A Road Trip to Gaspésie

A rejuvenation for the body and soul.

We decided on this one week road trip quite randomly. Dan said that he needed to disconnect hence a holiday far away from home is ideal. Our far away equates to more than three hours drive from Montreal. Since I have not visited the region of Gaspésie, Dan thought it would be a good place to visit because he enjoyed his previous trip there.  We decided to camp at the National Park of Gaspésie.

Our total drive time was approximately eight hours (one way). We broke down the travelling time into two days where we stayed over at a hostel in the city Rivière-du-Loup for a night. This is the longest road trip I have done thus far and I have learned certain important lessons during the journey.

Be mentally prepared – Anything can happen during a road trip, whether it is human created chaos or Mother Nature taking her course. We should definitely have an plan for our trip but we need to be mentally prepared for things to happen unexpectedly and adapt accordingly. In our case, we had a flat tire just after 45 minutes of car ride. Under the hot, sweltering summer sun, Dan had to change the tires and we had to send the car to the nearest mechanic right after. We got delayed up to four hours.

Give sufficient travelling time – Due to the flat tire, we reached the hostel at 8pm. Imagine if we were ambitious and tried to reach our destination in a day. We would have reached the park at midnight where we would be buried in darkness, feeling tired and frustrated.

With abundance of time on hand, we had the luxury to stop over at places of interest. We were drawn to fromageries (a place where they produce and sell cheese) and the one that blew us away was Fromagerie des Basques at Trios-Pistoles. They are known for selling a type of cheese which makes the sound ‘kwick kwick’ when you chew on it. I was definitely in cheese paradise.

Cheese from Fromagerie des Basques at Trios-Pistoles

Cheese from Fromagerie des Basques at Trios-Pistoles

Check the condition of your car – We forgot about this totally. Since we do not have our own car, we missed out the important routine of checking the condition of a car before heading out on a long drive.  Areas of inspection include the wipers, fluid levels, the car battery, the rubber of the tires and the car’s brake pads.

Dress comfortably – Whether you are the driver or the passenger, you are going to be in the car for a long time so put on clothes as comfortable as your pajamas!

Once we reached the park, we set up our tent and got ourselves installed. We were blessed with good weather as it was sunny until the day where we were supposed to depart. Situated near a lake, we took daily dips in the chilly water where freshwater leeches hid under rocks. We did not know about the leeches until one day, a family with two kids warned us of leech sighting in the water. I was afraid of going into the lake initially but when we caught a leech in a small scoop and the little girl fondled it curiously, I realized that they were not so dangerous after all.

Sunset by the lake

Wanting a challenge, we did a five hours hike up Le Pic du Brûlé. We were rewarded with a magnificent view of an array of mountains but at the same time, we were exhausted at the end of the day. I was reminded of my first and last half marathon where my knees and ankles throbbed with unpleasant sensations at the end of the race. We took three days to recover from the fatigue before doing our second hike which was only two hours. The view was no less satisfying. We also managed to catch sight of a female moose with her child.

Right on top

Overseeing the mountains

 

Le mont Ernest-Laforce

The moose on the trail

Last but not least, Gaspésie has fresh seafood everywhere! Back in Singapore, I did not really crave to go a restaurant just for fresh fish, prawns, crabs etc because you can always buy them at the market. However, in Montreal, it is almost impossible to find fresh seafood (or it is really pricey) since the cargos have to be shipped from other cities, provinces or countries. We feasted on various types of fishes, prawns, scallops and lobster. Enough cholesterol for the next few months!

Fresh scallops and prawns with garlic

Signing off with love,

Esther

Hey you 2013!

Welcome 2013! May this year be filled with love, comfort, warmth and prosperity!

Dan and I were brainstorming for ideas on what to do for countdown. A rule that I stick with – It has to be different from the last. We thought of organizing an activity with a theme in the day and end off with the countdown at our place. As we tossed through the various ideas, went through various themes like sports, board games etc, nothing seemed to resonate with me until Dan said, “We could also head up to Quebec City.”

