Day #36. Stranded!

LOCATION: Longue Ponte de Mingan, Quebec
CAMPGROUND:  Camping de la Minganie
WEATHER:  Seems even colder!  High 50 and windy

Since it was a blustery, cold day, we decided to stay around the campground.  Jenny, Tony, and I did another one-hour walk along the boardwalk and into Mingan, a town of 450. 

Later, George and I took a stroll on the boardwalk which extends about 1.5 miles along the St. Lawrence.

And….I finally found my moose! 

As we were relaxing in Joy, Tony and Jenny came over to tell us the news…..a bridge on the road we have to take to return to the mainland (the only road) has a crack in it and the bridge has been closed indefinitely!  That means that we, along with all the people here, are stranded.  There is no other way out.  It makes you realize how isolated we are here.  The red X marks the closed bridge spot…(We are near Havre-Saint-Pierre.)

Not knowing how many more days we will be here, we checked again about a boat tour.  We had one lined up until we found out the boat captain lives on the other side of the bridge and can’t get here! 

In any case, we have plenty of food and water, although the news media here has already raised the alarm for expected shortages, and for people (mostly First Nation people) needing dialysis and other healthcare who are at risk. 

And, we are well-stocked with wine and beer.  We bought an interesting lindenberry liquer from the distillery the other day from which we will make Aperol Spritzes this summer.  If we get desparate, we can even open it while stranded!

George also bought this interesting-looking beer – a French Kiss (literally) beer

DINNER:  My turn.  We started with whelks, fresh from the Gulf of St. Lawrence.  At the fish store, they told us to eat them raw, as they are in a sea-water brine.  Jenny googled it and found out that some people put vinegar on them.  So, we had them 3 ways – 1) plain, 2) with a cocktail sauce, and 3) with vinegar.  Chewy and not very flavorful, but interesting to try…

We paired the whelks with this white wine. I just couldn’t resist the name on label!

The main course was huge, seared scallops that we bought at the seafood shop yesterday. I let Tony do the cooking, as he is experienced in cooking scallops being from Nova Scotia.  He seared them just right.  I made a garlic butter sauce to drizzle on top.  Sides were baked potatoes and steamed peas.  Wine was a Spanish tempranillo/cabernet.  Being stranded is not so bad! 

Day #35. Checking out Havre St.-Pierre

LOCATION:  Longue Ponte de Mingan, Quebec
CAMPGROUND:  Camping de la Minganie. 
WEATHER:  Down in the 30s at night.  Windy again.  High 50.  Brrrr!

Jenny, Tony, and I took a walk along the boardwalk that starts near our campground and follows the Gulf for about 1.5 miles.  It was quite brisk!  At the end was a Canadian National Park picnic area with the iconic red Adironack chairs that are in all the national parks.  They are big so Jenny and I had to climb up to sit down.

This little deck is next to our campsite.  I had hoped to sip on a glass of wine out there, but could only stay long enough for a photo!

This entire area, including several islands  is part of the Mingan Peninsula National Park, an area  famous for its puffins and whales. 

There are colorful cottages here for rent.

Alas, these are the only puffins and whales we will see, as it is too cold (and too early in the season) to take a boat out to the islands where they are.

This is the view next to our campsite..

We drove about 20 minutes into Havre St.-Pierre, the closest town to us.  It has a pretty waterfront.  More red chairs with wind-blown Tony and Jenny!

Our main goal here today was to find a fish store, and we found a gem in Poissonerie Havre St.-Pierre!

There were lots of things to chose from, and it was fun in French/English/Google Translate to try to figure everything out. One of the clerks is a temporary worker from Jalisco.  So, when Google Translate didn’t work, we added Spanish to the mix.  Fun!  Tony was looking for food for tonight’s dinner, and I was looking for some for tomorrow. Success on all counts.  The shop specializes  in seafood pizza and pies, ready to take home and bake.  They looked yummy.  Indeed, another customer came in while we were there, bought one, and told us “Tres bon!”  Tony bought smoked fish.  I bought some pickled whelks and huge scallops, all fresh from the waters in front of us. 

Lunchtime.  We found only one restaurant open in town and it turned out great.  Again, another fun conversation in French with the waitress.  George ordered a plate of halibut.  It was immense, cooked just right, and served with rice, mashed potatoes, and a salad.  People seem to eat well here.  Tony ordered beef poutine.  Poutine is the national dish of Quebec.  We have seen it on menus with lobster, duck, steak, plain, Italian style, and mixed seafood.

