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  1. #1

    Default Gaspe Peninsular, Quebec City, Montreal and Toronto

    Around the Gaspe Peninsular

    I'd heard all manner of good things about the Gaspe Peninsular but first impressions suggested that it wasn't as going to be as impressive as I'd hoped. The scenery wasn't proving to be great and the driving was tedious but, to my relief, it all changed for the better right about the time I was starting to think about turning back and making a break for Quebec City. First I had spotted Rocher Perce - a stunning arched rock formation located off the coast of the small town of Perce - then, after stopping the car for a nice stroll through the town, the drive suddenly became rather magical. It was as if I had been transported from a rather tedious drive to work and dropped right on the Col de Turini. With the sea glistening away to my right, I sped along the twisting and turning road, melting snow sending huge waterfalls cascading off the mountains to my left. It was quite something and I was reinvigorated.

    I was intent on reaching the town of Gaspe before stopping for the night and checked myself in to the cheapest looking motel in town. I was delighted to find that, in any other town, it would in fact have passed as a top-notch hotel - if you're ever in Gaspe I can heartily recommend the Adams Motel. I went for a wander through town - seemingly a small time ski resort - and returned with a Double Big Mac meal from McDonalds. It was my first real junk food encounter for quite some time and, as a reformed addict, it was absolutely superb.

    During the night there had been a huge bang and the building shook - fearing an earthquake I looked outside and was greeted with the sight of an errant Penske rental truck parked in the room downstairs. After heading down to check the hotel wasn't about to collapse - like I was a structural engineer and would actually have a clue - I went back into my room and went back to sleep.

    As I left the next morning I inspected the damage - it looked even worse in the daylight - and headed off to the nearby Forillon National Park which, given my recent run of bad luck, wasn't something that I was massively excited about. In the end it turned out to be a great day and Forillon would become one of my favourite national parks.

    Having warmed up with a couple of short hikes, I set off on a longer trek out to the lighthouse at Cap Gaspe. It was quite a peaceful walk out along cliff edges overlooking numerous beaches and pebbly coves; very civilised. I hadn't seen anyone else until I neared the end of the trail when suddenly a young couple came hurrying down the trail towards me in somewhat more of a hurry than you would expect. Usually in this instance you'd give each other a friendly nod and occasionally a cheery hello but this couple were looking at me with alarm and random words were coming out of their mouth making no sense. (I'd later discover they were from Toulouse and had a heavy accent but, anyway, back to the story...)

    To start with I thought they were complementing me on my hair - which I thought a little strange as I don't have much - but it turned out (and I'm sure you're quicker at realising when you're reading this than I was at the time) that they'd just seen a bear and they'd beaten a hasty retreat. At the time it didn't seem to be my greatest idea but, despite being completely terrified, I had to see it for myself. Grabbing the biggest rock that I could see, I thanked them for alerting me and walked on. They must have thought I was very brave or very stupid. Or possibly both.

    And, as I rounded the corner, there it was. I'd never seen a bear before - it's not the sort of thing you see in the streets of Woking where the most dangerous animals are the locals themselves - and I'd previously convinced myself that, when I finally did, it would take an instant dislike to me and it'd all end in tears. But, watching from 100 feet away, my feelings changed. Rather than something that was gonna hunt me down and eat me to death it was laying out on the grass eating lunch. It was all very very cool. Okay, lunch was quite possibly another hiker but I sure as hell wasn't gonna get any closer to check. With my hands shaking I snapped a couple of very poor photos (now I really regret not buying that shiny DSLR with 500mm lens) and then beat a hasty retreat like my French friends who I found a short way down the trail eating their lunch. We chatted for a while and then went our separate ways.

    I stayed in the park for a few more hours and even saw another bear cub scurry off the road and back into the woods as I rounded the corner. I was now quite a fan so I pulled up, switched off the engine and rolled down the window in the hope that I might get a photo or two but it was long gone. I saw loads of other wildlife too, and some awesome scenery, but finally took a look at the map and realised I had a long way to go so I headed off.

