Monday, July 14, 2008

July 10 - 13: Chemin du Roy -- Travels on the King`s Highway

July 10: Montreal (Verdun) to Lanoraie (Chemin du Roy)
78.7 km
15.7 km/hr average
5 hrs on the bike

(Sorry - no images, I am on a machine that won`t allow me to spell check or add pics!).

Another great night to be inside! Around 9:30 pm the skies opened and it poured. Thank you again Corrine and Jean-Francois. Morning found us all well rested, and after some strong coffee and a good breakfast (thank you Corrine), we rode along the Lachine Canal bike route into downtown Montreal for some sightseeing before heading east.

We rode up to Place des Armes and saw the basilica. Mark had never been before so he paid the 5.00 and went inside for a view. He reported it as being very ornate. The design was inspired by Sainte Chapelle in Paris and, having recently been in Sainte Chapelle Mark said he could see the similarities. It is certainly one of Canada's finest cathedrals.

From the basilica we went through the old town -- cobblestones and all! We had a quick look at Beausecours and then headed down to the bike route. We got on La Route Verte #5 and travelled north east up the Island of Montreal until we crossed the river on a small bridge south of Charlemange. The Route was quite circuitous here and we travelled a few kilometres out of our way through back streets, along railway and power corridors, through parks, to the small town of L'Assomption. Here we saw the first of the area's Roman Catholic church spires. They are sheathed in some type of silvery metal that gleams on even the greyest day. They rise above the towns and can be seen for miles around from the flat valley of the St. Lawrence River. La Route Verte here travels on the Chemin du Roy (Route 138). This road was developed in 1737 and was the first road in Canada that could take vehicles.

We travelled by Saint-Sulpice with its magnificant church (built in 1832). Then it was on to Lavaltrie, and into camping outside of Lanoraie. It is such a different experience to be in Canadian towns and villages that are so old -- some started in the early 1700s.

Our camping for the night was at Chez Daniel -- a bit noisy for Mike and I, but Mark didn't have trouble falling off to sleep. The campground was right on the banks of the St. Lawrence. This river, which goes so deeply into the heart of central Canada has played a big role in developing my personal idea of the country -- from early geography and social studies classes right through to this trip, where we will spend almost two weeks on its banks. When I was looking at maps of Canada in grade school, I never thought I would one day be camping on the banks of this great river.

July 11: Lavaltrie to Champlain
114 km;
17.1 km/hr;
6:40 on the bike;

Another beautiful day on the Chemin du Roy. Today I was thinking of my good friend Lisa Spellacy -- the culture, the food, the historic importance of the area, combined with great cycling and friendly people make it a place she would LOVE to ride through.

Today we followed La Route Verte through some of the most picturesque villages and farms I have seen on the trip thus far. We meandered all around the highway 138 through Lanoraie, Bertieville, Saint-Cuthert and Barthelemy, Maskinonge, Louiseville, and Yamachiche. Each of these towns has houses that are several hundred years old, and each is punctuated with a silver-roofed church. Yamachiche featured a row of old red brick buildings (1850s -- just youngsters, but very typical of the town none the less). A 10 year old boy I was talking to told me the story of how the bricks were made in the area, how they were fired, and how the houses were built -- at leat that's what I think he was saying, as he was speaking French, and mine is not so hot!

We breakfasted at Bertierville at Chez Elaine's Resto Bistro in the town square. It is not on the main tourist track, so was full of locals. An excellent breakfast, not expensive, and our first taste of a local terriene (pate). I highly recommend the place if you are travelling along the Chemin.

With the day getting warmer we passed through Trois Riveres, doing our best to stay to La Route. We had a few miss-steps, but nothing major. When following a signed route it is very easy to stray when other bike paths cross your path, as happened here. However, it wasn't a major setback and we were soon over the bridge at Trois Rivers and back on La Route.

After passing by the huge pilgrimage church at Notre-Dame-Du-Cap, we travelled another 15 or so km to our camping outside of Champlain. Again, we were right on the banks of the Fleuve St. Laurent at Royal Camping. When he determined that I was interested in the river, he took me on a quick riverside tour. This is not just a pleasant tourist river, the St. Lawrence is a working river with thousands of tons of tanker, container, and barge traffic every day. Right across the river from the campground, perched in the trees, was Quebec's only nuclear power generating facility. According to my host the reactor on the right cost a billion dollars, doesn't work, and will never work -- but that is far preferrable to the reactor on the left, which cost millions to build, and millions more every year just to keep running. Just upstream from the nuclear station was an aluminum smelter, and even further upstream, a magnesium production facility.

I wonder what Sammuel Champlain would say if he could see the river today? He must have thought it was a wonder when he first sailed up it. I also wonder what the First Nations people from that time would say!

After a beautiful sunset it was off to bed -- hopefully a bit quieter than last night!

July 12: Champlain to Sainte Augstine de Desmaures
100.4 km
16.5 km/hr
6:05 on the bike

What a beautiful day (still thinking of you Lisa)! We started the day with some local strawberries that Mark provided. Then it was off through some of the most lovely towns and villages we have encountered yet. The old houses, some stone, some mansard style, some classic cottage, popped up around almost every corner. Just down the road was the town of Batiscan, with a huge church right on the river. Further on, the huge church at Grondine had an art exhibit paintd by a 92 year local woman, showing her remembrance of the area when she was a young woman. Here I met the brother of my friend Tuna Onur's PhD supervisor (or at least colleague).

