Today was my last day in Quebec. I got up early to grab the shower before everyone else on my floor and packed up my bags. Hauling most of it down the stairs and loading took a bit of time, but I was soon ready to have my breakfast before getting on my way. Dutifully ate my eggs and toast and ham, knowing I would need the fuel. I intended to backtrack along the coast for a bit and take inland Hwy 299 to Cambellton and it didn’t look like there was a whole lot of anything along that road.
After riding along for a bit, I realized I hadn’t put my earplugs in, so I pulled over at the next viewpoint. Distracted by the cool rock formation on the other side of the road, I walked over to the edge of the road to take a photo. Then I took a couple of photos of the birds sitting out on a rock in the water. As I was doing so, a couple of vehicles pulled in, and a family travelling together around Gaspe got out. This group was made up of Bob and Minna, Penny and Karl, and Gino and Sandra and Nicole. They were a lively crew, and very encouraging and enthusiastic about my trip. I had such a fun meeting them, I forgot to put my earplugs in again and had to stop at the next little village to do it. Meeting this friendly bunch was well worth the minor inconvenience! 😊
As I travelled along the coast, I saw the sea birds that I had noticed the day before at the hotel. I had asked the proprietor what they were and he said they were fou de bassans in French, but he didn’t know what they were called in English. I checked it out and they are Northern Gannet. They are easy to pick out from the seagulls with their unique markings and amazing to watch as they rocket into the water to catch fish. I’ve poached a picture from allaboutbirds.org on the internet as I couldn’t get one that was good with my phone camera.
I didn’t take many photos today, actually. The morning was cool and beautiful and Fury and I sailed along, just enjoying the ride. When we reached the junction for Hwy 299, we fuelled up and turned into it. This road was a little rough, but beautiful and almost completely devoid of traffic. Occasionally, a logging truck or car would go by, but generally, it was undisturbed. We were riding through the Parc national de Gaspesie. It was beautiful and reminded me a lot of British Columbia with the tall, lushly forested mountains cut through by rocky creeks and curvy roads. We had been riding for some time when I realized I really didn’t know how far we had to go. I knew for sure I had enough fuel to reach my destination, but had not paid attention to the time at all. Around here, 100 kms doesn’t mean an hour – it means more like an hour and a half or two hours.
Looking for a break, we eventually arrived at a little town. I had not caught the sign on riding in, so had no idea what it was. I pulled into a little business called Sexton and Sexton that was advertising coffee and fishing supplies. There was indeed coffee and when I went in a gentleman at the table pointed me in the direction of the coffee and the cream in the fridge. I poured a coffee and found packages of cheese curds for sale in the fridge as well, so added those to my break. As I was preparing to sit down, a couple more arrived and I became the celebrity of the day! They were very impressed with what I was doing and again, we had a good time talking over the trip and some of my experiences. One of them said: “Never thought you’d end up in Cascapedia-Saint-Jules, did you?!” Another said “Wait until I tell (insert name here) that we met a woman travelling the country by motorcycle right here in Cascapedia-Saint-Jules!” And so I learned the name of the village I had arrived in. The towns of Cascapedia and Saint-Jules amalgamated in order to make the most of what each had to offer. Tourism with salmon-fishing is what brings the money to town and the season is busy from May until October-ish. They said the guy that owns the supply store ties thousands of flies over the winter in preparation and never has enough. I wandered about the store a bit and they are well stocked with all kinds of gear from clothing to tackle. If you are in the market for a fishing adventure, look up Sexton and Sexton on Facebook and I’m sure they will point you in the right direction and be able to supply everything you need!
It was also from these fine gentlemen that I learned I was only about an hour from my destination of Cambellton. The sky had darkened and some thunder was sounding, so I guessed I had better get back on the road. Not too far out of town, there were some colourful teepees just off the highway. I pulled in to take a look at what was a Mi’kmaq pow-wow site. The teepees were gorgeous and deserved a picture, but there was no other information at the site. I had passed a couple of Mi’kmaq sites in Quebec, but had not had the right timing to stop at them to explore. According to Canadian Encyclopedia, the Mi’kmaq are among the first people to live in the Atlantic region and covered the territory of the Gaspe peninsula and the maritime provinces, even as far south as Boston.
The rain did not get serious, though the temperature cooled a fair bit and we finished our ride to Cambellton without incident. Having booked a room in the morning, I arrived at the McKenzie House around 5:00 p.m. I got Fury unloaded and parked just as a fit of rain began to fall. A very civilized rainfall, it pattered down steadily for maybe an hour before letting up.
The McKenzie House is a huge turn-of-the-century house with several rooms and a shared bathroom. I was pleasantly surprised to find that my room actually has a private bathroom! So I promptly ran a bath and had a soak before putting on street clothes and going for a bit of a walk.
Campbellton is right up to the border of Quebec and near the mouth of the Restigouche River. There is a 50/50 chance when greeting someone that the conversation will be in English as the population is pretty much 50/50 French-speaking and English-speaking. As the name suggests, the town was settled mostly by Scots and this is evident in the street names – McKenzie, Adam, Andrew, Aberdeen, Arran, etc. On my return, I thought the big steel bridge I crossed to enter town would probably be lovely in the sunset, but didn’t have the energy to go back out.
I suppose it was backwards to bathe and then go for a walk, as it was still warm and humid out. But, back in my room, I’m feeling restored and ready for my bed (and remembering that I’ve lost another hour). Ready for tomorrow’s adventure!
I rose in good time today, but it took a while to get going. Breakfast was included in my room charge and it was a real one – 2 eggs, ham, little potatoe patties, toast, fruit, orange juice and coffee! Not just the usual continental fair of muffins and yogurt.