Our final stop in town was a distillery/brewery.  The owner was super friendly and said it was good practice for him to try to speak English with us.  He poured generous samples of his gins and beers, and then we ordered a beer to sip on. 

DINNER:  Tony’s turn.  Here is the menu that appeared at our door about 4:00, so we could anticipate what was in store for us….

He made some delicioso guacamole and served with chips, salsa, and of course margaritas.

The main was an assortment of the smoked fish he bought today, that the fish store clerk said was just recently prepared…..salmon, turbot, and mackerel. 

Day #34. Following Quebec’s Highway 138 east, and east, and east……

LOCATION:  Longue Ponte de Mingan, Quebec
CAMPGROUND:  Camping de la Minganie.  Right on the St. Lawrence Gulf.  Full hook-ups.  Nice bathrooms (although the women’s is closed so I am using the men’s!)  $34/night.  5 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  Super windy!  High 74

We had a surprisingly quiet overnight at the Walmart, and got an early start.  I got up when it seemed like it was about 7:00, but it was 4:58 AM!  Since we are so far north and east, the days are really long here.  Tomorrow’s sunrise will be 4:13!

I was firm that we had to buy gas before we left Baie Comeau as who knows when/where the next station would be.  Gas is expensive here – $1.83 Canadian/liter which translates to about $5.40 USD per gallon.

The farther north and east we go, the more rugged the landscape gets.  Also, the moose warning signs get bigger and more graphic! 

Our route mostly followed the St. Lawrence,  Often we raced down a  hillw with a 12% elevation change only to encounter a 90-degree turn at the bottom.  The alternative would be to end up in the river!

We passed through cute little towns, with no commercial business, but just houses and  big Catholic churches.

The scenery was just beautiful.

Tim Horton’s is a very popular coffee shop/cafe that is everywhere in Canada.  George wanted to stop for a cup of coffee, just because Tim Horton’s is such an institution here.

As we were driving along, the road suddenly ended.  It was a bit confusing (as all the signage was in French), but I figured out that we had to take a ferry to cross a river, and to continue on Highway 138. 

Safely on the other side, we continued north and east.  The wind was very strong, and buffeted the truck and Joy quite a bit.  There were hardly any cars on the highway so I could putz along without feeling rushed. 

At our final town, we saw a sign announcing the next gas was 164 km (100 miles) away.  With 150 miles left in our tank, we drove on.  Hope we’ll find the gas station tomorrow!

We passed by several breathtaking waterfalls.  There was no signage so we passed most of them before we could stop. 

This map shows how far north and east we are…..25 hours driving to Montreal! 

We got set up at the campground, with some broken English (the receptionist) and my very poor French.  We are right on the Gulf.  While we are here, we hope to see some whales and puffins. 

DINNER:  Italian flatbread.  I topped some toasted naan with a cream cheese base, then added sun-dried tomatoes, pesto, Italian sausage, artichoke hearts, onions, mushrooms, peppers, and finally mozarella cheese.  Quite tasty, I believe. 

Day #33 – To the wilds of eastern Quebec

LOCATION:  Baie-Cameau, Quebec
CAMPGROUND:  Walmart! 
WEATHER:  Temps went up and down today.  High 68

Jenny and I took a hike around Camping de la Joie.  It is very hilly, so we got a good workout.  Our “Joy” said goodbye to the Joy Campground.

We are on our way to the Mingan Peninsula, about 12 hours east of Quebec City, on the north side of the St. Lawrence River.

After leaving the outskirts of Quebec City, the landscape quickly changed to small towns along the river.  The farther east we drove, the less populated it became. 

The hills became almost mountains with elevation changes of up to 12%.  It was a bit of a challenging drive.  Our ears popped a lot.  The scenery was ruggedly beautiful.  There were moose warnings about once every mile.  They even provide a phone number to call in case you hit one!

Pristine lakes and deep pine forests were on our left and the St. Lawrence was on our right.  We stopped once for gas and once for a lunch break, and the rest of the day was spent heading east.  We arrived at Walmart about 5:30, quite tired.  This is just a quick overnight stop, halfway to our destination.

  We had planned to shop at Walmart (to give them some business as thanks for the free overnight stay, but they closed at 5:00!!!  All of the fast food restaurants around us are closed, too.

