Tag Archives: biking in Canada

Veloroute des Bleuets; Biking the Trail of the Blueberry-Day 4-Dolbeau-Mistassini to Sainte-Monique

24 Jul

Today’s ride has been one of our favorite days (have I said that every day?). The morning started out clear and cool, just 44 degrees, so we took our time retrieving our bikes from the storage area in the hotel. Something we’ve appreciated about the lodging arrangements is that each place has had secure storage for the bikes. No need to leave them outside on a bike rack! The storage at this hotel was in an unused conference room. When we went down to get the bikes, it was apparent that we weren’t the only bikers staying here, and we weren’t the only bikers that don’t leave the bikes outside, lol.

It soon warmed up and we began to peel off layers. We began our ride with the trail travelling right alongside the river. It was beautiful!

Shortly after our ride began, really before we were even out of the town where our hotel was, we saw a home decorated with an abundance of blueberry lawn art.

The small sign at the end of the driveway was in French of course, but I was able to translate a few key words. The key words being bleuets (blueberries) , tarte (pie), etc. Funny how I’ve learned these words so quickly this week. At dinner tonight, as we enjoyed yet another slice of blueberry pie, Jimmy and I counted up how many pieces of blueberry pie we’ve eaten this week. That total is 11! Remember this is just day 4, so I’m probably on the path to coming home with the shape of a blueberry after this week.

But back to the house with the blueberry lawn art. I thought it might be a place to buy blueberry products, but couldn’t tell for sure if it was a private home or a business? There was no signage on the house itself, just the one small sign beside the driveway. I had to find out, so I went to the door and knocked. (I noticed Jimmy stayed back at the end of the driveway with his phone poised to take a picture, just in case it was something he could submit to funniest home videos). A lady opened the door and I said, “Hello, is this a market? For blueberries?” She smiled and said “oui, oui”, and motioned for me to come in. I called for Jimmy to come in, that the coast was clear, and he joined me as we stepped inside. We had stepped into a home kitchen that had been converted into a little home business.

She had a number of blueberry desserts on display, and though she spoke no English, she pointed to each and tried her best to use words we might know. It was charming! So we each picked out a dessert, blueberry cheesecake for Jimmy and a blueberry layered dessert for me. She asked us to sign her little guest book and we were on our way to find a bench to enjoy our desserts (even though we had eaten breakfast less than an hour ago!)

We rode through a couple of little towns and stopped to tour an old mill right on the river. The girl that conducted our tour did a great job translating into English, and it was a nice stop to stretch our legs and rest our bottoms!

 

We rode through some beautiful countryside again today. And the bright blue skies and mild temperature of 72 degrees made the day most enjoyable.

We saw many farms and large wild blueberry fields again. The most prominent crop was potatoes and there were also several large dairy farms.

At one particularly picturesque dairy farm, we saw an open door in the front building and heard voices inside. I had stopped to take pictures of the beautiful barns and decided I would like to find out if they had anything for sale or if they offered tours.

I could hear two women talking in the front office with the door open to the outside where I stood. I walked up the steps to the open door and said, “Hello”, they both stopped their conversation, looked at me and answered “Bonjour”. I asked, “Do you have items for sale or do you offer tours?” I didn’t see any type of sales in the room we were in. In fact it was just an entryway into a massive barn. They both looked at me for a second, and I rephrased my question a time or two to see if they could understand. Finally they did, and said excitedly, “ oui, oui, come!” The young woman explained (in very good English) that the two of them would show us around the dairy farm, and motioned for me to follow them. (I think my Kentucky accent was hard for her to understand initially. I sometimes have that problem even in the U.S.) I called to Jimmy to come on in (noticing that he’d hung back again, probably waiting to see if I would get escorted off the property, lol). The young woman explained that the older woman would give the information in French, and she would serve as interpreter. The Gaston Morin Dairy Farm has been in existence since the 1950s and is a family owned operation, passed down from father to son we learned. Together, the two women took us through every building, explaining the different groups of cows, how they are cared for (very well!) and all that goes into the production of milk. We saw a brand new calf struggling to get to his feet as the momma cow licked him.

They told us he was born just one hour ago! It was fascinating and the two women were so sweet. I knew we were taking them away from their jobs, but they were very thorough in their tour. At one point, we needed to cross a wooden boardwalk to access another section of the huge barn. The older woman, who did not speak English, held up her hand for us to stop. She then picked up a shovel and began shoveling off the wet wooden slats which naturally, had a light covering of manure. Once the slats were  clean, she spread out fresh hay for us to walk on. She would not let us cross the 8 foot span of boards and get our shoes dirty! It was such a thoughtful gesture.

The herd was a large one and the section of the barn we had just entered housed 470 Holstein cows. Other sections of the barn housed the newborn calves, the pregnant cows close to delivery, and cows that were recovering from illness.

We toured an additional barn as well where feed was stored and other cows were housed.

It was all absolutely fascinating. It was beautiful to hear the French language as the older woman explained things, then to hear her words translated into English for us by the young woman. We had our very own private tour (no charge!), and they paused often to ask if we had any questions. There was no indication that this farm was open for tours. I think these two women, knowing we were visitors from the U.S., willingly took time out of their day to show us their part of the world. When the very thorough tour was finished, they began to ask us questions about where we lived. They asked us where we were from and what we were doing on our travels. They asked us if it was rainy in Kentucky, lol. Then asked if it was hot and humid. YES! We answered! Jimmy did a quick calculation and gave them our temperature in Celsius on the day we left for our trip. They were surprised at that, and said they could only recall one time when the temperature had gotten almost that high in their country. As we ended our tour, the older lady said to the younger (which she interpreted for us) “I really want to learn English” I laughed and said, “well, I really want to learn French!” and that was interpreted back to the older woman. We all had a good laugh at that. We returned to where we’d left our bikes and said farewell. We realized we’d just encountered another couple of sweet Quebec residents that took the time to make our visit extra special!

