OCT 03,2008 - OCT 14,2008 (12 DAYS)
We traveled from Quebec City north, almost exclusively in the nature and country side. If you are not nature lovers, this trip is not for you…
We traveled in October, in order to avoid rain (and snow), to enjoy to autumn colors and to watch the flight of the wild geese. The drawbacks are the chilly weather, which made our picnics less enjoyable, and the fact that we missed the whale-watching season, that ends in the beginning of October (though you can still see some whales from the beach in cape Gaspe.
It was a great trip for the kids, visiting Niagara Falls, amusement parks, Quebec City and other outdoor attraction – watching wild animals, taking beautiful treks etc. As always, we involved the kids in the planning process. From our experience, when you go over the maps with them, explain the constraints and the tight schedule, children tend to be more patient during the trip itself. We also read together about the history and the culture of every place and city we visited, which made the trip more fun and interesting.
I heard a lot about the similarities between the island of Cape Breton and the Gaspe Peninsula. We took 2 thorough trips to Fundy beach and Nova Scotia and to Gaspe. Though there are similar aspects to the views, we think each destination deserves a trip of its own, since a long trip to both of them might leave you a bit exhausted.
By the way, I recently read in a well know travel journal the Fundy beach is one of the best places to visit in Canada – and I agree with all my heart…. Still, if I had to choose I would have gone with Gaspe: the views and natural attraction, at least in my opinions, were more impressive than the one’s you’ll find in cape Breton.
The next day we got up and headed to Canada Wonderland (formally known as “Paramount Amusement Park”). It’s the first and largest theme park in the country, including a water park and more than 50 different rides.
You can buy online a daily ticket for an a adult for 40$ (Canadian Dollar), or pay 59$ in the gate. Children and seniors pay 35$, and parking for the day will cost you 15$.
If you have children under the age of 10, I wouldn’t recommend visiting the park. Most of the rides are pretty aggressive, and are well suited for people with masochistic tendencies, like our elder ones…
We usually book our hotel rooms in advance, but we didn’t make such arrangements for the first 2 nights. Well, that was a big mistake. We started driving in the direction of Quebec City that evening, and decided to stop at the town of Kingston – the gate to the thousand islands – and naturally, because of the autumn season, all the hotels and motels were full. We couldn’t find a vacant room even in the next town, and the town after that. So we drove around with the kids till 22:00, eventually settling on a small lousy room, and hour drive from Montreal.
Take my advice – book in advance, especially if you are traveling with kids.
Oh, how we waited to visit this charming city… and the bigger the expectation, the bigger the disappointment. We were tired from the long drive, the weather was cold and the fact that we spent the night out of town, far away I should add, didn't help… So after a short meeting and discussion of the family board we decided we have to try again later on, after we will visit Gaspe Peninsula. We promised ourselves we will stay in a 5 stars hotel in the old city (preferably Chateau Frontenac), dine in one of the best restaurant in town and the next day go up for a brunch in L’Astral, the revolving restaurant at the top of the tower… but will come back to that later in the post.
during the fall –the migration season - thousands of wild geese tend to visit the reservation. The workers of the reservation have placed advanced telescopes for the visitors, so you can watch the geese without getting close. I recommend a visit – especially if you are traveling in the fall.
The next day we made our way to Bic, a national park located on the south shore of Sainte Lawrence River, near the villages of Bic and Saint-Fabien. We took a ferry to the town of Rivière du Loup, and from there continued with the car to the park.
You shouldn’t miss out on this wonderful park. It’s a magical place, with lots of easy walking trails, passing along side small bays, surrounded by rocky hills and gorgeous mountain picks, as well as a seals reservation. You can see the seal on the high tides from Cape Caribou, and if you arrived on the low tide and missed them – don’t worry: you can also catch them on the bird reservation on Percé Rock, where they swim peacefully in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence.
We visited Bic Park twice: once going up to Gaspe and once going down. The first time the tide was high, so we spent some time watching the seals. The second time the tide was low, and we took a nice stroll through the park. both times we had a great day.
Hell's Gate Canyon (English name) - We went on a 30 Km trek from Hells Gate Canyon to Rimouski River. The trail runs in the deep a narrow canyon, formed from the power and velocity of the water. The trail passes by beautiful waterfalls, and we found it more impressive than Canyon Sainte Anne.
Gaspésie Park is like a real heaven for trek lovers; unfortunately for, heavens gates were closed due to the bad weather… The park includes the Chik-Chok mountain range, but it’s open for visitors only till the end of September. Since 2 thirds of the park were out of bounds, we climbed up Olivine Mountain. The walking train was very nice, not too long, and it reaches all the way to the summit. But again, if you’ll come at the right season, you’ll find a verity of other, more attractive trails in the park.
Road 132 the longest highway in Quebec, and it’s a breathtaking route that you don’t want to miss. The road follows the south shore of the Saint Lawrence River, starting from the border of New York state (hamlet of Dundee and circling the Gaspé Peninsula.
On your right, to the inland, you’ll see high waterfalls dropping from the mountain cliffs into the ocean; On the left, amazing inlets and creeks, the calm blue ocean, seagulls and cormorants, and the seductive gold-white sands…
The route passes by small fishermen villages, charming and serene, where you’ll find lots of food stands serving sea fruits, hamburgers and excellent poutine - a typical Canadian dish made from french fries topped with brown gravy and cheese curds (a real delicacy). You can order a plate and sit by the promenade, or catch one of the many picnic tables by the beaches.
Though we have been in many national parks, Forillon has a warm spot in our hearts. I think you have to visit it to understand its magic, and I can’t recommend enough that you’ll do just that.
There are a lot of walking trails in Forillon, so here is a short list:
The next day we drove to Percé, taking yet again the scenery route 132. Going down to the city, the view of the famous Percé rock is very impressive.
You really must take the cruise to Bonaventure Island, no question about it. From the boat you can see whales, earless seals and the famous northern Gannets (from the Sulidae family). A visit to the Sulidae reservation in the island is a fun (and a little smelly and loud) experience no matter what your age is.
Miguasha National Park (Parc national de Miguasha) is located area near Carleton-sur-Mer on the Gaspé Peninsula. It’s an interesting, surprising and highly recommended park to visit. We spent an hour an half there, and visited the museum, which features exhibits about the fossils and paleontology of the park. The collection includes over 9,000 specimens of fossil fish and plants, displaying a crucial time during the evolution of life on Earth.
The valley is very pastoral, and the colors in the fall are absolutely spectacular. We were surprised and enchanted. To get to the valley you need to drive on the road by Matapédia River.
Across the valley you’ll find lots of walking trails that leads to different waterfalls, passing beautiful wooden bridges. I recommend you’ll try the trail to Picot waterfall, near the town of Saint André. It’s a nice circular route, not too long, and it passes by beautiful terraced waterfalls.
As promised, we went back to Quebec City, this time wiser, more experienced, and with a deep understanding: while you get to know Mother Nature with your feet, you get to know the city mainly with your wallet…
We planned to spend the night in “Chateau Frontenac”, but so did a lot of other people… luckily we found a room in another exclusive hotel – “Lowes La Concorde”. We had our breakfast at “L’Astral” restaurant at the top of the hotel – an amazing experience for the kids.
Café De Monde - We had a great meal in this lovely bistro by the harbor. It’s a very decorative place, which offers a French menu with tempting Entrées and delicious main plates. It has a Parisian ambiance and the prices aren’t high. The waiters were very pleasant, and they sang the theme from “The Love Boat” every time a ship was leaving the harbor… I can warmly recommend this place.
There is a great Pizzeria in the place royal square downtown, that offers tasty slices and delicious lasagna.