I woke today feeling unsettled – a little sad, edgy, and unfamiliar with myself. Perhaps the fog across the St. Lawrence had made its way into my soul for a visit. A ride seemed just the thing to get centered again. Fury and I headed out to explore Gaspe. I can see why fog is used in film and stage shows to convey mystery. It is eerie to ride in such dense fog, and yet thrilling at the same time. There is a feeling of wariness that sharpens the senses. As we gained elevation, the fog dissipated, leaving a clear sky and good visibility. Then, as we descended towards the river again, long fingers of fog came pushing through the trees, reaching for us until we were enfolded in it again.
For the first hour or so, the road was quiet and there was little traffic to impede us. Full of winding curves, mountains and elevation changes, it is a delight to ride. Riding into a little village that was insistent about announcing itself on the road, I took a tour around it. It was a fishing village and very pretty. The other thing I see a lot of on the Gaspe peninsula are villages advertising art galleries and displays by local artists. With the scenery around here, I can see why! We headed out of the village to see more.
Rounding a curve that swept steeply down into a picturesque valley, we pulled into the viewpoint at the bottom. There was the river, on both sides of the parking area. One side was mostly engulfed in fog and when you turned around, the other side was mostly clear – hard to believe the pictures are taken at the same location! As I got back on the highway, I glanced in my rear-view mirror and saw a great picture. So, I pulled over and took the picture, looking back up the road with the foggy river in the background. Unfortunately, some trees on the right obscured the river, so the picture does not convey the same beauty as the actual scene.
From this point, the road became very twisty and was great fun until I caught up to the line of traffic ahead of me. Then it was putt along for awhile, until I reached the Parc nationale Forillon. I pulled into the visitor centre for check things out and noticed an RV with a motorcycle on the back. The gentleman with the vehicle was close by and asked about my bike. We had a visit, once again managing to communicate between our two languages. His wife arrived and we chatted some more. They were very interested in the trip and asked about the possibility of going to Alaska with an RV. I gave them a card with my blog site on it so they could check out the photos of the different areas. I forgot to get their names, darn it!
Carrying on, I stopped at a couple more viewpoints before turning off into a park entrance that announced it was the north entrance and the way to Bon Ami camp. So, I rode in to check it out. The road does indeed end at a campsite which was lovely and has everything set up to enjoy yourself if you are into camping. On the way in, I had seen an impressive mountain of rock soaring up beside the road that I had to stop and marvel at. Took a picture with Fury in it for scale (although really, she improves any photo). 😊 On the way out, I came around a curve and a gorgeous panoramic vista opened up before me. A little challenging to take a photo of, as the hill was steep, so my kickstand didn’t do me any good. It was some creative balancing to take a picture, but it had to be done!
The next thing that pulled us off the highway was Fort Peninsula. This was a really interesting stop for me. During the second world war, German subs entered the St. Lawrence and sunk 23 allied ships. In response to this, the Gaspe peninsula was chosen for a shore battery naval base. Three coastal batteries were created in the Gaspe Bay along with a huge anti-submarine net. It was an important base, providing defense and protection for allied ships travelling the St. Lawrence. The underground battery at Fort Peninsula has been preserved and you can walk beneath the ground where the ammunitions were stored and the canons still stand. I did not know (or at least did not remember), that there had been an attack in Canadian waters during WWII, nor that there was a formidable naval base on the peninsula.
With the day wearing on, I thought I had best get on to Gaspe itself. I had intended to visit the museum there, but not feeling much like a museum, I toodled around the town a bit instead. Finding what appeared to be the “tourist” street, I parked Fury and decided it was time for lunch. I went to the Brise Bise. I ordered the seafood coquille, which was full of creamy, cheesy, seafood goodness, accompanied by a fresh salad. I chose not to have the fries that came with it as well, knowing it would be way too much food. Which meant I could make room for dessert! I have seen “homemade maple syrup pie” on the menu on a variety of menus – clearly it is a “Quebec” thing – so I decided today was the day to try it. It was very good, but also very sweet and by the time I was done, I was very full!
Some riders from Illinois had parked beside Fury while I was having my lunch, so we had a little visit while I got ready to go. They were doing a little tour around the peninsula and are headed back to Maine tomorrow. Very friendly folks enjoying their tour – I have met so many great people on this trip. We all wished each other safe travels and were on our way.
Having seen lots of coastline since the ferry crossing yesterday, I decided to make my ride a loop and come back to my hotel through the inland route. This turned out to be a great decision. Though the road was a bit rougher, it was almost deserted in terms of traffic and still beautiful and twisty. Fury and I drove the last of the fog and demons from our souls on that road! Spying and interesting bridge along the way, we pulled off to check it out. A beautiful little river that boasts of salmon fishing, it was quiet and peaceful and worth the stop.
Within half an hour of the bridge, we were back at the junction to return to the hotel. Once again, we were wrapped in thick fog, giving a feeling of stealth as we rolled along with the fog around us and the huge rock mountains looming up on our right as we leaned through the curves.
Arrived back at the hotel about 6:00 p.m., but feeling no need for supper, it was straight into a shower and now time for sleep. Tomorrow, on to New Brunswick!
I didn’t have a reservation on the 7:45 a.m. ferry from Les Escoumins to Trois Pistoles and so it was recommended that I be there an hour and a half before the sailing. This would still not guarantee me a spot, so I determined to be there at 6:00 a.m. just to be sure. I figured being on a motorcycle would guarantee me a spot. So, it was up at 5:00 to be ready to go and give me 15 minutes to get lost. Fortunately, the route to the ferry was well marked and I actually got there before 6:00.
There were some folks with some RVs there that I think had stayed overnight near the terminal. We did our best to have a conversation with our two languages and did pretty well! The lady I was speaking with gave me the names of her daughters, but I realized afterwards that I did not have hers. They were meeting more family for camping this weekend and were expecting a crowd. She is from a large family – 9 siblings! I was offered a coffee and gratefully accepted, knowing I would be tired and the ride today was a long one.
