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The road to happiness
Credit : Marie-Ève Poitras

By Julia Girard and her mom, Marie-Eve Poitras.

My name is Julia, and I'm 9 years old. I don't have a driver's license, and I don't know how to write on a computer. However, I can tell stories and infuse intensity into the memories I share with people. I want to tell you about our super-mega-awesome trip to the North Shore last summer with my family and a couple of friends and their son. One kilometer at a time, in our adventure tent. Now I understand why we drove so much; because we had so many beautiful things to discover over a total of 1,716 kilometers, between nature and grandeur.

Four adventurers

Mathieu, my dad. He was our passionate driver. Handling the truck, setting up our tent, and finding the most beautiful places to sleep, far from everything. Then there was my little sister, the insect lover. Elisabeth, 7 years old, who loved playing on the vast beaches and climbing every rocky corner. There's me, Julia, curious, interested in cultural activities everywhere we go. I'm the lover of landscapes. And then there's our organized mom. She was the one who planned our trip with her binder months before we left. She had more than one trick up her sleeve to make our truck adventure very cool with this great number of kilometers to cover.

 

 

 

Our adventure tent

For sleeping, we had a special place. A place that allowed us to see the stars, hear the sound of water gently hitting the sand and rocks. A place where the four of us slept together. A place that attracted so much attention, people would come over to visit. A large mattress, four blankets, and a ladder to climb up. A tent on the roof of the truck, which unfolds and sets up in five minutes. We had everything we needed to cook and take care of our hygiene in the truck box. Over the past few years, we've learned to live with the essentials, between tent and tides. Sleeping in lesser-known, hidden places allowed us to enjoy the view and nature in the evening and at night. During the day? Exploring the shops, restaurants, and activities of the area to immerse ourselves in the North Shore as it should be.

Trip planning

As I mentioned earlier, Mom is very organized; for each camping season, she creates a binder. Planning our discovery days, the complete schedule of our summer, information for each night, the tide chart, the must-sees for each town we'll visit, and the documents offered and found at each tourist information stop, kindly shared by Tourism Côte-Nord as well. No one can touch her binder; it's her life! She stores the receipts for our activities, the details of each of our days. From Forestville to Pointe-Enragée (Havre-Saint-Pierre) via the Îles-Maigan, everything was noted. Out of eight days, only one camping night was reserved. The other nights were planned on the same days, in discussion with our friends and with the information found here and there.

 

 

Tips for traveling with children our age

The North Shore, one sticker at a time

What child doesn't love stickers? None! At least, I don't know any. Now, imagine collecting them. There are forty-three in total. Each sticker has a splendid visual representing its region. The joy of visiting tourist information offices along the road to meet friendly ladies (who sometimes gave us candies), making a pit stop and collecting stickers. Mom had prepared a list of stickers that we could check off to make sure we had all those related to our adventure. The hardest part was deciding when we got back home where we could stick them to keep them as souvenirs, close to our tent.

 

 

 

The little guide to complete #miniExplorateurCoteNord

It's true, sometimes the road can be long. Our parents preferred to travel in the morning to let us enjoy and discover in the afternoon. For these road times, we had a little guide to complete, made by Mom. A crossword puzzle, a word search, a quiz, the list of our stickers, drawings of puffins, a story to write, and questions about the end of our journey. The coolest part? Three special coupons giving each of us the right to choose the time and place for an ice cream treat, a North Shore-colored sweater, and a stuffed animal of our choice during our adventure. We chose puffin stuffed animals, way too cute.

 

The visual timeline

Mom came up with an idea to try to avoid the "are we there yet" every 2 minutes. She made an image of our truck moving along the road and added our various destinations to it. She even thought about the ferries. It was very visual for us, and all we had to do was look ahead to see if we were approaching our next stop. And... she gave us surprises, little things she kept hidden for certain stops.

To allow us to visualize the route we had to take, Mom gave each of us a map of the North Shore and a yellow highlighter. In front of the sign of each municipality, she told us to highlight it on the map. It was easy to follow the path and see our kilometers traveled. Forestville, Franquelin, Port-Cartier, Havre-Saint-Pierre, etc. On the way back, we could use a pink highlighter to identify them again. So, we were already busy acting as copilots for Dad too.