DINNER:  Not wanting to make a big meal while boondocking, Tony bought a rotisserie chicken and some salad from a nearby grocery.  It hit the spot and was an easy prep and clean-up.  

Tomorrow will be another 5-6 hour drive.  We are hoping to see whales and to get some very fresh seafood while we are there. 

Day #32 – Are we in Quebec City or Paris?

LOCATION:  Quebec City, Quebec
CAMPGROUND:  Camping de la Joie
WEATHER:  Sunny and spring-like.  High 72

Today was our day for Quebec City.  The excitement builds! 

Tony graciously drove us into town, to the old part of the city, about 15 minutes away.  It was a little tricky finding a parking space, but he did it.

If you closed your eyes, and someone just plopped you into this city, you would swear you were in a historic European city.  The architecture and decor are so European.  Love it! 

We walked around a bit, then Tony and Jenny went in search of a croissant.  George and I walked on the boardwalk that faces the St. Lawrence River.

This toboggan side is still used throughout the winters here.

Of course, the view of the famous Frontenac Hotel was amazing.

And….the flowers!  In front of several restaurants, and the Frontenac, too, the gardeners were putting out window boxes and planters.  The tulips, flowering trees, and other flowers are in bloom.

After walking a bit, we needed to wet our whistles, so stopped by a charming bistro for a quick drink.

What a coincidence – two of my former work colleagues were visiting Quebec City at the same time.  We met them for lunch at a Quebec cuisine restaurant.  Lots of poutine from which to choose, but we settled on their sandwich specialty.  It was so good to catch up with Gloria and Laura.

The bathroom in this restaurant was really unique – down in the basement.  All of the stalls surround this big bathtub that is used for washing your hands.  Fun!

We met up with Tony and Jenny and splurged with drinks in the classy bar inside the Frontenac Hotel.

Back to the Joy Campground, George made a fire and we sat around to talk about our nice day.  We were lucky with the weather!

DINNER:  My turn.  Fish was the star tonight.  I wrapped mahi mahi filets in aluminum foil, seasoning with some sesame oil, ginger slivers, soy sauce, and unami.  George cooked the fish packets on the grill plus two red snapper fillets.  I made some soba noodles and served in an Asian broth, and some Asian-style stir-fried vegetables.  Everything turned out well.  Nice to have a lighter dinner. 

Day #31. Camping with Joy while Camping de la joie

LOCATION:  Quebec City, Quebec.  In the northern outskirts
CAMPGROUND:  Camping de la Joie.  Wow!  How appropriate!  Full hook-ups.  Shady.  Woodsy.  Level site.  Nice, rustic firepit.  New picnic table.  Nice showers.  $45/night.  4 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  Still cool.  High 63.  Nights down in the 30s. 

While in Sherbrooke this morning, Jenny, Tony, and I took an hour-long brisk hike on a really nice bike/hike trail just outside of the campground.  The trail followed the river and for most of it, we were in a beautiful forest with lots of ferns.

We packed up and headed toward Quebec City.  If we had taken the main highway, it would have been only 3 hours, but we took the back roads, through mostly farmland and small towns.  They must raise a lot of pigs in this region, as there many signs “Welcome to XXXville” with pictures of pigs.  However, there was not a pig to be seen…I think they were hidden in barns.

Our RV park is on the north side of town, and we were coming in from the south, so that meant that we had to drive straight through the city.  I passed the reins over to George and I tried to help him navigate.  A bit scary knowing which lane to be in.

The name of this RV park is Camping de la joie!  (Camping with joy). When we checked in, I showed the receptionist Joy’s name on the trailer and she thought it was wonderful. 

George, Tony, and Jenny went shopping while I took a nice hot shower.  Then, George built a fire and we warmed up around the fire, and planned our time in Quebec City. 

Even though we are close to the city, it is nice and woodsy here.

DINNER:  Tony’s turn.  We started with some yummy Quebec pate’ with slices of baguette.  Main course was grilled steak, mashed potatoes, and steamed asparagus.  All accompanied by a French rose’ (with the pate’) and French cabernet, with the steak.  We started eating outside on the picnic table, but decided to move inside when it got too cool.

We are looking forward to tomorrow, spending the whole day in the Old City. 

Day #30 – The Murals of Sherbrooke

LOCATION:  Sherbrooke, Quebec
CAMPGROUND:  Ille de Marie
WEATHER:  Chilly and rainy.  High 58

Jenny and I started the day with a 30-minute power walk.  We wanted to get it done before the rain started.  This RV park is on an island. Many of the seasonal sites are right on the river and are set up very nicely.

