Hello, it is with much delay that I tell you about our extended weekend to the Saguenay Fjord in mid-May.
Part 1: Travel Diary Part
2: Practical Tips
Part 1: Travel Diary
Before coming to Montreal, we received an email from Airbnb reporting flooding towards the North-East of the city. Our airbnb isn’t concerned fortunately, but it is by taking the car that we could see the extent of the phenomenon. The water arrives almost up to the level of the highway and thousands of houses and trees have their feet in the water.
Speaking of the car, we rented one from Avis. Now that JB has an AmericanExpress card, we don’t have to pay for the optional insurance (the card’s insurance covers any possible damage, JB talked about it in detail here), so we paid within the 25€/day rental. Really economical. Moreover, they aren’t at all difficult for the inventory of fixtures.
We had reserved a compact car but they should not have many of them so we were upgraded, by giving us a small 4×4. It is necessary to know that the cars here tend to be enormous, to resist the snowstorms etc. so even the “small” 4×4 seems to us rather large and wide. But we appreciate it very much because it is state of the art, with a light signal on the rear view mirror as soon as a car is in the blind spot. There is even an audible alert if we put the blinker light on while a car is next to us. The rear view camera for the parking lot is super handy – because you don’t always feel comfortable with a big car like that. In May, we are no longer allowed to use winter wheels, but as explained to us, summer wheels in Canada = winter wheels in France 🙂 We were told to be careful also on the road because at the end of winter, there are a lot of potholes.
This is the first time JB has driven in North America. The traffic is very dense in the center of Montreal, and there are very large trucks driving by, it’s impressive. With the pouring rain, cars driving very fast… we were very happy not to have a very small car.
This city by the river is our first destination. We speed past the most unsgrammable places in the city, namely this cruise ticket office – near the port. And a small mansion, before we quickly stop in front of the old city jail. The weather is very ugly and we don’t want to stay here for long, so we don’t stop there. But it is to be visited when the weather is nice.
It must be said that it is extremely cold for the month of May. I took out all my clothes bought for Iceland. It is terrible!
Quebec City & Montmorency Falls
The road to Quebec City is tedious, stressful – because of the many trucks – and the few trees around. Driving downtown is just awful on a Friday afternoon. We decide to come back another day (read the notebook here) because just to find a parking space, it’s going to be horrible. We pass in front of the falls : Montmorency Falls, which are right next to the highway. With the rain, the water is all dirty. But from Quebec City, we can go there by public transport as well.
From Quebec City, the road becomes more bearable, there are more trees, we are, at times, surrounded by pine forests. We stop at the Spa des Neiges, which is literally covered with snow in winter, it’s very beautiful. But in the month of May, it’s very beautiful too. There are different basins, the water is between 20° and 41°C. There are 2 saunas, a hammam, rest rooms (where you can ask to have the fireplace lit). We paid 45$/person (including towels, and access to the pools). You have to come with flip-flops (it’s mandatory), and you can rent a bathrobe (6$). There are quite a few spas like this around Quebec City and Montreal, but this one is one of the only ones that really use thermal water. Of course, it is by no means comparable with all the hot tubs we tested in Japan or Iceland, but it remains very clean and pleasant, especially after a hard day of driving.
We decided to spend the night at St. Paul’s Bay (we booked it the same day, between noon and two lol – because we weren’t sure if we could drive much today). Our first impression of the city is the beauty of the houses in the town. We are like at Disneyland. It’s super nice and clean. I forgot to take the pictures, I’ll let you look on Google Images.
In addition, JB has chosen a super charming hotel house: Gîte TerreCiel (link Booking) We have a suite with a “console/TV” space 🙂 Look at the living room, it’s too beautiful !
We dine in a restaurant run by a French chef. I happily find beef tartare – the real thing. I missed it too much! And JB opts for the dish of the moment-half lobster sautéed with garlic. It’s delicious. Lobster doesn’t cost much in Canada, for a few weeks. And the restaurants all offer “seasonal” menus with lobster in every dish and sauce. The restaurant is called Le Mouton Noir, it’s a little bit expensive (about 30$CA per dish).
After a good night and a great homemade breakfast (blueberry pancake!!! yum) we go to the beach, just when the inhabitants organize a garbage collection. They almost handed us bags for the lol collection – but there is so little garbage that they don’t need our help.
