We are back!
That’s me waving from the passenger seat of our rented Nissan something-or-other. In the last week, I spent countless (they could be counted, but I’d rather not) hours there. We’re back from our road trip out to Gaspé and Percé. Wondering where those are? Here’s a quick map reference of our road trip itinerary. For those with rusty Canadian geography (I don’t judge, I was there before we moved here), note the position of Maine.
Percé, or point D to the right, is about a 12-hour drive from Montreal. Meaning a minimum of 24 hours on the road. Ugh…BUT…
This was a pretty epic vacation. Yeah, I mean that in the way we all overuse epic in our vocabulary. But it was still really great. I saw wildlife galore, hiked six trails, watched gorgeous sunsets on a nightly basis, filled up on Quebecois guilty pleasure foods (including, but not limited to poutine), practiced my French, drank Pit Caribou on tap, and even got to cook.
To me, the funniest part about it all, is that I really had no clue about any of the places we visited until we moved to Québec.
After moving here and talking with locals, I deduced that a road trip to Gaspésie is long, but worth it. And I was pretty sure that I’d never have a better chance to visit than during the two years we lived in Québec.
The biggest deterrent to this trip is time. Otherwise, it can be quite affordable. In fact, the neo-hippies hitchhiking their way along the Gaspesian Coast did it much cheaper than we did. Seriously, I’ve never seen so many hitchhikers in such a short stretch.
If you’re worried about a lack of French, don’t. It’s true that many of our servers didn’t speak much or any English, but a good portion did. And you can also take a pocket dictionary or phrase book just in case. Being able to speak French made our trip a bit easier and probably more rewarding, but wasn’t really necessary. Just be apologetic about your lack of skills and be nice enough to use the easy words like Bonjour, Merci, Bonne Soirée, etc. For those who are learning but get frustrated with the Montreal servers who tend to speak to you in English, you’ll be pleased to know that this rarely happens. If you’re trying to speak French, they’ll gladly help you along.
A quick note about our type of travel: We camped because we like it, but also because it’s affordable. Our focuses when traveling tend to be nature, good (and local when possible) food, merry drink, walking or hiking, and neat atmosphere and architecture. We like to indulge from time to time, but we are also fans of cheap eats and making our own meals if possible. This itinerary is best for those who happen to be the same types of travelers, but something on the trip should appeal to all types of travelers. 🙂
Now, on to the good stuff.
Day 1-Drive from Montreal to Parc National du Bic (near Rimouski)
5.5 hours of driving
We left Montreal around 9am after picking up the rental and filling it full of our camping gear. We had a cooler full of ingredients, but decided we needed to take advantage of the drive and make a few stops along the way. During the trip you’ll notice many, many fromageries (cheese producers/shops), poissoneries (fish/seafood shops), cantines (non-chain fast food joints), and casse-croûtes (pretty much like a cantine). My students and our friends say that stopping at these are musts. Not every one–that’d be freakin’ impossible.
On day one, we stopped at La Fromagerie du Terroir de Bellechasse and a casse-croûte (just okay) along the way. Wisconsites, check out the homage to cheese curds.
We bought a salted cheese braid for the road. Good, but super salty.
And we indulged in a sucre à la crème ice cream sundae. Because we’re in Québec and Jordan still hadn’t had any sucre à la crème. No, this wasn’t the actual dessert, but at least now he has an idea what it’s like.
I never said this was a healthy road trip, okay? Next up, my first poutine of the trip. Casse-croûtes are not normally a place where you eat off of real dishes. I think we chose the most high-class casse-croûte option. If such a thing exists.
Around 4:30ish, we reached Parc National du Bic, where we camped for the night (hikes and camping recap post to come).
Day 2-Drive from Parc National du Bic to Parc Forillon | poutine pit stop in Rimouski
5.5 hours of driving–Click here for link to the Parc National du Bic post.
The next day, we stopped at La Cantine de la Gare in Rimouski, which came highly recommended by friends. Supposedly, this is some of the best poutine in the province. It probably was the best I’ve had. The service was nice (didn’t have problems dealing with stuttering tourists) and the place seemed very popular with locals. All that said, I think I’ve given up on trying to convert myself into a poutine-lover. I recognize its cultural value, but I don’t have poutine urges. And that’s okay. I don’t have to like it all.
Husband got the Slovak version, complete with sausage and coleslaw. Ha.
We waddled our poutine-filled selves to the car and continued on along the coast of the Saint Lawrence. Here, the Saint Lawrence becomes something of an enigma. Is it really just a river at this point? It’s not really a sea or an ocean either, though…
You can stop for lighthouse pics and watch for seals along the rocks on the way.
We had a dreary driving day past this point. It became cloudy and chilly. The small towns seemed isolated and eery enough for a few good I-Know-What-You-Did-Last-Summer-like movies. Maybe it’s just the fisherman theme making me think that…
Finally, we reached Parc Forillon around 8pm and set up camp.
Day 3-Visit to Town of Percé, Percé Rock, and Bonaventure Island
less than an hour drive to town of Percé from Parc Forillon. Click here to see the full Percé, Park Forillon, and Bonaventure Island post.
We spent a little bit of time in the town itself and then hopped the boat tour for Percé Rock and Bonaventure Island. Probably my favorite day of the trip. (Detailed post to come).
