I chose the hotel where we were staying in Quebec City because it had an indoor pool and spa, which we made full use of, but it is there that or whole trip around Quebec fell into place.
In between the bubbles of the spa, I met a lovely lady, the wife of a tourist bus driver who knew the area like the back of his hand. Every place we have been staying since has been thanks to their kind advice and the precious list of place to stay they gave us. Joanne and Jean René, when you are reading this, thank you from the bottom of our heart.
They sent us to Saint Simeon, a dot on the map which we would have otherwise missed. There, our room had a balcony which overlooked the wide Saint Laurent river, from pine covered hills slopping into the water on the left, to a golden beach to the ferry station on the right.
Imagine this, early evening, when the air starts to turn golden, you are leaning on a balcony with a glass of wine facing the river as the ferry is slowly arriving. The next door neighbour is playing local ballads on his accordeon, and there, in the water, a pod of pure white belugas (a kind of mini whales) are playing and jumping around, flashing their marble like bodies in the sun... Yep, another one for the memory box.
We spent two days here, soaking in the landscape, walking on the beach and watching the ballet of the slow ferries carrying an increasing load of vehicles across the river to Riviere du Loup (wolf's river) and Gaspesie on the other side.
Following the Fjord Route, we took a ferry across the river to Tadoussac, an adorable village nested in one of the most beautiful bay in the world. The river is so deep here, the water is more black than blue and hides a fishing paradise. The dramatic landscape tells a long story of the epic battle between water and stone as you walk along the river shores.
Our next destination will remain a favourite for Maxim and Callum. We stayed for one night at the Ferme cinq étoiles, the 5 star farm. It sits in the middle of the forest, half farm, half wild animals refuge. Paul went on a bike ride in the forest while Maxim and Callum got to cuddle a one month old racoon and give a bottle of milk to a hungry baby moose. They came nose to nose with wild artic wolves and cougars. They feed goats, chicken and horses, played for hours with kittens and walked among a gang of 50 huskies (on holiday after a busy winter pulling people through the forest). We fell asleep to the sound of howling wolfes and woke up to the sounds of forest birds, refreshed and somehow renewed.
Next, we stayed in the charming town of Chicoutimi, in a place with a real kitchen and a very confortable living room to chill out in. We were looked after by Sophie, from St André in Reunion Island. So nice to hear an accent from home again. For the last seven years, Quebec has worked hard to attract hundreds of young creoles from Reunion. They have the opportunity to study here for three years with a French governement allowance then they can apply to become residents and eventually canadian. As Sophie said, everybody wins, it is a chance of a lifetime for a well educated young person, it means more french speakers for Quebec and less unemployed in la Reunion. One of the new migrants even became a finalist at the canadian version of X Factor, making creoles very popular overnight. For Sophie everything is possible here.
We spent two days in Chicoutimi, enough time to cook a few healthy dishes, explore the old harbour and for Maxim and Callum to play with water canons for a whole hot afternoon.
Still using the precious list, we are now in the Saint Antoine Hermitage, overlooking the pristine waters of Lake Bouchette, in the middle of a pine and peuplar forest. The peace and serenity of this place is magical. I went alone for a long walk in the forest, feeling absolutly safe and in harmony with nature ( in between chasing a miriad of bugs away from my face). We will stay here for another night before heading down towards Montreal along the Rivers Route. Quebec is finally working its charm on us.