We left Quebec today and headed towards Baie Saint Paul, just up the coast and an easy 1.5 hrs drive! We arrived about 5 hrs later having negotiated a roadworks contraflow that shut a section of the only Highway along this coast on a Monday lunchtime. Excellent planning, the queue stretched for about three miles. Then there was the mountains and serious hills. One downward section was about 8km long and at 8% gradient at times. Any vehicles over 3.5 tonne had to pull into a sectioned off part of the highway and test their brakes, to a standstill, before being permitted to continue. I edged cautiously down the “hill” in a low gear, a fifty-foot Kenworth artic came passed me in the offside lane with a giant JCB on the back, and a trail of thick black brake smoke billowing from his axles. Losing control (Brake fade) down here would result in the loss of life, and probably have an impact on our onward journey. We got to the town and headed to the spot that was recorded on I Overlander, unfortunately someone beat us to it and there was no room for our small vehicle to squirrel away. The second option was out of town, down a steep unmade road and into an area next to a rail line and the ocean. It was ok for the night but reminiscent of a secluded area that would be used by sexual deviants, or so Mandy said.
The town of Saint Simeon was next and we found a small parking area right on the ocean where we pitched. Later we lit a small fire and settled in with a beer to watch the sun go down. As we gazed out across the bay squeals of delight from Mandy indicated that something was afoot. Looking into the dusk we could see a pod of Beluga Whales breaking the water as they swam on their way. There were several and they stayed in our view for over 30 minutes, their white bodies bright in the setting sun. This was a real treat.
The evening and night were great and we arose bright eyed and bushy tailed to a guy banging on the truck door. I enquired as to his requirements and he demanded $30 for “Camping”. This piece of land was attached to a public parking area with a sign that read “An area to be shared by everyone” and certainly did not have any private or no overnight stopping anywhere. I employed my patient, tactful and diplomatic negotiation techniques for which I am well known. They didn’t go well as Monsieur did not speak a word of English (Or refused to!) he just maintained that this little bit of land, on which we had stopped, was private and he had some claim on it! It came down to me saying, with a bit of force, who are you and show me some ID at which point he said “No problem” and beat a hasty retreat, never to be seen again.
The next stop was another river side car park in the small town of Shawinigan. Right on the banks of the Saint Lawrence river.
It was pleasant enough town but not that exciting, until, we walked across a small semi hidden plaza to discover a random classic car display. This seemed to be a fairly spontaneous affair and there was hardly any organisation. It seemed to consist of some local enthusiasts bringing their fab cars for others (me) to drool over. I took the opportunity to identify a couple of models to Mandy that would suit my needs in the future, obviously giving her a choice:
They were all nice but I liked the orangey, red, maroon one !
Note to self, need a bigger garage!
From Shawinigan we travelled to Montreal and another parking area on the side of a river, there is a theme developing here! However, this one was in an urban neighbourhood and was parking area for the local park. It was a lovely area and nobody paid us any mind. We had a few inquisitive visitors, a father and young lad came by and had a long chat about trucks and military which resulted in an exchange of a MPS uniform patch for a handmade, miniature copy of the Stanley “Hockey” Cup. One other young couple, Amelie and Brandon, live locally but are itching to get into “van life” as it is referred to here. As they left, following a indepth chat, Brandon gave us a jar of their own make salsa and this deserves a mention as it was delicious. They are a start-up business that I am sure is going to take flight. https://www.salsalab.co/ . Thanks guys and all the best.
Using the Metro (Underground) we visited the city centre. There was a great vibe and a very European feel despite the majority of the people speaking English here. Mandy managed secure us a seat in a rooftop cocktail bar (another developing theme) overlooking the bay and marina. A cool breeze was blowing which was welcome in the 28 degree heat of the pavement.
We hatched our plans for the next day which included a visit to Notre Dame Cathedral (Which is a modelled on the one in Paris).
And onto St Helens Island where the Biosphere is situated. Unbeknown to us the island was hosting “Heavy Montreal” heavy metal festival which, judging from the small crowds of leather, studs and other gothic style clad individuals, did actually have a following. However, this did not include us and we quickly left to obtain sustenance at the world famous Schwartz sandwich bar. Not unlike the bagel shops at Brick Lane, London, this sandwich bar serves monster smoked beef sandwiches and has a well-deserved queue down the street at all times of the day. It also serves Poutine as a national dish. We know it as chips and gravy, a northern delicacy, but the Canadians add cheese curds. https://schwartzsdeli.com/index.php?route=common/home
As we walked off the the low cal lunch we stumbled upon a mahoosive cocktail bar (Yes repetitive) that boasted 30 different cocktails in his and hers sizes, how could we not! https://www.shakercuisineetmixologie.com/en/
Suitably refreshed we headed for home.
Next morning we headed towards Toronto and a quick overnight at Kingston where we stopped for the Sunday evening close to an industrial estate, not the best idea when everyone turns u for work about 0700hrs. We got up early, no real choice, and whilst looking for some wiper blades we stumbled across Kingston penitentiary, a closed high security prison that functions as a museum. https://www.kingstonpentour.com/ A lucky find (If you like that sort of thing, which we do) and spent a couple of hours there chatting to the staff who are ex prison officers. They were very informative and showed us around the old wardens house, (The full tour was not available on a Monday), but there was plenty to see:
And thus off and into Toronto. I used to be in the HM Forces and know a fair amount of reprobates from those days and one of whom resides on the outskirts of Toronto. John Bond, or Bondy, as he is known by all, has been in Toronto for many years and always said “If you are this way, pop in” so we took him up on that and pitched up at the front door, parking the truck on his street outside. The house is owned by Marie, his good and very patient friend, and it was great of her to let us into her home. We promised to be very good, not drink too much and not talk too much crap. (Fool! I don’t think we will be allowed back!) What bliss to walk into air conditioning, cold beer and a good catch up.We only had about 20 years to cover!
The following morning we were off to Toronto City itself. Jumped on the train and arrived in the heart of the town. A quick look around and we headed towards the CN Tower. https://www.cntower.ca/en-ca/home.html
The building is pretty impressive itself but it also houses the Aquarium and we got a joint visit ticket and joined the very long and boisterous queue. The Aquarium is very well done with a massive marine pool with a moving walkway below/within. I got one great shot of a lone, ferocious predator, and there was a shark circling behind:
And then up the tower itself, and another queue. The Tower is now the 9th tallest in the world and initially built as a communications tower, then some bright spark though it could be used as a tourist attraction. Judging by the queue I think it has a pretty huge income. We got to the top and the views were truly amazing. Apparently on a clear day you can see for 10 miles.
It also had a glass floor where the bravest amongst us wandered across, care free, despite the obvious inherent danger.
So, as I type it is approaching the end of a public holiday here in Canada. We were due to go to Niagara Falls but because of the potential crowds we have hung around Toronto and taken advantage of Marie’s very generous hospitality. Close to the shores of Lake Ontario the area has a number of waterfront beaches and public parks so we have basically spent a long weekend chilling. On one such walk we came across a small Jamaican restaurant that deserves a mention. It is at Pickering waterfront where Chef Glen, English by birth, produces some fantastic Caribbean style food. https://www.facebook.com/MrDeliciouscakes/
We are off to Niagara tomorrow so I am making use of the wifi here to get this blog on. Hope you enjoy it. Cheers for following.