Back onto the bikes to explore more of the beautiful Trail of the Blueberry.

We stopped for lunch at a small town beside the river and ate outside as we overlooked the water.

The remaining portion of the ride took us through beautiful wooded areas and close to the lake in portions. We rode to the sounds of songbirds and the sight of flowers and wild blueberries everywhere!

We arrived in Sainte-Monique and found our place of lodging with no problem. It is called Auberge Ile de Repos, and houses a campground as well as cabins right on the beach with volleyball court, fire pit and a beautiful croquet court.

We are staying on the second floor of a cabin overlooking the river. It’s very basic, no plush amenities, but it is beautiful. There’s no A/C, but it is so cool outside, we will sleep with the windows open. Bike storage tonight is our deck, so we had to take both bikes up a flight of stairs and through our room to access the second story deck. 

We ate dinner at the restaurant on site in the main building, and it was delicious! We ate outside overlooking the river. I ordered salmon and Jimmy ordered walleye. We started with a bowl of warm Gourgane soup again, which we will really miss once we return home. We could not resist another slice of blueberry pie for dessert, and I think it’s the best pie we’ve eaten yet! But we will try more tomorrow, so I will let you know!

After dinner, we walked along the small country road that led to our cabin, taking in all of God’s beautiful creation and sorry to realize that tomorrow is our last day on the Trail of the Blueberry!

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Veloroute des Bleuets; Biking the Trail of the Blueberry- Day 3 – Saint Felicien to Dalbeau-Mistassini

21 Jul

We took a little more time before we began our ride today. The skies had cleared, but the temperature was a cool 48 degrees, so we decided to wait and let the sun warm things up a bit before getting on our bikes. We checked out of our hotel, retrieved our bikes from the secure storage area, took them up the elevator to get to the lobby level and headed toward Dolbeau-Mistassini.

The region we rode through today is considered to be the very heart of wild blueberry country, I couldn’t wait to see it! But our first stop, before we had even ridden out of Saint Felicien, was a stop at a bakery, La Moissan d’or Boulangerie Artisanale. The smell of the freshly baked bread as we rode by was just too tempting! We had already made plans to stop along the trail at a dairy farm to purchase cheese, so it made perfect sense to buy bread to go with it.  

The place was very small, with the open kitchen right inside the store. The lady behind the counter helped us to select the perfect bread, and stopped us from buying a loaf of bread in a plastic bag that we thought would be convenient to transport on our bikes. She said no, you do not want that one. It is from yesterday. We thanked her and selected a fresh small loaf which was still warm when she handed it to us. We tucked the warm loaf into our bike bag and headed on down the trail.

We soon arrived at Bouchard Artisan Bio.

We walked in and were greeted in French, but as soon as they realized we only spoke English, they switched to English.  The lady helping us told us all about the farm, the cows, how the cows are fed (92% grass-fed) and how the cheese and yogurts are made. She then let us taste all of the cheeses they produce, as well as the yogurts. Some were aged as long as nine years (that sample was one of our favorites). It was all delicious!

When we tasted the blueberry yogurt, she told us they were in partnership with a family owned business in a nearby town that supplies the blueberry filling for the yogurt. We told her we’d be riding through that town later on today, and she encouraged us to stop and check it out and handed us a brochure from the shop. We bought yogurt (blueberry of course) and cheese for our mid morning snack. It was so good!

We hopped back on the bikes and travelled on, well fortified for the ride  (how much longer til lunch?). Most of our ride up until lunch was through farmlands. We saw large fields of wild blueberries and beautiful wheat fields. I was thrilled to find wild blueberries growing right beside the bike trail and stopped several times to pick and eat.

I took a photo of the unusual blue huts located in one of the blueberry fields and decided I would find someone to ask what they were.

 We traveled on toward Albanel, through so many beautiful areas today! I took a bunch of pictures.

We approached the little town of Albanel, and decided we’d try to find the blueberry business that the lady at the dairy farm had recommended. She had told us the business was owned by a mother and her two daughters, and that they had a some small displays explaining the history of the wild blueberries in this area. We also knew they made really good blueberry jam and hoped we might buy some fresh blueberries to go with our leftover bread and cheese. And I was pretty sure that a business with so much blueberry related information could answer my question about the little blue huts.

