to this adventure: the proximity! I already mentioned it earlier, we’re overjoyed that for once we won’t lose dozens of hours in the car before getting to our destination! 1 hour 5 minutes according to Google! So close, yet so… long! A small interlude here to share a short personal story: my boyfriend and I, just as much kids ourselves as our own kids, have a tradition that we do at the start of every road trip… seeing who’s better at making playlists of cheesy songs; which one of us would make the best discovery! And so, the kilometres rolled by to the sounds of Marie Carmen, Julie Masse and Aqua! I don’t need to tell you that everyone was more than happy when we finally saw the entrance to the Éco-Parc.
Our first impressions were positive! Nice beach, lots of open space, clean, not too many tourists all jammed together like sardines (we know that we’re tourists too, but we like feeling like we’re the only ones that don’t blend in with the masses!). We were only a few steps inside the entrance when it all started with the kids. The youngest saw a train that you can climb on inside the park and the two oldest ran off for the change rooms to change into their bathing suits! We had no choice but to cut their fun short and force them to come and have lunch. It’s quite rare, after all, for us to have a delicious and well-stocked picnic basket! After throwing down a few bites, the kids were up andonce again running about! A few splashes in the water park, just enough time to get the feet wet, and it was off to the water slides. Oh no! A storm! What a downer, for safety’s sake, all the facilities were shut down. What do you do around there during a rain storm?!
And so, we headed off to Thetford Mines. With a new trajectory, we revised the day’s schedule and decided to go learn more about the world of mining. Our kids have always astounded us with their interest in learning more about things. School might be out, but not their little brains that are always looking to learn new things! The mining and mineral museum was the perfect place to meet their thirst for knowledge. A great place to visit that’s got a lot to entertain the kids. Even our youngest had his fill of fun with the little toy trucks!
Our guide captivated our kids, adapted her language to their level and captured their attention with interactive presentations. The mineral exhibit turned them into budding gemologists (they collected a tonne of stones over the weekend!). Mission accomplished for the museum visit; on the way back we got an earful of all the interesting facts that our aspiring miners learned during their visit!
Normally it would be time to sit down for dinner, but we’re on vacation… and the birthday of our youngest! Two excellent reasons for breaking our daily routine! The suggestion: a dinner of birthday cake, snacks at a restaurant and going to bed late (in adult language: eating a piece of cake at 4pm, eating a decadent meal at 7pm, setting up a tent in the dark and putting a completely exhausted horde of kids to bed)! A rare occurrence for us: there are a few magical moments during the year where all our kids unanimously agree without yelling and without argument on the same decision - the offer of eating birthday cake for dinner is accepted! We were looking for a spot with a little more scenery than the parking lot to enjoy this treat. So, thanks Google for your suggestion! It was the Madore marsh, a place that was completely deserted at the end of this stormy afternoon, but resplendently sunny, where we shared this sweet treat!
After satisfying our sweet tooth, we had to eat (this part of the story sounds a little funny while writing it!). And so, we headed back to Lac Etchemin for a good dinner at Manoir Lac Etchemin. We fell under the spell of this beautiful place, its view and the quality of its service. They were very tolerant of our three kids and their dirty hands that were plastered all over the big windows that opened up onto the lake, as they too were fascinated by the beautiful landscape! We thought back to our arrival at the same time three years earlier, to our life with our little troublemaker (and we toasted the theoretical end to the terrible twos with a local beer!) while he tried so hard to burn himself with the sparkler on his birthday cake that was graciously offered with a song by the personnel! Something we have to redo in the future as a couple without the kids and next time for an overnight stay to enjoy the advantages even more!
The last stop of the day was at the Lac Etchemin campground. Step 1: set up the tent. Step 2: everybody sleep! It’s tough being on vacation, we’ll have to wait until another time to enjoy a campfire under the stars!
Day 2: Sunshine!
Getting up at the crack of dawn is a mystery for parents: you can put the kids to bed at whatever time you want, but they’ll still wake up at the crack of dawn, energy levels back up to full capacity! A shhh here, shhh there, you can’t wake the neighbours at 6 am! Following the kids’ schedule still does some good, as we need to fill every minute of the day to its fullest! As soon as the pool opened, we were ready to jump in! The tent was taken down, our game of Tetris between the bags and the car was won! Some family fun-time in the heated pool and the hot tubs, a mad rush and contagious laughter from the trio as they ran through the cold water of the water games! We let them take their time and enjoy the moment and take advantage of the joys of camping: the freedom to run around that we as paranoiac parents don’t let them do in the city, as well as the ability for two unknown kids to connect and become friends in a snap of the fingers!
It was only when we offered to start back where we had led off yesterday, on the water slides at the Éco-Parc, that the kids got the sudden urge to take off at the speed of lightning! There was no question, the little time we had spent there yesterday gave us the urge to go back for another visit. Lots of wait-free sliding for everyone, swimming in the lake, picnicking with the family, what better way is there to spend the day! You know that when your youngest practically falls asleep in the middle of the water slide that they’ve all had more than enough fun to drain their batteries! It’s rare that it happens, but the Éco-Parc succeeded in exhausting our little guy, who we affectionately call our insomniac troublemaker!
A short well-appreciated interlude in the car helped us rest up for the next activities. A little food stop for ice cream at the Pralinière and off to the Miller Zoo for a short visit with our friends the animals. It’s difficult to say whether our little suburbanite animal lovers were won over by the only zebra-donkey in Quebec or the rooster on the loose, but the perpetual pleading for buying a pet included a request for buying a monkey-squirrel!?!
