Un Voyage au Québec

By Mme. Kristi Spies, Middle and Upper School French Teacher

Visiting the Carnaval de Québec has been on the minds of Juniors, Abe Miller and Emory Burton since they discovered it in their 6th grade French class. After viewing videos of the ice canoe races, the night parade and other activities that make up the world’s largest winter carnival, they decided that it was something they wanted to experience in person. Who wouldn’t want to visit the only walled city in North America during one of the world’s greatest Mardi Gras celebrations? Over the past few years, more students expressed an interest, and the trip was proposed last spring. Students in grades 8-12 were eligible to participate in this year’s trip to Québec. Participating students met on Friday afternoons for four weeks to prepare for their adventure. These meeting consisted of language lessons, trip preparation, and discussions about behavior expectations for the trip.  

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In order to get the most out of the trip we considered several factors while planning. The first goal was to provide an authentic cultural and language immersion. In order to achieve this, students were placed in host families in pairs or groups of three. This experience allowed students a glimpse of Quebecois family life. Mira Hurtt (9) wrote a summary about her positive experience.

Laura, Abbey, and I all stayed with the same family, and it was easily my favorite part of the trip. Our host dad spoke english, which was really reassuring since we were all a little worried about communication. There were three kids in the household, two girls and one boy. They were all extremely kind and amazing. Our host dad drove us to the meeting spot and picked us up every day, and as we drove home, he would tell us about the landmarks we were driving past. I learned a lot from just talking in the car, and it eased our nerves the first night. The food was amazing, and our family always made sure we had enough to eat and had water and snacks for the day. Our host parents made us feel comfortable enough to step outside of our comfort zone when it came speaking, and it was helpful that the kids were learning english in school. Our host mom, who wasn’t as fluent in English, was very sweet and helped us with French in the mornings, as long as we helped her with English in return.

One of my favorite memories with our family was when one night I watched La Voix (the french version of The Voice) in the evening. Everyone was laughing, and our host dad translated some of the jokes the kids told so that I could laugh along. Another favorite memory was the last night. We stayed at the dinner table for an hour talking. We had one of the school’s iPads with us, and we asked each member of the family to describe themselves in English. The videos were absolutely hilarious. The same night our host dad set up his tripod and we took photos. We felt included, even in the four days we spent with them. Not only did staying with our host family show us what it is like to live in Quebec, but it made our trip so much more memorable.

The second goal for the trip was to experience the unique cultural aspects of the Québec region. We had a fully charged itinerary, and we were kept busy each day. Despite delays due to the weather, we were able to begin our trip with a walking tour of Québec City about 18 hours behind schedule. Our guide was thorough and helped students and chaperones acclimate to the area. We visited the snow sculpture gardens that afternoon before heading to the Citadel to learn about the famed battle between the French and British on the Plains of Abraham in 1759. The students were “recruited” into the forces of the French General, Montcalm, and enjoyed an interactive training session. They learned how to load both a musket and cannon. One student even had to have her leg amputated after a hard fought battle. Later that afternoon, students were able to enjoy more Carnaval activities. They included: sledding, rolling in a giant hamster ball, visiting Bonhomme’s ice palace, and enjoying a warm bonfire. That evening, students met their host families and spent their first night in their homes.

Day two began with a visit to Montmorency Falls. They measure higher than Niagara Falls, and the gushing water and ice were a sight to behold from both above and below. Next, students visited Saint Anne’s Basilica. We were lucky enough to arrive during the precessional of a mass and heard the opening prayers in French. We had a “lumberjack” lunch at a Cabane à Sucre where students danced to folk songs. For dessert, students enjoyed “un tire d’érabel”. To make this treat, hot maple syrup was poured onto a trough of snow. Then students quickly rolled the cooling syrup into a sweet lollipop. They learned about maple syrup production from Monsieur Tardif, a 12th generation maple farmer whose family came to Canada from France in 1618. The Tardif family still farms the same forests today, tapping 4,000 trees by hand, on snowshoes, each spring. The highlight of the afternoon was dog sledding. Students went out in pairs with teams of huskies and other dogs for a jog through the snowy woodlands. Everyone wanted to bring home a puppy! After a short snowshoe hike we headed back to the city for dinner and the famous night parade filled with floats, marching bands, and dancers. The impressive parade ended with Bonhomme Carnaval waving from his float as the crowd looked on.

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On day three, students enjoyed more Carnaval activities. They visited a petting zoo, rode an ice luge, played hockey, roasted marshmallows, and enjoyed a scavenger hunt through the old city of Québec. Lunch was devoured at a Crêperie after some souvenir shopping on Rue Saint-Jean. That afternoon, we headed to Basse-Ville, Lower-Town, where students enjoyed the charming 17th century streets and warmed up at a bonfire. Students then took a ferry ride across the St. Lawrence river to Levis and back as a snowstorm blew in. As the ferry crushed through the icy waters, they were able to see the Château Frontenac illuminated on the cliffs in the city above. Later we rode the Funicular (incline) back to the Upper-Town. Students capped off the evening with toboggan rides and hot cocoa in the courtyard of the Château Frontenac as the wind blew snow around them. Finally, they headed home for their last evening with their host families.

Day four began with students bidding farewell to their hosts and heading to Montréal to visit the underground city and have lunch. Later they navigated to the airport to begin the journey home. Many students had their first customs and immigration experience when we landed in Toronto. We also realized that we had visited five capitals on our short journey. Due to flight changes and connections, we passed through Harrisburg, Washington DC, Ottawa, Québec, and Toronto on our adventure. We arrived in Harrisburg near midnight, and everyone headed home for a short night’s sleep before school the next day.

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Mr. Trump and I were very proud of all of the students on the trip. They modeled exemplary manners and behavior and never complained despite numerous delays and unexpected changes in our plans due to the weather. Our guide, Etienne, was thoroughly impressed with their genuine curiosity and enthusiasm. Students enjoyed the trip, and many are anxious to return to Québec with their families to enjoy the Carnaval d’Hiver once again.

YCDS ninth grade student, Abbey Miller created this video about the trip.


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/219089306″>Quuebec</a&gt; from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user61746145″>YCDS Art</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>