When I first arrived at the terminal, there was fog on the river that burned off a bit in the early morning sun. But then, just before the ferry arrived, a fog bank rolled in and we could hear the ferry’s horn announcing its arrival, but could not see it. Suddenly, there it was – coming out of the fog. It was a pretty surreal moment. They tucked me up under the steps with Fury and I did my best to secure her with the ropes provided. This took me some time, so I missed some of the whale action that was going on up top. But I did see some of it. The rest of the trip was too foggy to see anything much. I saw Julie and Piedro from last evening, looking a bit tired too, but ready for their adventure. Towards the end of the sailing, I heard someone speaking English and started a conversation with two very nice young men - Waleed (I’m sure I’ve spelled that wrong) and Simon. They were from Ottawa and travelling the Gaspe Peninsula and the Cabot Trail. We talked about all the different landscapes I have seen on my trip and they are very interested in travelling BC and the Yukon. It got quite cold and misty in the last half hour of the trip so everyone went inside and I anticipated a chilly ride on the other side if I didn’t change my gear.
We sailed out of the fog into Trois Pistoles, which is a pretty little town, like Les Escoumins. I thought I would stop and have a tea at the Tim’s but the lineup was long and the service was happening at a snail’s pace, so I consulted my map briefly and just headed out. There was a ton of traffic all the way up Hwy 132, so it was clear early on that it would be a “sit back and relax” ride. It’s actually not terribly enjoyable, though, because you can’t really take your eyes off the line of traffic in front of you, even though some beautiful views are unfolding around you. So, I made frequent stops – partly because I was tired and partly to soak in my surroundings. Initially, the temperature was fairly warm, but once we got right along the coast of the river, it got pretty chilly, so I switched my gear at one of the stops.
There are two things I have noticed over and over while travelling through Quebec. One is that there are a ton of small towns within spitting distance of each other. That’s one of the reasons the roads are so slow - you just get up to speed and slow down to 70 again for the next town. In contrast to the prairies, where most of the little towns are now just a few houses with no services, these ones all seem to be going concerns. In pondering the difference, I wondered if it is because they have not routed the highways around all of the towns. They’ve put in passing lanes and slowed the traffic down, but not built by-passes. The second thing I’ve noticed is that pretty much every one of these small towns has a stop with washrooms, a picnic table and more often than not, a stand selling hot dogs, ice cream, fries, lemonade and other goodies. So, if you think you’re going to drop a few pounds travelling through Quebec, think again!
Having a fit of drowsiness, I pulled into one of these road-side stops that had a bit of a park. Found a nice grassy knoll, propped my head on my jacket and closed my eyes. Must have needed it, because when I woke up, almost an hour had gone by! Feeling much better, I had a drink and got back on the road. Fury ran along like the wind in the cool temperatures. Along the last hour and a half of our route, the mountains got taller and the road ran right along the river. While I didn’t dwell on it, it did occur to me that if one of those fractured mountains of sedimentary rock came tumbling down, there wouldn’t be anywhere to go but into the river – if the rocks didn’t bury you first. But…..what are the odds?! And it makes for some stunning scenery.
One more pit stop along the way for a tea at Tim’s. Busy place, but service was moving marginally quicker than the last one, so I stuck it out. The parking lot was full and moving around in it was pretty tight. While I was getting ready to leave, an RV pulls in and parks across three parking spaces. I want to be so important some day that I won’t feel bad taking up 3 spots because I can’t be bothered to park properly. Or maybe park at the empty parking lot next door and walk another 20 steps. Actually, no, I don’t ever want to be that important if it means being that big of a jerk.
Arriving in Riviere-la-Madeleine for the night, I have booked into the Auberge Restaurant chez Mamie. I am still 75 kms from Gaspe, but the rates are more reasonable, so I’m going to stay here for 2 nights. It is an inn-style place with a shared bathroom, but is neat and clean. I plan to do a bit of exploring tomorrow, without all my extra gear on the bike.
Noticing the light outside my window turn pink, I scooted outside. Sure enough, the sun was setting over the water, bathing the world in a soft, purply-pink glow. The beach is covered in perfect skipping stones, so I had to do some of that as well. 😊 Apparently, the family that was on the beach is also staying here, as I can hear the kids having their evening meltdowns in preparation for bed. It seems I will need to go and tell them it is not OK to let your child sit there and scream for mom repeatedly at the top of their voice in a hotel....and then find my earplugs.
Assuming I get some sleep tonight, perhaps there will be more pictures tomorrow!
I met so many interesting people today. I have also noticed that I have started thinking in French. Not good French, mind you. But for starters, I no longer translate the traffic signs in my head, unless I haven’t got a clue what they say and try to apply some guess. When I speak to people, what is going on in my head is French, though what comes out of my mouth is generally some blasphemous mix of French and English. I believe Bronwyn calls that “Frenglish”. Maybe if I stayed another year, I’d communicate better. Fortunately for me, most people have responded well and with mon peu de Francais, and their bit of English, we get what is needed sorted out. One thing I can say with certainty: je comprends tout les “oui”s! (I understand all the "oui").
For once, I got up as intended, had breakfast with Guylaine, who is a regular early riser, and got on the road by about 8:30 a.m. The morning was overcast and cooler, which didn’t hurt my feelings, or Night Fury’s either – around 22 degrees is her favourite running temperature and she hummed along like she was happy to be back on the road. It was also very hazy and I wondered, given the wind direction, if it was smoke from the fires in Ontario. I didn’t notice that the air smelled of smoke, but the haze persisted long after fog would have burned off.
With the haze blurring the beautiful views along the way, there was really no point in stopping to take pictures. Just past Quebec City, we followed Hwy 138 all the way to Les Escoumins. I’m not sure I understand the logic behind calling it 138 Est (east) because it pretty much travels north the whole way! For someone like me, with an appalling sense of direction, it is rather disconcerting to KNOW I’m travelling north, but having the signs say east.