Sure enough, about noon, it started raining and the temperature dropped.  Not a very pleasant day.  So, what to do?  A brewpub of course!

We went into Sherbrooke, planning to do the mural walking tour.  These are at the Information Center.  Really well done.

However, the weather just was not cooperating, so we returned to the brewpub we had found the other day (as the other two in town don’t open until evening).  We shared a bison tartare platter.  Really good.  The meat was seasoned just right.

Back at Joy, it was a good day for a nap (George) and reading (me). 

Tomorrow we leave Sherbrooke and head for Quebec City, about 3 hours from here. This map shows our stops during the last 2 weeks – 1) the Finger Lakes Region of New York, 2) Plattsburgh, NY, 3) Sherbrooke, Quebec, and 4) Quebec City. (The red circle is our current location of Sherbrooke)

DINNER:  My turn tonight.  Italian night!  Since it was still wet and cold outside, we ate inside Joy.  For appetizers, I served some chipotle-flavored Quebec sausage with tortilla chips.  The main course was lasagne, with a salad and ciabatta rolls.  Pretty tasty. 

Day #29 – Louise Penny’s “Three Pines”

LOCATION:  Sherbrooke, Quebec
CAMPGROUND:  Ille de Marie RV Park
WEATHER:  After a freezing night (31), it warmed up to be a beautiful day at 78

Tony, Jenny and I did a 30-minute power walk around the RV park.  It is so large that just a few circles of the park netted us about 2 miles worth of exercise. 

Then, while George puttered around Joy, the three of us drove into Sherbrooke.  First stop was the Visitors’ Center where we picked up pamplets (a brewery map for George), and got some suggestions of things to do here.  Then, on to the supermarket for a few things.

George and I took off shortly thereafter headed toward Knowlton, about an hour from here.  I have read all of Louise Penny’s books featuring Inspector Gamache that take place in an lovely-sounding village in the Eastern Townships of Quebec called Three Pines.  This is her most recent one….

The village is not real, but was created in the author’s mind by combining landmarks and scenery from towns around the area, including Knowlton.  It has become so popular that tourist companies offer Louise Penny tours, driving tourists to all of the well-loved places described in the books.   We did it on our own by starting at the bistro that the Inspector likes to frequent.

We sat on the patio and enjoyed a hummus and cheese sandwich.  People switched between French and English seamlessly. 

We found the bookstore that is featured in the books, too.  They do a lot of promotions now in the shop. It is very cute.

The last place we stopped at was the Historical Society in the book, and is now a museum. 

The museum displays a painting that was featured in the movie made from one of Louise Penny’s books.   For those familiar with her books, one can spot some of the main characters, such as Ruth now transformed into a goat.  A bit odd.

The town of Knowlton, also known as Lac Brome, sits on a lake (Lake Brome) and is one of the prettiest places I have ever seen.  The homes surrounding the lake look like they have come out of Architectural Digest. 

We found a nice public walking/biking trail that winds through the area ending at the lake.  Quite nice.

George drove back to Sherbrooke, speeding all the way! 

Not!  (He switched the car’s system to metric)

We stopped at one of the brewpubs (microbrasseries) in Sherbrooke for a quick drink.  I tried ordering in French, but the bartender quickly switched to English.  (I guess my accent is not very good!) 

Back at the campground, Tony had appetizers and drinks awaiting us.

It is his turn for the meal tonight.  We started with some Quebec sausages and Vermont cheeses.

He cooked up a delicious platter of gnocchi with mushrooms (shiitake and crimini) and broccoli in an Alfredo sauce.  Tres bon! 

Day #28 – Oh, Canada!

LOCATION:  Sherbrooke, Quebec.  In southern part of province
CAMPGROUND:  Ille de Marie RV Park.  We are on an island!  Huge park.  90% seasonal with a small section for short-termers like us.  Nice, level sites.  Swimming pool.  Good grill and picnic table.  Haven’t found the showers yet, but the bathroom is good.  $35/night.  4 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  Still pretty chilly.  High 62.  Supposed to freeze again tonight.

Tony, Jenny, and I did a 30-minute power walk through the RV park in Plattsburgh while we did laundry.  It is interesting to look at the different kinds of RVs and to see how owners have improved their summer homes – gardens, porches, etc. 

