Bonjour! (More on that in a minute…)
Before leaving Ottawa last Thursday, we made another trip downtown since the weather was much nicer than the previous day. There was still more to see, like the Prime Minister’s office:
…and their impressive Parliament Hill:
The good spirits from Canada Day still lingered in the air, especially from this friendly police officer:
We thought we were seizing a rare opportunity to pick up some items at IKEA, but we ended up passing at least two others as we continued through Ontario and Québec.
That evening, we boondocked next to the barn of our host Jean-Pierre in (very) rural Glen Robertson, Ontario:
Traveling the next morning, we noticed the road signs were only in French. When I snapped these photos, I imagined telling a story of a freaky little Canadian town that was so backwoods only French was spoken there. But non! Turns out this was the start of a weeklong new reality of feeling like an illiterate foreigner:
We didn’t have any good boondocking options for Friday, so we ponied up for our first paid site with full hookups at an actual campground. (Full hookups = long showers.)
Friday was an easy travel day, so we had most of the day left to explore Montreal. We drove the Jeep a reasonable distance into downtown but then took the subway to our final destination: Old Montreal.
Public transportation isn’t anything I’d call fun, but it is a great way to dive into the local population and get a sense of what a city is like.
We walked the cobble stone streets of Old Montreal, perused the shops and watched some street performers. It was interesting, I suppose, but Amy had a more apt description: tourist trap:
After driving most of the day on Saturday, we stopped in Rivière-du-Loup, Quebec for dinner and to enjoy some welcomed natural scenery. This is the kind of stuff we like:
We also tried to order ice cream using our limited French. It’s amazing how far one can get with simple words like please, thank you, and general pointing and grunting in a friendly manner.
We had no idea where we were going to camp Saturday night. There was a local Walmart, but we feared that it would be one of the many Canadian Walmarts where overnight parking is not allowed. Our fears were unfounded:
Reason #592 why I love RVing: With no internet and really nothing else to do most late evenings, sweet boredom sets in and drives us to desperate measures of socializing together in ways we just don’t seem to do at home.
Sunday was another long travel day with no definite end-goal in mind. We landed at a nice little city park in Carleton-sur-Mer, Quebec to eat dinner, take a walk and burn up some energy:
We drove a few miles to the next little town of Maria, Quebec and found a nice church parking lot complete with a creepy 19th century French graveyard. Good ’nuff.
I hardly ever get sick, so it’s perhaps fitting that I caught a terrible cold while on vacation. I stayed pretty well coked up on this stuff, however, which added a nice dream-like, ethereal dimension to our travels. Canada’s awesome! (Amy drove.)
On Monday we hustled to Percé, Quebec for a boat trip to Parc de l’Ile Bonaventure et du-Roche-Percé. This rock is the iconic image from the Gaspé Peninsula, our furthest-most destination for this trip:
Bonaventure Island provides a good habitat for grey seals:
The boat trip included a stop on Bonaventure Island where we did some hiking:
Our trail led to the largest, most accessible nesting ground for thousands of Northern gannets, all of whom sound highly annoyed with one another:
More hiking the next morning at Forillon National Park; our first sign of whales in the Chaleur Bay. We later learned that it could have been a humpback or fin whale:
The girls were too tired, but Amy and I took in one more hike Tuesday evening to a wonderful lookout over the mouth of the St. Lawrence River:
I’ll just say it: these hills suck. The past several days the RV has been grinding its way up steep roads at 25 mph and then careening down the other side at 70+ mph. It’s hard on the RV and mentally exhausting for us. I don’t recall roads like this since the Rocky Mountains.
Our brakes were smoking after a particularly grueling series of climbs and descents on Tuesday evening, so we stopped at a little pull-off to let them cool. We ended up just calling it a night and slept to the soothing sound of waves lapping the rocky shore. It was fantastic.
By Wednesday we had reached Trois-Pistoles, Quebec, completing our circle of the Gaspé Peninsula. We settled in for the night near the dock where our ferry would leave the next morning, taking us to the northern shore of the St. Lawrence River:
All of the towns we’ve been passing through have similar characteristics: quaint homes, cozy inns, maybe a market or two and a prominent church with a majestic steeple.
Thursday morning was our big ferry ride. They packed us in like sardines. The ride took an hour and a half to cross the St. Lawrence. It is a very wide river.
I have two things to say about this Canadian junk food discovery: 1) try these if you can find them, 2) you’re welcome:
Thursday night we splurged again on a local campground campsite in Tadoussac, Quebec. Given that we were low on water, needed to empty our waste tanks and were all a little desperate for WiFi, this was a great option.
Settling in at a camping spot early also gave us some time to take in a quick evening hike along the Saguenay Fjord:
Friday morning, we drove the Jeep to Cap-de-Bon-Désir, a popular spot for whale watching in the St. Lawrence River. We saw several white Beluga whales and a couple of these Minke whales:
People participated at different levels:
They don’t apparently believe in bridges around Tadoussac, so we took another ferry across the Saguenay River:
The first Walmart we landed at outside of Quebec City on Friday night didn’t allow overnight parking, but we found one not too far away that did.
Tomorrow we venture into Quebec City, which — we’ve been warned — could be the most challenging for us non-French speakers. The forecast calls for party haughty with a chance of snootiness.
Prove me wrong, Quebec City. Prove me wrong…