2022, August. My wife and I decided to go up north in a car trip. The initial intention was to reach Labrador…
First stop, Montreal. We lived in the city 25 years ago. It changed a lot, many new buildings downtown. I am not sure it looks better. Below is a picture taken from Mont Royal.
Next stop was Quebec City. It preserved the charm everybody knows with chic restaurants, the combination of an old city and new as well… and of course Castel Fontainebleau dominate the landscape.
Day third was on Isle aux Coudres, in the Gulf of St Lawrence. The ferry to the island is free, every 30 min. Wonderful trails, but take care of flies and mosquitos. Many opportunities for accommodation, but at this time of the year, it is good to book your place in advance.
Our trip was about enjoying nature; both my wife and I are in good shape and have no problems walking long distances. And we were plenty rewarded on all our stops. For what nature had to offer and the weather was very kind.
But people look for more in their trips, mainly findings restaurants serving local dishes. That was a problem all along. Many restaurants were closed because their employees did not return after COVID. Some others had tricky business hours or limited capabilities. An example was Bistro 7 at Sept Isles, where I really wanted to serve lunch. Brought some memories with me. 25 years ago I worked in Montreal at Novasys and was on the team who developed an application for IOC company located at Sept Isles. The company invited us all to their city and offered a superb lunch at Bistro 7 on the St. Lawrence Gulf shore.
I checked the business hours and they had 7 days a week the lunch time from 11 AM to 2 PM. We showed up at 1:20 PM. It was a Friday. No one cared to ask us anything like we were made of glass. When a waiter finally approached, he seemed confused (not because my French, I am good at it) but because he did not know what to say. He got help from an older lady who said with some acidity, “The kitchen is closed.” We tried the next day at 12:20 PM. After the same waiting time when waiters avoided us, the answer was, “On the weekend we serve only breakfast.” One of my dreams collapsed.
But as I will mention later, there were places where the service was excellent.
From Sept Isles we took a small boat to Ile Grande Basque, $30 per person. We had a beautiful time from 10:30 AM to 4 PM.
On our way to Havre St. Pierre we stopped to see the falls on Manitou river. There are a few, one after the other. Breathtaking, but the camera cannot see it all...
We spent the next night at Havre St. Pierre. The following day we had another visit on an island, Ghost Island. Below are some of the ghosts on the island.
We continued to Natashquan. Not far away on the road was another nice fall, on Quetachou river. But what was impressive here was the number of blueberries on the trail. Tons, like in a fairy tale where somebody wanted to paint the hills in blue. And near the fall were raspberries. After we filled our stomachs, we filled in whatever we found in our backpacks.
Natashquan was a nice surprise. It has a good beach and the water was good for a swim. On the beach was Café l’Echouerie looking like a bar 300 years ago, well maintained, opened all time with good food and shows in the evening! Natashquan is a 300 people community where the paved road ends. It also has a camping site ($28 a night) with a kitchen, washing machines, and showers. The first evening the sky was like on fire.
The only way to continue our way north to Labrador was by ferry, but the ferry was fully booked for the whole year 2022. So we reached the end of the road.
We decided to return home on the south side of St Lawrence Gulf. We crossed the gulf with the ferry from Godbout to Matane. It was the biggest ferry I ever saw.
From Matane we crossed Gaspe and stayed for the night at Campbellton, New Brunswick. We had a wonderful surprise here. In the evening on the shore somewhere, a band played music and people danced! We danced too. True vacation.
We wanted to continue to Saint John to spend a few days on the Bay of Fundy, but the forecast announced rain. We changed plans and returned to Quebec.
Time to go home.
We had an inspired stop for a few hours in Bic National Park near Rimouski. We took a rather dangerous trail climbing up and down on sharp rocks, but we did it.
I will end my story with a happy note. Since I talked about mixed feelings about restaurants on the way, I would talk about the very nice experience at Capiche restaurant in Drummondville; friendly waiter and very-very tasty dishes.
Back home after 16 days...