Monday, July 31, 2017

Phoque à l'orange

Gordon:  We had the quintessential Canadian day today: pancakes with real maple syrup for breakfast, followed by a morning clubbing the seals.  Just kidding, we had bread and jam for breakfast.

We have been fortunate to see a number of interesting wild animals in recent days.  This 
morning we were cycling along the coast with a rock garden just offshore.  For several kilometres most of the rocks had one or more seals on them.  (The French word for a seal is "phoque".  I think that Ruth agreed to cycle in Quebec just for the opportunity to say phoque, proving that 12 year old humour is not just for guys.)

Yesterday we made an early stop for water in the RV campground in the Parc du Bic.  Systematically working the area was a beautiful red fox.  I have seen foxes before, but I have never had the opportunity to observe one over a period of several minutes.  The fox finally found a tasty morsel beside one of the fire pits and dashed off into the underbrush.

There are lots of waterfowl in the shallow areas along the sea. these include sea gulls, cormorants, mallards, and eider ducks.  I am intrigued by the latter (which are known locally as "le canard duvet") because I thought they were uncommon.  The eider ducks are similar in size to the mallards, and as it is no longer "la saison d'amour" (the mating season) both genders have similar dark plumage.

Ruth: I have to cut Gord off here, the Phoque à l'orange is almost ready. 

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Le Gaspésie

Ruth: Now that Gord has lost his shopping privileges things are going much better. I choked down the pea soup last night, but I don't plan on eating that again. For the record I have always respected the fact that Gord's mother regected the gender expectations of the 1950's and wasn't into domestic arts like cooking. 

Tonight's dinner kicked things up a notch with brown beans and all sorts of goodies. I know how to live. 

We are now on the Gaspé. The brown water of the St Lawrence is gone and has been replaced with beautiful blue ocean. 

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Poutine and pea soup

Gordon:  We lose weight on many days when we are touring, but then there are the days when we have poutine for breakfast.  Today was one of those days.  On the recommendation of the Tourist Office, we went to a popular local restaurant for second breakfast around 10 am.  We were hungry, so the "poutine du matin", which frequentply appears on menus, was very appealing.  "Poutine du matin" covers all the food groups: fries, cheese curds, sausages, green peppers, and mushrooms, all in a lake of hollandais sauce.  For $9.25 each we were presented with more food than should be consumed in a day by anyone not actively engaged in an ultra marathon.  It was perfect.

A few moments later, however, I committed a marital faux pas.  On this rare occasion that I was trusted to do the daily food shopping, I emerged triumphant with a baguette, a bag of carrots, and, in a tip of the hat to local cuisine, a large can of Québécois pea soup.  The look on Ruth's face should have been captured on film: that was not the dinner she was hoping for.  I argued that pea soup is a local dish and that my mother had often made it - oh, and it's very inexpensive.  Ruth countered with disparaging remarks regarding my economy, as well as my Mom's cooking (ouch).  However, as the old saying goes "hunger is the best sauce".  I am counting on a cyclist's appetite to make tonight's dinner delicious.

We will be having that dinner in a cyclist's campground in the Parc national du Bic.  This is the first such campground that we have stayed in.  Most of the campgrounds are party places for RVs wanting full service hookups, a pool, and a shop.  This biker spot is a clearing in the forest with an outhouse and a cooking shelter.  Demand for such places is so minimal that several of the park rangers were unaware of its existence.  That is particularly surprising given that there is an extensive network of bicycle trails in this gorgeous seaside park.  In any event, we are enjoying the campsite very much.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Quebec towards the Gaspé

Ruth: A new chapter of our trip began when we took the ferry across the St. Laurence from Quebec City.  We are now heading up to the Gaspé peninsula through beautiful towns and countryside. Just mentioning the word Gaspé terrifies and excites me. All conversations include praise for the beauty and warnings about the hills. We have had a few tastes of rural Quebec roads and how the art of  building roads to contour and reduce grades never made it here. We continue to have options and can cut through the peninsula if we need to, but the draw of the Gaspé is strong for both of us.

Gordon:  The cycling since we left Quebec has been generally easy, as the terrain is gentle and there are powerful tailwinds.  Yesterday we encountered an unfortunate Swiss cyclist that was going in the other direction.  She was pushing her bike up a small hill due to the wind.  The Gaspé should definitely be cycled in a clockwise direction.

We had a brush with the Camino yesterday.  There is a section of the waterfront stone that displays a series of depressions that appear to be the footprints of a man and a dog.  Local lore says that this marks the passage of St. Roch (a plague saint popular along the Chemin de St. Jacques) and his devoted dog.

Yesterday's pleasures included finding a loaded Saskatoon berry bush and the town of Kamouraska. We also saw a small flock of snow geese even though this is not the season for them. 


Ruth: Don, remind me when I get home to make you Pan Doré à les Petite Madames de St Helen. French toast with apples, ham and cheese covered with maple syrup.  Yummy. 

Monday, July 24, 2017

Ville de Québec

Ruth: Tonight will be our third night within the walls of city of Quebec. This is definitely the closest Canada comes to being European, and yet we are still very much in the new world. Bear skin rugs, and signs for poutine, remind us of that. I think that long-distance cyclists and marathon runners are really the only people who can safely consume poutine. "Rest" days are all about refuelling and poutine was only the start. After a reunion with Gayle and John, fellow cyclists from England that we first met 10 years ago in Turkey, we emerged from our lunch in search of dessert. First stop was the oldest Epicerie in Canada, where we consumed a jar of maple butter.  I have heard that it is lovely on toast, but I find it works well solo off a plastic spoon. Next stop was the Museum of Chocolate. After a quick look around the exhibit, John said "O.K. We are done with the foreplay let's get to the chocolate." I tried an ice cream cone of vegan dark chocolate made with tofu. It was amazing.