The cycling here was very easy -- we passed through "the most beautiful street in Canada" (according to the Globe and Mail -- but I amm inclined to agree) in the village of Cap Sante. The village of Deschambault had us sitting down at a fairly upscale establishment for our 2nd breakfast (1st breakfast is in camp around 6:30 am, 2nd comes around 10:30 - 11:00 -- very civilized if you ask me!). Mark got nailed two or three dollars that he wasn't expecting on a not very good meat substitution, but for the carnivors amongst us, namely Mike and me, it was a chance to try a 5 meat local pate.

The afternoon finished with a flourish when Mike's brother Steve, and his wife Carolle found us in the campground just outside of St.Augustine de Desmaures. We had a spot of route-finding trouble, but we righted ourselves and got into a campground just outside of Ste. Augustine. Luckey we did because Steve and Carolle found us easily. They were returning to their home in Chicoutimi after a visit with family in the US and the timing to meet up with us was perfect. Steve and Carolle are the parents of Emily and Corrine, so we saw the entire Quebec branch of the Whitneys on our tour. Carolle suggested that we drive out for dinner to the Huron Village of Wendake, outside of Quebec City. We drove up and stopped at the Kabir Khouba falls. We ended up at a fantastic buffet (perfect for the touring cyclist) where the three of us topped up the cycling gas tanks. I know I could hardly waddle back to the car, certainly I barely fit inside the tent! Thank you Carolle and Steve! A fine end to a fine day.

July 13: Champlain to Levis (outside Quebec City)
47.5 km
12.3 km / hr average
3:52 on the bike

Rain and more rain: from a climatic point of view, today was quite a let-down. I must say, when it rains here in the east of Canada, it really rains. None of this Victoria "mist" that we are so used to. It started to rain about 1:00 am and continued in fits and starts throughout the night. Steve and Carolle camped at the spot next to ours and we were lucky to have the rain hold off as we breakfasted together. However, once we got on the road the skies opened. To add to the joy, I got a flat under the Lappoint bridge that took a very long time to fix (flat 25 for all three of us for the trip). Then, with a warm rain streaming down around us, we missed our turn for La Route Verte #5 and ended up heading quite a ways inland and off our planned route.

On the way into Quebe City we stopped under a highway bridge for me to pour the water out of my boots, wring out my socks, and put on my rain pants, then it was on to the bike route through Laval University. We didn't plan on heading through Laval, indeed, our route called for us to stay on the St. Lawrence River, under the Plains of Abraham, circling into the Vieux Port of Quebec City. Instead we rode OVER the Plains of Abraham and DOWN to the Old Port.

Just outside the Citadel we decided to explore the city each on our own. The agreed upon plan was to meet at 3:00 pm for the ferry to the town of Levis. Mark took off for the Chateau Frontenac (he later pronounced it the most opulent hotel he had ever seen). Mike and I had been to Quebec City fairly recently, so we wanted to see the things we didn't see -- for example, the quays of the port itself, and the basilica. Mark also paid a visit to the basilica. Mike and I, after much discussion with many Quebec city residents, were able to make our way to MEC where another 6.00 Korean tire and three tubes were purchased.

Luckily, the rain held off for both Mark's tour and ours of Quebec City. But, as we came over on the ferry to Levis the rain started up again in earnest. Mike and I opted for a B&B, and Mark thought he would check out the camping options. However, things around Quebec City are VERY pricey (even camping), so Mark joined us at our comfortable B&B. Frankly, given how hard it was raining, and the fact that our hostess would dry all our clothes, I think it was a sound decision!

As far as history and culture goes, Quebec City is truly a world-class destination. It is just a shame that the weather didn't cooperate with us today. However, tomorrow will be better (or at least so goes the "meteo" report).

As far as my side of the day goes, I spent a very enjoyable few hours wandering around the old city, after walking around the city walls - city walls being not a very common thing to see in North America, in fact Quebec is the only walled city north of Mexico. (my bike was parked at the Chateau Frontenac all locked up and safe for a few hours) After taking the promenade from the Plains of Abraham down back to the Chateau I walked around the old town and visited the two cathedrals (Anglican and Catholic, the latter being of course much more opulent) and perused the environs of the Chateau Frontenac.

I must say that the Chateau itself deserves everything that has ever been written and said about it; it is a fantastic colossal pile of orange and grey brick that lords it over Quebec's old city like a fat opulent queen bee. Every angle you view it from, and there are many, presents the building in a different light and shows another cluster of towers and minarets.

After the Chateau everything is a letdown; however the lower town is very nice and I wandered around the Rue de Petit Champlain before we took the ferry over to Levis. The two women in the tourist info in Levis were amazing and knew everything we asked them; after taking the fantastic bike route up out of the port to the B+B I checked out the camping option. So, which would you go for: $26 for camping in a lame site in the pouring rain, or $40 for a B+B and enormous breakfast? Yes, the latter option.


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