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Trip Report Part 2: 3-Pronged Trip Report: Maine, Quebec City, New Hampshire

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As we re-read our Part 1, posted under "Maine", it became obvious to us that we made no mention of the leaf colors. That is because in Maine, including Bar Harbor, there was little hint of color.

When we awoke on that Sunday morning in Bangor, anticipating a beautiful drive through northern Maine to Canada, it was overcast. . .rain was forecast. We programmed our Garmin, nicknamed "Gilda" (after Gilda Radner of SNL fame) thinking it was the relaxed way of driving up to Quebec. We had the route plotted on our trusty map, but thought we'd just trust Gilda. She seemed to be on target with our route for about the first twenty minutes, which was on the freeway. Then she directed us to take an exit. So we blindly followed, thinking that she may have a more scenic route. However, after about thirty minutes, riding on some hard-pack roads, going through a couple of ravines, we decided that if we didn't arrive at a highway that we could identify on our map within about five more minutes, we'd re-trace our route and get back on our originally planned route. But, lo and behold, we finally arrived at a state route in an incredibly small town, Solon. In fact, the Solon General Store WAS the town center. We were relieved to find civilization, and impressed with the nice people we met. We found that many of the people whom we met in the smaller, out-of-the-way towns were very cultured, well-educated, but just chose to live away from the hubbub of a big cities. We used the opportunity in Solon to get gas, and purchase a sandwich for a lunch stop, as we learned from the locals that we'd encounter similar small towns on our way up to the Canadian border.

Despite the rainy weather, as we traveled north on Rt. 201, we were impressed with the beauty of the mountains and the large lakes, and began seeing hints of color. We ate our lunch at a beautiful overlook of the Kennebunk River, and decided that if/when we returned to Quebec City, we'd take this route. After seeing many caution signs about Moose on the road, several people told us to take those warnings seriously. Having witnessed a car totalled by a moose in Jackson, WY, we did take their warnings to heart and watched carefully as we continued on our way north. Fortunately, we had no sightings. We made another stop at the West Fork General Store, north of Jackson. Continuing on, we passed through the border with only a short stop for a passport check and basic questions. As we traveled on Canada Rt. 23/73, we found it interesting to pass through several small Canadian towns, making a stop for coffee. As we approached Quebec City, Gilda redeemed herself with her helpful directions to our hotel, a COURTYARD MARRIOTT. We've stayed in our share of Courtyard's, and were pleasantly surprised at the great atmosphere of this place. Not only was the ambience wonderful, but the location was just a few hundred paces outside the Rue St. Jean Gate into the Upper Old Town. Valet parking was about 20 CD daily, but we felt that it was well worth it. Upon arrival, the weather was extremely chilly, no, cold, with blustery winds. We asked the concierge for a recommendation of a restaurant within walking distance, preferably one specializing in crepes. After all, we were in French Quebec! We didn't realize that one of the famed creperies in Quebec City, AU PETIT COIN BRETON, was a short walk from our hotel. We braved the cold and enjoyed one of several special meals there. Their French onion soup was the best ever, and the dessert crepe was equally delicious. A perfect ending to our travel day.

The following morning, we awoke to overcast skies, but no wind, and fairer temperatures. We couldn't resist a petit dejeuner stop at AU PETIT COIN BRETON That was followed by a hike up the precipice of Rue Ursule to Rue St. Louis, en route to the Visitors' Center near the Chateau Frontenac. We signed up for a walking tour of Old Quebec, where we learned a wealth of information about the history of Quebec, including the War of 1812, the exploits of Champlain, and tied together a lot of bits of history. And, in the process, we got our workout for the day as we climbed and descended the multitude of steps and hills in the Upper (Vieux Ville) and Lower Old Town (Basse Ville). We had intended to have lunch at the Chateau Frontenac, but as our walking tour came to an end in the Lower Town, two hungry people decided to follow the recommendation of our tour guide, Carole, and have lunch at LE COCHON DINGUE (Pig Pen). In addition to the tasty Croque Monsieur and Croque Madame, we tried a French Canadian specialty, sugar pie, for dessert. Surprisingly, we found it quite tasty, not "sickeningly sweet" as we feared. It was more like a mild whipped cream pie. After exploring the shops of the Lower Town, we found the ride on the Funiculaire to the Upper Town to be a welcome relief. From the deck at the top of the hill, we enjoyed the view of the St. Lawrence Seaway, where the Queen Mary II was in the harbor. ( It seemed to follow us!) We learned from the tour guide that at Quebec, the Seaway is at its narrowest point, 1 km., and that the name "Quebec" is an Indian work meaning "narrow". By this time, our heads were filled with many interesting historical details, the sun was getting low in the sky, and the timing seemed perfect to cap off our afternoon with a drink in the lounge of the Chateau Frontenac. After exploring the beautiful hotel, we wended our way up Rue St. Louis, checking out the posted restaurant menus, and decided to break our crepe pattern and have dinner at AU PARMESAN. In contrast to the quiet atmosphere at most of the French restaurants, AU PARMESAN was a lively atmosphere, complete with a serenading accordian player. We had their Table d'Hote menu of soup, penne pasta entree, dessert, and coffee. . .$19.95 per person. . .a reasonable price for expensive Quebec. After this satisfying meal, we ambled up the restaurant-lined Rue St. Louis, and down past the park on very steep Rue Autueil, looking forward to a restful night after our active day. We felt that we had gained an appreciation of the French Canadian pride and their strong motivation to hold onto their heritage, including their French language.

