Puffins!!!

Once we got off the speedboat at Puffin Island, my mother rode up the little hill with our hostess while my dad, husband and I walked. Puffins were flying around and I could barely contain myself. We were there because of my obsession with puffins, so I couldn’t wait to get inside and settled a little bit so that I could go out and attempt to take pictures. Once we got inside with all our things, we were more formally introduced to our hostess Louise. She had a lovely accent and very friendly demeanor. She explained the ins and outs of how things would work. First, we were asked to remain on the paths so as to not disturb or possibly harm the puffins’ nesting areas. Also, she would be staying in the house with us. We’d all be sharing a bathroom. Not something I’m too fond of, but it was necessary and I figured I could deal with it for a couple days to see puffins. šŸ˜€ The toilet was a composting toilet which I was admittedly afraid of. I have my standards! But again, I was willing to deal with it because I knew I’d be rewarded with the opportunity to observe puffins in real life. And it turns out it wasn’t as scary as expected. Our bedrooms were upstairs, steep stairs. So, we all decided that we didn’t need to take our bags up. We simply took what we needed as we needed.

Since we were basically settled in, I wasted no time and I went out. The weather was perfect. I heard that it had been miserable the day before. So we lucked out. I was shutter happy. “Shutter happy” is an adjective used to describe an individual who, when in the midst of a photo opportunity, can’t controlĀ the urge to push the shutter release button. I was like a kid in the toy store, grabbing every chance I could to snap. And, it probably comes as no surprise, but I was not always so successful. My heart raced from the excitement. Who gets that excited about such things? Well, I guess I do. They are magnificent little creatures, and I enjoyed seeing them more than they enjoyed seeing me.

I also got a few pictures of guillemots that were also hanging out on the cliffs with the puffins. But let’s face it, they weren’t my real interest though I appreciated the added bonus.

Later my husband came looking for me. As if I could go anywhere. We were on a teeny tiny island in the middle of the water. And, I had no intentions of swimming for it. He walked with me as I continued to chase puffins with my camera, and then it started raining. We stayed out as long as we could without melting and then went inside. Louise was preparing dinner, so we all sat at the table looking out the window. Even in the rain, it was a beautiful scene.Ā The rain didn’t last long, so I went out again.

Because we were caught up in the scenery, the weather, and the birds, we opted to wait a little while for dinner. The sun was setting and it was absolutely breathtaking. It’s not that I’ve never seen a sunset, but this was one I was able to truly revel in. There were no loud noises, except the sounds of the water and seabirds. There were no street lights. No cars going by. Nothing getting in the way of the view.

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Eventually, we would have to go inside. And soon we were surrounded by darkness. Dinner was ready, and we sat down to a lovely table setting. We started with fish soup. Yuck! I am not a fish person. When Louise wasn’t looking, I swapped my husband’s empty bowl with mine. She saw me. Oops! We were then served grilled chicken bruschetta and vegetables which included broccoli, my favorite. šŸ™‚ For dessert, we had strawberry mousse and there was something else chocolate, but I didn’t eat it.

Puffin Island really agreed with me so far!

 

The Road to Ile aux Perroquets

The way to Ile aux Perroquets (Puffin Island) was about 7 hours from Tadoussac, give or take. The route didn’t disappoint. Seriously, if it hadn’t been for the fact that it was 7 hours, it would have been wonderful.

We traveled along QC 138, the whale route. It truly deserves the name because there’s a good chance you will see whales as you travel along the coast. On more than one occasion we spotted whales on the ride. And multiple times, I wished my dad would stop. Obviously, he didn’t. I’d ask, “Can we stop here?” But it seemed he didn’t hear me. He SEEMED to not hear me. I have my doubts, though, lol. I guess I shouldn’t be upset that he didn’t stop because we had some time to go, and he probably just wanted to get there. He was the one driving. The rest of us were just riding.

Anyway, I can still honestly say that we saw whales while in a moving car. Whales. Plural. Not just one. We also saw lots of beauty in general which is an understatement when trying to describe the scenery in Quebec. There were many photo-worthy views, but I’ll have to settle for the images I saved in my mind. My dad didn’t stop, remember?

