June 17, 2013 - June 23, 2013
The sky was threatening to rain when we left Cobalt, but we only got spit on. We rode all day until we were ready to find a place to camp. Pembroke, Ontario had a good flat field next to a school and we decided to spend the night there. I tried to set up the tent quickly because I was getting attacked by mosquitos, but they were about to quickly disappear anyway. Just as the sky became black, lightning began brightening up the sky. Thunder followed, causing the earth to shake beneath us. It was very exciting to be in the tent as the storm traveled past us.
Early the next morning, we continued riding until we reached Baie-d'Urfe, Québec. We were going there to visit Alex, who we had previously met while traveling in Mexico and Guatemala. He had also stayed with us as he traveled through Hamilton. Alex just purchased a motorcycle and made plans with Rocky to join us on our trip through eastern Canada. I like to hope that we inspired him to travel by motorcycle but I think he decide to do so because he couldn't turn down a $400 motorcycle.
Baie-d'Urfe is a beautiful suburb of Montreal. Alex was currently living there with his father, Patrick. Patrick is a great guy and cook. He treated us to a delicious duck dinner our first night there. After a few bottles of wine, the conversation somehow turned to health insurance. I learned that, although we have health care in Canada (OHIP - Ontario Health Insurance Plan), we needed to request an extension (for a maximum of 2 years) if we were planning on being absent from the country for more than seven months. If we didn’t, our OHIP coverage would expire, and we would be denied medical treatment upon our return to Canada. The following day, we turned around and rode 45 minutes back into Ontario to apply for the extension. Before heading back to Alex's, we stopped in Montreal for a few last minute necessities. Montreal is a great city. We were unable to take advantage of the awesome nightlife or shopping but we were still able to peek at all the beautiful people. Montreal is known for its lovely looking ladies.
After spending a couple of nights in the suburb of Montreal, Alex, Rocky and I packed up and hit the road. As we followed Alex through the thick traffic in Montreal, I began questioning if he was ready for the road. Alex is a great guy and he's very smart, but he is in his early twenties and he just got his motorcycle license. We were trying to follow his lead but he was weaving in and out of lanes, squeezing through places we wouldn't be able to follow. I was glad when we were finally able to get out of the city.
We contacted couple, Katie and Raymond, on couchsurfing.org and planned on staying at their house for a couple of days. They live with their cute dog, Complain (which means companion in French), in a suburb called Sainte-Redempteur (Levis), on the south shore of Quebec. It was pretty late when we had arrived, so we didn't do much until the following day. Raymond is in the Military, Katie is a Veterinarian, and both of them were gone for the day. Alex, Rocky and I, decided to take a bus to Québec City for the day and Katie said that she would meet us out for drinks once her shift was over.
Québec City is one of the prettiest cities I've seen. It is full of culture and character. More than 90% of Québécois (the people of Québec) speak French as their first language. I was warned that many of them weren't pleasant towards English-speaking people, but I never did experience that. It is often said that the people in Québec are very arrogant and rude because they want to be separated from Canada because they are different. The central cultural argument of those who wish to separate is that only sovereignty can adequately ensure the survival of the French language in North America, allowing Québécois to establish their nationality, preserve their culture identity, and keep their collective memory alive. I personally love that Canada has its unique twist of cultures.
After spending the day exploring the streets of Québec City, we decided to meet up with Katie and a few of her friends. A large street party was happening and we were ready to have fun! Quebec city knows how to throw a good party and Katie and her friends know how to have a great time. I didn't drink too much but I'm glad I wasn't hung-over the next morning. We had a long day of driving as we got back on the road.
The ride from the city up along the coast of the St. Lawrence River was really beautiful. By the end of the day, we all imagined that sleeping by the coast would be ideal. As we rode around searching for a place to set up camp for the night, Alex followed behind. Rocky signaled to make a left hand turn, and just before we had fully crossed the street, Alex cut us off and almost crashed into us at a very high speed. I don't fully understand Alex's perspective of what had happened but I do know that it was a mistake he didn't make intentionally. It is just hard to ignore something that could've put an end to our trip, or even our lives.