Once we arrived in the little town, we pulled off in a parking lot to get our bearings and see if we could find our way to the blueberry shop. We pulled out our trail map and pulled up Google maps. As is always the case here, when we are seen looking at a map, someone has stopped and asked if they could help us. A lady and her two granddaughters approached and she called out to us in French. They were on their way to play miniature golf when she spotted us. We replied with our standard reply, “English?” She laughed and said, “maybe a little?” We were mostly able to understand one another, and when we showed her the brochure we’d picked up about the blueberry shop, she knew what we needed. It took her a bit to think of the words, but she was able to make us understand that we needed to turn left at the light. She tried a few different words until we understood, but we got it! She then said, “after turn, 2 or 3 hours then you arrive.” This stopped us in our tracks. I’m definitely on a mission to consume as many blueberry products as I can this week, but no way were either one of us looking to add an additional  2 or 3 hours to our riding time. This just could not be! “Do you mean minutes? 2 or 3 minutes?” I said. She didn’t know exactly what I was asking and didn’t really know how to answer, so we thanked her profusely and headed in the direction in which she’d pointed. We knew that there must have been something lost in translation, because the blueberry shop’s address was listed as being in this town. Before pedalling around aimlessly, we decided to check one more time to see if we could piece together the route to the shop before we rode off. We stopped at a picnic table at the edge of the parking lot to look at the maps. We figured she must have meant 2 or 3 minutes, but we wanted to be sure before got back on the bikes. We had been studying the map for a couple of minutes when we heard someone call out to us from the street. We looked up from the map and saw the lady and her granddaughters, in a car parked at the curb right in front of where we sat. She got out of the car, walked onto the sidewalk and motioned for us to get on our bikes and follow her car! “I show you way, I show you way”, she said as she beckoned us to come.This was incredible! She had seen us stop to look at our maps again, and she had her granddaughters get back into the car, delaying their game of miniature golf, and help these strangers from America find the way! We put our map away, quickly climbed on the bikes and pulled out into the street right behind her. She must have thought we were fast, because she did not drive slowly. Jimmy asked, “how fast does she think we are anyway?” She soon realized we were much slower than she was, for she waited at the light (holding up the traffic that was waiting for her to turn), and allowed us to catch up. She turned left at the light just as she’d said, and we turned too. As we did, Jimmy said, “if this is a 2 or 3 hour trip, she can just forget it.” I agreed, no blueberry is worth that mileage on top of all the other miles we had to ride that day! But almost as soon as she turned left, she pulled off to the side of the rode, jumped out of her car, and pointed to the blueberry shop! It had been very close all along! She quickly went inside as we pulled in, and I guess she must have given the shop owner the scoop on the confused Americans about to enter the shop. As she came out, I thanked her again profusely and motioned for her to let me give her a hug. She laughed and opened her arms and I was trying to give a hug, but she was doing the kiss on one cheek, kiss on the other cheek thing, which I totally botched because I did not know how to do that. We both laughed and she got back into her car and took her very patient granddaughters back to play miniature golf.

We went into the shop and were greeted in English by one of the owners. She was one of the daughters that owned the shop with her mother and sister. She already knew we only spoke English and told us she would show us around and do her very best to explain all of the displays in English. She told us of an event that happened in the Lac Saint-Jean area in 1870 that resulted in the plentiful wild blueberries that still flourish today. Around 11:00 am on May 19, 1870 in the Sainte Felician area, a slash fire (the burning of brush, stumps, and branches on land after trees have been felled to clear the land) became uncontrollable and burned everything in its path.It raged on until nightfall, when a solitary rainstorm extinguished it. Residents took refuge in vaults, wells, and steams in an effort to escape the flames. When the fire was finally out, it had consumed over 938,000 acres of land. Leaving 5 people dead, 555 families that had lost everything, including homes, livestock, and harvests. Another 146 families had significant loss. There were a total of 6300 disaster victims and that was during a time when the residents only totalled 16,500.But, out of that horrific incident, something good has come. It was thanks to the Great fire that blueberries flourish here still today.. Wild blueberries naturally grow in abundance after a forest fire. Today, inspired by the results of the Great fire, blueberry farmers use a thermal-pruning (burning off the fields) to regenerate the plants and increase productivity. It was evident, as we biked through the area today, that the wild blueberry crop is healthy and strong here. They cover every surface in the forests and in the fields. Every time I stepped off of the bike today, all I had to do was look down to find wild blueberries.

After our history lesson, the shop owner offered us samples of her products.

We were able to taste each blueberry product that was made in the shop. They were all so good! We ended up buying some jam and other things to take home. I showed her the picture on my phone of the blue huts we’d seen in the blueberry fields. They were large enough for a person to enter, but all shaped the same. She told us the huts were for bees and hornets, because without good pollinators, there are no wild blueberries. They are the largest hives I had ever seen. She said the farmer places them in the fields to attract bees and hornets, and someone else comes around to collect the honey.

Since they did not have fresh blueberries, (it was too early in the season) our lunch plans were changed. The only place to eat in town was a food wagon back up the hill in the parking lot of the miniature golf place where we’d met our Good Samaritan. We rode back up the hill and ordered 2 hot dogs and an order of fries that we decided to split.The food wagon lady was very nice and asked us where we were from and about our trip. When she handed us our food, our fries were in a wax paper lined lunch sack packed full of fries. She said she’d made it extra full since we were sharing. So much for not eating many fries! They were delicious and we ate every bite!

 

We finished up the miles and arrived at our hotel in Dolbeau-Mistassini, which is right on the bank of the Mistassini River. It’s an adorable little town and all of the street signs are topped with cute little blueberries! The river runs right beside the hotel and we have a great view of the rapids.

We were hungry when we arrived, so Jimmy went down and made reservations in the hotel restaurant. It was delicious and overlooked the river. We started with the regional favorite, Gourgane soup and for dessert? Blueberry pie! Tomorrow, Dolbeau-Mistassini to Sainte-Monique!

Veloroute des Bleuets; Biking the Trail of the Blueberry-Day 2-Chombard to Sainte Felicien

19 Jul

 

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Day 2 began much cooler than day one. The rain from yesterday had lowered the temperature and it was about 50 degrees, windy and cloudy when we set out. Today’s route took us through more rural areas and through a few small towns on the shores of the lake.

We hadn’t been on the bikes too long before we decided we needed another cup of coffee to warm us. We spotted the restaurant  (Le Relais Du Bleuets) from which we had ordered delivery the night before, and parked the bikes. 

