We took a week off to enjoy a bit of summer and escape the city of Montreal. Montreal is beautiful and lovely, BUT after being quarantined for so long in the city is very claustrophobic. So we headed to the area called Charlevoix, Quebec.
If you don’t know much about Quebec province, Montreal is the biggest city. Quebec City is the capitol and it is decently big, but Montreal is the king in terms of size and population.
Everything else in Quebec province, are small towns and nature.
Which is what we wanted.
Here was our itinerary and I will dive into details of what to do and where to stay with, of course, my own personal experience.
First, let me explain where Montreal is located in Quebec province. Montreal is more or less on the border with the United States and Ontario. It is pretty South and West. This trip had us going North and East.
We start off with part 1, please see part 2 for the rest of this chaotic week. (All prices are in CAD).
Baie-Saint-Paul, Tourist Town of Charlevoix
Baie-Saint-Paul was our first stop on our adventure. It is about a 6 to 7 hour drive depending on how fast you drive and how many times you stop for gas.
We got gas before leaving Montreal and a bit outside Quebec City (about 3 hour drive from Montreal).
This town is very quaint and such a tourist attraction. It isn’t a big town by any means, but they do have some big store brands around town.
Let me set the scene on who was there. We were with a group of friends that consisted of two French individuals, three local Montrealers, and one Chilean-born, but full Quebecois, he grew up in Quebec City.
I was the only one who wouldn’t say I was a Francophone (native or fluent French speaker). It was great practice for my French for sure, but still intimidating as we were there Friday night to Monday evening.
The Chilean-born, Em, hosted us with his girlfriend, one of the French, A. They didn’t have enough beds in their house so all of us camped in their backyard. It was funny seeing three tents in a house’s backyard.
One Montrealer, M-A, spoke to me in just French the whole time, minus a word or two I didn’t understand, but the rest spoke some English with me except another local Montrealer, S, he just spoke to me in English.
I think he wanted to practice, but also he felt like he was being considerate of me, I think. From my point of view, I prefer the majority of time in French for two reasons:
- To be considerate to them, I do live in the French province after all.
- To practice my French. The best way to practice is to speak and be surrounded by native speakers.
The itinerary for the weekend was full of activities….or so we thought.
Friday night was focused on the aperitif and dinner. An aperitif is a time before dinner for drinks and some nibble foods like slices of cheese, meats, and veggies. In French culture, this happens around 5 pm.
We then bicycled around the downtown, which is just one long street full of cute shops and cafes.
Then we had fancy hot dogs – real sausages with baguettes.
After working most of the day then driving the rest, I was super tired. I also wanted a shower, but apparently, showers were off limit that night. No idea why. I wiped myself down through the sink.
By the time everyone was in their tent, it was 1 am.
We were waken bright and early at 7 am. If you know me personally you will know, I need my sleep. 6 hours of sleep is not my ideal especially when I went to bed at 1 am.
We ate some breakfast and then saddled up for a bicycle ride. Em planned for us to do about 60KM, which is about 35 miles. A went to a yoga class instead of biking leaving me the only one who isn’t really in bicycle shape.
Though I have done a few bicycle long distance trips, Alaska and across the USA, doesn’t mean I can just hop on a bike and go all day. This summer I have been more training on running.
I also need to point out that we were scheduled to hike up a mountain that night, which I will get to in a second.
There were a few hiccups. Em’s bike was having major issues and it delayed our departure by an hour or two.
Finally, we were on the way. My bicycle is also my long distance bicycle. It is more heavy and not good for speed as everyone’s bike. After 12 miles, I quickly became last – very last. Also, in my defense, I was very tired.
We decided to bike back to town and wait for the rest of the group. There was something going on with D’s bike and he was feeling a bit injured as well.
We hung out in that downtown street and waited for the rest of the group. We decided to buy some food for lunch and at that time we received notice that the group was back. This was 12 pm.
“We won’t eat until late. I am hungry now.”
“We have to be French and wait for everyone to eat. It’s about the collective whole.” (You can tell based on this untrue quote from D that I am an American individualist and not a socialist collective person especially when it comes to food).
One thing about French culture, I don’t understand this starving yourself because someone else isn’t ready to eat. Maybe….MAYBE, let’s be healthy and eat when we are hungry and not when it’s a unanimous decision. But, call me crazy.
Long story short, after everyone showered and packed up the cars for the hike, we finally ate around 3:30/4 pm. I was not happy.
To make matters worse, I was so stressed for the hike that evening.
Mont Morios, Mountain in Charlevoix
The start of the hike was about an hour away from Saint-Baie-Paul. You have to stop at the convenience store (called a depannuer in Quebec) to buy a ticket. It is $10, but it is good for the whole year.
You eventually reach some dirt roads and then a huge parking lot.
This “park” isn’t really a park in the sense of a National or State park. There is not a check point for the ticket and people are just camping wherever like in the parking lot.
