Our top 3 highlights:

– Algonquin Provincial Park

– Parc National de Forillon – whale watching

– Petittes Bergeronnes Bear Spotting

Route & Travelreport:

Day 1: Arrival in Montreal
Day 2: Montreal – Jazz Festival
Day 3: Parc National du Bic
Day 4: Gaspé Peninsula – Percé – Fort Prével
Day 5: Parc National de Forillon – Whale watching
Day 6: Matane – ferry crossing to Baie-Comeau
Day 7: Les Escoumins – Fly fishing on Canada day
Day 8: Petites-Bergeronnes – bear spotting
Day 9: Tadoussac – Whale watching
Day 10: Lac Saint-Jean – Musée Amérindien de Mashteuiatsh
Day 11: Québec – Québec Day
Day 12: Ottawa – Parliament Hill – Canadian Museum of Civilization
Day 13: Algonquin Provincial Park – Canoing – Moose and bever spotting
Day 14: Minden
Day 15: Wedding in Minden
Day 16: Niagara Falls
Day 17: Toronto Day 18: Terug naar huis

Montréal

After a flight of about eight and half hours we arrived in Montreal. The idea was to go east as soon as possible, but … As so often, the plans changed. The reason was that we found out that the Montreal Jazz Festival was starting, so we decided on one more night in Montreal. The festival happens all around the Place des Artes, it is well organized with lots of free outdoor stages and in a number of paid concerts indoors. We tried to get some tickets for a world famous Jazz Saxophonist, and we literally got the last two (!) tickets for David Sandborn. The atmosphere and the the different concerts were great!

The city itself is particularly interesting with the old town, the famous Notre Dame Basilica and downtown area with the skyscrapers of the 20th century. This provides a typical contrast and looks for us Europeans really North American. There is a beautiful park on Saint Helens Island with the Biosphere and the Ile Notre Dame grants access to the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve where the F1 Grand Prix is held annually, as well as the casino. All well worth a visit, and doable in one or two days. What we also did notice was the large amount of homeless on the streets. Everywhere we went, there were people sleeping in the corners or along the streets to beg, which is a bit of a change from Europe and can sometimes give a rather uneasy feeling.

Link: Click here for the Montréal images and more info

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Parc National du Bic

After a long day on the roads we finally arrived in the Parc National du Bic. A small nature reserve on the south side of the St Lawrence estuary, with many birds, deer, beautiful bays and of course the sea. We camped, as we planned to do the whole holidays, but it was so incredibly cold (-4° C), we only slept for about two hours . The normal night temperature that time of year should be somewhere between 5-10° Celsius. With only a thin sleeping bag you can imagine that we were not really dressed for the occasion. The sunrise and the park itself was amazing and when we drove around in the early morning, we saw two deer, a porcupine and a squirrel.

Link: Cllick here for more info on Parc National du Bic Link: Click here for the photos of Parc National du Bic and the Gaspé Peninsula

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Gaspé Peninsula – Percé – Fort Prével

After a quick drive through the park we decided to try and stay ahead of the weather that was coming in from the West, and we crossed the Gaspé Peninsula at Mont Joli through to the south, drove on to Percé and spent the night in Fort Prével. The next day we first played a quick nine holes on the Fort Prével golf course, and then we went to see Percé. It is a little town at the end (completely in the East) of the Gaspé Peninsula with a magnificent rock formation, and an island off the coast with a huge colony of Gannets. Sadly the weather had caught up with us already so it was getting a bit gray. We also wanted to still go whale watching, but decided to drive to Forillon to try it there.

Link: Click here for the Percé images and the rest of the Gaspé Peninsula Link: Click here for more info on the Fort Prével golf course

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Parc National de Forillon – whale watching

When we arrived at Parc National de Forillon, we were told that if we hurried up, we just could just about participate on the last whale watching trip of the day. And although it was pretty bleak weather, gray, with gusting winds, reasonably high waves and the occasional spray of a quick shower, we did see what we came to see: Whales! We saw, minke, fin and humpback whales. We were even able to identify one of them that hadn’t been spotted in a few years! We spent the night in a youth (!) hostel, where we had the luxury of a room for six people to ourselves. The following morning we first did a quick through the Parc National de Forillon. However, after the alert for bears, we entered the park quite nervously: did we want to meet bears or not? Well, we didn’t run into them, but even in a wet and gloomy park de Forillon, we still had quite a nice hike.

Link: Click here for the whale images Link: Click here for the photos of Parc National de Forillon on the Gaspé Peninsula

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Matane – ferry crossing to Baie-Comeau

We spent the afternoon driving through the pouring rain to Matané where we caught the ferry to cross the St. Lawrence to Baie-Comeau. On the boat you can sometimes see whales from the deck, but because of bad weather we were forced to watch a movie from India with French subtitles; not really ideal. We spent the night in a fairly busy motel near Baie-Comeau…

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Les Escoumins – learning to fly fish

The following day we drove to Les Escoumins where we had lunch and inquired about the possibility to safely go bear watching. A little further on, there where the cabins of Petites Bergeronnes, where they had a hut surrounded by electric fence and with a little luck it was possible to see bears from there. Unfortunately, there were no bears out and about that night. To be honest, with the rain, thunder and the chilling winds we would rather have stayed in our own cabin ourselves, so we can imagine that the bears stryed in their respective caves as well. Therefore we decided to stay an extra night, to hopefully see them the next evening. That meant we had the whole day to do other things. Now, Maarten had always wanted to try his hand on fly fishing after seeing the film, ‘A river runs through it’. After having filled out some forms, and receiving the necessary explanations we gave it a try back in Les Escoumins. Any salmon we would catch we would need to take a sample of the dorsal fin for DNA research and release the salmon back into the River. Any trout we’d catch we could keep for consummation (up to four). Maarten, after a few tries, appeared to have a reasonable technique, although he got a little excited with casting; the instructor told him that the fish are not to be found in the air, but the hook and the fly need to be in the water in order to be able to catch something. Anna soon had the technique down as well and after 20 mins or so hooked something! She caught a beautiful salmon trout of 27 cm, which we prepared in our little camping gear. Click the photos below for an enlargement:

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Petites-Bergeronnes – bear spotting

After fly fishing and a delicious lunch, we drove back to our cabin to prepare for bear spotting that evening. This time we were lucky, one, the weather was much better than the day before, no rain and it was a lot less cold. But, more importantly, second, we saw and were able to photograph black bears: first a little black bear in a tree. Later, a black bear in the clearing near the hut (probably the same one) and finally an adult black bear in the clearing. Very exciting, extremely fun!

Link: Click here to see the images of bear spotting in Petites-Bergeronnes

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Tadoussac – whale watching

The following morning had a clear blue sky, and no wind: ideal weather way to go watching. Tadoussac is and the Saguenay–St. Lawrence Marine Park are a well known area for this activity. And we got lucky again! This time we were fortunate enough to Minke and Fin whales. From a distance we even saw Beluga’s, beautiful white dolphins, but as they are protected, we could not come closer than 300m.

Link: Click here for the photos of the whales

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Lac-Saint-Jean – Musée Amérindien de Mashteuiatsh

After whale watching we drove inland towards the Lac-St-Jean to go to the Musée Amerindien de Mashteuiatsh. Tip: Musée Amerindien de Mashteuiatsh is one of the most informative museums about the indigenous people of Canada. Highly recommended! We also played a quick nine holes on Club de golf Lac-St-Jac. Link: Musée Amerindien de Mashteuiatsh Link: Click here for our round of golf on Club de golf Lac-St-Jac

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Québec – Québec Day

Quebec is known as the emotional heart of French Canada. Due to the small streets in the old town, there is an almost European atmosphere. Since the French speaking community of the province mostly feel that Québec should be independent, and the fact that people want to hold on to their French heritage, the national holiday of Québec is celebrated on June 24th. We planned our visit so, that we were in Quebec City, on Quebec Day. The period before, and after June 24th, there are various things to do all over town. For example, there is the Grand Rire de Québec, the Québec comedy festival. There was a concert in Parc l’Esplanade, with fireworks and an interactive wall. While on the other side of town there was the Image Mill, where a 3D computer animation with the city’s past, present and future is projected on an oversized screen on the grain silos of the Quebec harbour, some 600 m wide by 30 m high. This wall will is used during the whole summer, and will be improved year upon year until 2012. Also, the Cirque du Soleil was in town. Oh, what to do? We decided to take in the concert Parc l’Esplanade, and take a good look at the Image Mill.

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Ottawa – Canadian Museum of Civilization – Parliament Hill

We recommend you view the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Ottawa. Not only is it lovely and cool inside (when we visited Ottawa it was incredibly warm), more importantly, it is a beautiful building with wonderful exhibitions. We spent our time mainly on the lower floor, in the section of the indigenous people of Canada. Tip: Take a look at the “Changing of the Guard” at the war memorial. We ended our visit with a tour of Parliament Hill. We especially liked the library, both on the inside and from the outside.

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Algonquin Provincial Park – canoing – moose and bever spotting

From Ottawa is only a few hours’ drive to Algonquin Provincial Park, where planned a few days the “bush”, away from everything to take in some nature.

In Algonquin was a bit warmer than it had been the whole time before during our stay in Canada, and therefore we could (finally) camp outside, rather than stay in cabins. We thought that the park would be a true wilderness, but it really wasn’t. We found a big forest with many different campsites sites, and opportunities for hiking, fishing, canoeing and other water activities. More suited for a family holidays than hardcore outdoor activities. Mind you we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, with canoeing, hiking and fishing. We saw some moose, snapping turtles, beavers and other animals.

Link: Click here for the Algonquin Provincial Park images

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Minden – Latvian wedding

In Minden we were at a wedding of friends of our with Latvian ancestry. A great party on the shore of an idyllic lake.

Niagara Falls

From Minden we drove passed Toronto to Niagara on the Lake, which we used as a base for our visit to Niagara Falls. We knew that Niagara Falls can be extremely busy, while Niagara on the Lake is a quaint quite little town, with some amazing wineries due to its micro climate. Niagara Falls really is another ‘tourist trap’, with many hotels, casinos and so many different little businesses and stands everywhere, with everyone trying to make a buck. But if you’re ever around in the area, be sure to devote a day to take in a number of activities. We found the Maiden of the Mist, one of the best attractions, where you can take a boat tour passed the American Falls up close to the Canadian Horseshoe Falls. Make sure your camera equipment does not get wet, though, you get the rain jackets for a reason! Tip: Get the ‘Niagara Adventure Pass’, which provides admission to four attractions at one low price: White Water Walk, the Maid of the Mist, Journey Behind the Falls, Niagara’s Fury: the Creation of the Falls (4D movie theatre) Also, we played a quick nine holes at the Whirlpool Golf Course.

Link: Click here for images of the Niagara Falls Link: Click here for more info and images of the Whirlpool Golf Course

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Toronto – CN Tower

Finally, out in Toronto we didn’t do that much anymore, except pack our bags, and a romantic dinner on the CN Tower in the revolving restaurant, with views over Toronto.

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