Day 4-Hike in Parc Forillon and Drive to Parc National de la Gaspesie
Potentially only about 3 hours of driving, check for road conditions. Click here to see the full Percé, Park Forillon, and Bonaventure Island post. Click here for the Parc National de la Gaspésie post.
After getting our morning hike in at Parc Forillon (will include in post with Percé day trip above), we stopped in Gaspé for provisions. There’s a great market called Marché des Saveurs where we were able to buy local charcuteries and cheeses for our camping and hiking meals. Nice staff as well. We loved the Grey Owl cheese.
Next, we drove from Gaspé through Murdochville to Parc National de la Gaspesie. We chose this route because it saved us time, which we were a bit short on. However, the bridge on Route 16 in the park was out and Route 14 was washed out, so we ended up driving up to Saint-Pierre and then down that route. Okay drive. Lots of trees. Lots of green. Those interested in copper mines might want to stop in Murdochville.
We decided to stop for some nourishment since we had to venture further north than planned. If you’re looking for the lobster roll on the menu, you are searching for a guédille au homard.
We reached Parc National de la Gaspesie around 4pm (the Jacques-Cartier campsite).
Day 5-Hike Mont Jacques-Cartier and Camp in Secteur Mont Albert
45 minutes to 1 hour of driving from one side of park to the other
Click here for the Parc National de la Gaspésie post.
We hiked in the late morning and early afternoon and then drove over to the other campsite area of the park, where we sneaked in an early evening hike before taking shelter from the rain and spying on moose. (Post to come)
Day 6-Morning hike and then drive to Kamouraska
About 5 hours of driving
We took our time the next morning, deciding not to hike Mont Albert, but instead the simple Lac aux Américains trail. Around 1pm, we headed toward Kamouraska for camping and quality eating and sipping.
In Sainte-Félicité, Jordan saw a sign for a crêperie and decided to swing by on a whim. Good choice. The café-crêperie Les Gamineries was a wonderful stop. I highly recommend it. There is also a hostel here is anyone’s tired of pitching the tent. The waitress was super nice and the food was exactly what we needed after so many cantines and casse-croûtes. Here I learned how to say “sunny-side up” in French. 🙂 We played tourist big time while here.
Along the way, we raced to beat the sunset.
We finally reached Kamouraska around 8:30, just in time for the sunset. (Rest assured, this small town will have a post coming your way). Supper here was delicious, snacky, and accompanied with a couple local microbrews.
Day 7-Kamouraska to Quebec City to Sherbrooke
1.5 hours driving plus 2.5 hours driving
We skipped a camping breakfast on this day, instead rushing to the bakery before heading to see Quebec City in the summertime. We’d been there in the winter, but I had a hunch it’d be different with a bit of warmer weather.
We found parking in Quebec City in time to catch a little bit of the US World Cup match. A loss, yes, but at least we found a really neat pub to watch it at! Look for Le Sacrilège. Great terrasse (aka patio) in the back.
We spent about two hours after the game just strolling. We ventured into the Château Frontenac lobby, peered into adorable restaurants that we would have eaten at if we’d had time (or a bigger budget, I suppose), and watched the tour buses full of golden-aged tourists. After a week of hearing almost only French, it was strange to hear English-speaking tourists around us.
Look! I had real clothes (read: not only hiking clothes) packed in my bag, too!
I loved seeing the city in the summer. Very charming. If I lived in Montreal long term, I’d rent a Quebec City apartment one week every summer. It’s cozy and feels intimate somehow, even among the tourists and bureaucrats (provincial government employees were everywhere). But alas, we had to keep on the road.
We left around 4pm to drive to Sherbrooke. Sherbrooke doesn’t usually make it onto the typical tourist itinerary. It’s a nice medium-sized city, sure, but mostly we went to stop in to see some of our friends who recently moved there.
We spent the evening eating a dish prepared with Matane shrimp, catching up, and making faces at their three-month-old baby girl.
Day 8-Sherbrooke to Montreal | pit stop at the St-Benoît-du-Lac Abbey
2 hours of driving
Remember way back when, when my parents came to visit? We stopped into the abbey to pick up some delicious cheese, honey, and apples at that time. Since the husband had never been, we decided to stop in to pick up some cheese, honey of course (if you know the guy, you know he loves sweets), and a bottle of the hard cider. We’ve got it chilling, waiting for the right moment.
We reached Montreal around 5:30, but then managed to get seriously stuck in traffic. Being stuck in traffic for an hour reminds you about the downsides of the city. Especially after a week of camping.
But once we got that car returned, we headed out for Indian thalis, gelatos, and a meander through the Jazz Festival. Camping is great.
The road trip was great, but the city ain’t so bad either.
In the next couple days (before my flight to visit the family!!), I’ll sort through our trip photos and post recaps for the highlights of our trip. Usually, I do this just because I love to, but after doing some searching for this trip, I didn’t see that many blog recaps about these stops, so here’s hoping my post helps another wife out there to convince her husband that they really ought to take the trip 🙂
If anyone happens to be planning a trip and needs more details than what is provided in the post above or the forthcoming posts, feel free to contact me either by comment or email: therestoflhistoire (at) gmail (dot) com for more information. As other posts are added, links will be edited in.