Then, on to Canada!   We arrived at the border about a half hour from Plattsburgh.  Not too long a line.  The immigration guy was fairly nice.  He asked us the usual things – guns? lots of cash?  mace? how long in Canada?  etc   But, he didn’t ask about alcohol or food.  He was very curious about our “for sale” signs on the pick-up and trailer.  He wanted to see the registration for each, and asked about the prices.  He asked whether we planned to sell them in Canada and fly home.  We have never been asked for the registration paperwork before so we were not prepared.  We couldn’t find Joy’s registration.  He had to consult with someone else about that, but then finally let us by.  I don’t know if it was the For Sale signs or what that triggered those questions. 

After the crossing, our GPS sent us on a different road than Tony and Jenny, so we lost them for a bit.  We drove through some beautiful countryside, with lots of vineyards, wineries, and apple orchards.  The town of Venise en Quebec (Venice of Quebec) was particularly picturesque…

We had forgotten to remove “Avoid highways” on the GPS, so Gigi, our ever-obeying GPS, did indeed avoid the main way to get to Sherbrooke.  We started down one road which quickly turned to gravel.  It was a bit scary in parts with many sharp turns.  When we got out of that stretch, we turned off the “Avoid Highways” mode, and quickly made it to Sherbrooke.

This campground is actually on an island!  We crossed this bridge to get to the park. 

We will spend 3 nights here.  Tony and Jenny have some friends they will meet.  We will explore the area…George has already found a brewery. 

DINNER:  My turn.  Appetizers were chips, guacamole, and salsa.  Main course was shrimp tacos with grilled red and green peppers and onions.  Topped with shredded cabbage, crema, and pickled onions.  Quite good! 

Day #27 – Camping again with our friends

LOCATION:  Plattsburgh, New York
CAMPGROUND:  Twin Ells Campground.  Our friends Tony and Jenny have been staying here.  We joined them today.  99% seasonal sites with a special area for short-term RVers.  Nice fire pit and picnic table.  Showers just ok.  Nice laundry.  $56/night.  3 stars out of 5
WEATHER:  Warmed up in the afternoon after a cool morning.  High 70

We had a good overnight at the Harvest Host brewery in Plattsburgh.  Our neighbors were a family from Quebec.  They said they really like Harvest Hosts, too.

Back to our usual routine….George made some of his delicious grits and eggs.  He served them with heirloom tomato slices and bacon.  Note the cool coffee cup  — “Find Joy in the Journey”.  How appropriate!  I found it in a thrift shop a few years ago.

We were able to pick up “CBS Sunday Morning” which we enjoyed after several Sundays without it.  Then, on to the campground.

We are set up in a “friends together” campsite.  We are situated so that each trailer’s front door faces each other. 

I did some cooking to prepare for the border crossing.  In case fresh veggies aren’t allowed, I cooked up some bell peppers and onions for a future meal.  We know that we cannot take fresh eggs across so we hard-boiled some, and I made a frittata with the rest.  We counted out our alcohol so that between all of us, we will be under the limit.

We met Tony and Jenny on our first camping trip, after I retired in 2013.  We first introduced ourselves in a warming cabin on a cool, rainy day in Newfoundland at a Provincial Park in western Newfoundland.  After about a week, when we were on the east side of the island, we ran into them again…this time in a laundry room in a campground.  We really hit it off, and have been meeting up with each other almost ever year since then.  Today, over my “world famous” margaritas, we compiled our times together….

Sep 2013 – Newfoundland
June 2014 – Badlands, North Dakota
July 2015 – Southern British Colombia 
Aug 2016 – Great Sand Dunes NP, Michigan
Spring 2017 – Grasslands, Riding Mountain NP, Bengough – Saskatchewan
Aug 2017 – Idaho, California National Parks
Oct, 2017 –  Retama Village, Texas (visiting us)
August, 2018 – Nova Scotia and New Brunswick
September, 2018 – Met with us at Quebec City hospital after’s George’s heart attack
Spring, 2019 – Belgium
August, 2019 – Haida Gwaii – off British Colombia coast
Sep, 2021 – Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
June 2022 – Michigan
May 2023 – NY State, Quebec

When we travel together, we take turns preparing the evening meal.  Tonight was Tony’s turn.  We even write up fancy-looking menus…

DINNER:  We prefer to eat outside, but the picnic table was a little wet from an afternoon rain.  So, we ate at Joy’s dining room table.  He prepared pork loin, sauteed onions and mushrooms, and a Caesar salad.  Yum!