The first stop was in Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupre. The haze in the air was a shame, because the route between Quebec City and Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupre is snuggled up to the St. Lawrence River and there really were some very striking views! Having said that, there was also quite a lot of traffic by that point and if you get off the highway, it’s a bit of a test to get back on. Filling up with gas, I figured I might as well have a bite to eat too, so I stopped at a Tim’s and had tea and a sandwich. When I parked Fury, two ladies pulled in behind me. They commented on the bike and I told them what I was up to. They were very friendly and impressed with my adventure, so we had a wee chat. One of them rides a Honda Rebel 250, but her friend said she would not make such a big trip as this adventure that I am on. But I saw that twinkle in their eyes and I’m not so sure I’d put money on that!
I can’t honestly tell you what my next stop was, for I can’t recall the name of the town. I just saw a sign that attracted me and turned right off the highway. Can’t even tell you what the sign said, but I rode through town until I saw a side street that went steeply down towards the water. Following this, it ended at a restaurant and waterfront parking lot. I parked Fury and got off to take a break. What a lucky stop, for I met Yolande and Rial! They were sitting in a couple of chairs by the water admiring the view. When I smiled at them, Yolande said “c’est beau”, which I understood as “it’s beautiful”, and agreed. I said, in French, that I did not speak French well and she said “Do you speak English?” YES! Yolande speaks French, English, Spanish and a bit of Russian. I think that she must have had a very interesting life and I wish there had been time to discover it! Rial, like me, probably understood some of what I said, but Yolande translated most of what I said about my trip. I did understand Rial when he said Yolande was a gift to him and his life and he is clearly and charmingly smitten. They obviously have a spark for life. It was a pleasure to meet them and talk with them and when we carried on our way, I felt light-hearted and restored.
There was some truly beautiful countryside on the way north. Mountains and valleys dotted with cattle and horses and hay. Then all of a sudden, the St. Lawrence, mighty and wide with vistas that make it hard to keep your eyes on the road. I would recommend that road to anyone.
Soon, I had arrived at the ferry that takes you across the Saguenay River to Tadoussac so you can continue “north” on Hwy 138 Est. Luck was with me and I rolled up just as the ferry was about to load. It was a quick ride across, made quicker by the two gentlemen in the truck in front of me that also were interested in my bike and trip. They were headed for Labrador. One of them is a rider and has just got the new Goldwing, which is a gorgeous bike. The ferry ride across the river was gorgeous too. I began to see the “fjord” nature of the landscape as we crossed and wished the trip wasn’t quite so quick.
Landing in Tadoussac, I was now within easy distance of Les Escoumins, where I am bunked for the night. Since it was still quite early in the day, I took Hwy 172 to the west, following the signs for the Fjord du Saguenay park. This is a beautiful spot on the Saguenay River and I took a good long walk along the rocks of the river, noting that it must be a “tidal” river, because the sand between the rocks and beneath my shoes was wet. After stopping to take a few pictures, I sat down on a rock, leaned back and turned my face to the sun. I sat this way, eyes closed, for maybe 5 minutes. When I opened them again, I was no longer on a rock in the sand. I was on a rock in the water! Not much, mind you, but enough to make my feet a bit wet getting back to dry sand and rocks. Taking this as my cue, I made my way back to the visitor centre. There were several trails, but the shortest was 3 kms one-way and I by now, I didn’t really have enough time to hike in and back.
On my way back, I spied another covered bridge between the trees. I found the road leading into it and scooted over for a look. Taking a quick picture of Night Fury in front of it, I turned around and headed back out on the highway. All along Hwy 172 and 138 to Les Escoumins, I saw signs that said “Route de baleines” (route of whales). As with much of the wildlife on my trip, I was disillusioned - I didn’t see even ONE whale on the road!! 😊
Arriving in Les Escoumins about 6:00 p.m., I topped up with gas and checked into the Auberge Manoir Bellevue. This is a gorgeous bed and breakfast that I would recommend without hesitation. I managed to communicate with the hostess that I would not be able to take advantage of breakfast in the morning because I would have to leave too early for the ferry. I don’t have a reservation and am hoping I will get on if I get there early enough. No problem – she has made a lunch for me to grab out of the fridge in the breakfast area tomorrow morning! Those arrangements made, I went for a bit of a walk in the blissfully cool evening. The water is just down the hill and it is a beautiful setting. I ended up at Le Krill Bistro for supper. Once again putting my limited French to use, I managed to order some dinner and have a short conversation with the server. The shrimp salad sandwich and fries were amazing. And I was not done meeting people! My conversation with the server about my ride was overheard by two young people at the table in front of me. Julie turned around to comment (in English) that she thought my trip was amazing. Julie and Piedro are from Switzerland! She is studying here and was able to come a couple of weeks before her course starts to explore a little. She and Piedro will also be taking the ferry tomorrow to check out the Gaspe peninsula. They are amazed at how big Canada is. We had a great conversation and I greatly admire their adventurous spirit and hope the weather cooperates so they see some whales on the ferry tomorrow morning and have no fog to interfere with the scenic drive along the Gaspe coast.
Now that I have taken advantage of the gigantic bathtub in my room and completed my blogging duties, I must retire, my friends. Have to get up way too early in hopes of getting on the ferry tomorrow morning. Onward!
P.S. Note of interest when travelling in Quebec. Flashing green lights mean you have priority over oncoming traffic. So, you may not get a left turn arrow, but if your light is flashing green, you can turn left because oncoming traffic still has a red light. Thought I’d throw that in there since in BC, flashing green means that if a pedestrian approaches the intersection and hits the walk signal, the light will change to red right away.
After tramping Quebec City for two days and not sleeping a whole lot, today was a quiet day. Our host, Pierre, at the B&B de la Traverse arrived sometime around 8:30 a.m. and served us breakfast once again, making us French toast right at our suite so we felt like we should have donned our tiaras before sitting down at the table!
