Touring Québec and the Gaspé June 2002 (It is possible without a car! )
The beautiful Gaspé peninsula, bounded on the North by the ever widening mighty St Lawrence river and on the South by the Gulf of St Lawrence, juts far out into the Atlantic ocean. Gentle hills rise from the shore on both sides of the St Lawrence. We travelled part of the way along the north shore, crossed the river by ferry and then travelled towards and around the tip of the peninsula at Gaspé (pink shading in the map below) and down to Percé where we took a long train journey back to Montreal. Round trip from Montreal is over 2000 km, which we were not keen to drive.
Planning was based on the Lonely Planet Guide to Canada, supplemented by the Web and a couple of brochures that I was able to get from the Québec "bureau" in Munich. Most of the places we booked were from the Lonely Planet. The Web provided some additional tourist information and leads to the bus companies (Intercar on the North shore and Voyageur on the South) and Via Rail.
Essentially there were two buses a day on each side of the river, one more or less in daytime and the other not. The train runs three times a week in each direction between Montreal and Gaspé. Accordingly, it was necessary to plan quite accurately and reserve accommodation as there were not many ways to get back on schedule and, above all, catch the train back before the Canada Day long weekend. As well, our time in Québec included a major Québec holiday (St Jean Baptiste).
Parts of the three-week tour are described in sections: Quebec City and the Charlevoix, Tadoussac, Gaspesie, Perce and Isle Bonaventure.
And finally back by overnight train
VIA rail dome car
We reached the station from Percé (11Km away at Anse à Beaufils) at 15:15 in fine weather; 30 minutes later, when we finished with the formalities of our "Seniors" ticket, it was sheeting down again! We collected our tickets for Ottawa-Toronto and Toronto-Montreal from the Chef du Gare, a pleasant young man with the magnificent name of "Lorenzo Athot". The station opened six times a week for two hours, for the big event of a train coming. Unfortunately, the weather was such that each time the weather cleared and we went out to take a picture of the little old station, the rain started sheeting down again - sorry, no picture of this pretty old station. There were about a dozen passengers waiting for the train. The train was too long for the station, and had to stop twice: once for the first half and once for the second half (this happened frequently on the rest of the trip). We left at 16:15 and enjoyed the scenery from the dome car as the train *crawled* round the south coast of the Gaspé (Baie de chaleur). There are many little rivers draining from the Chic Chocs into the sea, and the train had to cross each of them on a fragile-looking and narrow bridge - at each we slowed down to walking pace and had a good look at the scenery. Some of the unmaintained track crept along the cliffs and we could look down onto the beaches and rocks. Dinner in the dining car was unexpectedly good and reasonably priced - we ate breaded haddock and sautéd potatoes, We spent most of the evening in the observation car watching the landscape fade into dusk. We saw the approach of the coast of New Brunswick, but it was too dark at 10 pm to watch the joining of our train and the one coming up from New Brunswick and Nova Scotia at Matapédia.
Sleep was difficult - the train speeded up during the night, presumably crossing the peninsula in the Matapédia valley, and it got pretty bumpy on the rough track.
Later the track improved and we got some sleep, before being woken up for 8am arrival in Montreal - in a different world - overnight and ready to start the second two weeks of our holiday visiting friends and relatives in the big cities.
Yes, the train was a great way to get back to the big cities.
And lovely to leave the driving to someone else.
For the following two weeks, we travelled by bus and mostly train between the big cities of Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto - had a great time visiting family and friends. Lots of good food too.
Parts of the tour: Quebec City and the Charlevoix, Tadoussac, Gaspesie, Perce and Isle Bonaventure