Fall is probably the best time to go to Quebec. Lots of tourists visit at that time of the year to see the leaves changing colors. The trees become a palette of yellow, orange and an unprecedented red.
Jason decided on visiting the family in Montreal at the beginning of October, when the color show was supposed to be at its peak. It turned into a perfect time to be there. For two weeks we had t-shirt weather and the temperature was just perfect to explore and sight see. Since we already flew all way from Yellowknife to Montreal, we wanted to make some use of this long trip. We decided to go on a road trip. First stop was Tadoussac, a small village on the shore of the St. Lawrence River, a great spot for whale watching. On our way back we planned a stop in Quebec City, which is one of the oldest and most beautiful places in North America. We borrowed Jason’s sister’s car and hit Chemin du Roy, the King’s Road. It is the old scenic road from Montreal to Quebec City, full of nice little restaurants and attractions like cheese and soap factories. This route, built at the beginning of 18th century, reminded me about old style European roads. It goes along the north shore of St. Lawrence River and through every little town and village, which makes driving from Montreal to Quebec City twice as long as driving on the Trans Canada Highway on the other side of the river. Our goal was to admire the fall colors and to see as much as possible of Quebec so Chemin du Roy sounded like a great choice for us. We gave ourselves the whole day to enjoy the picturesque drive, through old villages and along the river.
Not too far from Montreal, we stopped for lunch in a roadside restaurant, which looked like a barn and was full of cow images. There were even real size fake cows. We ordered two hot dogs, which are very popular in Quebec and a poutine. Don’t know what poutine is? Neither did I until I met Jason. He was the one who introduced me to this Quebecois dish made of french fries covered with curd cheese and gravy. It is so popular in Quebec that they have local fast food restaurant chains serving mainly hot dogs and poutine: La Belle Province and Lafleurs. We had tried poutine at many places in Yellowknife and once Jason even made a poutine theme party, but there was always one thing wrong…. the cheese didn’t squeak. I had no idea what he was talking about, until we stopped in that cow kingdom on the King’s Road. This is where I found out that freshly made curd cheese indeed can squeak cheerfully. Very full and content after our greasy and delicious lunch we got back to the car. Our trip to Tadoussac on the Chemin du Roy turned into an all day long drive. Since it was October, we drove in the pitch black the last few hours. Shortly before Tadoussac, a huge moose ran across the road. It was maybe 3 meters in front of the car. There were no street lights so we saw it at the very last minute in our head lights. It disappeared as quickly as it showed. We had a lot of luck that we didn’t hit it. The moose was big enough to kill both of us at the spot in our tiny little car. Eventually we made it safe and sound to our hostel in Tadoussac. We were crazy tired and didn’t have energy to do much. We just grabed a beer at the hostel bar and went for a small walk around. Tadoussac is a little tourist village, beautiful situated where the Saguenay Fjord meets the St. Lawrence River. It has a climate of small fishermen village with its narrow streets and charming, old, little houses. Hotel Tadoussac, with its red roof built in anglo-norman style in 1864 is the main landmark of this place. The biggest attraction here is the whale watching. From the middle of May to the middle of October 12 species (plus belugas which live here a year round) of whale are coming to this relatively small area, which makes it one of the best places in the world to observe them. You can learn more about this at Centre d’Interpretation des Mammiferes Marins.
Next day we woke up early in the morning and headed out to the harbor, looking for some whale watching cruises. It was off season, so it wasn’t hard to get last minute tickets. We were thinking about a Zodiac trip, 8-10 people inflatable pontoon boats which are getting really close to the whales ,and because they are very small you can experience the enormous size of those mammals better. The whole night it rained and the morning was very chilly and windy and we didn’t pack too much gear and warm clothes, so eventually we decided on the big boat cruise. That was a good idea because when we got to the middle of the St. Lawrence river, it got even colder and windier. We were very thankful for an inside part of the boat, where we could warm up and grab a cup of tea. During the cruise we saw a few humpbacks and belugas. At some point our guide screamed: a blue whale on your left! Blue Whales are the biggest living mammals in the world and we just saw one. At least that what they told us, because what we saw was just a very tip of its back, which is about 1/10 of the whole animal. With our whale knowledge and experience it is hard to say if that was actually a blue whale. The coolest view on that entire trip was watching seals chilling out with their cubs on the water. We passed them by pretty close, but they seemed to not to care at all. The whole cruise took three hours. By the end of it we were both cold to the bones and the only thing we could think about was a bowl of a hot soup. Finally we got our hot and steamy bowls of chowder made of local seafood. After lunch we hit the road again, heading back towards Quebec City.