We headed back to Shawinigan and arrived back at Guylaine's about noon. I looked at the next week of my trip and made some ferry and hotel bookings. We had our leftover pizza and a salad for lunch before deciding that the next order of business was a nap! After a bit of a rest, I checked on Fury in her tidy little parking spot in the shed, lubed the chain, checked the tire pressure and made sure she is ready to go in the morning.
We made another attempt at going to the Trou de diable brewpub for supper and this time we were successful. Even though the little voices in my head were telling me not to confuse the issue, I asked for a burger without the bun. I don't do this for any health or diet reason - I just can't eat my whole meal when there's a bun. This request did not process very well in the kitchen and my plate arrived with the bun - melted cheese bacon and tomato inside the bun, and the meat outside! LOL. That has to be the most interesting result I have ever had from that request. So I put the burger back into the bun and ate it that way. The bun was actually a really good one and didn't out-size the burger, but I still couldn't finish my fries and salad. The food was fabulous though.
Appparently the walk half a block up the street after dinner was enough to restore my appetite becuase when we rounded a corner and Guylaine suggested ice cream, I was miraculously able to order some! I also chose black cherry instead of chocolate. I haven't ever tried it and so decided it was high time. It was very good, but the varieties of chocolate are still my favourite.
On the way back, we stopped at the firehall to say Hi to Guylaine's son Charles. He is a firefighter and had a shift this evening so it was really nice to have the chance to meet him. As I already knew Guylaine's daughter, Alexandra, I had heard a lot about Charles and he is as lovely a young man as they claim him to be!
With my gear packed up and only waiting for the last minute things to be tossed in, I should be able to get loaded up and on the road in decent time tomorrow. Since I don't have any photos for you today, I am posting one of the route through Quebec to date. I'm sure I will have more photos tomorrow!
D’accord. Ok. I’m not sure this one will be very coherent. I ordered the Limonade de Capitaine for supper and it is a 16-ounce drink, 4 of which are alcohol. That is about 3 oz over my limit for coherence. So I will do my best to tell a story that is somewhat progressive in nature!
We asked for our breakfast to be brought earlier that originally requested so we could take an early ferry to Quebec City and catch the bus tour of the Plains of Abraham. Breakfast was delivered at 8:00 a.m. by the gentleman who operates our B&B. After laying out our dishes and food, he looked at me and asked “Are you Irish?” Surprised, I said “yes”. He said my eyes are a blue that he has noticed are unique to the Irish. Never had that one before, though people frequently ask me if I am originally from England – something about my speech patterns. Well, I guess I am, even if it is several generations back. So, it was kind of interesting to be identified as Irish.
We left the suite by 8:40 a.m. and my new dress appeared to be the correct choice, as the day was already heating up and quite humid. Arriving in the city in good time, we had an opportunity to take a photo in the umbrella street with no other people there! I also made a note for later that there was a fudge shop there!
Dragging our sorry butts up the big hill again, we made our way to the Plains of Abraham visitor centre and bought tickets for the bus tour through the park. The park was created in 1908 to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the founding of Quebec. We had some time to explore the museum before boarding for the tour, which was a good idea as the day was now hot and the bus was air conditioned. The tour bus guide was very entertaining. Her character was that of Marguerite Martin, the wife of Abraham Martin (Plains of Abraham….). Their son Eustache was the first baby to be born in New France. She told the story of New France and the lifestyle of the people. Reaching the site of the battle, she told a very animated and entertaining story of the battle. Long story short, the French thought they were invincible behind their walled city and cliff of rock. But a troop of Scottish highlanders showed the English a secret path into the plains that would allow an attack on the French. When warned of the approaching army, the Marquis de Montcalm did not really believe it and took a small core of professional militia, along with a troop of mostly un-disciplined militia to check it out. The inexperience of these troops led to chaos and a battle that lasted less than 30 minutes, resulting in a complete victory for the English. Despite subsequent attempts, Quebec was never recaptured and Canada was eventually surrendered to the English.
A bonus of this tour was that the bus dropped us off at the Martello tower exhibit. Four of these towers were constructed at Quebec by the English as a first line of defense against any potential invasion by the US. These towers were constructed with munitions store in the lower level for gunpowder storage, a barracks in the second floor for the soldiers stationed there, and a watchtower and gun floor at the top so cannon could be fired at the enemy to deter their advance. We were given an iPad at this site to follow a map and have it explain to us what life was like in a Martello Tower. It was very well done and we were glad we had jumped off the bus. Since we wanted to see the tower anyway, getting off the bus meant we could walk down the hill to the visitor centre instead of up the hill to the tower – an important consideration in the heat and humidity. Strolling back towards the visitor centre, we were able to get a couple of photos of the plains that we were not able to take through the windows of the bus.
Making our way back into the old city, we passed by the other side of the parliament buildings and I took some more photos of statues on the grounds, including the first women to demand the vote in Quebec.
By this time, all the arm-raising to take photos had made us a bit peckish. Recalling the creperie we had seen on our way up to the Plains of Abraham, we found it again and went in for lunch. It was worth the stop for my cheese and mushroom crepe. Guylaine had a salad and I would have felt bad about her healthy choice if she hadn’t ordered a chocolate hazelnut crepe for dessert. Luckily for me, she shared it and it was to die for.
