A Christmas Vacation to Remember

We’re in the home stretch of the 14-hour drive home from visiting Quebec City, Canada for a week to celebrate my father-in-law’s 70th birthday. I thought I’d take this last hour to share what this experience has meant to me.

My in-laws are some of the most generous, adventurous, and supportive individuals I’ve been fortunate to have in my life for the past twenty years. {Wow, I feel old writing that, but it’s true! Ben and I met when we were only 18 and started dating seriously the following year.}

They’ve taken us to Wisconsin, Portland, and Seattle before, so I wasn’t completely surprised when they asked us and my sister-in-law Hillary to join them on a trip up north to spend time in nature and enjoy the sights and activities of Quebec City.

It was such an amazing trip. I normally would do everything in my power to avoid a long car-ride, especially with an 8 and 10-yr old, but the flights weren’t exactly affordable and we would have had to change planes anyway, making the trip take almost as long as driving. So instead of dreading the drive, I changed my mindset and looked at it as an adventure. My father-in-law rented the biggest SUV he could for the 7 of us, a Ford Expedition which was super comfortable, and my sister-in-law downloaded a few movies to her ipad to occupy the kids during the start of the drive.

We chose to drive overnight hoping the kids would sleep most of the drive. This was a little bit of a risk for my mental health, but I packed my sleep aid prescription and around 11pm took one so that I could get a stretch of sleep. {I’m not the type of person who can sleep well in any type of moving vehicle, so I knew I’d need to have a plan.} I woke up as we crossed the border to Canada around 3:15am, and slept a bit more before waking for good around 4am knowing we only had a few hours left.

There was plenty of snow on the ground as we drove through Canada, which was exciting as back home we hadn’t had any snow yet. It felt so good to finally arrive in downtown Les Éboulements where we stretched our legs before having a leisurely breakfast at Bistro La Muse. The kids had crepes and we got our bearings before walking around the quaint downtown and checking out some art galleries and shops.

Then it was off to check into our Airbnb for the week. My father-in-law had chosen a gorgeous new two-story home with windows all along the the back of the house facing the St. Lawrence river. We didn’t know as we brought it our luggage for the week the treat we were in for with several magnificent sunrises.

Our view of the Saint Lawrence river from the Airbnb balcony.

Our view of the Saint Lawrence river from the Airbnb balcony.

That first day we were all tired from a full day of travel, so we made an early dinner and went to bed before 9pm to catch up on sleep. I didn’t set an alarm for the next day and was able to sleep in and recover the sleep I had missed out on the night before.

Each morning my sister-in-law cooked a new breakfast dish for the crew, and we were well-fueled for the days of exploring. Monday was our first day of venturing out and we went skiing on Le Massif. The conditions couldn’t have been more perfect. It was cold, but not bitter cold, and we got the kids suited up with ski gear then watched them begin their private lesson with Instructor Bridgette. She was so good with them, and by the end of the 90-minute lesson, they were each zooming down the bunny hill and riding back up the lift pull. It was so neat to see them catch on so quickly!

Aunt Hillary and Grandpa did a little downhill also, and Ben and I tried out the rest of the mountain, a first for each of us riding up in the big gondola. The snow fell and relaxing in the hot tub was the perfect end to an incredible day.

On Tuesday Hillary wanted to go dog sledding, and I volunteered to be her rider/photographer since no one else wanted to go. It was SO MUCH FUN! The place had about 90 dogs, and they were all very friendly and sweet, not to mention full of energy. When we first got there, we went around to each of the dogs and pet them, and Vivi even got to hold one of the puppies. Then Hillary and I got our lesson from our guide Jerome.

Before we knew it, we were off on our 3-hour adventure while everyone else went to tour a cheese factory and microbrewery. Mushing was something I never imagined doing, but am extremely grateful for the opportunity. The dogs loved to run and were so sweet on their breaks as they’d lay in the snow to cool off and let us pet them and rub their bellies. The last part of the trip was my favorite, as we rode over an open plain that was covered in a few feet of snow and the sun was setting as the dogs ran us in a loop around the meadow. It was stunning.

Wednesday we went skiing again and after warming up a bit on the bunny slope the kids were ready to come with Ben and I on the mountain. We had such a blast skiing with them! I was so surprised they picked it up so quickly, as I remember it taking me more than just a few hours to learn. While we skied the slopes, Grandpa and Aunt Hillary did some cross-country skiing and Grandma enjoyed the peace and quiet of an empty house.

Thursday we had a lazy morning and then went into Quebec City in the afternoon. We had a late lunch at a pizzeria and then walked around the square, hit a few shops, and headed into the Christmas Market. It was a beautiful collection of vendors in adorable wooden kiosks selling everything from pottery to homemade marshmallows to brats and pretzels.

I’m so grateful to my in-laws for taking us on this incredible trip. We made lots of family memories and are already looking forward to our next trip together - Yellowstone in June!

Happy Holidays, everyone!