Sunday, February 12, 2017

Quebec Road Trip, Day 4: Tadoussac

The Hotel Tadoussac

We woke up early on July 5 at the Ferme 5 Etoiles to enjoy breakfast followed by a farm tour. The breakfast is farm-to-table and excellent. The chef was extremely nice and made eggs and bacon for us while we enjoyed yogurt, fruit, and juice. Following breakfast, we went on the tour of the animals. The tour is conducted in French, so we were a little lost on the details, but were able to interact with several animals.

A porcupine right outside our motel room. 

Saying hello to the deer. 

Nolan pets Luna the farm dog. 

The Ferme 5 Etoiles raises sled dogs and this is a fun activity in the winter. One of the "dogs" above is actually a coyote. The farm rescues arctic wolves and other wildlife, and this coyote is a rescued baby. He is being raised alongside the dogs and was exceptionally cute! 

 A close-up of the rescued coyote pup.

Nolan is rather comfortable around chickens, since we raise chickens. He saved a young pullet from getting pecked to death and was quite proud of himself for saving the young hen.

After our farm tour, we drove to Tadoussac for our zodiac whale watching tour. The real reason we came to Tadoussac was for the whales - Beluga whales live here year-round in the wild. There are also Humpback, Fin, Minke, and the occasional Orca whales. The tour was bilingual in both French and English, so we were able to understand everything very well. We checked in and were issued survival suits for the zodiac ride. No matter how warm it may be in Tadoussac, the water temperature on the St. Lawrence Seaway is just above freezing - we were very grateful for the survival suits!

 The boys are in their survival suits.

The whole family is ready to go! 

 Matt and Nolan are on the boat.

The Tadoussac Light House. It was very foggy on the morning of our tour. We still managed to see Minke whales, Beluga whales, and Fin whales (and a few seals)! 

Matt stands up for a view on the zodiac. 

Looking for whales. 

Zooming off to look for more whales 

Entering the fjord. 

A waterfall on one side of the fjord. 

We backed up into the waterfall spray, which was quite fun.

After the whale watching cruise, the fog started to lift and we explored Tadoussac's harbor and took a hike out onto the rocks. The area is really beautiful, and the fog started to lift.

Nolan tosses some stones on the harbor. 

Going for a small hike. 

Heading down to the water. 

The rocky tidepools were beautiful. 

Examining krill in a tidepool. The junction of the Saguenay River and the St. Lawrence Seaway provides an excellent breeding ground for krill, which causes the whales to visit in large numbers. 

The boys behind a large rock. 

Unusual striation in the rock. 

In front of the Marine Mammal Interpretation Centre.

We had lunch at what remains Nolan's most favorite restaurant in the world: Le Cafe Boheme. He had a hand-crafted pizza and side salad and was completely smitten with the location. He has asked repeatedly to eat there again, but it is quite a long drive... so I think he will have to wait a while!

Nolan's favorite restaurant in the whole world.

After exploring and a late lunch, we returned to the Ferme 5 Etoile and walked around, exploring the larger animal enclosures. The moose and bison were particularly interesting to watch.

Crossing a stream on our exploration of the farm. 

Bison herd. 

The bison were quite curious about us. 

Up close and personal with a few bison. 

This is Azur, a rescued moose. Azure is not very friendly, but is extremely beautiful. 

Azur the moose.

After our exploration of the farm, we drove back to Tadoussac (about a 20 minute drive) and had dinner at the Pick-Up Grille along the harbor-front.

Sandwiches and burgers at the Pick Up Grille.

The rain started to pour down, so we were grateful for the overhang! We had quite a run back to our car when dinner was over!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Quebec Road Trip, Day 3: Quebec City and Sacré Coeur

The third day of our long Canadian road trip was from Plattsburgh, NY to Sacré Coeur, QC, passing through Quebec City along the route.

Not the exact route we took - we went up by La Malbaie and crossed the river by ferry.

Crossing the border was quite easy (we all have passports) and we made it to Quebec City in time for lunch. Driving along the St. Lawrence River was quite beautiful as we entered the old part of the city. We found parking quite easily near a ferry terminal and walked into the Place Royale. Samuel Champlain built a house here in 1608 - Quebec is a walled city and parts of the wall still remain. The cobblestone streets and architecture remind me a lot of Europe.

