The Return of the Road Trip
I have travelled around the world – Ethiopia, China, Italy, Mexico and many other places. In all of these countries, I visited amazing cultural and geological sites and had fantastic experiences. Coming from Canada where there is limited cultural sites compared to ancient civilizations, it is very common to travel overseas. With COVID heavily restricting travel we decided to do a road trip near home.
Even though we decided to stay near home, we initially thought of visiting the maritime provinces of Canada – Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and PEI. Unfortunately (or fortunately) the borders to these provinces were closed or restricted, leading us to stay within our home province of Quebec. With our ten month old son, we charted a two week road-trip that would mix hotels, camping and rustic camps in 4 provincial parks.
Leaving from Montreal, we headed to the Eastern Townships and continued along the way to Mont-Megantic national park, camping two nights on the mountain. It was a beautiful park with lush forests, fresh rivers and clear skies. The mountain has an observatory at the top and the entire region dims their lights at night so people can clearly observe the cosmic universe. We had to hike three kilometres up the mountain to get to our shelter, with baby, gear and water in tow. Through the sweat and effort we started to loosen the mental shackles of our urban living. After two nights on the mountain we descended and went to visit a friend who had a hunting lodge nearby.
A key part of our trip was not only to visit amazing sites, but also to visit people along the way. Friends, Friends of Friends and professional contacts were spread out along our trip, allowing us to learn more about the local communities and change up the limited conversations we could have with our ten month old! People are as fascinating as any national park and the diversity of people and sites helped make this trip amazing.
We then headed through the region of Beauce and stayed one night in Kamouraska, on the banks of the St. Laurent river. A cute village with delicious fish and lovely cafés, it was a perfect spot to recover after our brief stint of mountain camping.
From Kamouraska, we headed down the St. Laurent to Rimouski where we visited the Parc du Bic and the Jardin de Métis. Both sites were amazing. The Parc du Bic is a peninsula and island in the St. Laurent with stunning views and shorelines, it is truly worth a visit. The Jard de Métis is a large English Garden that was started by the President of CP Rail, but is now run by the government. In Rimouski, we had some delicious microbrews and food and visited the parents of a good friend of ours. After two nights, we continued our journey along the river to the Parc de la Gaspésie.
The Parc de la Gaspésie is near the end of the Appalachian trail that starts in Virginia and contains thousands of kilometres of hiking. I had been to this park twice during the winter to do back-country skiing, but it was my first summer visit. Despite modest peaks of 1000-1200 m, a good portion of the hiking is done above the tree line and you have amazing vistas of dozens of untouched mountains that continue into the sunset. If there is one thing you can say about Québec, it’s that we have a lot of space! This park is famous for its moose, of which we saw one and for its wild side. With a ten month old we had limited hiking times, but we still got to see some amazing views. After three days in the park, we headed down and back to the seaside town of Matane.
From Matane took a ferry (that went way over budget) to the North Shore of the river. Landing at Baie-Comeau, we drove half an hour to Pointe-aux-Outardes Nature Park, a beautiful peninsula that has long sandy beaches and rich wetlands full of birds. The Park is managed as a non-profit organization and has great paths and explanations as well as a variety of camping options. We camped out on the beach for two nights where made fires and swam in the St. Laurent. It was a truly magical place and I highly recommend a visit if you are in that neighbourhood. From there, we drove back up the river to Tadoussac, famous for its whale watching.
In Tadoussac, we hiked down the sandy dunes to swim in the rather frigid, but crystal clear water of the St. Laurent and the mouth of the Saguenay river. Tadoussac is a cute village with another amazing microbrewery. There seems to be a great brewery in each town we visit – what a coincidence! From there we took the short ferry to St. Siméon.
Near St. Siméon we visited a friend who had a lovely farmhouse and ate lots of her cookies while observing an amazing view of the Charlevoix region. We continued though Malbaie, to the national parc at the Hautes Gorges de la Malbaie and then into Baie St. Paul. We were fortunate to follow a porcupine through a garden and then bumped into old friends of ours. We had drinks together and I discovered that you can make eau–de-vie from leftover milk! Who knew? Charlevoix is already known as beautiful place, so I do not think I need to further promote it!
From Baie St. Paul, we went through Quebec city to see the exhibit on Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, and then drove home.
If there is one thing that came from this road trip, it is the realization that you do not travel the world to see amazing things and eat delicious food. With Google and online reservation systems it has never been easier to travel. We booked things as we went and changed our plans based on the weather. At least in Québec and I would say Canada, there are truly stupendous things to see. All you need to do is get in your car and drive!Published on July 12, 2020