Monday, June 1, 2009

Heading back up to Gaspé: PART ONE

Day 1 and 2
I have had the opportunity to work on the Gaspé coast as well as travel along its shores on family road trips. This is by far one of my favourite road trips. You need to decide how long you have for the trip since that will determine whether you stick to the back roads or spend some time on a major highway.  Highway 20 will take you as far as Rivière du Loup at which point it merges with the 132.  
If you have time, then I want to share our favourite route. Take highway 20 east from Quebec city until Montmagny where you can hook up with the 132.  At this point you will have an opportunity to enjoy the river on your left as well as L'Isle aux Grues and Îles aux Oies. As you travel through the small villages that dot this old highway you will also have an opportunity to enjoy the architecture of traditional village homes as well as typical Québec farmhouses.

We usually make our first stop at Saint-Jean-Port-Joli.  This village is home to many different artists, painters and wood carvers.  It is also the location for a fun and interesting music festival held during the month of August.
Check it out.
Colourful homes of Kamouraska

Leaving Saint-Jean-Port-Joli you have another 55 km before you arrive at Kamouraska.  A great place for lunch.  There is a wonderful boulangerie on the main street in the village where you can pick up fresh bread. I suggest you pick up a fresh baguette and some local cheeses and sit by the pier where you can look out at the river or back at this quaint village with its beautiful homes. Don't miss out on a sweet treat with a nice cup of tea at the little chocolaterie-pâtisserie-salon de thé, La Fée Gourmande.  The owner is a bit cold and somewhat snobbish but she really does know her tea and the chocolates and pastries are truly amazing.  

Parc du Bic 4
Bic Provincial Park

Leaving Kamouraska you have approximately 130 km before you reach Le Bic. If you are camping then this is where I would stop for the night.  The provincial park is located on the shores of the St. Lawrence.  Within a short hike from your campsite you will find one of the many hidden coves within the park. Chances are you will see people digging for clams, and get a glimpse of some of the local wildlife.
Depending on the time of year you may want to head up the highway a few minutes to the local poissonnerie.  Pick up some delicious small shrimp and  local fish. If you are there in the spring be sure to buy the shrimp with their shells still on and their full flavour intact.  Delicious!

If you are not camping then I would suggest that you check out these chalets located on the shores of the St. Lawrence. You may want to stay a couple of nights and make a few days trips.  

There are also a variety of bed and breakfasts in Le Bic or you can head farther along the road to check out accomodations in Rimouski which is a large centre of approximately 42,000.  We prefer the smaller villages but if you want a larger hotel you will need to head to this city.  It will be the largest city centre that you will visit before you head farther up the coast. You may want to stock up on any groceries if you are camping since it tends to get pricey as you head up the coast.

We have always taken our bikes on this trip.  There are great paths for biking in the park but you can also head up the road to Métis sur Mer.  Park your car in the parking lot across from the little restaurant, Miami, and ride your bikes through the village.  You may be surprised to hear english being spoken as well as American and Ontario licence plates on the cars parked in the driveways of these beautiful victorian summer homes. 
Métis sur Mer became a popular vacation spot for rich Montrealers, as well as Ontario and American families that arrived by boat or train.  When we were there this May most of the homes were boarded up but we still enjoyed riding our bikes through the village, admiring these cedar-shaked homes and imagining the garden parties that were held on these magnificent  properites during the late 1800's. 
If you are a garden lover you will also want to include a visit to 'Les Jardins de Métis'.
From this point forward you have a beautiful drive that will take you through a plethora of villages as you make your way around the tip to the town of Gaspé. 

Sainte-Flavie Québec

END of Part One

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