Being an even-numbered year, it was Christmas in Québec! (Alternating between NM and QC these last years has been working pretty well so far).
I had really been looking forward to Benji’s first holiday - so many dreams of Instagrammable photos of baby in front of the tree and all that. (I’M A MILLENNIAL AND I ACCEPT IT.) So it was disappointing to not be in our home and have a tree to decorate. Technically we could have had one in our temporary place, but we just don’t feel at home here. So…2020 it will have to be!
We started with an early Christmas dinner + present-opening séjour in Québec City, then spent Christmas Eve with Mat’s family at their annual gathering in Montréal. After that it was off to the country where some friends’ parents’ left their cozy home to us while they were away, and we toasted to 2019 with a lightening-quick stop at a lakeside chalet with friends for New Year’s Eve. (It was meant to be a 2-night stay but turned out to be just the one night. Because, babies.)
It went surprisingly well considering all the moving around we asked of Benji, and overall it was a successful two-week holiday promenade around the province.
In Québec City, Mat’s parents treated us to not one, but two, big holiday meals, complete with traditional eats like tourtière (meat pie) and a bûche de Noël (a kind of cake roll/log, a Christmas tradition!). And, oh boy, did we eat!
After a quick night back in Trois-Rivières to prepare for the rest of the trip, we were off to Montréal. We elected to rent an Airbnb rather than stay with Mat’s family, both to be able to stay a bit longer without becoming an imposition, and also so that everyone might be able to sleep better (Benji really needs his own room these days.) The condo we found was just perfect - too perfect - so luminous and spacious, and enviably decorated. And a real steal-of-a-deal, honestly. It was a full, three-bedroom apartment with a cook’s kitchen, dishwasher, washer and dryer, two bathrooms, and spacious as could be, for $80 a night! Seriously, I don’t know how we lucked out so well. Maybe we were due a little good karma after these months of craziness.
Some snaps of Benji diggin’ our sweet Airbnb rental in Montréal. We need to find him a piano like this! He loved it so much.
Despite only being in town for 4 nights, we covered a lot of ground. I can’t believe how smoothly it all went considering just how many dates with friends we made. We made a visit to Mat’s former boss and his family, stopped by our old apartment and chatted with my former roommate (so weird to see our beloved flat in the hands of someone else!), and some other city friends, including my gal pal Kaitlin and her whole family who was in town from the States, and our dear friend and one-time roommate Caro, a Québecker transplant to California. We Christmas-Day-brunched with Mat’s climbing buddy Bertrand and his girlfriend, and the day after Christmas we dipped into Mat’s government-sponsored marijuana with friends Rosa and Julien, and his brother Martin. (Ok, so not everyone smoked - including me, I never liked it much! And also I’m breastfeeding and not really sure about how that would be - but it was on the menu after Mat was curious to check out the new weed stores since it became legal last October. SO hilarious that we can now walk into a shop where government employees offer consultation for the best bud for your buzz.)
And of course, the annual Christmas Eve gathering at Aunt Sylvie and Uncle Garry’s. We ate like royalty and had our new-traditional Secret Santa exchange and gift-wrapping contest. (Feeling uninspired, I wrapped my gift in brown paper and drew a picture of a present with the caption, “Ceci n’est pas un cadeau de Noël.” I found myself ridiculously clever and hilarious, and yes, I was the only one.)
Benji got sweet gifts from his grand-aunts and grandparents - musical instruments, books, and stuffed toys that sing (and are sometimes hard to be made to stop singing…). I’m sure next year he’ll have a little bit more of an idea of what exactly was going on, but it was still fun to watch him react to all the stimulation. It probably helped him sleep, too.
We spent the days between Christmas and New Year’s in “the country” in the Eastern Townships, just east of Montréal. (The region we hope to move to when Mat is done with school!) In a very thoughtful gesture, our friend Andreas’s parents left their home to us while they spent the holiday away. We looked after their dog and cat in exchange for some R&R in a snow-covered countryside postcard, complete with deer grazing in front of the house at breakfast time. We did a whole lot of nothing but lounging around, reading, and taking walks in the snow. Amazing!
Loafing around! Watching the countryside snowfall from a cozy living room. And Benji had his first feline encounter!
For New Year’s Eve we rented a cottage with two other couples with a new baby each, around the same age as Benji. (Laure and Andreas with Bleuenn and Val and Julien with Éléanore.) We were pretty last-minute in our reservation and ended up taking the only place we could find with three separate bedrooms. Unfortunately, “three separate bedrooms” was kind of a generous description of what ended up being a tiny shack with two actual bedrooms and a loft, which is not great for muffling the distinct cries of a <1 year old having trouble sleeping. As it turned out, Val and Julien had to cancel at the last minute because Éléanore was contagious with a stomach bug. (But they were thankfully able to join us for dinner on the 31st, while the grandparents stayed with the baby). Though, even downsizing to two couples with two babies, it was still a snug experience. We gave the two bedrooms to each baby and we four adults slept in the loft. Well, “slept” in the loft. Baby-tending kept us all up most of the night anyway.
Originally planned as a two-night stay, it became a one-nighter when Laure and Andreas, tired from their holiday bouncing around with the baby not sleeping well, decided to make an early departure for home. Mat and I were then left with the place to ourselves, but found it kind of lonely without the others, and it was neither the coziest nor cutest of cottages ever. So about an hour after the others left, we decided to pack it up as well! Lesson learned: Next time we do a cottage, it better be a château!
All in all, a fun, friend- and family-filled Christmas in the Great North. I wouldn’t have changed a thing, except to have been able to “come home” for real, instead of this temporary rental we are STILL in, now more than 2 months after the fire. But more on that, I’ll save for the next blog!
Happy New Year, you guys!