The third week of July was spent along the shores of the St Lawrence River where it's so wide and salty, it's the sea.
The region is The Gaspe Peninsula of Quebec Province. Called "the mitten" for its shape, it has five distinctive areas --- the valley, the coast, the bay, the haute-gaspesie and land's end (where the northernmost mainland portion of the Appalachians end). From Quebec City, I drove through the Bas-Saint-Laurent region and stayed coastal in Sainte-Felicite (population 1,175).
In 1534, Jacques Cartier arrived in Gaspé Bay and claimed the land for King Francis I of France. This marked the beginning of the French presence in North America. I was brought to this beautiful place as my maternal grandparents were born and married here. My week was spent touring, seeing the areas where my family emigrated from, and attempting to find some long, lost relatives (dead or alive).
I really enjoyed the villages, the people, and the relaxed atmosphere! Unfortunately, after a few days of searching, I did not find a family connection. However, thanks to Claudine, owner of the auberge where I stayed, I have found a cousin in Quebec City, and perhaps a few relatives in Rimouski, an area I initially drove through enroute.
This chapter continues, and suffice to stay, I definitely need to improve my French!
Founded in 1608 by Samuel de Champlain, Quebec City is the "cradle of French civilization" in North America. It's also the only walled urban area north of Mexico. While I spent five of my 8 days within Vieux Quebec, I also ventured out by bike to the Falls, to Wendake (a 17th century Huron Nation region), and along the St. Lawrence River.
It was my third visit to Quebec City, but my first in more than 30 years! While I am astounded at the city's ability to maintain its culture and architecture, I'm also nervous about the extent of tourism.
I should couch this by saying that I did visit in July, and that besides good weather, it's the time of Quebec's well-known "Summer Festival" of music. In addition to the large number of visitors (4.7 million in 2012), I also don't recall seeing so many tour buses, tour groups, shops and restaurants in old town. Yes, I know, it's been decades!
I haven't actually touched upon every stop I made, but the photos will hopefully take you there!
When I caught myself looking at condo prices in Ottawa, I realized how much I was in love with this city! Of course, the reality also hit that I'm not a Canadian citizen, and that I'd have to snowbird to Florida for 4 months every year. Anyone have a job connection at the U.S. Embassy?
My $22/night AirBnB room was 8 miles west of downtown with a bike path in the back yard that led to the larger Ottawa River path. Trust me, the car never moved! I was also a 15 minute walk to the nearest sandy beach along the River which had live music and a cafe. This is living!
Ottawa is wonderful, and offers a lifestyle of city spectacles combined with rivers and green space galore. While I did tour my "must see" spots, I could have spent another week here cycling, people watching at cafes, visiting the National Gallery of Art or The Royal Canadian Mint (no pennies in Canada). I completely understand the pride and joy that Ottawans feel (and show) for their city. In 2017, Canada celebrates 150 years as a nation, and Ottawa will be ready.
I took more than 250 photos but here's the Cliff Note version of my Ottawa experiences!
On July 2nd, I took an early morning journey that was an unexpectedly great decision. I arrived at Niagara Falls, on the Ontario side, just after 7 AM to peaceful surroundings. With the exception of a few cyclists and joggers, I was able to stroll along Victoria Park with the sights and sounds to myself. The sun was low in the sky, the mist over the falls was heavy, and it was quiet and lovely.
Approximately 90% of the Niagara River, after diversions for hydropower, flows over Horseshoe Falls, the Canadian Falls. The remaining 10% flows over the American Falls. Who knew? So, there's no doubt that the Canadian side is absolutely stunning in comparison, but the panoramic view is captivating. At 9 AM, the tour buses began to arrive, followed by the tour boats beginning their journeys. It was time for me to move on.
My next stop was the USA for the 4th of July, and a visit with a dear high school friend and family. It has been more than 10 years since Barbara and I connected in person, and there was much catching up to do and holiday fun to be had. We enjoyed 4 days of great food, fireworks, music, cake walking (a new game for me), cycling, the beach, and hours of conversation. We're exactly the same as when we skipped homeroom together, if you ignore the minor wrinkles!
From Algonquin Park, I spent a week in Hamilton, known as the City of Waterfalls. I chose this location because it was one hour to Toronto and less to Niagara Falls.
Hamilton is a port city on the western tip of Lake Ontario with a huge, forested ridge known locally as "the mountain". Once the steel capital of Canada, it is now in major gentrification mode as Toronto commuters move in, as well as a high concentration (nearly 25%) of immigrants from Italy, Poland, India, Portugal, and other countries. It was a fun place to bike, trail walk, and sightsee but unfortunately, it rained on Canada Day so that was a wash!
Midweek, I did a marathon 12-hour stretch in Toronto arriving on the 6:48 AM commuter train. I believe I walked all of downtown Toronto in a single day! For a city of 3 million people, I was amazed at how clean it was, and I only heard two car horns the entire day. It's a gorgeous place of old and new architecture, lovely gardens, and a pretty harbor front.
Next up, the Falls and a quick visit to the US of A!
Cyclist, writer, teacher, avid reader, bike/ped advocate, nomad, pie lover