Matt and Nolan in the Place Royale

Notre Dame des Victoires 

Place Royale

We ate at a restaurant called Spag&Tini, highly recommended for families. As a side note, we do not speak French. My Spanish is somewhat passable, but my French is downright abysmal to non-existent. I would usually apologize to the person who wanted to seat us and say, "Je ne peux parler français. Parlez-vous Anglais?" I probably said this in a terrible accent. Everyone was always extremely nice and they would seat us in an area with wait staff who could speak English as a second language.

This is one reason I feel it is highly valuable to travel with children to a country or location where their language is not the primary one spoken. It is good to understand how difficult it is to learn another language and the difficulties you can encounter when you have to try to communicate with people in another language. It is also important for children to see how kind most people are in trying to help you when you are the foreigner - a lesson I hope my children carry with them.

Spag&Tini is a nice outdoor cafe with a view of the Chateau Frontenac (the famous hotel in many photographs of Quebec City).

The view of Chateau Frontenac from the cafe

Choosing our lunch. The boys were delighted to discover hot chocolate is a standard beverage option at restaurants in Quebec. They would be asked, "chocolate milk - hot or cold?" They loved this option and regarded it one of their favorite things about Quebec.

Spag&Tini brings a prize bucket at the end of the meal. Bonus points from the kids.

The kids also received free dessert from the restaurant.

After lunch, we wandered around the city to look at the artwork and explore the area around the Chateau Frontenac.

Hanging boats in Place Royale

Matt and Nolan sit in framed swings.

Vibrant streets of Quebec City

Exploring the streets of Old Quebec

In front of the Chateau Frontenac

Mural in Place Royale

Quebec City was really only a lunch stop on the way up to the Tadoussac area, but I wish we had longer to explore. We really needed to get back on the road, because we were staying at a remote farm in Sacre Coeur and I wanted to get to the area before nightfall.

The drive was partially along the St. Lawrence, sometimes winding back inland. At some point, the St. Lawrence River became the St. Lawrence Seaway. It was a long drive, but we finally made it to the ferry that crosses the Saguenay River.

This area of Quebec does not have bridges, so there are (free) public ferries which carry you across the multiple rivers and seaways in the area. The ferry that goes across the Saguenay is massive and able to carry several large semi-trucks.

As we approached the ferry we learned that weather this far north is extremely fickle. The skies turned black and rain poured down at a fantastic rate. It was nearly impossible to see! The crossing was easy and we soon docked at the other side, in Tadoussac.

We were staying at the Centre de Vacances - Ferme 5 Etoiles in Sacre Coeur. This is a farm which rescues arctic wolves, moose, and other animals. It was an absolutely amazing place to stay and I would love to return again some day. We checked in (apologizing again for my lack of French). Despite the communication barrier, we were able to get information on a restaurant in the local area.

We went to the most beautiful spot on the Saguenay Fjord - to a restaurant called Casta Fjord. It was a little white cottage perched on the edge of the fjord, where we could watch the setting sun. As ferociously as the rain had arrived, it disappeared in an instant. The weather here is extremely changeable.

One way road on the way down to the Saguenay Fjord

The setting sun shining on the fjord.

Beautiful little restaurant with amazing food and a wonderful view.

Winding roads in Sacre Coeur

The weather here is severe and erosion and road construction were a constant presence. We learned to groan whenever we saw a road sign that said, "Travaux!"

Traveling with children is not always rainbows and sunshine - at dinner, Matt had a complete and total meltdown. He is used to having access to any sort of food he likes. The little restaurant we went to had a few dishes - all of which were AMAZING, but none of which were chicken nuggets. He pouted. He refused to try anything. Knowing that we had no access to additional food until the morning, we told him that if he didn't eat anything, he would simply be very hungry until the morning and pouting wouldn't change anything.

My very picky and pouty child finally decided to try the pasta with shrimp, and declared he really liked shrimp after all. Nolan ate pasta with smoked salmon (also excellent) and discovered orange Sanpellegrino, which he loved. We enjoyed our dinner immensely and left very full and very happy.

We returned to the farm and checked into our motel room, which was very clean and well appointed. It was the perfect place to stay while in the Tadoussac region.

Probably the cutest and coziest place we have ever stayed. We love Ferme 5 Etoiles!

Small kitchenette in the motel room.

Bathroom in our motel room on the farm.

We had pre-booked our whale watching tour for the following day, so we didn't need to make any other arrangements. We settled into our room and fell asleep after a long travel day, and couldn't wait to get up for our farm tour and whale watching tour the next morning!