Being second only to Russia in terms of landmass, Canada has a lot of space and nature to play in. Few realize that for us, a 6-hour drive is something we consider routine when we hop into our car heading out for a short vacation. If you come visit someone here and you want to see a lot, be ready to spend a significant amount of time in a car watching the countryside through the window with short pit stops at service centres. In other countries, well… you would be in a different country after spending that kind of time in a car – maybe I am overextending myself, but it all helps in proving a very valuable point that I hope I manage to get to at some point.
|A cozy rental property in La Malbaie, Quebec|
At the end of the summer of 2005, the Bickfords took an amazing road trip – about 6 or 7 hours driving through Quebec (pretty close to home in Canadian standards) – to la Malbaie. Rural Quebec has curious breaks in the countryside such as Eco-museums selling cheeses and other fine local produce, small sandwich shops to buy your casse-croûte and from time to time, the odd strip club in middle of nowhere – it may be somewhere in the Quebec charter of rights to grant equal access to the ladies of the night. The roadway to the final destination hugs the last stretch of the Saint-Laurent River (also known as the Saint Lawrence River) as it pours out into the bay that coincides with your arrival into town.
La Malbaie sits on this great bay – originally named The Bad Bay in olde French – but there is hardly anything bad about it. The pirates and buccaneers have long left, so the crime rate has tanked. The main drag has a small shopping centre with the bare necessities such as a Metro supermarket, clothing stores (picture local brands you never heard of instead of Saks Fifth Avenue) and a trusty Société des alcools du Québec. We were able to buy most of our provisions for our stay there, including horsemeat – I know, it sounds like an animal rights violation – smoked trout, ostrich cold cuts and other meats that would haunt any strong defender of a hardcore vegetable diet.
As the Bickfords are usually discrete individuals, we booked perhaps the biggest vacation home in the whole village. Three people rented a house for 12 people over an entire week. It belonged to an American industrialist back in the early 1900s. In our defense, it was actually cheaper than a small, roach patrol cottage in Ontario and we needed the space of course. Now, I don’t mean to be unpatriotic towards my dear birth province but Quebec does know how to take care of their people and visitors. First impressions are everything, don't you know. The house sat at the highest point of a hill, looking over the town out at the bay and on a clear day, you could make out Rivière du Loup in the distance.
|The barbecue in all its glory|
Road trips may be quite long in this country but they certainly are worth it for a change of scenery and relaxation. Most areas that service many tourists tend to shift the environment, overwhelming locals and even other visitors. Travellers tend to forget their common sense back home – don’t leave home without it - and respect for others. The region used to be a vacation spot for the rich and famous Quebeckers and Montrealers who stayed at the Chateau Richelieu - a still very pricey resort hotel now managed by the Fairmont hotel chain. I highly recommend this destination for peace, whale watching, fine meals and your budget can go a long way.