Tag Archives: quebec

Places: Mont Sutton, QC

Although we were ‘staying around home’ for the holidays, way back in July or something I had spotted these interesting stand-alone cabins on AirBnb and felt I had to book them for some occasion. Since the prices didn’t seem to really change over Christmas, I thought they’d be a nice spot to ring in the new year and get out on the slopes at the same time. Although the downtime over the holidays was nice, after a while it seems like you’ve had the same conversation with family enough times, watched enough TV and definitely eaten enough.

We had a perfect day to drive up to Sutton after a half-day at work and arrived at about 4pm just as the ski hill was shutting down. We picked up the key to our Kabin and headed to the base of the ski hill where it was located. Some people were even just skiing home from the hill which made for a funny scene.

The Kabin was excellent – the ‘modular-type’ home was one of about eight that make up the community. It had everything we needed and obviously had made great use of space to create a cozy but spacious place for us to hang out. Before anything, the kids were anxious to hit the hot tub on the deck which was simply awesome. Each of the Kabins backs out on to a birch forest which is a nice touch of nature.img_1485

img_1524
Hanging out at our ‘Kabin’

On our first day at Sutton, we put Noah in a lesson since he had never been on a snowboard before. Although his teachers (one teacher and one translator) focused a lot on slowing down and stopping, he really wasn’t too interested in doing much of that but seeing how fast he could get to the bottom of the hill.img_1512

We didn’t explore much of the mountain this year since we were skiing with the kids but it is a fantastic place for families who are just getting into skiing to go. For only $22, you can get a lift ticket for the ‘family zone’ which consists of a single chairlift that leads to about five or six runs that are all green-dots or blues. This was perfect for Ella who got on the chair for the first time and made her way down in fine fashion after I taught her the most elegant way to fall off the chair at the top.img_1479

Although it was relatively busy on New Year’s Eve, the resort was perfectly empty on New Year’s Day with the parking lot only about half-full. That, combined with about 10cm of snow that fell overnight made for a great day of snowboarding/skiing. On the second day on the hill, the kids continued to grow in confidence and Noah must have set some sort of record for the number of times he went up and down the magic carpet. Up the carpet, binding strapped, zip down the hill, binding off, back up the carpet….on repeat.

We tried to explore the town a bit, most things were shut down for the holiday so we will definitely need to go back since there seem to be some interesting microbreweries and restaurants. We had brought a large amount of food from home to cook in our chalet so that worked out really well. There was also a large IGA in town to stock up on any provisions.

img_1474
Happy New Year!

Overall, this was a great spot to relax for three nights and break up our holiday for a bit. The wood stove and the hot tub were highlights as well as the fantastic weather on the hill.

 

Advertisements

Places: Gaspe Peninsula, Quebec

During our Maritimes adventure, we spent time in four Canadian provinces and the first of these was of course Quebec. Sometime last summer I had my interest sparked in going to the Gaspe by this article in the Globe and Mail. The funny part is that the article really doesn’t cover anything that we actually did in the Gaspe but the inspiration did manage to get us there.

One thing we found out about the Gaspe during the first couple of days is that it is a LONG way out there. To get to Forillon National Park, our first destination of the trip, took us about fourteen hours of driving with two distinct components. Until Riviere-du-Loup, it is an easy drive flying along four-lane highway but after that it moves to more tedious, but much more interesting and beautiful, driving along rising and falling two-lane highways with limited passing lanes until reaching the tip of the Gaspe peninsula where Forillon lies.

This drive really peaked my interest in returning to the area, there are so many beautiful scenes along the St. Lawrence Seaway and tiny towns that could be explored. One thing that started to strike me as we drove is how isolated this area of Canada could be, particularly before the Internet and during the winter. We stopped for groceries about two and a half hours from our campground and it was the last grocery store of any size that we saw.

Our morning view

We arrived around dinner time to Forillon National Park and everyone’s eyes lit up when they realized I had booked an Otentik rather than sleeping in our own tent. This counts as luxury on an adventure like this!

Our four-season canvas tent could not have had a more beautiful view, looking out toward the Gulf of St. Lawrence from our front porch. We really enjoyed our two nights at Forillon – there were very few people and the facilities at the National Park were excellent. The weather was pretty funny – it changed constantly, from hot and sunny to rainy and windy and back again in a matter of minutes as different systems blew in off the ocean.

One of the six weather patterns we experienced that day.

Our campground provided a rocky beach, a playground overlooking the ocean, and excellent facilities to make it a very comfortable experience.

We did the eight-kilometre Les Graves trail to the lighthouse at Cape Gaspe – this was a fun hike although it did make us come to the realization that our kids are probably still more suited to six kilometre long hikes…

On the way back to the campsite, after spotting a seal and some foxes earlier, we also saw a black bear which brought traffic to a halt and let E check another animal off her list for the trip.

