Tuesday, November 16, 2010

"Parcs Quebec" Expedition

There is a Canadian National Park that is just minutes from downtown Quebec City, and it is called "Parc de la Chute Montmorency". The top photo of this collage shows the cable cars that go to the elegant dining facility at the top of the falls. The lower left photo shows the Montmorency Falls, which are 272 feet high (100 feet higher than Niagara), with the pedestrian bridge showing in front of the falls. It is part of the historic site that encircles the park, along with an interpretation center and restaurant. In addition, the falls are lit up on some occasions at night, which makes them even more spectacular to look at. The large white "polar bear" likeness on the lower right photo, is in the Interpretive Center, and serves as a useful visual aid, whenever school children come for a visit.

Just 30 minutes, by car, north of Quebec City is the "Parc national de la Jacques-Cartier" (top photo). As you may recall from your history books, Jacques Cartier was an early explorer in Canada. The Jacques Cartier National Park is a vast mountainous plateau, measuring 258 square miles with deep gorges, at the bottom of which are rivers whose steady flow is interrupted by the occasional rapids. One of the mountain ranges is called the Laurentian Mountains, and offers numerous opportunities for outdoor activities. In the lower left photo a park ranger is using the large map in the Visitor's Center to explain to our group the geography that lies within the park. She explained that we were in a glacial valley with the Jacques Cartier River running through it. In some places that river is calm, and in other places, it is turbulent.

Because river activities are so popular, and because the park is so close to a major urban center, they keep a huge inventory of both kayaks (upper right photo) and canoes (lower photos) on hand. The park also provides shuttle service for river runners, as evidenced by their van in the upper left photo. But the park does not shut down in the winter! You can explore the snowy wilderness as you go backcountry skiing, snowshoeing, or hiking. The main website for all of Canada's parks (including Montmorency shown in the first photo collage) is www.sepaq.com The specific website to check on activities at Jacque Cartier Park is www.sepaq.com/jacquescartier and you can click on which language you want the site to appear in.

Besides traditional tent camping and cabins, the park also offers "yurt" camping. The advantages of yurt camping is that they are fully equipped with cooking utensils, beds, cook stove, table, and chairs. The park ranger in the lower left photo showed our group what they looked like on the inside. In addition, each yurt campsite is equipped with a picnic table, outdoor grill, and wooden porch. A centrally-located bathhouse provides showers and toilets for a group of about four yurts. The pretty blond in the upper left photo, ponting to the French sign for the yurts, is a new friend I made on the trip. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to her speak in perfect English, even though she grew up in Germany. What I found fascinating about her story, is that she grew up in East Germany, during the time when it was still under Communist rule. She lived through the experience of seeing the Berlin wall come down. She could tell me about her life before the wall came down, and after the wall came down. She was so kind and congenial and helpful, not only to me, but to each person in our group, that she made quite an impression on me. Romans 8:35 says "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?.......No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us." This beautiful German lady, is indeed, more than a conqueror! Meeting people like her when one travels, and getting to see the majesty of God's creation in a place like Jacques Cartier National Park, makes me even more of a believer in the quote by St. Augustine that says "Not to travel, is like reading only one page of a book". So get out there and enjoy some more miles of smiles!! TriciaPosted by Picasa

"Okwari Aventures" in Seguenay, Quebec

If you would like a Canadian "north woods" experience, but would like it to be in a somewhat "controlled" environment, then Okwari Aventures is just the ticket! (Okwari means "bear" in the native language.) Located not far from the city, yet on the border of a magnificent forest, it is an exceptional site for observing the black bear and other wildlife. Observation of the bears takes place in its natural habitat with qualified guides. Spectators are within an area with electrified fences (to keep the bears away from the spectators), and they can stay cozy inside heated shelters with large windows that look out onto bear habitat. There is even a "portable john" adjacent to the shelter for those inconvenient times "when nature calls"! During the hours preceding the bear observation time, visitors to Okwari Aventures have a variety of options available to them, some of which are pictured in this collage. The upper left photo shows the nature trail you can take with an experienced naturalist as they point out unusual plants (lower left) and ponds created by beavers, with their signature "beaver dam" engineering (lower right photo). The red maple leaves in the middle right photo show why it is very appropriate that the Canadian flag be emblazoned with a red maple leaf. The day I was at Okwari Aventures, the forest floor was completely carpeted in the beautiful red maple leaves!

