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!