Back Across the Seaway
Monday July 26, Back Across The River -
Over a week now in the French province and I decided to begin the day by a short ride out to see the Falls at Montmorency, the site of Saturday night’s grand fireworks display. Evidence that a large crowd (over 100,000 according to the newspaper) was everywhere, especially with the long lines of portable toilets. Yet, on this weekday morning the place was deserted in the early morning light, except for a pair of fisherman, who were fly fishing at the base of the falls.
The pair of falls were quite impressive especially the one that was situated to the east. Each dropped over a hundred feet off a large tableland that extended far to the north. From the base of the falls it was only a short kilometer or two to the St. Lawrence, which at Quebec City is still a tidal body of water. The white veils of falling water interlaced with each other as cascaded down the face of the rock cliff.
After some contemplation I figured my best plan of attack was to cross the St. Lawrence on the Levis ferry, hit the library for part of the day and then head east along the south shore of river, where most of the population lived. The wildness of the north shore was tempting, but with my lack of extra cash and bike repair skill, the more traveled route made the most sense. This turned out to be a very wise decision.
About 11 A.M. I boarded the ferry and enjoyed a short voyage bathed in the beautiful morning sunlight. The sun illuminated the painted metal and gave me a wonderful chance to photograph the metal shapes and forms of the large boat. However, once on the other side things turned sour, for to my surprise, when I arrived at the library, I found out that it was closed for the day.
Nothing to do now but make a short stop at the supermarket and head down the seaway towards Riviere du Loup, the next town of size that might have a library. This leg of the journey started out great due to a paved bike trail that followed the water for a dozen kilometers.
Soon after my back tire went flat. My first instinct was to replace the tube, so I walked into the next town, Montmacy, only to find that the bike place had just closed at 5 P.M. I patched the tire, but only made it about 10 km down the road, when the tire went flat. After a few more unsuccessful inquiries and attempts to mend the tube, I gave up and retired to a park bench that bordered the water. I had never slept on a park bench before, but this one provided a good night’s rest, while providing a magnificent view across the St. Lawrence.
The Road To Levis
Soon after I took to the road, I saw on the road sign for a town that I had never heard of. It was called Levis and the mileage put the place at about 70 kilometres - not a far distance at all, considering I had taken a very early start. I wondered how this town had come to be in a place was dominated by Saint’s names. Already, I had come through St. Frederic, Sacre-coeur-de-Jesus and Tring Jonction. Before the day was done I would also pass through St. Anges, Frampton, St. Marguerite, St Henedine, St. and St. Henri.
Early in the day, as I was coming over the crest of some very large hills I got a glimpse of a series of tall towers in the middle of a broad level plain. These towers, I figured were the ones that belonged to the town of Previs. But from my viewpoint, it looked like I had a lot of ground to cover before I reached this strange city, which held a series of 40 story buildings. For everything else in the area was one or two story except for the churches and silos.
After my first view across the very large, valley the highway started to descend in a series of long rolling hills. This was great, for the sloping landscape lowered the workload for my legs and increased my speed. Unfortunately, once I made it to the valley floor, the nice wide shoulders gave way to gravel areas, as the edge of pavement did not extend past the white line at the outside edge of the lane. Besides that the heavy truck traffic had chewed up the edge of the highway pretty good.
My frustration with highway often left me walking along the edge of the road with my bike next to me, but eventually I did make it on to good roads and made more good time across the flatlands. Every now and then, when the land rose a little bit, I would get a glimpse of those almost magical buildings shimmering across the Quebec countryside on a warm July day.
Four lanes of busy traffic and the occasional presence of a chain business told me I was getting close to Levis. Next, I made my customary stop at another IGA, filled with fresh produce, but due to limited financial resources, I could only spend a few Canadian dollars. I enjoyed my light repast of a macaroni salad and soda and then continued on down to nice wide shoulder of the four lane to the city center.
Signs for the “Centre Ville” should appeared and to my surprise I found out that I was on the banks of the St. Lawrence and that all of those high rise buildings were part of one Quebec City. And one of those tall structures was the world-famous Hotel Frontenac, an imposing building if there ever was one. Still, I entered the library with plans to continue up the south bank of the great waterway called the St. Lawrence.
When I exited the library at 8 PM, threatening skies, a light drizzle and a rainy weekend forecast, changed my travel plans. At the last minute, I decided to take the ferry across the river and check out the HI Hostel to see if they had space, but first I had to have my daily intake of Quebec twisted Crème glace.
The ice cream tasted great and afterwards I made a rapid twilight descent through the old riverside buildings and I even caught the ferry docked on the Levis side of the river. If there is a better way to first set forth in a city, I am not aware of it. The night view from the river of the mighty fortress that became the city of Quebec is awe-inspiring to say the least.
So was the ride up the side of the hill to Vieux Quebec. The city was alive with throngs of visitors roaming the streets, watching the street performers, listening to live music and sitting in open aire cafes. Except for the steep landscape and mild July temperatures the old part of Quebec reminded so much of New Orleans that it made me slightly homesick to those days, when I use to walk the French Quarter almost on a daily basis.
I found the hostel, got a bed and was told that I had the last available bed in the house. I wanted to go back out on the street and spend hours wandering the lovely night streets, but I was in dire need of laundry and a shower, so that came first.
Still, I had one big surprise left in a day that had been chocked full of surprises. My roommates consisted of a French family of five (including three young teen daughters, who were touring the U.S. and Canada by bus and sometimes rented car. They were very friendly, the Mr. spoke very good English, so we got along very well.
After completing my laundry and enjoying a super shower, I fell asleep in the bunk right underneath the wife of the family.