There was no question that we were going to set up the tent by flashlight today! So off we left without delay for Parc Frontenac! After a long day outdoors under the sun, nobody was hungry for dinner, so we had a few snacks on the road! This was a first for us trying out the facilities of the SEPAQ, but something that we have to do again in the future. We even surprised ourselves, were we starting to fall for rustic camping?! The privacy of the campsite, seeing a deer and a hare in their natural surroundings only a few metres from our campsite, made us believe we had become real campers! As soon as we arrived, our two oldest were fully energized and ready to take on new projects! So they took note of all the family activities explained by the woman at the welcome centre. And it just so happened that a big quiz was about to start in 20 minutes! A perfect activity for my intellectual one and my competitive one, while my little troublemaker ran around the campground! Dad set up the campsite during that time. Mission accomplished, a wonderful evening with something for everyone, followed by a relaxing sleep far away from the neighbours!
Day 3: Aventuria, here we come!
Everyone had been waiting for this outing! What fun, nothing to clean up this morning, as we had another night to spend in this wonderful campground later today. We decided to arrive at Village Aventuriafor the opening. Even if this was our first visit, we already had some young experts with us in the car. They had done their homework and meticulously gone over the website. They already knew all about the characters and were looking forward to getting to know them! It was worth the wait to see the little touch of magic from characters like Marine the Pirate! And so, my little sailors had a new best friend to play with. Who would not be amused by a funny pirate that leads everyone in a water war with hoses and wet sponges!
We had planned to leave at lunchtime, which turned out to be impossible! Our kids would never have forgiven us, they were having way too much fun! A sword battle with a knight, remote-controlled car races, a ropes course (I’m super proud of my two oldest and their talent on the course), there’s a tonne of activities. There are no false pretenses at this kid-friendly park – it’s a simple and well-operated site. We picked the perfect spot at some picnic tables in the shade to enjoy some Quebecois-style junk food that was available at the snack bar which was not far from the parking lot. A wonderful blend of simplicity and independence for the kids, who came and went from activity to activity as they saw fit without stress and without a schedule – how vacations should be!
After promising the kids that we would come back for the Halloween activities next fall, we left at the beginning of the afternoon, happy with our day so far, which was still far from over! Next on the agenda was a ride on the Vélorail in Beaulac-Garthby. We had to get there quickly, we didn’t want to miss the last ride of the day and, I have to admit, we were a little concerned about the total lack of sporting prowess between the two of us to ensure an acceptable pace for the ride! I think we were judging ourselves a little too harshly… or it’s an activity that’s within everyone’s capacity (I vote for the second choice!), but it was a really fun 10 km ride that didn’t cause any cardiac issues! It should be said that that we had an excellent set of co-pilots that didn’t let anything get past them: Check out the ducks! Look at those flowers! Wow a bridge! A common quality among kids that makes me jealous is the ability to live in the moment and be amazed by the smallest of things!
But our day didn’t stop there, biking gives you an appetite! So, we indulged our gluttony with a big meal at the Bourgade restaurant! It’s not easy to place an order when you want everything on the menu! Afterwards, a short car ride brought us back to our campsite at Parc Frontenac. The day could have happily finished off there, but on the third night of camping we had no choice, so we could keep our image as super-parents, but to prove to our kids that starting a campfire was as second nature to us as walking! The demonstration of our skill was not as easy as we thought (we should maybe blame our parents, who prioritized skating over scouting?!), but we succeeded in toasting some delicious golden marshmallows before bedtime!
Day 4: Already finished?!
Wow, getting up at 7:15 am?! Sleeping in late while camping?! Nature really did some good for our city dwellers! Savour it while you can! Lingering lazily in the tent, cuddling as a family, while listening to the birds sing - that’s the kind of morning we like (maybe with all these good memories we will end up becoming more devoted campers!). The stress of everyday life was just leaving us when we already had to start thinking about leaving, but there was no question of leaving right away, we had another full day of activities in front of us. The mission of the day was to take advantage of everything that Parc Frontenac has to offer. After once again dazzling the trio with our talents for outdoor living (starting a fire in the morning for grilling toast makes us the coolest parents in the world in the eyes of our kids. Sometimes being a mom is good for the ego!), we headed off to the service centre to make a rental.
It was family pedal boating that won the unanimous vote (and in light of our capacity as woodsmen, this was probably the most logical and safe option!). A little trip around the lake ended with the kids jumping excitedly into the lake a few metres from the beach to check out the tadpoles!
Once they were fully dried off, thanks to some running around the playground and the swings, it was time for the last activity of our holiday, a hike along the peat bog trail. It must be said that the kids weren’t very enthusiastic when we told them that we were going to go ‘’walking’’ along a trail, but when we told them they’d be able to see some carnivorous plants along the way, their sense of adventure fell into full swing!
Our intellectual one read to us about his discoveries and expertly explained the composition of a peat bog, while our competitive one demonstrated his cleverness for being the first to point out the plant in question (he was a little disappointed… we had forgotten to mention that a carnivorous plant was not the same thing as he had imagined from watching video games, with a full mouth of teeth looking to cut up its prey! So, it looks like he learned a little something today!) and our little troublemaker was more than happy to tear around on the wooden boardwalk!
Coming to the end of all these wonderful discoveries, it was already time to head back home. These four fabulous days have helped create some lasting family memories and a big desire to head back out for other adventures! Thanks once again to Tourisme Chaudière-Appalaches for this wonderful gift!