While we were beginning to feel tired from our tramping around, we wanted to see a few more things before calling it a day. So we booked ourselves into a tour of the Chateau Frontenac. This was a guided tour, en Francais, which was a challenge for me. I can pick out the general meaning of the stories the guy was telling as long as I was concentrating. However, I was frequently distracted by the surroundings, so it was a feast for the eyes more than the mind. Guylaine graciously translated key bits for me so I at least could nod and smile intelligently. 😊
Leaving the Chateau Frontenac, we thought we would wander by the seminary that was beside the Basilique Cathedrale Notre-Dame-de-Quebec. This structure is now the architectural department of the Universite Laval. When we entered the courtyard, it was certainly a WOW moment. Upon entering through the archway, a gentleman was watering the plants around the buildings. I commented, in English (forgetting to attempt my bad French), that he must find it almost irresistible to spray the tourists as they went by. He did understand me, though, and denied such compulsions, which makes him a better person than me. His name was Michel and he provided us with some information about the seminary and its grounds. Then he asked if we would like to see an area that not everyone gets to see. Of course, we agreed! Truly the highlight of our day, he took us into the building where the old stone floors and archways took us back to another time. One of the rooms we saw used to be the butchery – the meat hooks still in the ceiling where they hung the animals. We followed down a long stone corridor and back outside to the rear where there were private grounds between the buildings. Michel told us about a street or two that were not to be missed on our way back and we were very grateful to have met him and had a little personal tour - thank you Michel!
We found the street of antiques and local artists recommended by Michel. In seeing the vintage stores, I thought of Tracey and how much she would have enjoyed that. The whole of old Quebec would have been just her style, actually. I left a few ashes there for her and wished she was with me.
The lower area of the old city was beginning to fill up with small kiosks of vendors. Some were in period costume and have a variety of neat things for sale. We wandered around the streets a bit more, but as they began to get crowded, we sat down for a rest while pondering our next course of action. A return to Le Fudgerie was imperative and so we decided to re-visit that street and then have dinner. It was a good thing we visited the fudge shop before dinner because there is no telling how much money I might have spent in there under the influence of a limonade du Capitaine!
We wrapped up our day at the Sapristi Bistro and Bar for dinner. This is the scene of the limonade du Capitaine crime. Apparently, I have a very poor idea of what a 16 oz drink looks like. Our server extraordinaire, Cynthia, fortunately had the sense of humour required to put up with our shenanigans and my bad French. She is a fellow traveller, having gone travelling with the intention of being away 3 months and the reality of being away 4 years! That travel bug is a dangerous thing. I left her an Explore My Nation card with the blog site just in case she wants to check out a new adventure.
It is doubtful that I have an objective opinion, but I don’t think I staggered to the ferry. We boarded without incident and made it back to our room. It is time to sift through the million photos I took again today. My phone died before the day was quite over and so there are also photo creds due to Guylaine, who has graciously shared hers with me so you can enjoy the remainder of our day!
A demain, mes amis!
Today was on to discover Quebec City. With a goal of being on the road by 10:00 a.m., we exceeded expectations by being out at 9:30. Guylaine had booked a B&B in Levis, which is across the water by ferry from Quebec City’s old town. We stopped for a tailgate lunch and Guylaine had once again packed lunch for us of cous cous salad with chickpeas and veggies and plums. If I hang out with her for too long, I’ll be a stick figure and I can’t afford new riding gear, so I might have to binge on chocolate bars in the middle of the night. 😊
We arrived in Levis about 1:00 p.m. and located our lodging. Turns out it’s a beautiful little studio suite that will suit us just fine. As an added bonus, it is literally across the street from the ferry terminal! We dropped our things and jumped on the ferry to go over to the old town and do some reconnaissance.
We noticed on our way down the hill towards our accommodations, that the Chateau Frontenac is in full grandeur across the water as well. Turns out we have a better view from this side of the water than when you are in the old town itself. When riding the ferry across, you begin to see “la petite France”. The buildings reminded me of the way they look in French movies. Samuel de Champlain is the gros fromage around here, being the founder of Quebec in 1608. There are monuments of him in more than one location. Some of the streets are brick-paved and the buildings in the old city have been preserved in traditional style. It is one of the most picturesque places on my whole trip. Our search for a tourist information centre with a map led us up many a hill and even more stairs. Not quite sure where we had arrived, it was impossible to miss the Chateau Frontenac. We strolled the boardwalk around it before finding our way around to the lobby.
The Chateau Frontenac was named for the Count of Frontenac who was governor of new France for two 10-year periods. The hotel is one of the beautiful CPR hotels, but varies in architecture from the classical style of the majority of these hotels. It is much more castle-like and is perched on the top of the hill, with an amazing view of the St. Lawrence River. As these original hotels are, it is beautiful inside and we wandered around for a few minutes in awe of it. In 1943 and 1944, the hotel hosted two historic conferences with Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and William Lyon Mackenzie King.
The gentleman at the bus tour desk in the Chateau Frontenac, told us where we could find the tourist information centre. Walking out the door and onto the street we saw that we had walked right by it while our attention was focussed in the opposite direction. Classic Alyson navigation!
Clemence at the tourist information centre was very helpful, cheerfully providing us with a city map and the information we were looking for regarding tours and sights. Upon hearing about my journey, she went the extra mile and provided me with information for my ride to Les Escoumins and the Gaspe peninsula. If only she could be cloned, for that kind of service is rare! Heading back out, armed with a map this time, we decided we would stroll a circle route (or rather a square-ish one) and see some sights today, have some dinner and then cross the river back to our room.
Our tramping took us to the Basilique Cathedrale – Notre-Dame-de-Quebec. The cathedral was built in 1647 and destroyed by bombardment and then by fire. It was reconstructed in 1925 and is now designated a national historic site. The cathedral includes a crypt which contains the remains of four New France governors and the bishops of Quebec City. It was open for us to wander through and truly a work of art. I always marvel at how these magnificent structures were constructed without the aid of modern technology. It also reminds me of how cheap the lives of peasants and trades workers were back in those days.
Our path eventually took us up a hill that was a bit arduous in the heat, but we persevered and arrived at the fortress wall of the city. Climbing what felt like a billion stairs, we got to the top of the wall and were rewarded with a great view of the city. Gaspard Chaussegros de Lery was the engineer who campaigned to have the entire city walled so it was less vulnerable to British attack.
