A couple of takeaways about Quebec history--the French honor Cartier as an explorer and Champlain as a colonizer. Cartier was continually searching for the route to China, land he could claim for the King of France, or gold and precious stones. On his last voyage to New France (1541-1543) he got one of the Amerindians (a new term I have picked up from the French) to show him where they had gold and diamonds. He excitedly took some back to France, only to find he had picked up fool's gold and quartz. Even today in France they have a saying that something suspiciously bogus is "as fake as Canadian diamonds". Champlain was interested in colonizing the new world and in making trading deals with the Amerindians. Interesting perspective on the two pioneers.
Le Boreal arrived in Tadoussac, which sits at the point where the Saguenay fjord joins with the north shore of the St. Lawrence River. Ours was the first cruise ship to visit Tadoussac this year. We had a slew of volunteer greeters--I think about one-fourth of the 850 residents of the small town. Tourism is king in Tadoussac. This little town gets 400,000 visitors per year! It's in a lovely setting and has a gorgeous 4-star hotel (the Hotel Tadoussac), which I only saw the outside. Some folks went to dinner since we were in town until 11 pm and said it was marvelous. The town is listed in the Most Beautiful Bays in the World and the Most Beautiful Villages of Quebec. Tadoussac is 2.5 hour drive from Quebec City and about 6 hours from Montreal. There's only one highway, and you have to take a ferry across the fjord to reach the town and then head north further up the coast to Havre-Saint-Pierre and points north.
Most visitors to Tadoussac are French (or Quebecois), with less than 20 percent American. It's a good place for those who love nature, history, or different cultures. Bird watching is especially popular when the birds are migrating (September and early spring). Whale watching seems to be the number one activity for tourists, and it's no wonder since there are 13 types of whales living in the St. Lawrence, and many frequent the area around the Saguenay fjord. There's also bear watching at "Domaines des Ancetres", which is a lodge, animal orphanage, and black bear observation center.
Le Boreal had three afternoon tours--a walk around the town on foot with a guide, bear watching, or whale watching. I chose the whale watching, which left right after lunch, and it was an excellent choice. Much of the time walking around town was spent at the Greve Gardens, which featured local vegetation; the Chauvin trading post, a recreation of the first fur trading post in Canada in 1599; a stop at the Tadoussac Hotel for tea; finishing with a visit to the oldest wooden church in North America named the Tadoussac Chapel or the Indians' Chapel. The bear watchers toured the bear orphanage and spent time watching one bear, which was pretty far away.
We left the ship and walked to the GREMM center of interpretation, a whale research/education center. We stayed there about 45 minutes before donning our "personal floating suit", which was water-resistant overalls (like ski ones) and a jacket. According to our Zodiac driver, you can only live in the water of the St. Lawrence about ten minutes without a suit; the suit extends your life a whole additional five minutes!
It was very warm when we donned our gear, but when we got in the two boats (about 25 in each, so we seven Anglophones were mixed in with the French) and started to ride, I was glad I had my layers on, along with my gloves and adorable lime green/black stocking cap. The river was almost dead calm, which made the ride much more enjoyable and the whale watching easier. We first saw a few minkes feeding in the river, but then the guide got a call that a group of fin whales, the world's second largest species, (only blue whales are bigger) were seen about 30 minutes away. So, we took off after them. They entertained us about an hour. These whales don't breach or bubble-feed like the humpbacks, but they "blow" about 12-feet up. We could see their back fins clearly several times and we estimated about 4-6 different ones.
After a while, we went looking for belugas, which stay year-round in the area. (Most of the other whales only summer here). Unfortunately, we didn't see any, but we got a good look at more minkes and many gray seals who kept popping up.
We had a fun three hours, although we were cramped in the whale watching boat. The driver did let us stand when he was stopped or moving slowly in the river. At the end of our adventure, we rode up the Saguenay fjord, where the rocky granite cliffs equal the depth of the water--both are about 900 feet. The fjord looked like those I have seen in Alaska and Norway--steep granite cliffs, clear deep water, and lots of evergreens.
It was almost dark when we got back to the ship, and we had a nice dinner. I had ginger Chinese soup, grapefruit/lettuce salad citrus dressing, halibut, and strawberry/vanilla ice cream. Some people had escargot, a traditional French appetizer. We had to laugh a little that the menu spelled snails "snells". Why just not call them escargot? It was another nice dinner, despite the spelling error. The show was a good one--"Oh La La Paris", filled with French music and dancing. The finale was (of course) a rollicking can can. This entertainment team is very cute and very enthusiastic.
I was in bed by 11:30--not good since I had a 7:30 am hiking tour the next day in Saguenay. The ship sails way up the Saguenay fjord during the night, and we arrived about 6:30 am.
Le Boreal New England and Atlantic Canada Cruise Travel Journal
- Overview and Embarkation
- Bar Harbor, Maine
- Halifax, Nova Scotia
- Halifax - Peggy's Cove
- Louisbourg, Nova Scotia
- Iles de la Madeleine, Quebec (Magdalen Islands) - Morning Tour
- Iles de la Madeleine - Afternoon Tour
- Perce, Quebec
- Perce - Bonaventure Island
- Havre St. Pierre, Quebec - Niapiskau Island
- Havre St. Pierre, Quebec - Quarry Island
- Tadoussac, Quebec
- Saguenay, Quebec
- Quebec City
- Montreal and Disembarkation