 

 

The secret bin

Let me tell you about a little secret bin that Mom placed at her feet on the road. It had everything we needed: headache medicine, nausea medicine, gum, sunscreen, mosquito repellent, coins, a water bottle (she kept it up front to try to control our restroom stops), snacks AND surprises. Tattoos, new toy cars we hadn't seen before, patience games to play alone, new books, etc. Little surprises scattered here and there on our road of happiness.

 

Treasures

Dad told us that the North Shore had many treasures hidden everywhere. He said we needed to observe carefully, and we would be able to keep several of them preciously. He was right! Treasures on the beaches, in the sand, near the roads, in the forests, and in secret spots. Little treasures that seemed to be waiting for us, hidden away for many years. We had to find a way to bring some of them back home as souvenirs.

First tip: Our rock jar to add a rock from each place we slept in our tent. One rock per night. Our pleasure? Finding the most representative rocks of the place. You know what? The rocks on the North Shore are different from one place to another. We didn't know this until we started our daily search to write the place of our night on a rock. At the bottom of our jar, we collected sand from a beach in Havre-Saint-Pierre. This sand alone contains thousands of memories of the open water, with the tides.

Second tip: Mom prepared a box for us to put all the shoreline treasures found during our expedition on the North Shore. Starting with small crustacean shells, crabs, lobsters, barnacles, found on the deserted beach of Pointe-aux-Outardes, dozens of shells of all kinds, each more unique than the last. Small pieces of wood, bones. Our favorites? The echinoderms! These are sea urchins, sand dollars, which are very rare, that we found at the tip of Pointe-Enragée (Havre-Saint-Pierre) for our penultimate night in this paradise corner.

To properly identify the names of our treasures, we found such an interesting book on "The Shores of Quebec," by Rhéa Dufresne. Mom gave it to us in our first surprises, I think just after Rivière-au-Tonnerre. She found it in a really cool shop called La Marinière du Nord. A good Chicoutai herbal tea, supplies to drink at home, and this perfect little pocket book to explore the shores of the North Shore.

Road games

Between little naps on the road, country songs, and stops at must-see places (like Manitou Falls, La Promenade Restaurant, and the Old Port of Sept-Îles), we had games to liven up the journey. My favorite? The "What would you rather" game. For example: would you rather be able to fly or breathe underwater? Have hands instead of feet or have feet instead of hands? Hours of laughter, each one answering the question before asking another. Guaranteed laughter!

Another must-have: the seek-and-find game. A laminated sheet to have fun all along the journey. Each of us had our copy, no conflicts. This way, we could use it between each of our movements, with our erasable pencil.


 

 

Summer, we're on school break. But we took the opportunity to review a few concepts. Mom found some cards to practice addition, subtraction, and multiplication. They were also useful for practicing ascending order, even and odd numbers, and practicing tens and units. A second deck had the alphabet letters and animals. Naming a word starting with "A," playing guessing games with animals. Looking around and naming two red things, thinking of a person we all knew and giving clues to guess them. Two decks of cards and just as many games to occupy our time on the road. I believe creativity is the best ally for traveling with children our age.

A theme and three keywords; an object, a place, and a character. We invented a story! Each of us took turns. Then we chose the funniest or scariest story, depending on the chosen theme. Bilbo the beluga, in Baie-Trinité with a striped hat. We invented several stories about Bilbo!

The end of our adventure

About a hundred kilometers from home, our parents asked us what we liked best about our trip. My sister said visiting the Maigan Islands (the boat, the monoliths, and the adorable puffins) and the treasures of the water we found everywhere. Mom said freedom, emptiness, majestic spaces, and breathtaking scenery. Dad said beach fires, cozy mornings watching the river in different ways as we moved around. I said it was all these answers and that it was especially the joy of doing it all together. ♥

 

 

 

To wrap up, here's a checklist suggestion for experienced parents:

  1. "Les Rivages du Québec" book
  2. A treasure box for the whole family
  3. The Ambassador Guide offered by Tourisme Côte-Nord
  4. The copilot bin (useful medications, water, snacks, gum, surprises to give along the way)
  5. Stickers collected on the road
  6. Printed and laminated seek-and-find sheets
  7. One copilot copy and one for each child of the large map with yellow and pink markers
  8. One clip-on tablet per child, with attached pencil for playing seek-and-find.

 

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