We went inside, where we were greeted in French. We said hello in English, which set the staff into action. The greeter gestured to wait one minute, and she went and beckoned a server who knew English. The English speaking server asked us what would we like to order, and asked if we wanted to sit inside or outside. We chose outside where we could keep an eye on the bikes. She said she’d bring our coffee and blueberry muffin out to us when it was ready. We took a few minutes to look around in the little gift shop, where they had many blueberry based products. I mentioned to Jimmy that I wanted some chocolate covered blueberries to go with our coffee and muffin. How could I not? When one rides the blueberry trail, one must eat blueberries at every opportunity, and if that means that they are covered in chocolate, then even better! We spotted some small packages of candy coated blueberries, but that wasn’t really what we wanted. I asked the server if they had chocolate covered blueberries, she said yes, yes, and picked up a small and large package from behind the counter and asked which size. Large of course! She told us they were made fresh right in the store and pointed in the direction of a lady in  a small kitchen off to the side making another batch. The server left us to browse and went back to what she was doing. The lady in the kitchen signaled to me to get my attention, then quietly motioned for me to come back into the little kitchen. I stepped through the curtain into the kitchen and attempted to start a conversation with her about how nice her chocolate covered blueberries looked, and how I couldn’t wait to eat them. It was apparent right away that she did not speak English at all, but she motioned for me to hand her the box of chocolate blueberries that I held. I extended the box to her and she took them and set them aside. She then picked up an identical empty box from her stack, and began to pack it full of the freshly covered chocolate blueberries she had made that morning. When she finished, she placed the lid on (it would barely fit over the contents) and motioned for me to follow her back out to the counter. She went behind the counter and tied a pretty blue and white ribbon around my box, placed a sticker on it with the name of the shop, and handed it to me with a big smile. It was just precious! She wanted me to have the freshest chocolate covered blueberries that she could give me. It was such a sweet gesture for her to stop her work and take such special care to present me with the beautifully full box of blueberries.

Though neither of us spoke the other’s language, she was able to bless me in that special way. I motioned that I would like to give her a hug, and we grabbed each other and hugged and hugged (no air hug, a real bear hug!) I was saying thank you so much as I hugged her and we both giggled as we hugged. We parted with big smiles on our faces as we waved goodbye. We took our berries out to the front deck seating and soon our coffee and muffin arrived. It was a delicious treat and fueled us for a few more miles.

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Today’s route was more dedicated bike trails and had fewer sections on the road alongside cars. The skies soon cleared and it was a gorgeous day. Clear, with sunny blue skies and big white puffy clouds with a temperature of about 68 degrees. Perfect riding weather and I took more pictures today than I did yesterday.

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Around lunchtime, we decided to take a short detour off the trail and visit Val-Jalbert. The short detour was beautiful, and I was excited to spot fresh wild raspberries growing right along the trail. I stopped and ate a few.

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Val-Jalbert is a historic village with 40 original buildings and period costumed “residents”. The old village was fascinating and we enjoyed meeting the characters and talking to them. One of the young girls playing the character of a school girl, was especially excited to be able to practice her English on us. We were able to store our bikes in the welcome center in an unused room and stretched our legs as we walked up to the village. It was a beautiful walk on a boardwalk path through the woods.

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Once we reached the village, we took some time to tour some of the old buildings. A rushing stream ran right along the trail and I took several more pictures.

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We decided to eat lunch in the old mill building, and were totally surprised to see a huge waterfall as we rounded the corner to the mill.

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Ouiatchouan Falls is higher than Niagara Falls and we took lots of pictures from every possible angle. We also rode the cable car to the top of the falls (included in our entry fee). From there we had a view of the surrounding farm fields and Lac Saint-Jean in the distance. 

We had no idea we were in for such a treat. We just thought we would walk around and look at a few old buildings. Lunch was delicious! A lady in the line behind us helped us to place our order when she saw that we were having trouble. We’ve found time and time again that someone is always trying to help us! It renews my faith in people, but more than that, it renews my faith in God, realizing he always has help available when we need it!

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We continued our ride after lunch and went through 2 very picturesque towns on the shores of the lake. Sections of the trail took us through campgrounds, quiet historic neighborhoods, and alongside blueberry and strawberry fields.

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It was a challenging ride because of the wind. Something we hadn’t considered was the breeze coming off of the huge Lac Saint-Jean. So far we’ve had 2 days of brisk wind, with today being much brisker than yesterday. But the beauty of the countryside offset our burning legs. We found our hotel right alongside the trail, our luggage was waiting for us, and we quickly changed and headed to dinner.

Once again, our server knew no English and we knew no French, but her strategy seemed to be to just keep talking, in hopes that we would pick it up.  We were trying our best to translate the menu with our Google translate app, but it is hit or miss. Tonight it was miss! A lady seated at a table behind us, observing the whole thing, came over to our table and asked in English if she could help us. (thank you Lord!) We said yes in unison! She pulled out the chair beside me, sat down and said, “How can I help you?” I said, “Could you read the menu to us?” She laughed and said of course! She started at the top with the appetizers and read/translated the entire menu into English. It was a great help, and we were able to point to the correct line when our server returned to take our order. We ended our meal with a slice of blueberry pie, and it was another memorable day on the trail of the blueberry! 

 

Trails and Beaver Tails (Day 5; Sainte-Adele to Saint-Jerome and back)

15 Jul

Sadly, we only have two days of riding/trail exploring left. Today’s ride covered the remaining segment of trail we hadn’t seen yet. Tomorrow we will begin our two day trek back to the truck. Today’s route took us from Sainte-Adele, where we stayed at Auberge de la Gare B and B, to Saint-Jerome, where we ate lunch, then headed back to the B and B. It was a 42 mile round trip.

Breakfast was delicious.  We were given a choice of French Toast or Belgian Waffles.  We both went with the waffles! They were served with a yogurt, granola, fruit parfait and a strawberry smoothie.