He didn’t stop for photos, but we did stop in Sept Iles (Seven Islands) to make a phone call. We had to call the office for the place we were going to get directions to Longue-Pointe-de-Mignan which is where we’d park the car. And then we would be taking a speedboat to the island.

We reached the office and tried to speak to the young lady who had given us directions. She apologized for not speaking English well to which I responded, “Your English is better than my French.” That made her laugh. It was about 2pm at the time. She told us where we could park the car and also informed us that the boat would be there around 3pm.

And so we waited. It felt like we were waiting at the edge of the earth with only the site of stunning blue waters and skies staring back at you, calling you.

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Adventure awaits!

 

Off to a Puffin Getaway

The speedboat arrived, and all we could think about was the headache we would have moving our bags across some sand to get to the floating boat ramp. Fortunately, we got some help from the company. I looked at the boat and then my mom. Once again, I suspected she might be cursing me, disowning me. This wasn’t like the large boat we were on for our whale watching trip. And then, she had the option to be inside away from the elements. It would be cold on the water, and my mom is always cold.

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The ride was supposed to be 10 minutes. But who’s counting when you have views like this? We watched as the place we left got smaller and smaller.

It felt like we were in the middle of nowhere. In a way we were. My first thought was that it would be nice to get away from it all. Away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. A time to get back to nature.

Along the way, the only sounds we heard were from the boat’s motor, splashing water, and the various songs of seabirds, seals. We saw seals, and we also saw puffins flying by. Puffins! What’s not to love about puffins? I couldn’t wait to land on the island that I convinced my parents and husband to go to. I couldn’t wait to get a closer look at these birds that I came to love in the past couple of years. It would be my second chance to see them with the first time being in England. But when I was there it was the end of their nesting season. This time we would be right in the middle of it.

Up next, puffins!

What I Took Away from Tadoussac, QC

July 12, 2016, we left Tadoussac. And as I reflect on the time we spent in this part of Canada, there are a few things I learned and perhaps a few things I’d do differently if we were to visit again.

Length of Stay

Three days was probably too long. The purpose of our trip to Tadoussac was to see whales, and we did. But, it was something we got done in one day. Two nights would have sufficed. Perhaps even one night would do if you plan it right. I don’t kayak and neither do my husband and parents.

The Atmosphere

As beautiful as it was, we didn’t find Tadoussac to be all that friendly. We had no problems with people, and the people at the hotel were indeed friendly, but it didn’t make us feel all warm and fuzzy inside. You could tell that they don’t see many different people there. And it also felt like they don’t care to see different people anyway.

Preparation and Planning

Anyone visiting Tadoussac should be prepared to spend more money than usual on food. The hotel we chose is open from May to October. So, I’m sure the restaurants in the area want to take full advantage of the travel season. And limited options, in my opinion, will force you to spend the money whether you want to or not.

Also, though I saw what I wanted, I believe I should have planned a little better to take full advantage of the time we spent there, especially when I was the one who convinced my family to stop there. Perhaps my husband and I could have learned how to kayak prior to going so that we might take a little excursion. That would also require me to have some courage that I don’t really have when it comes to these things. I have no problem admitting that I am chicken :D.

All in all, it was a good experience. But in the future, if we plan to visit the area or any other areas in Quebec again, I think it would be a good idea to brush up on my French.

I won’t forget the beauty of Tadoussac anytime soon.

 

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not exactly an Olympic runner. Being a teacher in Saudi Arabia doesn’t give me many opportunities to get out a lot. I go to class, and then I sit at my desk working on things related to class. After that, I go home and sit some more except when I’m cooking or cleaning. I’m usually too pooped to even think about exercise. So when we go on vacation that requires me to do more than sit, it can be a challenge. Luckily, Tadoussac had the perfect solution. A trail for lazy people. One that wouldn’t kill us.

Sentier de la Pointe de l’Islet Trail. Even the name was music to my ears. It was an easy and relaxing walk. My parents sat this one out. So it was nice to take this little hike with my husband.