Gordon:  Although it is an appealing component, there is actually more to Quebec than sweet confections.  The city is the cradle of French culture in North America, and from a Western Canadian perspective the historic centre is remarkably old.  It was established by Champlain in 1608, and it is the only city in Canada or the U.S. to retain defensive walls (portions of which you can walk on).  The old city is packed with tourists, which is understandable given that it incorporates block after block of beautifully preserved and restored buildings from the 17th to the 19th centuries.  As well as carbo-loading, we have visited the Plains of Abraham (who knew it was named after a farmer named Abraham Martin?), gone on a guided walking tour, and visited an Ursiline convent (which was also the first school for girls in North America.). Quebec definitely deserves another visit in the future.  I think it might even be a good winter destination.

Ruth: Oh I forgot to mention I had the best almond croissant ever!!!

Friday, July 21, 2017


Ruth: With all the beautiful places in Quebec, Gord wanted to go to Asbestos. Not one to deny him this dream, we spent much of the day taking side roads up to the giant town-swallowing hole.  I am not exaggerating, the rock seam they were mining ran towards town and as the hole grew they had to move or abandon much of the town. In its current state the quarry is 2 kms across and 370 meters deep. Curiously, at the visitors' view point there was no mention of the dangers of asbestos, but instead information boards explaining the multitude of uses for the stuff. 

Sherbrooke, Quebec

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Eastern Townships

Ruth: The towns and countryside of the Eastern Townships are so pretty. Today we left the flat riding behind as we cycled up into Mont Orford National Park. We have been following the Route Verte # 1 right from Montreal. Today it swung us up through the park from Eastman taking us on a much longer and scenic route to Magog.  From Magog we decided to take a short cut on a more direct road without checking the topo map first. Eeek! The road was almost straight - straight up that is. I  really wish I left some of my heavier items at home. 

We are loving the amenities along the cycle path, some of which were built by the local municipalities and others that were just provided by locals.

This little fella was crossing the path as we were making our own slow way. 

Tonight's dinner was French toast that we made in our Bed and Breakfast. Gord purchased some excellent late season maple syrup that was so good we almost finished the bottle. 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Richelieu Valley

Gordon:  We spent three busy but very enjoyable nights in Montreal with Ruth's cousin Rod and his wife Elena.  They put their time and detailed knowledge of Montreal at our disposal, providing us with an outstanding opportunity to visit and learn about the city.  They were also very entertaining.

When it came time to leave Montreal, we had to choose between three Route Verte to get to Quebec City.  Two of these are on either bank of the St. Lawrence, and the third, longer route is through the Eastern Townships.  Because we will be spending a significant time cycling along the St. Lawrence after Quebec City, and with a nudge from Rod, we decided in favour of  the Eastern Townships (La Route Verte 1).

Today we cycled the first leg of this six day journey.  Our route went along the Lachine Canal (a beautiful ride through the remnants of the industrial past), through the Expo '67 site, and then up the Richelieu River valley.  Along the way, we visited the fort at Chambly, constructed by the French in 1750.  It is a Parks Canada National Historic Site with some very good interpretive displays.

Much of our ride was on the cycle path along the Chambly Canal, which is also administered by Parks Canada and is still used by pleasure boats.  If you allowed your eyes to blur a bit, it was quite possible to imagine that we were cycling along a canal in France.

Tonight we are the only guests in an inexpensive B&B in the countryside near Iberville.  In Montreal it seemed as though everyone spoke English, but our host at the B&B appears to be a unilingual Francophone. Finally, some vindication for my innumerable hours on Duolingo.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Into Montreal

Ruth: Our ride into Montreal was blissful after our previous day. Most of the route was on bike paths or bike lanes right into Montreal.  We are spending three nights with my cousins in Montreal West so we can look around and reconnect. They are both passionate about Montreal and history, so for our first day we requested a historical tour. 
We started the day at the local patisserie before heading off to see where the Brodie farm used to cut through what is now Montreal. 

In old Montreal we stepped out of the historical period briefly as Gord tried the zip line set up over the port. 
He came back with a gleam in his eye and a huge grin. 

Above is Louis Joseph Papineau's house. He led the Lower Canada Rebelion in 1837. My family, of course, was firmly on the other side of the conflict. 

Friday, July 14, 2017

Still Smiling: Upper Canada Village to Saint Zotique, Quebec

Ruth:  We planned on a long day today so that tomorrow's ride into Montreal would be easier.  The first 40 Kms were beautiful. The Long Sault Parkway enroute to Cornwall links the chain of islands that were created when the area was flooded for the Saint Laurence Seaway in the late 1950s. Over 6,000 people and their houses and businesses were relocated. Below is a church on it's way to Upper Canada Village. 

We visited my friend Wendy's family home in Cornwall. 

In Cornwall the rain started lightly but an hour later it was picking up steam.  A kind man let us use his garage to get our rain gear on  and wait out the worst of it. Instead of easing the rain continued to increase and Gord and I decided to just push on towards the motel we had booked 34 kms down the road. With the rain and a strong head wind we were head down and focused, but apparently not focused on our route. We were 7 kms north of the river before we realized we had taken the wrong road. Crossing the 401 should have been a clue, but we missed it. Our final destination was now going to be my longest day ever at 110 kms.  The final blow, literally, was my back tire. I pushed my bike the last kilometre and fell into a hot bath. 

Slightly revived, we shared a meal of stout, lasagna, carrots and pecan pie with Ian, a fellow cyclist, who also braved the day.