Photo: Old Quebec City.
We left the Polish community of Wilno, Ontario and got back on the highway, headed for Quebec. Along the way Janice researched some RV parks close to Gatineau and then chose one of the campsites listed on the GPS, (Susan’s) campsite menu. It was all good as we approached Ottawa, looking like we would neatly skirt the city. Twenty minutes later we were in the midst of a construction zone in downtown Ottawa. Across the bridge, ‘Susan’ then took us to downtown Gatineau, Quebec, to a camping supply retailer, right in the heart of Gatineau, at rush hour.
Eventually, with a new and specific set of instructions, Susan delivered us to a rather damp campsite at Masson-Angers, a few miles east of Gatineau. We toured the town by truck and then chose a diner with an outdoor patio for a beer and fish and chips. So far everyone in Quebec is cooperating by speaking fluent English. Back at the trailer, we watched a very different but interesting movie from Ireland called, of all things, ‘Intermission’. ‘Intermission’ is also our pet name for the trip we’re on. Thunder and lightning knocked out the power for a bit.
The next day we travelled the north side of the Ottawa River, through some very pretty little towns, towards Montreal. Jean Francois Allard, a fellow CFIB’r from Montreal, whom I met last year in Toronto when we were receiving the same award, asked me to call him when we were getting near his city, so I did. The trouble was that he was on holiday at Lake Ontario. He did tell us about a great RV park right in Longueil though.
Susan took us on an odd route again to Longueil, getting us lost for an hour before we finally found the camp ground, right on the doorstep of Montreal, where we could see the city skyline across the St. Lawrence River. We only had to cross the St. Lawrence River via the Jacques Cartier Bridge and we were downtown. I don’t think Susan understands French navigation very well.
Photo: The Montreal skyline with the Jacques Cartier Bridge and the St. Lawrence River, from our campsite.
The first day in Montreal, after we had set up camp, I led Janice to Old Montreal, which I was certain I had identified on the drive into the city. The street was closed to vehicular traffic so we wandered down to a quaint sidewalk café called The Kilo. After ordering, Janice asked the waitress, “This is old Montreal isn’t it?” The waitress laughed and replied, “No, this is The Village – the Gay Village.” The food was good though and the people-watching was over the top, so we strolled down to the end of the strip where African Days were being celebrated. There was a really good African band playing there. I wish now I had gotten their name so I could have Googled them.
Photo: A street corner at The Village on St. Catherine’s Street, Montreal.
Photo: The African band on St. Catharine’s street at The Village in Montreal. The woman at right was perhaps the most blissful musician I’ve seen. She was playing a very unusual instrument that sounded, at the same time, mellow and brilliant.
We skirted the real Old Montreal by truck, scouting it out for the next day. Back at camp we put the bikes together and began riding the Route Verte, a trail that follows the St. Lawrence River, for miles as it turns out. We crossed the footbridge over the highway and biked around Longueil, scouting for a restaurant where we might get a genuine taste of Quebec cuisine. We found a busy one with a nice patio, the Chez Vincent, so we stopped for a quick beer. It looked like it would be worth a trip back the next night to try the mussels and fries that we saw lots of people eating.
Back at camp, sitting by the riverbank having a glass of wine, we were startled by a skunk but, thankfully, it disappeared without blasting us.
Photo: A crane poses on the St. Lawrence River just before successfully stabbing a fish.
The next day was sunny as we drove into Montreal where we parked the truck at Mont Royale, in a free zone. We got on our bikes and, with me once more refusing to look at the map in order to get our bearings, immediately got turned around, so that we ended seeing quite a bit more of the Mont Royale district than originally planned. Eventually we found the Latin Quarter where we shared pozole, a mixed salad and ceviche at a great little Mexican restaurant called Manana. It was very delicious food but I’d still have to say that our friend, Jose, in Kamloops, makes the best pozole.
Photo: Janice enjoys a marguerita at Mana Mexican restaurant at the Mont Royale district, Montreal.
We rode down to the waterfront, to the Clock Tower, for a view of the city, where Janice, true to form, casually hung from the minute hand in order to get a good shot of downtown Montreal. I stood quivering, my back to the concrete pillar, sweat pooling in my Crocs.
Photo: Janice, just before she hangs from the minute hand in order to get the right shot.
Photo: Janice’s shot of Montreal that she took from the clock tower.
Photo: Tim tries to act relaxed in the clock tower as the sweat pools in his Crocs.