The day was sunny and clear and we found ourselves stopping quite often for photos.  The scenery here is just too much for our eyes to take in.  One of the great things about the Le P’tit Train Du Nord linear parc is that it travels along lakes, rushing streams, and rivers for much of its length.  There’s no shortage of photo opportunities as you can see from the pictures below.

I was excited to spot wild blueberries alongside the trail, just beginning to ripen.  More food for the bears!

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We stopped along the trail at a couple of the restored depots for a water break.  One was housing a display of artwork by local artists, and we talked to the artist for a few minutes as we looked at their paintings.  The other depot still looked very much the way it did in the early part of the last century, and two gentlemen were staffing a little kitchen offering muffins and coffee for a small donation.  It is fortunate that the old train stations have been saved.  They are certainly an asset to the trail users and to the communities.

As we travelled south, we got closer and closer to Montreal.  The trail left the pristine wilderness and entered a more urban area.

Our goal was to reach Saint-Jerome, about as close to Montreal as we cared to go on bike. The old train depot in Saint-Jerome still stands, a lovely stone building, and it, like all the others we’ve seen, has been restored and repurposed as a tourist info center.  The planters in front of the station were full of beautiful flowers, including black petunias.

We ate at a cafe with outdoor seating right across from the train station.  We both ordered the lunch special, which included a sandwich, soup, and drink.  I ordered my first soft drink on this trip, and it was brought out in a can with a tiny bit of ice in the glass, as is common in Europe.

After lunch, we headed back away from Montreal and toward our B and B.  Since we were at this B and B for two nights, we were able to leave some of our gear there.  We were about half way back to the B and B when we decided we needed an ice cream break.  We stopped at one of the old depots, and asked the gentleman staffing it if he knew of a place to get ice cream.  He pointed us to a building right around the corner. I took a picture of this sign hanging in the depot, that visitors of any language could understand!

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The menu at the ice cream shop, was entirely in French of course, but we were thankful that every menu item had pictures.  I really liked the picture of the fresh strawberry sundae! Fresh locally grown strawberries are in season here, and they are appearing on menus while they’re available.

We made it back to the B and B, rested up a bit, got cleaned up and starting thinking about food again.  Since we had already done the fondue thing offered at the B and B last night, we decided we wanted something different tonight.  The only problem was, this B and B is a bit of a way from town, and the road into town is not suitable for bikes.  The owner offered to arrange a taxi to take us to dinner, and Jimmy did an online search and found a place he thought we’d like.

The taxi ride was fast! Though we were just a few miles from the restaurant, he got us there in record time.  We were seated at the restaurant by Max.  He was extremely nice and asked where we were from, was this our first time here, etc.  He told us the restaurant occupies an old building that used to belong to one of the early settlers of the town.  It served as a home from 1880 until the young chef (25 years old at the time) purchased it and opened up the restaurant.  When Max found out we were from Kentucky, he told us his favorite basketball team was UK, that certainly made us like him that much more!

The menu was extensive and he took a great deal of time translating it into English, and explaining how the chef would prepare each item.  We’ve seen some very uncommon entrees listed on the menus in Canada. Probably common for here, but not common in the States.  And we’ve tried some of them, Jimmy ate wild boar on our first night here, but I’m not as adventurous when it comes to some of the wild game that is common here.

Max described an item that caught my interest as “Beaver Tail”.  He said it has a chewy crusty bread base, topped with prosciutto, thinly sliced beets, etc.  He said it is almost like a pizza. That sounded good to me, as long as it wasn’t actually beaver tail.  When he came back around, after giving us a few minutes to make up our minds, I just had to double check.  Jimmy placed his order of poutine (the chef’s special creation using sweet potatoes and a variety of seafood) and I really wanted the pizza, but not if it was on a beaver tail!!  When he looked to me for my order, I said, “I’d really like to try the beet and prosciutto pizza, but it’s not really a beaver tail is it?”  Max smiled and said, “Ma’am, if I served you a beaver tail, you’d be chewing until 11:00 pm, and then you would give up and say, oh, well…”. He said, “it is not really a beaver tail, it just has the shape of a beaver tail because of the crusty bread”. We all three enjoyed a good laugh out of that.  The food was delicious and it was very reasonable for the chef inspired menu. We enjoyed every bite, down to the dessert and cafe au lait!  Another even faster taxi ride back to the B and B concluded our day. Jusqu’a demain! (Until tomorrow)

The Heavens Declare His Glory (day 4: Mont-Tremblant to Sainte-Adele)

14 Jul

Today, we saw a return to gorgeous blue skies and warm sunshine.  It felt great after the drizzly morning we had on the trail yesterday.  We were seated for breakfast and Jean-Claude, the owner of the inn, set steaming cups of coffee in front of us.  He then brought the cream and sugar right out, and sat it in front of Jimmy.  The little container that held the sugar appeared to be little crumbles of a natural brown sugar.  Fancy!

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Jimmy was preparing to add cream and sugar to his coffee when he asked me, “are you sure that’s sugar?”  I said, “Of course it’s sugar, what else could it be?”  He reached for it, and I thought maybe I should taste it first just to be on the safe side.  I took a little pinch of the granular stuff in my fingers and tasted it.  It was definitely not sugar, but I had no idea what it was.  It tasted like meat, which is NOT what I was expecting.  I stopped Jimmy from stirring it into his coffee, thank you very much, and as we sat there wondering (and chuckling) Jean-Claude came back out with a basket of bread.  He said, “I forgot the bread!” He explained that his wife had prepared a traditional dish of tourtiere for us to try.  He said it is a mixture of meats and seasonings and is somewhat similar to pate.  He said it was very good, and she made it herself from scratch. We thought it was good too, but I’m sure it was much better spread on the fresh French bread than it would have been stirred into hot coffee!

