Bonjour, and bon voyage, the French Club travels to (pre-COVID) Canada!

The French Club enjoying a tour of the Ice Hotel.

On the early morning of Friday, February 21st, 12 French students arrived at the Jackson Airport ready to venture to the great country to our north: Canada. The group left the Jackson airport en route to their connecting flight in Atlanta at 7:00 a.m. 

After a long day’s travel, the group arrived in Montréal, already feeling the difference in temperature. Fortunately, Coach Caton said the weather was great, adding, “[We] had extremely mild temperatures for that time of year in Quebec, so we were very lucky in that way.” Catching their mini-coach after clearing customs and gathering their luggage, the group made their way to their one night stay at Chateau Mont-Sainte-Anne in Beaupre, Quebec. 

French teacher Coach Caton has taken students on a version of this trip a number of times, often alternating years. Because a group went last year, though, this makes it a first that she has taken groups in back-to-back years. 

Last year, students with levels of experience ranging from French I to French III went, with it being mostly a high school group. This year, however, a much younger group of students went, with a good number of 7th graders attending, since it is their first year they are allowed to travel. 

The trip was open to any student who has taken (or is taking) at least one year of French. It is quite valuable to any student that wishes to further their speaking skills or truly discover the culture of the French-Canadians. 

The next morning the group got to experience their first Saturday in Quebec. They woke up early enough to grab some breakfast and excitedly walked over to the nearby Canine Village, better known as Secrets Nordiques, that included dog sledding, and snowshoeing. After going back to the hotel to retrieve their luggage, they hopped on the mini-coach once again to journey to the Beaupre Coast, which included the Montmorency Falls, the Basilica of Sainte-Anne de-Beaupré, a stop at Chez Marie for bread with maple syrup butter (a real Canadian delicacy; if you go, you HAVE to try it or buy some for back home.), and finally the Albert Gillis Copper Museum. 

At last, the group arrived in Old Town Quebec and checked in to the Chateau Frontenac, a historic hotel in Old Quebec that is nearly 127 years old. This was their home for the rest of the trip: a beautiful, scenic resort that features a small front park covered in snow, along with the rest of the streets around their area. Even though there was white all around, the sun still shone to bring them out of their beds and into Dimanche, or Sunday. 

They woke up for breakfast before they headed out on a walking tour of Old Town Quebec. The cobblestone streets of Old Quebec feature antique stores, art galleries, and restaurants that add to the beautiful, yet historic, scenery. 

For his second year in a row on this trip, Ash Hederman really enjoyed Old Town. He said, “My favorite part [of the trip] was Old Town. It had really interesting architecture and history, and it also had some good restaurants.” For the rest of the afternoon, the group enjoyed lunch, a visit to Le Grande Marche, and time for group activities. After dinner, the group returned home for another night in the fantastic Chateau Frontenac

“Lots of playing in snow and lots of snowball fights!””

— Coach Cory Caton

The next day included tons of fun activities like a day at the Valcartier Village des Sports —a “winter playground” that houses over 35 slides tourists are able to slide down using inner tubes and rafts—-a guided tour of the ice hotel—a literal hotel made of ice that people can stay overnight in—-and finally a visit to a local Quebec Sugar Shack for an entertaining dinner. After a long, exciting day, the group settled down as they arrived for a time to rest back at their hotel as their time in Quebec neared an end. 

Tuesday was the group’s last full day, and it was another packed one. After breakfast, everyone hopped on a mini-coach on the way to Montréal for another night’s stay. After meeting their tour guide, the group took a walking tour of Old Town Montréal and visited the Notre Dame Cathedral. As their tour came to a close though, the students concluded at the Belle Centre and were given the opportunity to see a Canadian hockey game: the Montréal Canadiens vs. the Vancouver Canucks. It was definitely an exciting matchup with the Canucks winning a close game with a score of 4 to the Canadiens’ 3. Dinner comes soon after, and, finally, the day is done. The group heads back to the hotel for one more night in Canada. 

The next morning is Mercredi, or Wednesday in French, and it’s their day to say goodbye. After grabbing breakfast and their luggage, they check out of the hotel for good and head to the Montréal Trudeau Airport. They leave the airport for Atlanta around 3:52 p.m. Once they arrive in Atlanta around 7:12 p.m., only one more flight back to Jackson stands in their way of home sweet home. At around 8:30 p.m., the group arrives back in Mississippi safe and sound, culturally enriched, and more confident in their knowledge of the French language. 

Every year, Coach Caton has a new story to tell about her time taking these kids to experience a culture she was able to grow up with. This year when asked what the group was like, Coach Caton said, “I loved the enthusiasm of the younger group! They were high energy and loved the snow: lots of playing in snow and lots of snowball fights! They did not complain at all. [It] was a really great group to travel with! It was a great opportunity for 7th graders to travel with this being the first year they could go on the trip.”