Riding on to Old Montreal it was hard to get the feeling of being in the past while milling around with teems of other tourists. The hundreds-of-years-old cobblestone roads in Old Montreal were pretty lumpy too, especially considering the fold-up bikes’ small wheels and lack of suspension. Montreal is very bike friendly though and it’s a great way to see the city.
Photo: Old Montreal.
Photo: Old Montreal.
Later we walked over the footbridge to Longueil, returning to Chez Vincent for the mussels and fries mentioned earlier. My thin crust pizza was delicious, as were the tiny curly fries. Janice loved the mussels and, while I had a few of them, to me, the odd one still tastes exactly like what I imagine the taste of where-the-mud-meets-the-creosote-pier to be. On our walk back to the trailer we stopped for a nightcap on the deck of the marina that adjoined our RV Park. The exercise was a little over-the-top that day so I’m guessing that I probably snored that night.
Montreal was the first place we got digital TV channels with our trailer antenna.
There was some confusion Saturday morning when, back on the road, we were headed east, for Quebec City. Susan wanted to take us over to Highway 20 while we wanted to stick by the water on the scenic route. It turned out that, between fighting Susan and the fact that there was a lot of construction taking place along the scenic route, we ended up doing most of the trip on Hwy 20. Susan led us to a conveniently located RV park just eight kilometers from downtown, but not before she had first taken us almost to the Citadel in Old Quebec City, where streets are very narrow and traffic is heavy.
The RV Park supplied a shuttle to-and-from Old Quebec City. It left at 6:00 pm and returned at 10:30 pm so we happily paid the $12 per person, return, to leave the driving to them. Before we took off we had time to get cleaned up and to do a little internet stuff.
In Old Quebec City we strolled around the obligatory Plains of Abraham and the rest of the old district, where an impressive array of buskers entertained.
Photo: Quebec City harbour from the Plains of Abraham.
We settled on dinner at Anciens Canadiens, recommended to us by our shuttle driver as the most authentic French Canadian place to eat. He was right. It was exceptional. We ordered the all-inclusive meals that have an appetizer, soup, entrée and dessert, all for one price – a pretty high price by our standards – with a bottle of Quebec wine, and tip, $193.55. It was wholly worth it though to taste wild game pate with candied carrots, baked beans, pea soup, turnip and maple syrup soup, wild game tortier with pheasant, bison casserole, duckling in maple syrup sauce, mom’s chocolate cake, maple syrup pie with whipped cream, plus a trio of sherbets. Yes, ‘stuffed’ would be entirely appropriate. When the waiter brought the bill he also put down two complimentary frozen shots of Vodka.
Photo: Anciens Candien Restaurant in Old Quebec City.
Leaving the restaurant, we hiked the steepest route back to The Citadel, where we caught the fireworks finalé.
Photo: The entrance gate to Old Quebec City.
Photo: A slightly blurry shot of Old Quebec City from the Citadel, with fireworks to the right.
We ended up taking the slow road out of Quebec, along the south shore of the St. Lawrence River/Seaway, past a lot of quaint villages. A coffee table book could, and probably has, been dedicated to the unique architecture evident everywhere you look – full of curlicues and cornices and multi-coloured paint and other things that lend so much character to the dwellings.
Photo: A pictuesque old mill along the St. Lawrence River, near Saint-Pascal.
Our last night in Quebec was spent outside Rivière-du-Loup, at a private full hook-up RV Park that included WiFi, laundry and a pool. It’s a delightful and much appreciated pleasure to enjoy all the amenities once in a while. In this case though, the pool was a little suspect. One end was roped off because it was all murky but swimmers were allowed in the other end! Still, the park charged a young travelling couple, who just wanted a swim, $1 each to use the pool.
We did a little laundry, Skyped our moms, and then invited ourselves to some chatty neighbours’ from across the road. They had a roaring fire going and a bunch of kids milling about. We only stayed for half an hour or so because they were a little too tame for our tastes.
In the morning I struck up a conversation with our immediate neighbours, from California, who were pulling up stakes. It turned out they were basically killing time in their “Motor Coach” and were only touring the area to get away from the California summer heat. I could tell, as they took measure of our unit, that the term “Motor Coach” carried some significance in their perception of the RV world. They couldn’t wait to get back to their place in Palm Springs. It was the first time we had run into any kind of pretension displayed by another RVer. It was both amusing and perplexing.
We took a drive into and around Rivière-du-Loup before getting back on the highway, headed south towardsNew Brunswick. We took Highway 185, stopping in at a roadside Fromagerie where we picked up three really good local cheeses.
Half an hour later we were in New Brunswick…