I need to rewind.
This was M-A’s first time camping (besides the camping in the backyard). He didn’t have any camping equipment. D and I had to take him shopping for a sleeping bag and a sleeping mattress. Luckily D had a tent to loan M-A. This tent…was not a hiking tent. It is one of those pop up tents that are big because you just unzip it and boom, it’s a tent.
He looked pretty funny hiking up the mountain with this huge tent strapped to his back.
Next, M-A didn’t bring any cold weather gear. It is the summer, but up north and on a MOUNTAIN, the weather can get cold especially at night. He had to borrow pants from EM.
On the top of the mountain, M-A mentioned he didn’t have any food though it was always planned to be an overnight camping trip.
On the way up wasn’t a breeze. Yes, hiking up a mountain was difficult, but we got to a fork in the road and someone going downhill said the other direction was the “expert” option to go up to the top.
Em and A had done the trail before and they were certain this man was right. I, on the other hand, was saying we should take the other path where the signs were pointing. We hiked about half a mile before we (mainly me) realized we were going the wrong way.
This was a bit of a discussion and I had to convince the rest of the group to turn around. ALWAYS FOLLOW THE SIGNS.
This error made us do an extra mile of the long trek. I was not happy.
On top of this, I was stressed because D and I didn’t have enough water for an overnight trip. We didn’t have enough bottles and when I kept mentioning it to D before – during the planning stage – he got mad at me and told me to relax.
At the time of writing, weeks later of this event, I am still pissed. As someone who has bicycled long distances, I pride myself in being prepared for nature and physical activity.
I. Don’t. Like. Being. Unprepared.
So, this extra mile made us waste more water.
And, low and behold, at the next fork, there was a sign that said “expert” and “regular.”
Follow the signs.
We took the expert trail because apparently it was a shortcut. Maybe it was shorter, but it was very hard.
There were moments of literal rock climbing. There was a rope to help you get over the rock faces.
What made me semi-happy was that though I was the slowest on the bike, I was the fastest on the hike!
We finally made it to the top. There were a few campers already.
We took our celebration pictures and then each tent pair/person tried finding a flat service to pitch the tent.
Once that was all done, it good French fashion, we NEEDED to have an aperitif. Yes, on top of the mountain, we needed to have alcohol and cheese.
Low and behold, one couple brought out not one, but TWO wine bottles. I stared at them in amazement. A was doing most of the pushing for “French culture” since she is from France. Her boyfriend, the Chilean-Quebecois told her to sit down and that we were going straight to dinner.
A and Em had trekked with a bunch of food for everyone, which was nice, but surprising. So everyone was fed.
Then, the storm blew in. The rain came first and then some wind. We all bolted to our tents and got ready to sleep.
The wind picked up to the point that the tent was getting flattened. D and I had to hold it up with our hands.
Then thunder and lighting.
The group decided we needed to hike down now for safety.
My first thought was to just hike to a place covered with trees and then pitch the tent until morning so we can see the trail as we hike.
Nope. Once again, they didn’t listen to the person with the most outdoor experience (not a brag, but a real fact).
It was 2 am.
We quickly packed our stuff and started down the mountain with the wind blowing. The rain stopped.
The trail, we went down the regular path, was still quite steep and very slippery/muddy due to the rain.
A few, including myself, fell. Luckily, LUCKILY, no one was injured.
D stepped on a frog and the frog might have been injured, but that was it.
We finally got to the flat part, maybe like half a mile to the car and it started to rain. This was OK because it was flat and we were almost there.
Once we reached the car, the rain stopped and I was freezing.
Also, if you do this hike, be sure to bring bug spray! Lots of mosquitoes.
We drove back and I immediately fell asleep in the car.
We took showers and immediately fell asleep.
D and M-A stayed awake for a few hours while the rest of us slept.
Basically, Sunday was shot. We all slept off and on throughout the day. We felt like babies- eat, sleep, and toilet.
For dinner, we took A and Em out for dinner at this pizza restaurant. It was a bit expensive, but very delicious. We treated them due to them hosting us, but also feeding us the other meals.
I had some English classes to give on Monday and A also worked in the morning. The rest of the gang went on a full on racing bike ride. After A worked, her and the other girlfriend went to the spa.
I was left alone in the house and started putting our stuff away because we were leaving Baie-Saint-Paul in the evening.
Once everyone was back, they took showers and we went out to lunch. S was very pushy with the time as he was driving back to Montreal, but needed to stop in Quebec City. He didn’t want to leave too late, but it was funny seeing him rush through everything.
I could tell the French were not too happy with him rushing through the good bye’s.
Soon it was A, Em, D, and I left. Em took a nap and then we went swimming. They took us to their favorite watering hole, which was a hidden river that only locals knew. The water was super cold! But lovely!
After this quick dip, we were off.