That was how we ended up spending two days one night with his brother and his family in Quebec City. We were warmly hosted by the family with two energetic children filling the apartment with their enthusiastic babbles and contagious laughter. My sister-in-law prepared a meal that was thankfully apt for the evening. Spare ribs with rice. Fats + Carbohydrates = Warm. Food is definitely one of the main factors needed to embrace an evening of -10 degrees Celsius. The other essential would be one’s dressing. Last winter, being a noob, I was always raising a white flag and retreating indoors after an hour or two.  I didn’t want to get my ass frozen. Once bitten twice shy. This time round, I layered myself like an onion. For the top, I had a long john as my first warm layer, followed by two long sleeved blouses, one inner jacket and finally a sports winter coat. For the bottom, I had a long john and a snow pants. I have to thank my husband for insisting that I get a snow pants for his wisdom has made its point once again.

At about 10pm, Dan, his brother and I headed out with our homemade ‘Final Countdown’ drink which was specially fabricated by Dan. It was a mix of Canadian whiskey, maple liquor and chamomile tea. Drink in a shot, the alcohol warms you up slowly while leaving a taste of maple sweetness lingering in your mouth. The main event happened at a place called ‘Grand Allée’. Despite the cold and mild snowing, there were already many people gathered at the selected ground. What surprised me more was the sight of people of different ages present to soak in the atmosphere. There were young children all bundled up, chugging along with their parents. There were elderly couples who strolled with ease on a ground so familiar to them. I turned to Dan and exclaimed, “We need to party till we are old like that!”

If you like modern trendy songs, you could camp at the site where the DJ sits high on a raised platform, mixing songs of beats that hype up the scene right away. The guest DJ for that night was DJ Boy George, one of the top 100 DJs in the world in 2012 according to a poll done by DJ Mag. He was ready to make the floor dance! Even though we love trendy songs, we preferred some traditional music for the holidays. We chose to party out at the site which had local Quebec folk music. A life animator in a furry winter hat took the stage with pumped up enthusiasm, “ Vous êtes bons!”. He introduced various local performers who churned the crowd with their live performances with musical instruments like the harmonica and the violin. A group did a tap dance but the music was too loud and we could not really hear the rhythmic movements of the feet. We danced the night away with endless snowflakes descending upon us. When the clock stroke 12, we were presented with a minute of dazzling fireworks.

Fireworks 2013

Fireworks are no rare sight for me though not very common either. Nonetheless, every time I have the chance to witness the beauty of it, I would admire the spectacular sight with awe. Standing amongst thousands of people gazing up into the sky, I thought to myself, ‘how lucky am I to be here today.’ Another day just passed. Another year is here. Honestly, there is no literal difference in 31st December and 1st January. However, we hold the power to make the difference in each and every day of our lives. With conviction, I silently cheered myself in making 2013 yet another wonderful year.

That is how we ended off the evening.

That is how we ended off the evening.

Happy New Year to all!

Signing off with love,

Esther

A Summer Outdoor Guide in Quebec

A Brief Summer Guide to Explore Quebec

What’s great about summer in Montreal? Almost everything! I have heard hearsay from so many locals about how great summer is but now, I am finally experiencing it for myself. Today was another of those Imagehot, sunny days. Since Daniel wanted to hit the gym, I decided to bike together with him as a form of workout for myself. His gym was near Atwater Market, a place which I have wanted to visit quite some time ago but the plan was never fulfilled until today.  The market mainly sold local products i.e. vegetables, fruits, meat and cheese produced by the farmers in Quebec. The prices may cost more than what you can find in a regular supermarket but the quality of the products is definitely higher too. Aside from consumables, my eyes were presented the beauty of the colourful flowers which were waiting to be taken home by their new owners.  It made me dream about having my own little garden, with my homegrown fruits, vegetables and flowers! I am not sure if I am blessed with green fingers. The only type of plant which I have grown is bean sprouts from green beans. It was a project which I had to do in Primary Three!

Two weeks ago, there was an Outdoor and Travel Festival (http://www.parcjeandrapeau.com/254-Outdoor_and_Travel_Festival-event.html) at Parc Jean Drapeau. There were many exhibitors sharing their love and passion with regards to outdoor trips and activities within and near Quebec. When I say Quebec is big, I think that is an understatement. Some of the places which I thought were interesting to visit were at least 8 to 10 hours drive away! My list of top summer activities includes water rafting, camping, kayaking and trekking. Since I have collected a number of brochures which would be forgotten soon, I decided to make a brief summary of what I have for my safekeeping and also for those who are planning their summer trip in Quebec.

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Quebec Province

Côte-Nord Duplessis (www.tourismeduplessis.com)

This region offers a change in scenery. With a shoreline which stretches out up to 1000km, this place offers an abundance of maritime heritage. The main excursions are guided through Sept-îles and Mingan archipelagos where are you able to see St Lawrence River becoming a gulf. Other activities include whale watching, horseback trail ride, trekking to the waterfalls and camping.