Our breakfast plates followed, we were given a choice of two different entrees and we wanted to try both!

I am not sure how I will return to a life where a gorgeous plate of breakfast is not placed in front of me each morning! Jimmy had French toast with fruit, I had something Jean-Claude described as ciabatta topped with egg, cheese, and veggies.

The section of trail we tackled today was a somewhat shorter distance (33 miles) but had the highest change of elevation on the trail. Also today, wae passed the half-way point of the trip.  We’ve logged 150 miles at this point, and should be at about 250-260 miles by the end of the week. The trail surface changed from asphalt to a crushed hard-pack pea-gravel, still a good surface but a little more effort required to pedal.

The gorgeous scenery we experienced kept us distracted from the feeling of fatigue in our legs. A verse of scripture kept coming to my mind today; “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands”. Psalm 91:1. Boy is that ever true in this place! Words cannot adequately describe the beauty we saw today. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

For lunch, we stopped at a charming place right beside the bike trail in the little town of Saint-Faustian-Lac-Carre’, called La Stazione (the station).  We were seated on the deck in the warm sunshine and greeted by a sweet lady that brought us water (I don’t even try with the iced tea anymore, it’s not gonna happen here) and handed us menus.  We looked at the menu, using Google translate to decipher the words.  When she returned, she smiled sweetly and said in English, “How is your French?”  “Terrible!” I answered.  (Why not cut straight to the chase! Any bit of  confidence I gained preparing for this trip with Duolingo is gone!) She laughed and said, “ok then, so do you have questions about the menu?”  We did, and she answered them all, explaining different menu items and options for us to consider.  Jimmy settled on a pizza and I had soup and salad.  The soup du jour (of the day) was wonton of all things, and it was delicious.  The spinach salad was a work of art!

As we were waiting for our food, another couple pulled off the bike trail to eat, and stopped at our table to chat for awhile.  We enjoyed getting to know them as we waited. They were on holiday from New Zealand, and were interested in learning about the States and we about New Zealand.  We may have to plan a bike trip to their country after that conversation!

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Back on the trail for more of God’s handiwork! More photos below, no words needed.

I pulled to the side of a bridge to take a photo and struck up a conversation with a lady doing the same.  I asked her if she often rode the trail, telling her how much we were enjoying it.  She said, ” I get to ride it every day, it’s my job.” I said that it sounds like a dream job to me and she agreed, she said,” I can hardly believe it myself!” She is a riding trail ranger, carrying some first aid supplies, knowledge of the trail, and eager to lend assistance if needed.

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As we neared Sainte Agathe Des Monts, we spotted another restored train station and decided to take a peek inside. These old stations are treasures, each one offering a glimpse of days gone by and offering clean restrooms, a place to refill water bottles, and purchase food and snacks.  We sat on the front porch in big comfortable chairs and ate ice cream, watching the bikers and walkers go by.

We reached our B and B in St. Adele and checked in.  Very common with B and B’s here, is that a number of them offer an evening meal to the guests.  That has been very nice to not have to get back out and find dinner after a long day on the trail.

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The owner of the B and B explained that she offers a French fondue dinnner, and gave us a card to make our selections as to soup, meat and dessert.  We thought it might be fun, and it was! She had a table ready for us when we went down to the dining room and there was another couple already seated at the next table doing the same fondue meal.  They were very personable, and were from Ontario riding the trail for the first time as well. We enjoyed our dinner and getting to know them. It was a perfect ending to a perfect day!

Quebec the Beautiful

10 Jul

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We were excited to get onto the bikes this morning.  We had scheduled breakfast for 8:00 am with the owner of the inn the previous evening.  Jimmy went down a little early to load the bikes and met the owner’s wife.  She spoke very good English, and offered to feed us early if we wanted.  We took her up on the offer and were soon enjoying another hearty breakfast. This one included beans, as is traditional in England, and I guess Canada… We would call these pork and beans in the States.

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In preparation for this trip we had to think carefully about what we packed. It would be necessary to carry everything we needed with us on our bikes.  There would be no vehicle to rely on for extra stuff.  Below is the photo of our bikes fully packed.  Please notice my bike is the white one on the left. Please notice that I’m a lighter packer than Jimmy. (Not really).

IMG_0425Actually, he packs all of our snacks, spare parts such as inner tubes, bike locks, tire pumps, etc and all kinds of stuff we wouldn’t want to do without if the need arose, and I’m certainly glad he is willing! So we set off.  Our destination today was Mont Laurier, a 35 mile ride from where we parked the truck. The scenery was immediately stunning.  I took so many pictures! We saw a profusion of wildflowers and ferns around every bend. The temperature was a pleasant 72 degrees, low humidity and warm sunshine most of the day.

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Other than stopping every 6 feet or so to snap a photo (as I’ve said before, Jimmy is a very patient man) our first official stop was at an old depot on the trail in the little town of Nominingue.

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We went in and talked to the gentleman who was staffing the depot.  He told us a little about the history of the community, and that the community members had gathered old photos of the pioneer families that first moved to the area, as well as photos of the old buildings. They kept these photos in scrapbooks proudly displayed in the depot for all to enjoy.  It was quite interesting to flip through the photos and we enjoyed talking about the community’s history.

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We finished looking at the community pioneer books, signed the guest registry, and headed out.  His English was pretty good, but as he bid us goodbye, he said, “you go and I will ring the bell, I will ring the bell when you go”.  I didn’t know exactly what he meant by that, but he bustled off and we got on the bikes.  Just as we approached the street that we would need to cross to continue on, an old signal crossing lit up, flashing red lights, and the signal bell began clanging. That’s what he was trying to tell us!  He wanted us to be able to experience a relic from the old days when trains travelled along this path, long before bicycles did.  Such a kind gesture! We continued on to more spectacular scenery with big smiles on our faces.