The next day, from Forillon, we drove west on the south side of the Gaspe Peninsula, passing by the famous Perce Rock and other beautiful scenery. We stopped at a nameless beach for an hour or so and the lack of people in this wonderful landscape continued to amaze us. The only place we saw any people was in Perce, which actually seemed like sort of an aberration as we arrived to a town that was packed with tourists. We made that a very short stop and as soon as we were on our way, the crowds disappeared once again.

Our last night in the Gaspe was spent in Carleton-sur-Mer at the Manoir Belle Plage. This small town again provided nice views over the water and although we didn’t have a lot of time to spend, we enjoyed some excellent coffee the next morning from La Brulerie du Quai while the kids explored one of the largest playgrounds that we saw all trip along with its 200-foot zipline.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

From Carleton, it was only about an hour until we were into New Brunswick, ending our Gaspe portion of the trip. I think we would all welcome going back to the Gaspe – there were so many idyllic little towns that we sailed through because of a lack of time but each one we stopped in provided an interesting glimpse into the history and culture of this isolated part of Canada.

Places: The Maritimes

In our quest to see more of Canada, this summer we headed East. After 18 days, five provinces and 4900 kilometres we finally pulled back into the driveway on Sunday night and can at least say we’ve put a small dent in it. Over the next week or so I will post some of the details of our trip but for now, here’s a glance at our route:

We had unbelievable weather, particularly for this part of the world, never spending any time at all inside due to rain. Our minivan performed admirably, even as our GPS continued to lead us through backroads that could only be loosely categorized as roads at all. If you’d like to get a sneak peek of our adventures, check out my instagram photos in the sidebar. Otherwise, stay tuned…

Places: Lac Champagne, QC

Although I am pretty torn on whether I would actually want to own a cottage, there is no doubt that I always love going to other people’s cottages. It’s a little bit like my relationship with pools and boats.

Luckily, we have some friends who are kind enough to invite us up to their cottage about an hour north of Ottawa at least once a year. Last weekend, they invited us up along with another family we are friends with to enjoy the lake and escape the heat of Ottawa. (Sunday was the warmest day in the past two years!)

After packing up what felt like most of our house, we were ready to go and we spent the weekend just as I’d want to at the cottage. We sat in the sun on the dock, ate lots of food, drank some cold pops, and swam in the lake. The kids all played great together, Lil’ E barely got out of the water the entire weekend, and the rest of them tried for hours without success to catch fish off the dock with a net. Sunday was a bit rough as we managed to stay up until about three in the morning on Saturday night talking around all sorts of nonsense before getting to bed.

The cottage was a perfect respite from work and home and the small roadtrip got us excited to head out on our more substantial one next weekend

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Places: Quebec City, QC

The last time I had been in Quebec City was more than ten years ago when I stopped in for a night with friends on our way to a wedding in Nova Scotia so it was certainly time for a return visit.

Given the preciptious drop in the Canadian dollar and a bit of patriotic guilt, we decided this year to put a priority on travelling in Canada with the kids. Quebec City is often referrred to as a kind of ‘encapsulated’ Europe within Canada. I think that may be a bit of a stretch but it certainly has a unique culture – or some might say it is a ‘distinct society.’ It is just about a five-hour drive from Ottawa to Quebec City so we decided that it was worth a three-night stay and we also put a priority on trying not to do too much in one day since we have been busy at home and at work lately. Our weather represented a true Canadian spring – you name it, we had it. Rain, some flurries, clouds, sun, warmth, cold, wind – it was all there.

On Friday night when we arrived it was cool enough that we were happy to find the Chez Ashton across the street for a poutine and then retreat to our condo to watch the Senators game on TV.

Poutine #1

On Saturday, we woke up to sunshine and set out to explore our neighbourhood of Saint-Roch. Most of the activity seems to be focused on Rue St. Joseph so we walked the length of it until we were drawn in by Benjo, a giant toy store. In the last seven years I have been in plenty of toy stores but this was certainly one of the most impressive with giant displays, a racetrack that we had to drag the big guy off, and even a train that the kids could ride around the store on. After that, H found her own version of a toy store, some unique furniture shops!

Benjo!

In the afternoon we hiked up to the old city and wandered through the streets before visiting the Chateau Frontenac, a most impressive old Canadian Pacific hotel. From there, we took the stairs down to Petit-Champlain and then boarded the ferry to Levis that crosses the St. Lawrence river. The ferry provides quite an impressive view of Quebec City, much like taking the Staten Island ferry out of Manhattan, and although the ice was out of the water when we were there, it is impressive that this thing manages to run all year. After taking the ferry back since there really isn’t anything to do in Levis beyond getting back on the ferry, we took the funicular back up to the walled city instead of the stairs. By the time we walked all the way back to our neighbourhood we had covered a pretty good distance.

