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Le Boreal Travel Journal - Boston to Montreal 10-Day Cruise


13 of 15

Day 9 - Saguenay, Quebec
Hiking in the Saguenay National Park in Quebec

Hiking in the Saguenay National Park in Quebec

Saguenay National Park (c) Linda Garrison
I was up about 6 am, just as Le Boreal arrived in Saguenay, Quebec, way up the fjord from the St. Lawrence River. It was another perfect sunny September day--in the high 50's in the morning, going up to the 70's in the afternoon. I had two tours scheduled. The first was a hike in the Saguenay National Park in the morning, and the second was the cultural show "La Fabuleuse" in the afternoon.

After my usual breakfast of fruit, yogurt, and scrambled egg, I left the ship for the bus. I couldn't believe all the characters in the welcoming party on the pier. I thought the Tadoussac party was fun, but this one was amazing. Dozens of citizens in costumes from "old" Saguenay and the "La Fabuleuse" historical and cultural show were entertaining guests as they left the ship. Although I had just brushed my teeth, I couldn't resist the maple syrup rolled in ice to make it hard or the hot blueberry pie. I also sawed a log with a lumberjack and had my photo made. I love it when the townspeople love cruise ship guests (and not just their money).

I boarded the bus at 7:45 to find that I was the only English-speaking person on the hiking tour, with about 15 French. So, I had my own private guide, Claude, who was a native of Saguenay, knowledgeable about the area, and spoke very good English. We sat in the two back seats across the aisles from each other on a school bus used for the hiking tour so that he could speak to me while the French speaking guide was addressing the rest of the bus.

We chatted as we rode the 45 minutes to Eternity Bay at the Saguenay National Park. Our ship had traveled through parts of the park on Friday night on the way from Tadoussac to Saguenay. I learned that Saguenay is the only part of Quebec with its own official flag and other interesting facts about the town and region. We passed by clumps of brilliant autumnal colors of yellow, orange, and red, but much of the forest was still green or just changing colors. October 1 should be about perfect, although I am sure the timing varies somewhat each year.

We arrived at Eternity Bay by 8:30 and hiked on the "Sentier de la Statue" trail about 3.2 km (about 1.5 miles round trip) along (and mostly up) to Halte Bellevue, which provided a great view of the bay and rocks surrounding the fjord. The hike went up about 500 feet, so it was plenty strenuous for me. If we had continued another mile up the trail, we would have reached the statue of the Virgin Mary, which sits on top of the mountain. This statue was built in the late 1800's by a man whose horse cart fell through the ice of the river. He promised the Virgin Mary that if she saved him, he would build her a great monument. He lived, but his horse died (evidently the horse didn't pray hard enough). So, although he only had $200, he managed to raise enough additional money to erect this huge Statue de NotreDame-du-Saguenay.

About half of our group didn't want to hear the interpretation of the local guide, so they just hiked without stopping. The other six of us stayed with the local park ranger, who stopped occasionally and gave us information on the geology, plants, or animals in the park. Having worked at the park for 17 years, he was quite knowledgeable. The park ranger also spoke English, so I could question both him and my guide. The view from the turn-around point was worth the hike.

We arrived back at the park headquarters at about 10:50 and shortly thereafter rode back to the ship in time for lunch. It was another good buffet, and I was back on the bus by 1:00 for the short ride to the 2300-seat Municipal Palace Theater. I had a lot of trepidation when I signed up for "La Fabuleuse", a cultural show on a huge stage that stars 108 volunteers in the off-season and over 200 in the summer. I was so afraid it would be hokey, but it was wonderful--one of the best shows I've ever seen, and it was all in French!

The volunteer troupe (citizens of Saguenay) often work in the show for years, some with their whole families. "La Fabuleuse" has been going on for 24 years, and one man has participated every year. The age range is 4 years to 88 years old. The show re-lives the history of Saguenay, starting with the discovery by Jacques Cartier, the colonization by Samuel Champlain, the Great Fire of 1870, the Flood of 1996, and a whole bunch of other scenes throughout the past 400+ years. The show was modified after the Great Flood of 1996 to include that important tragedy in the city's history. Even Elvis makes an appearance in the story. The actors dance, but only lip sync the material or mouth the words to the recorded track. I counted 6 horses on the stage one time, along with 2 chickens, a pig, and a flock of geese. They do the show 36 times per year (24 in the summer months; 12 otherwise), with all but 4 of the shows in English since Saguenay had 15 cruise ship visits this year and 28 in 2012. Saguenay gets the large cruise ship traffic since it has converted the dock at a closed paper mill into a cruise ship dock.

We got a script with the scenes in English, but I never looked at it. We could get the gist by just watching the action, and I didn't want to miss anything on the stage while checking out my script. At one point--World War II--soldiers dropped from the ceiling of the theater on ropes at the same time bombs were exploding on the stage. I jumped so high that the guy sitting next to me dropped his water bottle and it went rolling down the aisle of the large theater. I was worried that one of the soldiers would slip on it, but none did. Very exciting!

The finale had participants from all the years, so some were dressed in Amerindian wear, and others from every century and almost every decade of the 1900's. At one point Elvis stood next to Cartier in the finale, which even had indoor fireworks at the climax. Very impressive. If you are ever in Saguenay, be sure to take in this show.

Back at the ship, I got cleaned up for drinks and dinner. We had the Captain's farewell drink and another nice meal. We had a famous Quebecois woman singer on board, so I went to the show and stood in the back, but decided to leave. She wasn't much better (in my opinion) that the cute lounge singers on board.

The next day Le Boreal was in Quebec City, our last full day on the ship.

Le Boreal New England and Atlantic Canada Cruise Travel Journal

  1. Overview and Embarkation
  2. Bar Harbor, Maine
  3. Halifax, Nova Scotia
  4. Halifax - Peggy's Cove
  5. Louisbourg, Nova Scotia
  6. Iles de la Madeleine, Quebec (Magdalen Islands) - Morning Tour
  7. Iles de la Madeleine - Afternoon Tour
  8. Perce, Quebec
  9. Perce - Bonaventure Island
  10. Havre St. Pierre, Quebec - Niapiskau Island
  11. Havre St. Pierre, Quebec - Quarry Island
  12. Tadoussac, Quebec
  13. Saguenay, Quebec
  14. Quebec City
  15. Montreal and Disembarkation

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