We pitched our tents on the shore of the St. Lawrence River along the coastal Highway 132. It was a great place to gather our thoughts as we enjoyed the view. Early the next morning, we headed towards Gaspé, Québec. After a few incidents, we all realized the difficulty in riding together. Alex continued in his own direction without us. Rocky and I remained in Gaspé and found an abandoned house to set up camp in the backyard. I love camping but I've been getting eaten alive. Mosquitos bites annoy me but black flies are attacking me, biting me repeatedly, taking small chunks of my skin and leaving me bloody, bruised and intensely itchy. It is tough being delicious. ;)
Not far from where we slept was a small city near the tip of the Gaspé Peninsula, called Percé. We decided to stop there on our way to New Brunswick, Canada. Percé is mainly a tourist town particularly well known for the attractions of the Percé Rock, translated to English as the pierced rock. It is one of the world's largest natural arches located in water. Percé is known as one of the most beautiful villages of Québec. It was a perfect location to remind us of the beauty of Québec before leaving the province to visit New Brunswick for the first time!
We arrived in Baie-d'Urfe, a suburb of Montreal, on June 17th where our friend, Alex, lives with his father, Patrick. We first met Alex while traveling in Mexico, and later randomly saw him hitchhiking at the side of the road in Guatemala. After arriving in Baie-d'Urfe, Patrick cooked us all a delicious duck dinner.
The next day we were invited by Patrick, who is an avid sailor, to the local sailing club for dinner.
Twinsies - Paula and I are often made fun of because, while traveling, we look the same since both wear blue jeans and the exact same hoodie. We don't mind so much since we wouldn't give up the best sweater either of us have ever worn. At $135 it's a bit pricey, but worth every penny. p.s. - MEC sponsorship is welcomed - call us.
Alex's father, Patrick, is also a motorcycle rider. He is also a bit of a workaholic, but planned on meeting up with us for part of our trip through the eastern part of Canada.
After several days at Alex's, Paula, Alex and I set out on the road. Our first destination was Québec City. A food that was popularized in Québec is Poutine - french fried potatoes topped with gravy and cheese curds.
The three of us spent the day walking around beautiful Québec City, situated alongside the St. Lawrence River.
Historic Québec City
The three of us had planned on meeting Katie, our couch-surfing host, later that evening. The streets were being readied for a large street party that was taking place that evening, and we had planned on meeting up with Katie and a few of her friends.
With some time to kill, Paula, Alex and I walked over to the park to relax and to take a nap in the warm sun.
Alex & Paula In Quebec City
In need of our daily coffee fix, we searched for a Tim Hortons coffee shop, but, unable to find one, we had to settle for Starbucks. Later that day, we stumbled across a Tim Hortons that didn't appear on my GPS. Tim Hortons quality has suffered a decline in recent years, but it was still our go-to coffee shop for its selection and price. The chain also originated in our home town of Hamilton, Ontario.
Our couch-surfing host, Katie, was a veteranarian, and, after a long day of work, we met up with her at the street party. Earlier that day, Katie had performed surgery on a dog. There were complications during the surgery, and the animal didn't make it through. Already saddened by the turn of events, Katie had to deal with the devastated owner of the pet who blamed her for what had happened. We tried to cheer her up with a few beers.
We met several of Katie's crazy friends.
While at Alex's house in Baie-d'Urfe, Patrick introduced us to a type of honey wine. We liked it so much that we decided to stop along the way at the Vieux Moulin, located along highway 132 in Québec, where the wine is produced. Since we couldn't carry a lot on the bike, we only bought one bottle of wine, but would like to have stocked up on a lot of their delicious goods, which range from different kinds of wines to various types of honey, honey-filled chocolates and other honey-based products.
Following the southern shore of the St. Lawrence river and up to The Gulf of The St. Lawrence, the ride along Québec's Route 132 was beautiful. It was spotted with small fishing villages, hills, mountains, cliffs and waterfalls. We were surprised not to have heard anything about it before.
Alex Along Route 132
The day before, while looking for a spot to camp, we were almost in an accident with Alex. We're not certain exactly what happened, but, for whatever reason, Alex didn't leave enough space while following to notice that we were making a left turn. We narrowly missed hitting each other at a high rate of speed. The stress of riding together got to both of us, and we both decided that it might be better if we split off on our own.
Later that evening, Paula and I looked for a place to set up camp. We found an abandoned house in the town of Gaspé that seemed perfect. We waited until dusk and spent the night in the yard behind the house. We packed up in the morning, had some breakfast and headed on.
Our next destination was the small, tourist town of Percé, Québec. Percé is known for the Percé Rock, one of the world's largest natural arches located in water.
Paula at Percé
I found a gravel road on my GPS that appeared to ascend the hill overlooking the town of Percé. We rode up a steep gravel road and found a lookout that gave a great view of Percé.
After leaving Percé, Paula and I headed on towards New Brunswick. We had spent almost a week in the province of Québec, but could easily have spent much more time there.