Following our intended route, we left the walls of the old city to walk over to the Parliament Buildings – up another hill……to find that they were mostly gated off for construction. However, there were various statues of influential premiers and a partial view of the building that got included in the photos anyway. There is, however, an impressive fountain out front of the building that was definitely photo-worthy.
Completing the last leg of our “square” tour, we found the Café de Paris and decided it was the place for dinner. It was a good choice and we had no problem polishing off our prosciutto and melon appy and seafood entrees. Then it was time for a leisurely walk back to the ferry. Wandering through the streets, there were a million little shops. We didn’t go into too many, but I was finally seduced by a little shop with very reasonably priced little light dresses. Perhaps it was the heat of the day, for I went in and found them irresistible. The shop-keeper ended up being very happy to see me as I provided her with at least a day’s change in loonies and toonies!
Returning to our room, we dropped off our things and went back to the waterfront to watch the sun set behind the Chateau Frontenac. There was a bonus show at the water park there where they made the water dance with the music and coloured lights. The water wasn’t the only thing dancing – it was fun to see the little kids enjoying the music and jumping around to it. I would have been too, had I not had laptop in hand! On our way back, we arranged for the breakfast included in our room price to be delivered a bit early so we can make an early-ish start to head back over tomorrow morning. Capping the evening off with gelato from the shop next door, I think it could be called a very successful day!
Clearly, I can’t hang out with Guylaine for too long – I might get fit. She had a plan for a day vacation into the Parc nationale de la Mauricie, involving paddle boards and sightseeing. Now, anyone who knows me, is aware of my aversion to swimming in lakes as the water is usually too cold and I have to be pretty damn hot to go in. While dubious about my potential paddle boarding ability after being on a motorcycle for 2 months, I determined to at least try.
The weather cooperated by giving us a warm, sunny-ish day. The first stop on our little tour was a pretty covered bridge on a little side road along the way. It was the first one I have seen on this trip. Lots of steel bridges and wood bridges, but not a covered one until today. So neat and no traffic! I probably could have parked Fury on there for a picture.
Our next stop was at a natural amphitheatre in the park where events are held from time to time. There have been some seats built in and electricity brought in for shows, but the setting is beautiful and one has to wonder about the force of nature that created the deep crevice in the first place.
Along the way to our paddle board location, we stopped at a viewpoint with some story boards about the Laurentian Mountains. According to these, this region is the youngest portion of the Canadian shield. As with Manitoba and Ontario, Quebec is covered with lakes – large and small – at different elevations and of different characteristics. Absolutely beautiful.
We made our way to Wapizagonke Lake (say that 10 times fast!), where I was to be indoctrinated into the mysteries of paddle boarding. Needing to fuel up for this event, the first order of business was to have lunch. Guylaine’s camping hack for all you crazies that like to camp: use a twin-sized fitted sheet for a table-cloth! It works absolutely marvellously and is not disturbed by wind. Guylaine brought us a first-class lunch of salad with homemade smoked salmon, garden tomatoes, fresh strawberries and wine. Some rusks on the side completed this little luncheon and we had a fun visit involving all kinds of unsuitable topics and irreverent humour.
Finishing up our lunch, we went back and got her paddle boards. These are inflatable affairs, so we got our workout by pumping them up before facing the coordination challenge of carrying board, paddle and lifejackets down to the water. Wading in to push the board forward revealed that the water was actually quite warm and I chided myself for being a wimp.
Guylaine gave me a brief tutorial and waited for the comedy show. Miraculously, I did not fall off the board trying to get onto my feet. Nor did I fall off while paddling up the lake. Having a jolly good time, one forgets to pay attention to how far out one has paddled. The shore didn’t look that far away until the wind picked up against us on the way back. Keeping direction and making progress at the same time became a good deal harder. Had to sit on the board and rest for a bit. Paddling over to a sandy bit of shore, Guylaine tied my board to hers and we began to make our way back to the shore. Determined that she shouldn’t be towing me, I swapped between sitting and kneeling, which gave me better balance and more endurance on the paddle. We soon settled into a bit of a rhythm that kept us both going and mitigated the push and pull of wind and waves. Eventually, we made it back to shore. Though she refused to admit it, I’m sure Guylaine was secretly disappointed that I was so boring and didn’t end up in the drink at least once. I know I would have been….
Guylaine headed up to the vehicle to get the bags for the boards so we could carry them up more easily. She returned shortly after, empty-handed with the words “bad news”. Her keys, which had been secured in a pocket on her life jacket, were not in said pocket (which had come unzipped) but somewhere at the bottom of the lake. We looked all over the sand and lake and path but to no avail. So, I accepted the trying chore of laying on my board in the sun to be watch-dog while she went in search of a phone, both of ours being left in the locked car.
Fortunately, she had her spare set of keys in the car, so it was just a call to CAA and a bit of a wait for the truck to arrive. This gave us time to get the boards and paraphernalia back up the hill to the vehicle and deflate the boards. Finally, the truck arrived, the spare keys were retrieved and we were on our way.
We stopped at a location that was supposed to have a short hike to a viewpoint. I had to visit the biffy and change from my bathing suit. Finally got that done and was ready to go and Guylaine came back from the trailhead to say it was actually quite a bit of a hike. Strike deux, mon ami. 😊 Back into the car with us. The next viewpoint turned out to be much more successful – a short 250m walk down the Ile-aux-Pins trail to a beautiful view of the lake.
Last but not least, we made one more stop at the Shawenegan picnic area. This is a great spot for picnicking, having a long stretch of sandy beach for swimming, picnic tables and barbeque stoves. A bridge takes you over the lake, past a wetland and on to a waterfall. Along this path, I saw the different varieties of flowers that I had not yet seen since riding into Quebec. Can’t tell you what they are, but there are pictures! Guylaine warned me not to touch the little pinky-white ones that hang like little fluted bells. They are like poison ivy and will give you itches you would rather not have.