Many people walk the trail for the trail, but many more take it in order to reach the shore in hopes of spotting whales as they’re known to make appearances from time to time. We had the same hopes, but the walk itself was nice even if we didn’t see any whales.

We knew we had arrived when we reached a little bridge, the subject of many of my photos. Even the bridge tells a story of sorts, but you are the one who shapes that story. A part of my story began here looking out at the Saguenay River/Fjord.

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Ah, how marvelous Tadoussac is. Beauty surrounds you wherever you are. From every corner, the story is the same. Look at what is before your very eyes, take a deep breath and soak it all in.

Food Woes in Tadoussac

What anyone travelling to Tadoussac needs to know is that your food options are limited. It’s a village with some restaurants possibly only open during the travel season. One mistake I made when I decided to go to Tadoussac was not thinking about what we would eat. This can be really bad considering the fact that my husband and I have dietary restrictions and I am one picky eater.

The day we arrived, we decided to go out and look for something to eat. We found a restaurant which offered a buffet. My dad needs a buffet because the meals we get in most restaurants aren’t enough to sustain his 6’6″ frame. So, we climbed the stairs to the restaurant which has no name. Of course it has one; I just don’t remember it. We were obviously the first ones to arrive. That was probably because the dinner buffet wouldn’t open until 5. When we got there it was 4:30ish. We had nothing to do, the weather was ideal, for everyone except my mom, the view was remarkable, and the waitress spoke limited English. That’s all you really need for a good time ;).

Five o’clock, thank God, arrived. We proceeded to the “buffet” and as I’m sure you can tell, it was, well, meh. We hoped that what we saw in front of us wasn’t the full buffet and that they’d be adding more to it. I got a bowl of pea soup to start myself off. It was also a chance for them to add more FOOD! Alas, it was not meant to be. Of the available options, I was able to eat perhaps six and I potentially could like 3. The best thing I had was the soup. It inspired me to want to cook more soup. The worse part? It was over 100 dollars. We definitely didn’t get our money’s worth.

We ate in the hotel restaurant for breakfast the next morning. Luckily for my dad, it was a buffet. It was decent, but no comparison to the breakfast we had while in Niagara. My parents were happy though. Why wouldn’t they be? All the things they eat were available like bacon, sausage, ham. It’s a pork lover’s paradise. Our waitress stopped by regularly with a, “C’est bon?” I told my husband that she was asking whether it’s good. We often laughed at people’s futile attempts to speak to us in French. I wished like anything that I remembered more, but what can you do when it’s been so many years?

Since we all agreed the hotel restaurant was too expensive, we went out for all other meals. One day we went out in the late afternoon. We sent my father and husband inside. When they came back, my husband told the story about trying to order. They were given a menu which was in French of course. My husband told the guy he couldn’t read French. To my husband’s dismay, he proceeded to read the menu to him. In French! Dude, he’s not illiterate. He just can’t read French. Lol, good times. Fortunately, burger is the same in all languages. That’s what they ordered since they couldn’t be sure about other things on the menu.

The next day, my husband suggested we take the ferry across to another town. When we were going to Tadoussac, we saw Subway and McDonald’s in a town. Neither were our first choices, but we didn’t want to pay an arm and a leg and we also didn’t want any more drama trying to order in French. With these two, even if we couldn’t speak French we could point to food :p. So we went to La Malbaie. How excited we were when we saw Subway. I reached a new low when I started getting excited about Subway. We were in Quebec. It should have been an opportunity to experience something new and delicious. Instead, we were looking for the cliche, stereotypical American restaurants. Something we knew.

At least we got to experience more of this scenic area.

Whale watching in TadoussacĀ 

If you’ve never been whale watching, I strongly recommend it.

Our scheduled trip was for July 10. The weather forecast was, well, wet. That it would rain wasn’t the issue. As I said in a previous post, the threat of rain or less than ideal weather conditions no longer fazes me or my husband. Even my mother wouldn’t be concerned as she knew she could stay dry and warm. Truthfully speaking, I hoped that it wouldn’t rain, though. It was already cool out, and it would be even cooler out on the open water. And, I wasn’t prepared for wet weather. A piece of advice for going whale watching, dress warm and take a raincoat just in case.