    The north of the peninsular was every bit as good as I'd been told it was and I was delighted that I'd managed to squeeze a ‘lap' in to this trip. To be fair I was bloody tired but delighted nonetheless and the scenery were helping to spur me on in my quest to reach a bed and breakfast in a place called St-Simon which had been recommended to me. I pulled in to the wind farm at Cap Chat to take a quick peek at the worlds largest vertical axis wind turbine and as soon as I got back in the car I knew I wasn't gonna make it as far as St-Simon and decided to stop at the next major town for the night. I knew that i was gonna miss out on what was supposed to be an excellent B&B but I had no intention of killing myself and the place where I ended up did me fine in any case and I slept like a log.

    Originally published on - and Copyright retained by - Boogity, Boogity, Boogity

    Previous: Prince Edward Island
    Next: Quebec City and Montreal
    Last edited by UKCraig; 05-18-2009 at 07:30 AM. Reason: formatting

  2. #2

    Default Quebec City and Montreal

    The day started on the Levis - Quebec ferry which was nice as, whilst I didn't realise it at the time, it offered possibly the best view of the Quebec City skyline that I would get all day. The previous evening I had pulled in to a campground near Levis after spending most of the day stuck behind the wheel driving back from Cap Chat. Quite honestly I couldn't be bothered to hit a new city so late in the day and it probably cost me a fraction of the price to camp than it did to get a hotel in the city. It also gave me a chance to have a nice roaring campfire and to burn the logs that had been rattling round the boot since PEI - can't imagine them being very appreciative if I did that in my hotel room.I was glad that I'd decided to wait until I was fresh as I ended up walking and walking and walking. Quebec was a lovely city and I really enjoyed my day. I've never been a huge fan of cities but there are always some which surprise me and I came away from Quebec with a smile on my face and tired legs from having walked so far. It is a very relaxed city and certain things, such as the Govenors Promenade and the pavement cafes. reminded me very much of Paris. Except it couldn't have been Paris as it was cleaner and the people politer.

    Not quite sure how I could follow it up I headed out of town to nearby Montmorency Falls. I had very low expectations - after all I'd seen Niagara Falls previously and it'd have to be damn good to better that - but I wasn't disappointed. It may not have topped Niagara Falls in terms of scale but I loved the lack of commercialism which plagues Niagara and, well, the hike up to the top was pretty strenuous so that's all good too. Whilst Montmorency Falls may not have the Maid Of The Mist at the bottom it does have a suspension bridge running across the top. I liked that very much indeed.

    Eventually I had to call it a day and I headed off to a campground in Trois-Rivieres which was suggested by the satnav. Turns out the campground was no more - built upon - so I headed instead for its second suggestion; which turned out to be a camping store. Third time lucky and I took over and headed to the nearest Super 8. My experience of this chain is generally less than favourable so I was surprised to discover that they wanted 120 bucks for the night. I went next door to the Days Inn at half the price and was rewarded with a friendly clerk, ultra clean room and a Laundromat on site. Everything happens for a reason they say...

    I asked the clerk whether I could see any of the race circuit in downtown Trois-Rivieres but he suggested it wasn't worth the effort and suggested a trip to Mont-Tremblant instead. After my trip to La Maurice National Park had turned to farce - the road through the park being closed and I did little more than 5km before having to turn back - I decided to head on over. It proved to be a lot further than I was expecting but I finally arrived and was pleased to discover, not only was the front gate wide open, but there was some on track activity. Turns out that it was some sort of Ferrari Driving Experience type effort and I spent a little time checking the place out before security finally arrived and asked me to leave as I was trespassing! It was a lovely venue but how it ever hosted a Champcar race I will never know - it was ridiculously narrow.

    I made my way back to Montreal in search of a Kinkos or a UPS Store so that I could send some of my stuff back to the UK but was shocked to learn that it would cost best part of 200 bucks to do so. I decided to give it a miss and ended up throwing all manner of stuff in the bin instead. I couldn't afford to blow that amount of money sending a parcel home and I couldn't afford to spend it on a room for the night either so headed out of town in search of a campground. I stumbled across one about half an hour out of town and checked in - total cost $23 - a tenth of what I could have paid if I'd stayed downtown. It proved to be over-run with mosquitoes and the toilets and showers were not working but I was happy to save that money and had an early night in advance of exploring Montreal the following day.

