Tag Archives: biking in Canada

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)

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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!)