We took the shuttle to the pier where we would leave. It was dark, dreary even. It was raining. Not heavy rain, but still raining. We got on the boat and stayed on the lower level.

As we waited for the boat to leave the port, we saw 4 kayakers. All I could think of when I saw them was, “Are they nuts?” But they didn’t seem to mind, so why should I? And hey, their presence in the water made for a great photo opp. I wish I knew them so I could share the photo with them.

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Our guide, a biologist began talking so we knew we were about to move. Yay! This was the first part of our excursion. My husband and I and also my dad decided to go out. We didn’t let the cool wind deter us.


Even under the dark skies, the water was calm, serene. I thought it was wonderful. The guide started talking, in both English and French. But I’ll admit that I was still lost a lot of the time. I’m not proud of that, but oh well. I do recall her telling us about the area and the sea life we would possibly see. We passed an old lighthouse out in the middle of the water, and I wondered how anyone could live there. Wouldn’t it be scary to live in this? And wouldn’t it be tiring having to climb to get to your living quarters? Well, I guess that’s why I never became a sailor or anything like that.

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The biologist told us more about the lighthouse, but I don’t remember a thing. I was simply listening for the word “whale(s)” in her speech. I wanted to see, and that’s it. We saw gray seals and some birds. It was great to see them frolicking in the water. Free. I have to say that our first whale watching trip last year pushed me to decide on never visiting a zoo again. That and a safari in Sri Lanka a few years ago. I don’t believe that animals belong in captivity. It’s just not natural.

We moved along in the water with rain coming down from above. We saw other whale watchers. Two zodiacs were in the area.

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Can you imagine that I considered going on one of these rather than the full sized boat? I considered it because I knew it would mean getting closer to the whales. But, I also knew that my mom would have never agreed to that. And after seeing them, in the conditions we were in, I’m so glad I didn’t book a trip on a zodiac. Surely this story would have to be written by someone else because of the heart attack I would have had. Bravery has never been my strong point when it comes to these things.

We slowed down as did the two zodiacs in the area. I knew this meant that there must be some whale activity. The biologist explained how we could tell by noting the choppy water in the area. It meant that there was food to eat and that the whales were feeding. The excitement in her voice when she spotted a whale caused everyone to get excited I’m sure. What did we see? Minke whales. There was more than one, but I managed to get a picture of one.

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My husband and my dad were both out witnessing this magnificent creature just being. Living its life out in the open waters. Seeing whales or other animals like this way makes for a surreal experience. It was such a treat. I had worried that we wouldn’t see any whales because of the weather. But as the guide said, they don’t care about rain. They are home.

After we left the area, we headed back in the direction of the hotel through the Saguenay Fjord in search of belugas. My dream was to see one in real life. I had only ever seen them on National Geographic or the Discovery Channel. But this area is pretty much home to belugas. I am happy to report that I did indeed see belugas. Score! Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get a picture because I was worried about trying to take my long lens out again while it was raining. And I knew that if I went back inside, I’d miss the chance to see them since they weren’t likely to stop and pose for me.

All in all, it was a great trip and I’d like to thank AML Cruises for anĀ unforgettable experience.

 

 

Tadoussac, Quebec

We left Quebec City for Tadoussac. Where is Tadoussac? And where on earth did I hear about it? Tadoussac is a village about 3 hours northeast of Quebec City and situated on the St. Lawrence River and the Saguenay River. The St. Lawrence looks like the ocean by the way. Spectacular! I happened upon it while looking for places to do whale watching, an activity my family and I enjoyed last year while visiting Bar Harbor, Maine. And, what I learned was that Tadoussac is a whale watcher’s dream. It’s a place where you may be lucky enough to see whales right from the shore. So, I was sold and booked 3 nights there.

The route to Tadoussac was a trip in of itself. It was beautiful. I wanted to stop so many times as we made our way up route 138, the whale route. They call it that for a reason. What makes Quebec so special is that you will likely see something amazing at every turn. We hadn’t been in the province long and I was thinking about how I could live there. Why would anyone from Quebec need to travel anywhere outside of Quebec? There’s so much to see and do depending on what you like to do.