 

We came upon a man crouching along the trail not far after the depot.  He seemed to be picking something and, not knowing if he would understand me, I simply said, “berries?”  He stood and smiled real big and shook his head yes, he was picking berries.  I asked him what kind and he said, “raspberries I think you call them”, as he held out his container. He said he was trying to pick enough to make a jar of jam for a guest he was expecting.  He then said, “and now I know why a little jar of wild berry jam is 10 bucks at the grocery store”.  Lol, his English was pretty good after all. We wished him good luck and continued on.

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We began to look for a place for lunch since it was nearing noon and we look for every possible opportunity to eat while we are riding a bike trail!  When we came to the next sign for a town, Lac Saguay, we veered off of the trail and headed that direction.  There were two men nearby, one walking to a vehicle and one doing some maintenance work on the trail with a tractor.  We stopped at the first man and said hello, he nodded and smiled, but I could tell he didn’t understand English.  I made the motion with my hand to my mouth of eating, while saying the word “eat”. He said, “lunch?” I said yes, yes as I nodded in the affirmative.  He held up one finger, as if to say wait, then turned and went to talk to the man on the tractor.

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After conferring with the man on the tractor, they both came over to help us. The second man’s English was a wee bit better, and between the two of them, they tried to give us directions to a restaurant.  Their instructions were delivered by hand gestures and single words,  They said “one street”, “117”, and gestured to turn left.  We thanked them and took off, went up one street, saw a sign for highway 117, and pedaled up a side street that came out beside a grocery store.  Was this what they meant?  Maybe we were to buy a loaf of bread and a package of cheese or something? We decided to look on Google maps to see if there was a restaurant nearby, and just as I was pulling up the map, the first man drove up beside us in his car and motioned for us to go left at the cross-street we were facing, saying lunch, lunch.  It was so sweet!  He was watching us, saw us stop and look around in confusion, and jumped in his car to show us the way to the restuarant.  After that, we found it easily.

The weather was so nice, we decided to eat outside on the deck.  We were handed menus, which were all in French with the exception of two items, Hot Hamburger and Hot Dog.  We both decided a hamburger and fries was just what we needed.  The waitress easily understood that order, though she did not speak English.  And tried to ask (I think) if we wanted everything on the burger.  We attempted to ask what came on it, but finally gave up when she couldn’t find the English words.  We were able to make her understand that we would take it however it came. I did not expect the combination of items on that burger, but I will have to say it was delicious.

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The burger was served with shredded cabbage and carrots, mustard, mayonnaise, diced onion, sweet relish and cheese. I ate every bite!

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After lunch, we continued on, saw more beautiful views and happened upon a couple and their two children riding the trail.  We had stopped at a scenic overlook and enjoyed talking to them.  They were riding the trail going in the opposite direction.  They warned us that they’d just come through a big swarm of mosquitoes, and that we might want to ride fast going through that section.  We offered them some of our insect repellant wipes (which Jimmy had thought to pack) and they gladly took us up on it.  They were very nice and friendly and spoke perfect English, having come from Montreal. Their little boy, who appeared to be about 8 years old, said he had to take French in school since it was required.  He went on to say that he was failing French, other than knowing a bunch of insults in French.  His dad told him to be quiet, lol. We wished them happy trails and were on our way.

 

It was a welcome sight when we rode into the town of Mont Laurier and found our destination for the night. We found our B and B and were shown around by the owner.  The home sits high above a waterfall, but we could not see it, only hear it due to the dense foliage on the trees this time of year.  We were very pleased with our room and again had a balcony.

 

As the owner left us, having shown

us our room, he asked if there was anything he could get us.  Jimmy said it would be nice to have some water, we’d been on the trail all day and we were thirsty.  The owner looked into the bathroom and pointed at the faucet on the sink.  We looked that direction too and saw two little cups on a shelf above the sink. He said the water is good and it comes right out of the river.  We said, ok that will do. Guess we will be drinking river water tonight, and not cold bottled water. Lol!

We got cleaned up, and walked downtown to find a bite to eat.  We walked across the bridge and had a great view of the waterfall that we’d been hearing from our room.

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Mont Laurier is a beautiful town and we found a great meal at a local restaurant called Place Pizza.   Jimmy ordered lasagna and I ordered Greek chicken.  It was excellent. Bon appetit!

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Bonjour Canada!

10 Jul

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Today, after a two day drive, we finally get to hop on the bikes!  A trip to Canada to tackle Le P’tit Train du Nord has been something we’ve daydreamed about for a long time.  And it’s finally here! The P’tit train du Nord (the little train of the North) is a converted rails to trails, 200 kilometers long (124 miles).  It is rated as one of the best bicycle trails in North America. The old railway bed that the trail was built upon, was closed in the late 1980’s.  The trail is relatively flat, which is quite impressive considering that it winds its way through the Laurentian Mountains, but more on the trail later…

We left home a little before 4:00 am and made it all the way to Hamilton, Ontario, crossing the border in Detroit.  The border crossing was easy.  It only took about twenty minutes to move ahead in the car lane until it was our turn to speak to the officer.  We passed him our passports, he asked where we were from and why we were coming to Canada.  We answered satisfactorily and he barely made eye contact with us before clearing us to pass.  We were warned by one of the workers at the Michigan welcome center that the crossing back into the US will not be as easy.  She said, we’ve had some trouble in the US, Canada has not…

Our first night was spent in Hamilton, Ontario.  We checked in to our B and B and the innkeeper made reservations for our dinner while we unloaded our bags and stored our bikes in the walk-in basement.  Hamilton is on the Niagara escarpment and is home to 100 waterfalls!  We were able to enjoy one of them. The restaurant where we ate dinner was a converted historic mill built right beside a large stream with a tall waterfall running right along side it.  The mill was a beautiful ivy covered building, reminiscent of  one you might see in England.