The following day we planned a trip to explore some of the surrounding area. Even though there was a boulangerie not far from our hotel, we couldn't resist one more breakfast at our favorite AU PETIT COIN BRETON. Afterward, we were ready to set off on another overcast day, for a trip outside the city. From our hotel, it was one right-hand turn, and we were on the route out of town. The Falls (Chutes) of Montmorency were first on our agenda. We had read that the falls were taller than Niagara, though not as wide. We had pictured these falls located in a forested area. . .a natural setting, with a trail leading to them. We were quite surprised to find that they were visible from the road, and in fact, were used for hydro-electricity in the area. Although you could drive to the visitor center near the top of the falls, we chose to take the gondola. The advantage of the gondola was that it provided an excellent frontal view of the falls...better than can be seen from the top. After Montmorency, we headed about 8 additional miles on Rt. 440 to the Basilica St. Anne de Beaupre. Knowing the history of the basilica, and that the first church burned, the large Romanesque structure was quite impressive. It contained many stained glass windows, a rose window, mosaics, etc., causing us to spend more time than we intended. Afterward, we found a delightful little French cafe LE MONTAGNAIS, on the outskirts of Beaupre. We got our first experience of communicating with someone who knew no English. With our limited, basic French and some hand gestures, we were able to order their hot vegetable soup and beef sandwich which really hit the spot on this chilly day. Our energy revived, we headed back in the direction of Quebec City, en route taking a detour over the bridge to explore the Ile d'Orleans. Summer would probably be a better time to visit, as the road side stands and shops were mostly closed. We decided that it was time to let Gilda guide us back to our Quebec Hotel. And this was another time that she got it right. . .mostly. . .until we got to within two blocks of our hotel. Those one-way streets seem to trip her up! But now, having had time to learn the streets, we were able to re-coup and find our hotel. A light dinner on Rue St. Jean, and we were ready to turn in for a restful night.

Our curiosity for exploring more of the St. Lawrence Seaway, and the sight of the sun actually appearing, had us motivated to get breakfast on Rue St. Jean at Paillard's, a Panera-like French bakery, and get started on our approximate 80-mile journey toward Baie Ste. Paul and Malbaie. Baie Ste. Paul is a quaint little city-a beautiful setting in a cove surrounded by mountains. We had a great discussion with a delightful French couple from Montreal, checked out the many shops, bought a ceramic art piece as a remembrance, and had a wonderful lunch at LA RUSTICA. (9.95 CD) Leaving Baie Ste. Paul, we took the outstanding loop drive on Route 362 along the St. Lawrence Seaway to Malbaie, enjoying some of the leaf color which had emerged. We were impressed with the size of the St. Lawrence Seaway at this point. . .8-9 km., and could understand why the spot was chosen for a Fairmont Hotel & Resort. We wished we could have stayed longer; however, the drive along the seaway as the sun shadows lengthened was a beautiful trip back to Quebec City. By 7:15, we were at our hotel, ready to venture out for our last evening meal in Quebec.

The following day, Thursday, was, unfortunately, time for us to leave Quebec City. Some thoughts upon leaving: We really liked the COURTYARD MARRIOTT and its location just outside the walls of the old city. (We especially appreciated the hotel when we witnessed people struggling to get suitcases up the stairs in some of the Inns in the Old Town, and realized the dirth of parking.) The COURTYARD location provided easy access to highways, as well as many restaurants on Rue St. Jean. On a return trip, we will definitely stay in the COURTYARD.

Overall, we had a wonderful visit to Quebec City, in spite of chilly, overcast weather for all but one day. Residents there kept assuring us that the temperature was unusually chilly. Upon leaving, we discussed a return visit. . .probably earlier in the season. Quebec City is a charming place to visit.

Following our Quebec City visit, we visited the White Mountains of New Hampshire. This next part of our Trip Report will be posted under "New Hampshire". (We're not sure how to do multiple tags.)

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