Your day at Okwari Aventures can also include a visit to a serene lake (top photo) with a Scandinavian type log cabin built on its shores (middle right photo). There you can warm up by the wood stove (as I am doing in the middle left photo) before you enjoy a feast on a meal of foods typical of the region. The lower photo shows another activity you can engage in---a Rabaska canoe ride. Different from canoes one sees on the Buffalo River in Arkansas, a Rabaska canoe is an 8 meter long boat that seats about ten people. It is the method used by yesteryear's "coureurs-des-bois", or pioneers, on Quebec's lakes and rivers.

Another extremely enjoyable and educational option at Okwari Aventures is visiting an aboriginal site. There you will meet a French Canadian "mountain man" with his native American wife (upper left photo). They will give you an in-depth explanation of not only the clothing they are wearing, but also the various tools they use to survive in the wilderness (upper right photo). The lower left photo shows their fire pit, where they prepared herbal teas for us to sample, along with various medicinal herbs they were in the habit of using. The photo on the right shows the shelter they built of available native materials that was used as their home during the long, cold winters.
Okwari Aventures is located along a river the French Canadians call "Riviere a Mars". This photo collage shows the suspension bridge we were able to cross above the river, to the observation deck on the other side. It is easy to see (and hear!) the power created by the rushing water, and it illustrates why "the power of flowing water" has a long history of being useful in Quebec. This location beside the river is another reason for the success of Okwari Aventures as a natural habit for moose, bear, beavers, and deer. It reminded me of the verse in Psalms 42:1 that says "As the deer pants for streams of water, so my heart pants for you, O God". Perhaps it is a lesson to us human beings that just as the animals need to be near a water source, so we need to stay near the source of our sustenance---a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. If you would like to learn more about Okwari Aventures, you may visit their website at http://www.okwariaventures.com/ Since it is in the area of Quebec known as Saguenay, you can also visit http://www.ville.seguenay.qc.ca/ to learn about other nearby attractions. I can assure you that you will experience miles of smiles on the highways and byways of Seguenay! Tricia
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Monday, November 15, 2010

Quebec City Expedition

Quebec City is in the province of Quebec, in Canada. It is situated on the St. Lawrence River (upper left photo), and has been a strategic location for that country for centuries. Quebec City is considered the "cradle" of French civilisation in North America, and French, is in fact, the official language of the province of Quebec. Most travel brochures of the area will use the "signature image" of the famous Chateau Frontenac (a Fairmont hotel property) to identify to the viewer that they are looking at Quebec City. Because the hotel's history is so tied in with the history of Quebec City, I would recommend visiting Chateau Frontenac, even if you are not using that property as your lodging. I was extremely thankful to be able to participate in one of the guided tours of the Chateau. It is such a popular activity, that the tours are offered on the hour, with a duration of 50 minutes. However, even with so many departures offered, reservations are still recommended. Check their website for details on this and other services offered: http://www.tourschateau.ca/

The historic district of Quebec (referred to as "Old Quebec) is renowned for a unique European charm and its beautiful, and well preserved, architecture. In fact, Place Royale (lower left photo) was the site where a, supposedly European street scene, from the Leonardo DiCaprio movie-- Catch Me If You Can--- was ACTUALLY filmed! Quebec is also known for its fine cuisine, and some statistics show it to have the highest number of restaurants per person of any city in the world! Many of these fine culinary establishments are located in Old Quebec.

A short distance from Old Quebec, the city's growth to the north is highlighted by the Parliament Buildings (top & lower right photos). Since Quebec City is the capitol of the Canadian province of Quebec, one might think of this Parliament building as you would think of the capitol of one of the states in the USA, (e.g. like Little Rock is the capitol of Arkansas.) The fountain on the left of the photo collage was a gift to the city in more recent years from one of the province's largest retailers, and makes a beautiful addition to the stately Parliament Buildings.

