112 Quebec City to Tadoussac, Quebec

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 Street in Old Quebec City

Street in Old Quebec City

With each stroke the old man captured a bit of the mood and color of the tiny street and transferred it to his canvas. We sat watching on a ledge resting our bone tired feet just across from him watching both the scene and his canvas. Music from a flutist floated through the air, mixing with chatter from people sitting at an outdoor café. Now in late afternoon we’d finally stopped to rest and watch. The old man, an outstanding painter, took a break and then slowly began to clean his pallet and fold up his easel. The flutist stopped and packed up her flute and CD’s for sale. Another street musician appeared, set up his harp and accompanied the growing shadows–his soft harp music fitting the mood of the ending day perfectly. We couldn’t resist. We bought one of his CD’s. Now the memory and feel of old Quebec City comes rushing back each time his music comes up on our CD changer.

Parc Nautique de Levy marina at Levis was a treat. For $1.00/ft Canadian we got a dock and 30 amp electric. By staying three days, our fourth day was free. Each day we had a free round trip cab ride to our choice of: the historic district, ferry dock, or grocery store. The cab ride to and from the grocery store was heaven. We stocked up knowing we had a minivan coming to haul everything back to the dock cart at the marina gate

We ordered unsweet iced tea in place of coffee, which was included with our lunch. The waiter commented it would take a few minutes because they’d have to make some for us and we said fine. We were enjoying our second iced tea when I looked at the check and choked. Our four iced teas were listed at $17.00 when we thought they were included free as a substitute for coffee. A quiet discussion with the waiter and manager in a mix if English and French resulted in an adjusted check. We left a bit wiser about checking to confirm what is considered customary if we substitute on a menu.

Chateau Frontanac dominates Quebec City’s skyline. Late in the afternoon it drew us in like a magnet. We stopped for a drink, a very expensive drink, but worth it to just sit enjoying the Chateau’s ambiance as we talked about our day of exploring. We felt like we’d walked uphill all day. From the ferry dock it had been a long uphill trek to The Plains of Abraham. We found Joan of Arc garden and then headed back into the Old city to explore more of the charming narrow streets. Unique dormers cluttering steep roofs had drawn our eyes upward distracting us from the hilly streets. Our legs, however, reflected a day of constantly going up and down hill.

Outside the Chateau’s windows buskers entertained on the boardwalk trying to lure a Loonie or Toonie from the gathered crowd. Across the St Lawrence the bluffs of Levis were charming in the soft afternoon light and down at the water’s edge we could just see the rip rap walls of the marina protecting Odyssey from the St. Lawrence’s strong currents. We rationalized one last drink and then reluctantly headed down hill to the ferry dock for our ride back across the river.

Vincent stopped by to ask if we needed anything. He was off work from the marina so we invited him aboard. We swapped notes and helped each other with language. We gave him a bit of help with his very accomplished English and he gave us all kinds of help with our very fractured French. Reading we are picking up, but our verbal skills are miserable. Our only salvation is that everyone is nice and refrains from laughing as we murder the French language.

Bluffs that started west of Quebec City rapidly grew into mountains as we moved northeast. They overwhelmed our normal feel of perspective. We felt like we were in one of those optical illusion rooms where as people or objects move from one size to the other they seem to change size. In this case our eyes are fooled into thinking the mountains, because of their size and massive features are very close despite our being 2-3 miles offshore. Thinking the mountains are close, manmade objects like houses, churches and trains seem to be miniatures. The scene seemed much like a train layout. I kept expecting a hobbyist to pop up behind a mountain and reach out to pick up one of the tiny trains or houses.

Low Tide at Isle aux Coudres

Low Tide at Isle aux Coudres

It took some time for us to sort out Environment Canada’s geographic locations on their weather forecast. “ELO Kudra” is how it sounds but is spelled: Ile aux Coudres. The first challenge had been pronunciation, the second was the marina. On the chart, it appears protected by rip rap walls but with a green, not blue coloring for the area inside the walls. That indicates it is above ground at mean low tide. In fact land heights are show as up to 0.7 meters above water level at low tide. We sorted out with the marina that they did indeed dry out letting boats down into a soft mud bottom. Arriving at low tide, we waited two hours for enough depth to enter on the 12 foot rising tide. The next low tide was at midnight and it was very dark. We never did feel Odyssey touch, but the depth sounder stop showing a depth as we rested in a puddle of water and mud. Early the next morning, pushing our bikes on foot we braved the very steep hill behind the marina then rode 16 miles around the island. A bakery near the tip of the west end of the island was a treat. The fresh sweet rolls survived the remainder of the bike ride, but were soon gone once we were underway again.

In the middle of checking engines, I heard Ruth shout: Whales! Belugas! Rushing up I caught the unmistakable flash of white slowly disappearing and reappearing as the whales moved along the surface. They were a good distance off, but we were thrilled with our first sightings of beluga whales.

 Beluga's and a Minke whale at Saguenay River mouth

Beluga's and a Minke whale at Saguenay River mouth

In every direction we looked we could see whales on the Saguenay River. There’s a deep natural basin underwater that concentrates food. We blended in with a small flotilla of tour boats and private vessels idling along slowly watching a variety of whales feeding. Belugas would go by in groups. Minkes seemed to be solitary. We idled along enjoying a unique event.

With digital cameras there’s a slight delay after pressing the shutter release and the actual taking of the picture. In trying to photograph whales that delay became very frustrating. It resulted in an impressive collection of pictures of rippled water where a whale used to be. However, we did manage to capture a few pictures of whales’ backs as they gracefully surfaced and slide back below. It’s a thrilling experience to move along with these magnificent creatures.

Cliff face at Baie Eternite

We finally figured out the depth sounder was ok, it was just that the Saguenay River was deeper than it’s depth range. Beyond 650 feet, the fjord’s depth in places, it no longer registered depth accurately. The depth sounder was working normally when we picked up a mooring in Baie Eternite. The mooring balls were in 80 feet of water close to shore. The bay is stunning; around us cliff faces towered 1,000 feet above. A light breeze brought the sent of cedar down off the cliffs. We dinghied ashore, paid our mooring fee, looked at the path leading off up the mountain and gave it a pass. Our legs were telling us our morning bike ride had been enough for one day.

Huge ferries bring tourists across the Saguenay to Tadoussac, home of the whale watching tour boats. We watched their coming and going from one of the overlooks along the park path winding through the cedars, granite and shoreline outside town. Wild iris somehow found enough dirt to grow among the impressive rocks adding vivid blues to the rocky path. People lined up to try in vain to catch a fleeting glimpse of a whale through the park rangers spotting scope. We found a park bench and relaxed watching the wonderful scene out over the water.

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