    First destination was the Ile de Notre Dame where I wanted to check out the Circuit Giles Villeneuve but it proved easier said than done and I drove and drove before I finally managed to find my way onto the island. The good thing about this was that I got to check out the Biodome and the rest of the old Expo 67 site which was actually pretty cool. Having completed several laps of the circuit I was finally chased off by a Police who were concerned at my pace through the chicane - presumably they were concerned that I might lap faster than Jacques Villeneuve.

    After a brief drive around town I decided I'd had enough of sitting in the car and decided to get shot of it. I finally found my way to the car rental drop off point at Montreal Central Station and sadly bade farewell to the car which had become something of a friend over the past 3,500 miles. Feeling somewhat liberated to be on foot I made my way to my hotel for the night - the rather lovely Fairmont Queen Elizabeth. Feeling slightly out of place with my backpack and my tent I was shown to my room where I collapsed on the bed.

    Eventually I headed out on foot in the very rough direction of the docks in Old Montreal. I guess it's fair to say the direction was a little rougher than I had thought and I spent an hour walking quickly in the wrong direction before I decided it might not be a bad idea to consult a map and change direction towards the old town. Once again everything happens for a reason and the reason this time was that I got to walk the entire length of the old dock area. And what a nice walk it was - even the seemingly shadier industrial area that I found myself cutting through felt safe. In all I was out walking for almost five hours and covered untold miles but it felt nice to get a little bit of exercise after so long cooped up in the rental car.

    Originally published on - and Copyright retained by - Boogity, Boogity, Boogity

    Previous: Around the Gaspe Peninsular
    Next: Toronto - with a bit of racing thrown in!
    Last edited by UKCraig; 05-18-2009 at 07:21 AM. Reason: formatting

  3. #3

    Default Toronto - with a bit of racing thrown in!

    I was woken by an alarm clock for the first time in three weeks as I had an early train to catch. I was heading back to Toronto for the first time in three years. Last time I visited it was the height of summer and the temperatures were in the high thirties - this morning it was cold and raining. I hoped that the change in weather wouldn't change my opinion of the city. In the end it wasn't the weather that change'd my opinion but the fact that it no longer seemed the clean city that I remembered. I was somewhat surprised to realise it was now pretty much like any other big city; litter blowing through the streets, weeds growing through the pavement, abandoned cars and people begging on the streets. I was quite sad to see it but couldn't quite decide whether it had actually changed or whether my memory was playing tricks with me. I suspect, as is often the case, it was the latter.I picked up another rental car and headed out of town towards the Mosport race circuit which was probably 100km out of town. I reached it in pretty good time and staked a claim to a prime tent pitch near the track and then set off to explore the track.

    Mosport probably has no right to hold be holding major races - it is in dire need of some much needed investment to bring its spectator facilities up to date - but then that's probably why I ended up liking the place. I am not sure that I can compare it directly to any particular circuit but possibly it was a little like Oulton park was in the 1980s with a little bit of redneck thrown in Talladega style in terms of crowd. In other words it was good fun - but make sure you go for a major meeting - the Canadian Touring Cars are pretty tedious. Having said that the heavens opening as the VW Jetta series came out on track certainly livened up the day!

    The rain didn't let up but thankfully Mosport are good enough to provide showers so I was able to warm up before heading off towards Oshawa. I was planning to visit some relatives but they were out and I ended up spending an hour in a nearby Laundromat watching the rain streaming down the windows. I was in two minds whether to head back to the Glen Rouge Campground - where I'd stayed previously - or to find a motel for the night. I settled on the former and was rewarded, as I approached the campground, with the weather turning and a nice dry evening. I headed along the road to a local bar and spent a few hours chatting with the locals and enjoying the Guinness before heading off to bed.

    Next morning I went looking for the Canadian Motorsport Hall Of Fame which had been closed the last time I'd been in town. This time it wasn't closed - it was closed. Permanently. Which was a shame but I got to do another lap of another circuit so add another to the list.