On the way…
We continue to drive non-stop to Baie Saint-Catherine. On the way, we see a multitude of lakes, frozen or not. It is very beautiful. Nature begins to wake up slowly after a – very – long winter. We now drive on a smaller road, there isn’t much traffic on Saturdays.
We arrive at the end of the road. From here, ferries leave for Tadoussac, a popular place to observe seals, whales… ferries leave every 20 minutes and the crossing is free. We aren’t going to do it today because the excursions and observation platforms are closed until mid-June. We will go back later.
We venture to the Petit Saguenay by taking a small road. The road seems to last an eternity, there isn’thing on the way, no stores, no restaurants, and we are super hungry. Once arrived at the center of the Petit Saguenay, we buy some snacks at the gas station. Before taking a small road (type Rue du Quai on Google Maps) to the Saguenay River. The water isn’t very nice today, but the place is very pleasant, with a few picnic tables.
The snow hasn’t melted 100% yet, look at the snow pile behind JB.
We have lunch at the local supermarket, there are a few tables and a microwave at our disposal. While JB stands in line behind an old man, the man hands a paper to the cashier and asks her what is written on it. She reads numbers out loud, without knowing what they mean. And the gentleman answers: “thank you, that’s my credit card code” :). Then he almost forgot his card – while all the customers behind know his code now ahahahha. The scene is already burlesque, add a very strong Quebec accent and it becomes really funny.
Belvedere of the Saguenay Fjord
We continue the road toAnse de Tabatière to reach this lookout overlooking the Saguenay Fjord. We have a little bit of sun so the view is very satisfying. The access to the park is paying, there is a small box where we can deposit an envelope with money for the access rights (if I remember correctly 8,75$/person). But payment can be made online as well.
I don’t know if it’s because Free is moving from 3G to 4G in Canada, but for a long time, we’re not picking up anything. No network, no Internet. But that seems to be the case for everyone because we come across a lot of cars with a big cibi antenna. In fact we are in the middle of nowhere 🙂
While Lac Saint-Jean was still frozen a week ago, we find this huge lake half frozen today. There are even sandy beaches, in summer it must be very pleasant.
At the end of the day, we continue another 30 minutes along route 155, one of the smallest and most beautiful roads in Canada, to our Motel: Auberge Motel Panorama(Booking link), with a view on another lake (Lac Bouchette). We have dinner at the local restaurant on the corner. JB finally tries poutine, the Quebec specialty, but unfortunately, it’s really not great (as the visual aspect lets us imagine).
On the way to Wapizagonke Lake
We wanted to go there, but part of the road is closed, so we just stop at the nearest parking lot to contemplate the small lake opposite.
The access to Lake Sacacomie is fortunately open, even the road leading to it is a bit small. But we are in full nature, it is really super pleasant. We park at the carpark and walk until the beach of the hotel of the corner. It isn’t authorized to drive on this road, but we can go there on foot I think, especially if we do not bathe there and do not take advantage of the infrastructures. there is absolutely nobody.
We take advantage of having the car to go shopping (I really like IGA supermarkets, they have much more varied and well-stocked shelves than the others). As I was saying, it’s lobster season in Canada. Prices are still high at the beginning of the season (18$CAD per lobster), one reader told us that we had to leave for 9$CAD per pound and opt for a lobster between 1 lb- 1 1/4 lb, it’s the best quality/price ratio. But frankly, it’s already not expensive at all compared to France. Ohlala!
We return the car without any difficulty (by throwing the key in the rental office since we arrive after closing time). The cool thing about Canada is that it’s so secure that we don’t have to worry about a lot. You don’t have to be too careful.
In 3 days, we drove a lot – even though we didn’t feel like we saw much. The distances are so huge in Canada! We didn’t even have time to hike, nor did we have time to linger in Quebec City. I think that for the same route, to be quiet, we will have to add at least 1 more day.
Landscapes are rather monotonous, forests lake forests… it is sure that we aren’t in Iceland or New Zealand where landscapes can change at every turn. Try to avoid the highway between Montreal and Quebec City if possible and take the picturesque route 155 as soon as possible – slower but greener too.
See you soon for more Canadian travel diaries. Sorry I took a lot of time to write them, but after a series of articles on Iceland, I needed a little break. But I’m back!
Part 2: Practical Tips
- Aviscar rental : $100 CAD for 3 days
- Gas: 70$CA
- Meals: between 20$CA and 30$CA/person (tax + tips included)
- Spa des neiges: 45$CA on weekends (38$CA on other days), no need to reserve in advance. Don’t forget to bring your flip-flops!