The upper left photo in this collage shows the entrance to the City Hall of Quebec City. It was adorned with beautiful autumn decorations when I made my visit there back in November. The upper right photo shows "The Plains of Abraham" which was Canada's first national historic park. It was the site of the confrontation between the French and the British Empires, including the 1759 Battle of the Plains of Abraham, and the 1760 Battle of Sainte-Foy. The middle photo shows one of the "gates" of the original fortifying wall, that is still in use on the street entering into Old Quebec. The lower left photo shows the unique sculpture that designates Old Quebec as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. One of the reasons it was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site is because of the wall (fortification) that forms a 4.6 kilometer-long defensive belt around the old city, and the fact that it is the last fortified city remaining north of Mexico City. On top of the wall is a sentry path (lined with interpretation signposts) that runs atop the ramparts and gates, allowing the visitor to understand the evolution of the defensive wall system. One can also get a historical perspective about the importance of a wall around a city, by reading the book of Nehemiah in the Old Testament. The story is about a people who worked diligently to rebuild a wall that had been destroyed by attacks of their enemies. They were so intent on getting the repairs done, that they rebuilt it in record time because, as Nehemiah 4:6 states: "So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart." Likewise, the tourism officials of Quebec City work "with all their heart" to make your experience in their beloved city a most memorable and enjoyable one. Read how to get the most out of your trip to Quebec City by visiting http://www.quebecregion.com/ and as they say in their part of the world "BIENVENUE QUEBEC"!! Miles of smiles! Tricia
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Sunday, November 14, 2010

Quebec Canyon St. Anne Expedition

It is hard to believe that such a short distance from the bustling streets of Quebec City, there could be such a magnificent natural wonder as Canyon Saint-Anne. The canyon is grooved by an imposing 74 meter waterfall, and the photo on the lower right shows the rainbow above it, that was the treat for the visitors to the canyon on the day that I was there.

In addition to being able to cross the canyon on the highest pedestrian bridges in Quebec (55 meters high), the more adventuresome traveler can go across on the ever-popular "zip line" and/or cable bridges. The photos on the left and upper right show one of the zip line technicians with the tools of his trade, which of course includes a helmet for him and any of the customers that choose to try their various adventure offerings.

These photos show the "vias ferratas" operated by the same company as runs the giant zip line and cable bridges. The "vias ferratas" are a type of climbing whereby the climber is hooked onto a cable that is secured to the side of the rock being ascended or descended. They are currently more common in Europe than in North America.

The upper left photo shows one of the 3 suspension bridges that cross the canyon, while the photo on the right shows the mighty "Sainte-Anne-du-Nord" River that flows through the gorge. The river was used extensively by loggers at the turn of the century, and it was a former logger who, in 1965, told Jean-Marie McNicoll how to reach the Saint-Anne River falls. At the time, there was no road to the river, but later with the help of his brother, Laurent, they leased the immediate shores of the river from Hydro-Quebec and purchased the wooded lots between Route 138 and the leased riverbanks. Over time, an access road was built , and the first visitors were welcomed to the area in the summer of 1973. That first summer, tourists could reach the river on a 1.5 kilometer road through the woods. Since then, the walkways have been extended, while other lookouts and the three bridges were built. In the lower photo, I am standing on one of the sturdy, and strategically placed, observation platforms above the falls. Today, more than 100,000 people from around the world visit Canyon Sainte-Anne each year! The day that I visited, I had the privilege of walking with one of the original family members involved in developing the canyon, Helene McNicoll. She taught me a new word as we made the circuit around the canyon. The word is "vertiginous". The word has a meaning besides its reference to "having vertigo". It also means "very high or steep". It is a very appropriate word to describe the incredible Canyon Sainte-Anne. But don't let the word scare off someone who may not think of themselves as the outdoor type, or think they are too old to be hiking around in the Canadian woods. And, you don't have to be a young thing to try your hand at a zip line or cable bridge. I am a grandmother, and I have been on one (and even lived to tell about it on a blog post!)! In fact, Canyon Sainte-Anne is named after a grandmother----- Sainte-Anne, according to Christian traditions, is the grandmother of Jesus! (The Canyon is only 5 minutes from the famous Basilica of St. Anne). For additional information on visiting the canyon, visit their website at http://www.canyonsa.qc.ca/ and for information on the zipline or climbing experiences in the canyon, go to http://www.aventurex.net/ When you have studied these, and visited the canyon for yourself, you will see why it was a national winner of "Attraction Canada", and the site of the filming for a John Travolta movie. So get out there and you will have miles of canyon smiles (or kilometers, if you speak in their vernacular!) Tricia
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