    I dropped the car back to the rental company and made my way to my room for the night - the Canadiana Backpackers Inn - which was within easy walking distance of the waterfront and CN Tower. I was relieved to discover that, far from the expected sub-Super 8 level, it was probably the cleanest and brightest room that I have stayed in thus far and the price for the location certainly couldn't be faulted.

    The main reason for stopping at Toronto was simply to catch the train to Vancouver the next day but there was one thing that I never got to do on my last visit and that was to visit the CN Tower at night. As there was still several hours until I needed to be there I headed down to the waterfront to kill time and ended up in the middle of a carnival. It was Victoria Day and there were all sorts of festivities to celebrate. One was a huge international food marquee next to the Harbourfront Centre where I managed to bag a fantastic Indian and a beer for a bargain $10. I was very happy indeed!

    After a couple of hours I headed back to the hostel and used their wifi to start making a dent on bringing my blog up to date and then headed back out to explore the areas which I'd not seen on my last visit. I must have walked six or eight miles and what I saw really opened my eyes to the city. Eventually I made my way back to the more regular tourist area and spent some time walking from one end of the waterfront to the other before heading off to the CN Tower.

    Surprisingly the queues of earlier in the day had subsided and I quickly acquired a ticket. This proved to be the easy part - getting into an elevator for the ride to the observation level would prove somewhat more time consuming but eventually I did and I stepped out of the elevator to be greeted with the magical sight of the most sensational flame red sunset. I had timed my arrival to perfection.

    I spent best part of an hour on the observation deck watching the sky turn all sorts of amazing colours before taking the elevator up to the Skypod where I spent two further hours standing watching the city light up in the darkness. It was quite captivating and the most spectacular thing was the sheer number of fireworks going off all over the city; I'm sure they were quite spectacular from down on the ground but, from up here, they were quite comical. It was a sight that will stay with me for a long time - one of the highlights of the trip so far and one which made me fall in love with the city all over again.

    Originally published on - and Copyright retained by - Boogity, Boogity, Boogity

    Previous: Quebec City & Montreal
    Next: Toronto to Vancouver on board The Canadian
    Last edited by UKCraig; 05-18-2009 at 07:20 AM. Reason: formatting

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula

    Default Lions & Tigers & Bears

    Yeah, my first encounter with a bear, and a relatively non-aggressive little black bear at that!, gave me a stomach flip-flop as well. I always think I'm going to be so brave. Then I turn into a wienie. ;)

    I'm glad you saw some wonderful scenery. Sounds fun. I'm surprised the French couple were eating lunch. You would think they might worry that the bear would think their lunch smelled good. At least that's what I would have worried about. Yes, an official wienie.

  5. #5


    They were planning on eating at the end of the trail where the bear was chilling out... they thought it best to backtrack a wee bit before eating :)

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Québec, Montreal, Arizona, California, France


    Hi Craig,

    I'm glad you enjoyed your time in Gaspe and Quebec City. I agree about route 132, after you've seen one fishermen village, you've seen them all. But you have to be persistent and get to the tip of the Peninsula to get the big prize. I'm a little confused, I thought you already left Quebec to go to Ontario. I'm sorry we couldn't meet, I was in AZ and Mexico between the 5th and the 15th and I thought you already left when I got back (??).

    Being an avid urban explorer, the shadier industrial neighborhoods of Montreal have always been my favourite. Unfortunately business people and speculators have taken over many parts of the City to turn old factories into condos. Condos being a trend since the 80's in North America, they have no trouble at all selling all of them at a high price.

    I am quite surprised as well about the French couple in Forillon. The last thing that would be on my mind after a bear encounter is eating my lunch!! That's about the best way to attract the bear in question.

    Where are you now?


  7. #7


    Yeah, left the area a wee while ago now it's just that it takes time for me to get round to posting my blog as its all so hectic!

    I'm in the town of Golden BC right now - in fact I've been up since 430am watching the Grand Prix from Monaco - and I'm about to set off for the day to visit Kootenay and Yoho NPs and - hopefully- meet up with some people I met on the train in Banff tonight.

    Next: Craig's report continues from Alberta and British Columbia >
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 08-19-2008 at 12:04 PM.

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