Chateau Frontenac

Despite this, we thought it was a good idea to try out a fancier place for dinner, Les Salles Gosses, right near our place. The staff was excellent, the food was really good, and the kids were complete contrasts as Lil’ E downed lobster linguini while the big guy declared everything on the menu ‘disgusting’. Things really went downhill when we discoverd that the ‘veal balls’ were not actually a meatball made with veal, but a more literal translation. Perhaps not our finest parenting decision to try and push for this meal, but the snow crab croquettes were delicious!

On Sunday morning we set out to Montmorency Falls, about 15 minutes east of Quebec City. This is quite an impressive sight that is actually slightly higher than Niagara Falls. Although the stairs that allow you to go down right beside the falls were still closed for the season, the suspension bridge was still open and it provided quite an amazing perspective. Although we didn’t make use of it, there is also an old lodge there that houses a restaurant and a small interpretative centre that we toured through. From the top of the falls, there are also impressive views of the St. Lawerence River and Ile d’Orleans.

Montmorency Falls

Later the same day, we went up to check out the Plains of Abraham, the site of Canada’s most famous battle that eventually led to the fall of the French troops and victory of the British Empire. Although historically significant, the Plains are essentially just a large, open expanse of grass which while lovely in the summer was just plain cold and miserable with the wind whipping off the river. However, while checking out some of the historic cannons we were offered passes to the National Museum of Fine Arts by a kind lady who had extras. While we only had a little time to check out the museum before it closed, we did manage to explore the Bryan Adams photography exhibit which exceeded my expectations and was pretty interesting to see. Even the kids enjoyed the large-scale photos and took turns picking their favorites. Overall, despite the weather being a bit dicey, we had a great time in this unique city. On Monday we returned to a couple of our favorite shops in our neighbourhood, picked up lunch for the ride home and headed back to Ottawa around noon, flying through Montreal on the bypass that makes travel through the city a much more reasonable proposition again.

The Stay: Les Lofts St-Joseph

Last weekend we were in Quebec City for three nights and stayed at the recently opened Les Lofts St-Joseph. This boutique property consists of 18 two-bedroom lofts that were created as a part of a massive renovation in a building from 1918.
Quiet in Saint-Roch
The property just opened at the beginning of April and we were actually the first guests to stay in our unit. This would also explain why I was unable to find reviews before we stayed but our leap of faith was rewarded with an awesome place.
Relaxing as loft-dwellers do
Les Lofts are another step in the revitilization of the Saint-Roch neighbourhood in Quebec City. This reminds me of a sort of ‘Williamsburg lite’ – right down to the Urban Outfitters that has just opened up. Although not how most people picture Quebec City, we found that it was much more authentic and enjoyable than staying in the Old City where it tends to be dominated by tourist traffic. There are plenty of cool coffee shops, a couple of microbreweries – including La Barberie which makes a pretty tasty IPA. We were still able to hike up the hill into the old city and take in the beautiful sights there as well.
As the pictures on their website show, this new place is beautiful with lots of natural light and they have thought of almost everything in stocking the apartments. We would definitely stay in this same spot when returning to Quebec.

Camping: Lac Philippe

Last weekend my brother-in-law did our annual camping trip with the two girls. By annual, I mean this has happened two years in a row. (incidentally, also our family’s definition of a tradition)

Last September we visited Fitzroy Harbour and had a fun time setting up camp, building a fire, roasting marshmallows, and canoeing. This year it was more of the same at Lac Philippe, but in the comfort of one of their new four-season tents.

Site 258

I was curious to try one of these tents when I saw them online last year and they were a pretty fun novelty but I certainly wouldn’t see them as a long-term option to camping. For one, the price of them is basically as a high as a hotel room. As well, I realized that even though the weather was perfect, we spent a bit more time inside than we would if we just had the tent.

Lac Philippe

That said, the tents were nicer than I even expected and if the weather was foul they would be a godsend. Each tent is equipped with a three level bunkbed, a woodstove, a fridge!!, a two burner propane stove and a nice table with chairs. The girls loved it – climbing up and down the bunks, going in and out and spreading out their stuff throughout the tent.

The park at Lac Philippe is well-organized and was very clean. I expect that it gets really busy once the summer season starts – parts of the park were still closed at the beginning of June but the beach was pretty full and most of the sites that were open seemed to be occupied. The beautiful weather probably helped with that. Firewood was an insane $9 for a small bundle – a new record, I think!

A great weekend together again and we are looking forward to next year already.