The waterfall is a long, tumbling falls over stepped rocks and is much cooler to see than the picture lets on. Being mid-summer, the water was lower and coming down only one side of the rocks. Guylaine said in the spring, it is much wider. We spent a few moments enjoying the falls before heading back to the car, thinking about dinner.
The plan was to go to a local brew pub with good burgers to use a gift certificate that Guylaine had. Both of us were ready for it after our day of exertion and adventure. Getting there, we found out that they don’t serve food on Mondays. And there was strike trois! So, we headed down the street and had a hot dog and poutine from a street vendor, and that was pretty good too. In spite of our little blips, I'm still giving my tour guide 10/10 for perserverance! After all, if everything goes right, you can't really call it an adventure!
Tired out and ready to sleep like a hibernating bear, it is time to prepare for tomorrow’s activities and get to bed. Jusqu’a la prochaine fois, mes amis (still no French keyboard for accents……)
I haven’t figured out the French keyboard on my computer and I’m too tired to do it tonight, so that’s the best I can do.
Left the Rideau Inn Bed & Breakfast this morning around 9:15 a.m. after a lively conversation with my fellow guests about the trip. On the river cruise yesterday, one of the things I had seen a bit of was the MosaiCulture exhibit at the Jacques Cartier Park on the Quebec side of the river. It looked pretty impressive, so I made it a mission to see it this morning on my way out. Finding my way over there was easy enough and parked the bike. When I got to the entrance gate, the park didn’t open until 10:00, so I had 40 minutes to kill. I was glad I didn’t see the 10:00 a.m. opening time on my way to park Fury because I probably would have just carried on with my day. However, after paying the only option of a $14 day rate for parking, I was definitely waiting it out. Another $20 to get into the exhibit turned out be very worthwhile. The exhibit is a garden display of the most spectacular garden sculptures you can imagine. Something was contributed by all provinces and territories to represent each one. Among these were a variety of sculptures commemorating events, cultures and memorials and significant historical periods. It was just incredible and of course, I took a billion photos.
Having visited more than half of the country now, I was able to pick out quite a number of the references. I had a fun chat with Anne-Marie, who was a volunteer there. I thought it was pretty cool that I got to see this particular exhibit on this trip, as it coincides with my trip and will be dismantled in mid-October. At least some of the sculptures will be returned to their home provinces. The orca is destined for Coquitlam, but not sure where.
Returning to the parking lot to suit up and head off, some folks from PEI pulled up beside me. We have a fun chat and I might be able to catch up with them when I get to Charlottetown! I offered them my parking receipt, which was good until 9:00 p.m., but they didn’t need it, so I gave it to someone else who arrived as I finished suiting up. Figured it might as well be used for more than the 2 hours I needed it!
Getting off the big road at the first available opportunity, I headed up Hwy 317 for Cheneville. It was pretty fun, with some roller-coaster hills and great curves. The temptation was great to power through those twisties, but I discovered pretty quick that if I got up a head of steam, the bumpy road jumped us all over like a nervous kangaroo. So we settled for a steady, reasonable pace that allowed compensation for the worst of the bumps and kept us from being airborne on the ones that couldn’t be avoided.
I wasn’t long on the road before seeing a sign for the Fromagerie Les Folies Bergeres. Well, who doesn’t like cheese?! So I stopped in at the road-side shop and checked it out. The farm has their own animals and produces their own ewe, goat and cow’s milk cheese right there. Luckily for me, the lady behind the counter spoke English and I was spared the need for much use of my poor French and hand gestures. I got to sample a couple of their cheeses, which made me wish I had a cooler on the bike. Not having one, I had to settle for a small bag of fresh curds to snack on. Life is tough.
After taking a brief break at Cheneville, we continued on to Mont-Tremblant. There is a big national park there, and the main drag was absolutely churning with traffic and people. Finally found a parking spot beside some other bikes that I could wedge Fury into and I went across the street to a food hut. Grabbed a quick hot dog and a slushie and then jumped back on Fury and got the heck outta there! I saw more motorbikes today than I have seen since I left British Columbia! I also noticed that there are tons more women on their own bikes in Quebec. I’m not special here at all. 😊
The whole day’s ride was beautiful. I spent a bit of time on the big highway getting out of Mont-Tremblant, but not much. Made the mistake of getting off it to buy some water at a gas station and had a heck of a time getting back on it. In contrast to the slow drivers and the 80 and 90 km zones all over Ontario, the Quebec speed limits are 90 to 100 kph and the drivers are generally doing upwards of 120 on the trans-Canada. As there was also a lot of traffic headed into Montreal, I got off the big highway at the first opportunity.
From Ottawa, the landscape changed pretty abruptly to rolling hills and then to taller mountains. The trees are unbelievably thick and make for a very peaceful ride. As I travelled along the northern road from Mont-Tremblant to Shawinigan, I wondered what made all the towns so saintly! I swear there were at least 10 communities on the route that were St. something or other.
The last hour and a half was the jiggyest, joggyest route I think I have ever been on, but it sure was interesting and kept me awake. At one point, google maps sent us down a rough road that turned into gravel about 5 kms along. At the end of the day, Fury and I weren’t having any of that, so we back-tracked and got back on the highway. Sure enough, the gps decided we could go a different way. We got to ride down all kinds of pretty, twisty roads with scenes varying from tree-covered mountains to lush crops.
It was wanting to rain on us by this time and I kept seeing some clearing sky, but every time we were close to it, we had to turn into the rain again. Fortunately, it never got too serious, and our last 30 minutes into Shawinigan were dry and mostly clear. It was a thoroughly pleasant ride and we arrived at Guylaine’s about 7:30 p.m. I have sure been one lucky girl with all of the hospitality that has been offered. I was more than ready for a shower and a laundry catch-up! Guylaine is going to be my tour guide for the next few days in Quebec, so my limited French will be bolstered with hers. Stay tuned for more amazing adventures….
Don't forget your short history lesson in Trivia Bits!