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We enjoyed a delicious breakfast the next morning, prepared by the innkeeper,  and we were ready to go. We left Hamilton, drove through Toronto then Ottawa, and finally left the main highway for a little two-lane country road that brought us to tonight’s destination.

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We are staying in a B and B called Auberge Le Sainte-Boheme.  We had no trouble whatsoever while we were in Ontario.  In fact, when we crossed the border, the first thing we saw was a McDonald’s and a Dollar Tree.  All of the road signs were in English and French.  You would have a hard time knowing you were out of the US based on the businesses in the area. But when we crossed into Quebec, it was a different story.  All the road signs are in French and very few of the businesses have English wording. We have not become very adept at converting kilometers per hour to miles per hour, but Jimmy is getting quicker.

Lunch was a welcome break from the driving when we found a place beside the river and were able to be seated outdoors.  The temperature is a delightful 75 degrees with no humidity! We noticed poutine on the menu, and had to order this Canadian staple! Poutine consists of french fries topped with cheese curds and brown gravy.  It was actually delicious.  Not a combination I would have thought of, but it worked!

Back on the road for more driving after lunch, then we finally arrived.  We pulled into the B and B, got out of the car and found the entrance to the inn.  The entry way opened into a small dining room where several people were enjoying the evening meal.

The server looked in our direction, acknowledged us, then said something very rapidly in French as she walked our way.  She stopped in front of me and said another rapid French phrase that seemed to end in a question.  I froze like a deer in the headlights.  All of my French words and phrases were gone!  And at that moment, it seemed everyone in the restaurant, paused, mid-bite, with food on their forks to listen to the exchange that was to follow.  Jimmy (always to my rescue) stepped up beside me and boldly said, “Hello, we are here to check in”.  (He didn’t even try one French word!) The hostess  said something else very rapidly in French, then turned and walked away.  She came back with the owner (we learned later).  He came straight to me, looked me in the eye and said, “Do you speak French?”  I shook my head no, with a very sorry look on my face. He said, “Well I do not speak English, so we have a problem.”  (Bear in mind, this was all spoken in English, lol) He then cracked a big smile, and in broken English, welcomed us and took us upstairs to show us our room.  At that point, those in the dining room were able to resume their meal.

We were given a cozy little room with a tiny balcony overlooking the front of the property and a postage stamp sized bathroom but there is something so charming about this place!  It’s an old farmhouse built in the early 1900’s.  Michel, the owner, told us to come down for dinner whenever we were ready.

When we went down for dinner, the lady that had greeted us, and by now knew we didn’t know a lick of French, pointed to a table for two, indicating that we should sit there. She came out with the menus (which were completely in French) spoke some French words to us and left.  I used the Google translate app on my phone and we tried our best to decipher each menu item.  This took quite a bit of time.  She came back, tried to talk to us in French again, realized it was futile and left, saying the word “chef “as she went. I knew that word, so there was hope!

A young man in a chef’s uniform came out to the table and said, “I understand we have a little translation problem”.  I smiled and said, “we have a big translation problem”.  He smiled and said, “No, we will call it a little problem.”  He then started at the top of the menu, pronounced every menu item in French, then in near perfect English, explained in great detail, what each meant, even going as far as to tell us how they would prepare it in the kitchen.  He took a great deal of time with us and it made our meal that much more enjoyable having been fully informed of everything we were about to eat.

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The menu offering on weekends is a multi-course meal, so when the waitress returned to take our order, she looked at me to go first.  Since the chef had pronounced everything in French, then explained what it meant in English, I decided the courteous thing to do was to at least take a stab at the French pronunciations .  I wanted her to know that I respected the French language, so as I pointed to each course on the menu, I did my very best at pronouncing as I went.  I’ll be honest, she seemed to have a bit of trouble understanding me.  She even chuckled and corrected me more than once.  How much easier could I make it?  I was pointing directly at the words I was pronouncing?  Jimmy on the other hand, didn’t even put forth much effort at all.  He didn’t point to any words.  His menu choices sounded like this, “Caesar” (that means he wants the Caesar salad), “Hot” (that means he wants the soup that is hot, not the cold one I ordered when she corrected my pronunciation of  froide, which does not rhyme with Sigmund Freud, it means cold and is pronounced “fwah”. ) When he got to the entree choice, he simply said “Pork”.  Nothing French sounding about that, yet she smiled and nodded approvingly, and appeared to appreciate someone who didn’t, try to fake it.  To me, he was beginning to sound like Briscoe Darling on the Andy Griffith Show, when he was eating dinner and was letting Aunt Bea know they were running low on food, Meat!, Taters!. Good grief!  The last choice he had to make was dessert.  We had the choice of Creme Brûlée, Citron (lemon) tart, or fruit.  He says, “Pie” and bingo, she smiles and says Merci.  By golly, she brought him the tart when he ordered pie!

It was a delicious meal, and after we were all done, the English speaking chef came back out and we enjoyed talking to him for quite some time. He told us he had worked at the inn for 15 years, having first been a plumber, then an electrician!  But he loves what he’s doing now, and it shows in the quality of the food.  It was a good day, and we are looking forward to the next.  Au Revoir! (Good bye!)