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.