As we got closer, it became clear that we’d have to take a ferry to get into Tadoussac. It was a short ride across, but it added to the “adventure” that the whole trip became. The photo below is the view we had one day when we returned from a little day trip to La Malbaie.

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We arrived on the 9th in the afternoon. When my husband and I went inside the hotel to check-in, we were met with a nice smile, “bonjour”, and whole lot of French I wasn’t even about to try to understand. “I don’t speak French” must’ve been written all over my face because the receptionist asked whether she should use English or French. I said, “You can speak French if you like, but we probably won’t get very far.” I said that with a smile so she wouldn’t think I was rude. She laughed and thankfully we continued in English. One of the rooms wasn’t yet ready, so we took the cards for one and moved all our bags there. While we waited for all the bags to be brought in, we took a look around the lounge and lobby area. One of the first things I noticed was a puzzle. I knew that would make my mom happy and that she’d probably be spending some time there. I was right.

My parents got the room with a view of the river which was nice. Since we were waiting for the other room to be ready, we decided to walk outside to see the view. First we walked out onto the balcony on the second floor, and then we went outside.

It looked like a little piece of heaven, but then I’d say that about most of what I saw in Quebec. The area is peaceful and quiet. I looked forward to our stay, and more importantly the next day.

Up next, whale watching in Tadoussac.

 

Old Quebec: Old World Charm

After 3 nights in Quebec City, it was time for us to head north to Tadoussac. But, before we left, we went to Old Quebec. My parents and my husband loved it and continued to tell me so even after we left. Had I known, I would have tried to go earlier so that we could see more of it and spend more time there.

We followed the directions Google maps gave us. Boy, that lady’s French is worse than mine. Of course we got a little lost, and my dad decided to just keep driving. Finally, we saw some people who looked like they might be able to help. Police! We were given the best directions we had been given all day and found a parking garage.

We followed the exit signs in the garage. It felt like we were kind of walking in a circle. You know what? We were. And we found the “exit”, it was where we had entered the garage with the car. No biggie. At least we knew we wouldn’t have any trouble getting back to the car. šŸ˜‰

We started walking and immediately my dad took out his camera. Everyone makes fun of me because I take my camera everywhere, but I now know where I get it from. We walked, aimlessly it seemed, toward the promenade. And I snapped photos along the way. The dancing fountains, the promenade, the very European looking streets.

I’m not from Cleveland, Ohio, but I am from Ohio. Cleveland winning the championshop was a big deal. I never expected to see a LeBron James jersey in Canada.But, I did. It seemed out of place in a place that was otherwise so European, so “old world” charming. It seemed to be in stark contrast to everything else around us.

LeBron James here and a man playing a harp there. Wow! A man playing a harp. I didn’t know harps were still around in the world. I am not serious of course.

But one of the main reasons we were there was to visit La Rue du Tresor. Imagine strolling through the streets of Paris or any other French city you may fancy. This is the feel you get on this street. Artists sit outside, displaying their work. Maybe they’re even working on something as you walk by.

It gives the feel of being in another time period. A time when things were simple and beautiful. I liked watching as the artists that were there answered questions about their work. I’ve heard people describe it as being a tourist trap. However, I don’t see it that way because you always have a choice to buy or not. So, it’s only a trap if you choose to walk into a trap. I really enjoyed it. What anyone visiting should know is that it’s really small and is more like a small alley rather than a street. So, plan on doing something else with your time outside of this one spot.

Nearby was a restaurant which had pretty flower baskets near the outdoor seating. You’d think I had never seen flowers before. I must say, though, that my eyes were treated to wonderful sites whenever I saw flowers. And we saw flowers everywhere.

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And last but not least, a few of the cutest things we saw were in a gift shop window we passed while walking back to the car.

Isn’t that great? I was loving everything about Quebec so far. Even the gift shops. For the first time, one of my regrets is that I didn’t buy more souvenirs.

I wondered if I would feel the same in Tadoussac.

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