Au Revoir, Quebec!
Visiting Quebec has been like a mini vacation to Europe. The Quebecois do a fantastic job of creating an entirely different culture inside their borders and we surely have enjoyed it. Today, however, will likely be our last day in the province. Our original plan was to traverse the entire Gaspe peninsula, but last night we decided we would rather move on and begin our New Brunswick adventure. It's not that Gaspesie isn't beautiful, because it definitely is, and we've been enjoying the landscape and seaside towns, but we just felt burdened by the amount of time we would have to spend getting around the peninsula and figured our time was better spent elsewhere.
From our time in Montreal, we made the short jaunt to Quebec city, where we stayed just across the river in St Nicolas at the Sous Bois campground, a cute little place with twice daily train rides for kids.
Tuesday we got an early start and headed into Quebec, where the walled city contains many of the firsts for the continent (first girls school, first seminary, first poutine, etc.). Our first stop was the Parliament building, Canada's original capital building, located just outside the wall. It was certainly impressive.
We then walked a bit of the wall to the Citadel, built in a hurry to protect the city from those jerk Americans who kept trying to invade the area, but never made an attempt once the Citadel was underway. By then it was nearing lunch so I grabbed a quick salad and then we went to Chez Ashton so Ryan could dine on poutine at the very establishment that claims to have invented it. His assessment: it's pretty OK and soon turns to drudgery, suffering from the nacho problem of sogginess at the bottom.
After lunch, we strolled around Old Town (inside the wall), visiting the Latin Quarter (the first seminary with a 400+ year old garden), the Chateau Frontenac (the most photographed hotel in the world), Place Royal, petite Champlain (North America's narrowest street), and the Governor's Garden where we rested in the shade. It was a hot, humid day and we were weary from all the walking, so we headed back to camp, but not before seeing a tree growing around a cannon ball!
Wednesday was a travel day and we headed northeast toward the Gaspe (or Gaspesie, as the Quebecois call it) peninsula. We overnighted at a Walmart in Rimouski along with a small city of RVs. We have never seen so many RVs outside of a campground or a dealership.
The drive along the St Lawrence River has been beautiful! The landscape is a mix of rolling hills, craggy outcroppings, and open fields, all dotted with seaside villages. While the St Lawrence is a river, it is widening as we drive northeast and it experiences tides because of its proximity to the Atlantic, so it really does feel more like an ocean here, with the opposite shore barely visible in the distance. We also experienced some storms during our drive on Wednesday, making it all feel like the ends of the Earth.
Yesterday was a beautiful day and we made the most of it. From Rimouski, we backtracked just a little to Bic National Park, our first Canadian national park. It was a modest park along the coast, half of which is aquatic. During low tide we walked out to Ile aux Amours, exploring the island and the beaches. From the island we saw beautiful coastal scapes. We also explored Pointe aux Epinettes with a fantastic overlook of the river and bays.
From Bic, we headed northeast to Grand Metis and the Redford Gardens (aka Jardins de Grand Metis). The property was once owned by a rich family and the matron built extensive gardens of British plants. They are incredible! We strolled all of the gardens, the museum of gardening tools, the lodge, and the International Garden Festival. I think the stream garden and the vegetable garden were my favorites. I could live in the stream garden and it flooded me with nostalgia and visions of books and dreams I had as a child.
The International Garden Festival is a mix of gardens, woods, and art. At the end you get to vote on a favorite. There were a couple we liked, but our favorite was Le Bois de Biais et sa Folie, a mix of willows and poplars with a wooden staircase and platform at the center. It was a bit Burning Man esque.
After a long day of walking yesterday, we settled on the Camping Parc Sirois la Baleine in Matane. Last night we decided we would head south to New Brunswick starting today. We have thoroughly enjoyed our time in Quebec, but it is time to move on. We don't have exact plans for the next few days, but that's OK. Au revoir!