Essipit (http://www.essipit.com)

Another town near the coastline, Essipit is known for its aboriginal community, called the Innus. They have whale-watching cruises and camping too. However, what’s special about this place is that they have hunting grounds where you can actually hunt for bears and moose! Not a fan of animal hunting but this was probably the way of life in the past. 

Île Saint-Bernard (www.ilesaintbernard.com)

Île Saint-Bernard is located in Châteauguay, only 20 minutes drive from Montreal. Many activities have already been planned out from May to October this year. You can check on the website to see if any particular event or activity catches your eye. Environmentally protected, you can embark on hiking trails that are perfect for bird watching and photography. There are also educational activities created for children to learn about the surroundings around them.

Propulsion Rafting (http://propulsion.ca/)

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The Rouge river is located just one hour from Montreal. It claims to offer some of the best whitewater rafting experience in North America. They offer different kinds of rafting experience, depending on what kind of challenge you are up to. I highly suggest that you go with a group of friends because the fun factor will be doubled or even tripled!

United States:

Adirondack Coast Wine Trail (http://goadirondack.com/)

Adirondack Coast is not located within Quebec but it is part of Vermont, United States. Vermont lies to the south of Montreal and you will need about 2 hours drive to reach Adirondack Coast. If you are not a Canadian, do check that you have a valid visa to cross the borders. The land is filled with grapes, growing from the hybrids of European grapes and hardy American rootstock that can withstand the cold winter temperatures. Hit on the trail if you have a special love for wine!

Virginia Beach (http://www.virginiabeach.com/)

With all the on-going camping and trekking activities, now we have a beach which may prove to be the ideal location to chill and simply do nothing at all. Virginia Beach is located in the East Coast of United States, about 14 hours drive from Montreal. Unless you are up for a road trip, taking a plane may prove to be a much easier option. Some of their activities include nature and eco tours, fishing and boating, and surfing. They also have golf courses for those who might want to give a swing.

Whatever I have stated here is probably 1% of what is out there. This will give a brief idea of what can be expected this summer but if you have something particular in mind, for example, camping with kayaking experience, please do more research to ensure that you have the best pick possible. All the best and have a kick ass time!

Signing off with love,

Esther

La Cabane à Sucre

Quelque Chose de Sucré; Something Sweet 

Pour ce blog, je vais essayer d’écrire une version française.

Le week-end avant, Daniel et moi avons visité la cabane à sucre avec ses collègues. Nous avons eu à conduire pendant environ une heure pour y parvenir. Le nom de l’endroit est Erabliere St-Henri (http://www.erabliere-st-henri.qc.ca/anglais.htm). L’endroit est magnifique et j’ai adoré la nourriture. On peut manger de tout avec le sirop d’érable. J’ai mangé tellement que j’etais si pleine. Après cela, j’ai eu la tire d’érable. Je l’ai aimé! Aussie, j’ai faire une balade en cheval. Dans l’ensemble, c’était une bonne expérience!

Qu’est-ce que la cabane à sucre? (Je dois expliquer en anglais)

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The weekend before, Daniel and I made a trip out of Montreal city to have my first sugar shack experience. A “sugar shack” is a cabin where maple sap is collected to be boiled until it becomes maple syrup. The cabin is exclusively reserved for that purpose. As the production of maple syrup requires special equipments, the sugar shack needs to be localised in the middle of the sugar bush and it remains unoccupied for the rest of the year. Apparently, maple syrup can only be collected once a year (during spring time) because of the conditions needed. The temperature at night has to be below zero degrees and the temperature at night has to be above that. This year, the weather has been erratic in Montreal hence the supply of maple syrup had been reduced significantly.

At the cabin, we were served with local Quebec food which included pea soup, maple syrup ham, deep fried pork, sweet dough with maple syrup, maple pie, sugar pie, egg custard pie etc. As you can see, the menu is highly unhealthy but without doubt, amazingly delicious. We ate so much that we could barely walked from the table yet thereafter, we still went for le tire d’erable (maple syrup on stick) which is solid when you take it off the ice and melts right away in your mouth. The day ended with a horse ride through the maple syrup production group. Nothing fancy but a good bonding time for people on board to chat away. Visiting the sugar shack is a definite must try experience if you are heading over to Montreal during spring time.

Signing off with love,

Esther