Road Trip Part II: Tadoussac to Percé

Hello! It’s been an embarrassingly long time since I last updated. I realise I wrote the first part of this post about six months ago.

It turns out the second instalment of my road trip is much longer than I thought, so I have decided to do a Peter Jackson and spin it out into a three-part epic. I am hoping it will be just as popular and will generate billions of pounds to support my future endeavours and keep my teabag jar well stocked. I can dream.

Anyway, here goes:

The next part of my plan was to try to get straight to the Gaspésie. On the Saturday morning I left a rainy Tadoussac to try to get the ferry from Les Escoumins across to Rimouski, only to find out when I arrived that the ferry had been cancelled due to bad weather. Those of us booked onto the ferry were told we could either find accommodation in Les Escoumins to wait for the probably cancelled ferry the next day or try to get to another ferry leaving for Rivière-du-Loup at 5pm from the other side of Tadoussac. We weren’t even sure that ferry would be leaving, either. It was first come first serve. Thus began the rush down to Saint-Siméon in the pouring rain, where I was very happy to discover that I could make the crossing.

Luckily Rivière-du-Loup had always been a planned stopping point, and even the rain couldn’t mask the prettiness of the town. The hostel there is very nice and boasts a kitchen that I would very happily have in my own house. I spent Sunday morning walking around and left by midday to try to get to Bonaventure by the evening. The drive took me all the way along one of the main salmon rivers stopping off in a town on the way that even had a salmon statue and museum. It was a pretty drive with covered bridges, mountains and lots of trees, although none of it compared to when I got to the border with New Brunswick and turned back towards the coast. The view across to Campbellton and the bridge is lovely.

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Salmon statue!

I got into Bonaventure early evening and set up camp next to the beach. Bonaventure is very pretty and for a small town it has a great selection of little shops and a really nice bakery/ café where I had breakfast the next morning (It had proper tea). I was particularly excited because I’d been told there was an excellent restaurant there called La Poissonèrie, although I was disappointed not to find it anywhere when I was looking for a place for supper, only to find it the next day as I was leaving! People did not stop raving about it everywhere I went. I’ll just have to go back.

My stomach wasn’t disappointed for long, though, as I stopped at a restaurant near Percé called La Vieille Usine in L’Anse á Beaufils, which a friend had recommended. The food was delicious and there’s also an art gallery, beach and some walks along the river. The waitress who served me was delighted to find out I’m British and told me she’d learnt English by listening to the Beatles. She had wanted to know what they were saying so she translated their songs with a dictionary and just kept going from there. It had worked well.

The most memorable part of the journey to Percé was when I turned a corner and saw Bonaventure Island and the Percé rock in the distance, two of the most iconic landmarks in Quebec. Within 10 minutes I was on the outskirts of the town and turned into a little campsite where I set up my tent on the cliff with a view of the rock and the island. Not wanting to let the day go to waste, I decided to go on a walk on one of the trails before sunset. I coaxed my poor little car up the steep hill to the trail and left it to walk to the “Grande Crevasse”, which took less than half an hour to get to. The views along the way are wonderful, and I’m told from the top of the hill they are even better. At that time of the evening I met very few people on the path and it was lovely and peaceful, a good end to a day in the car. I took one last look before heading back down to the campsite for supper and to prepare for the next day.

I feel that Percé merits a whole post, especially seeing as I got up at 4am. So stay tuned- no six month wait this time, I promise.

Places to stay/ practicalities en route:

Ferry Saint-Siméon – Rivière du Loup:

Car: $43.70

Adult: $17.30

Hostel International Rivière-du-Loup:

Basic room: $30

Campsite Bonaventure (Open May-September):

About $15 for my tent, low-season price.

Camping du Phare, Percé:

$20 for my tent, low season price.

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News

Hello everyone!

I have some news for you. On Friday I am leaving Québec (sniff) and going to Ecuador for an internship. So my days are currently spent hectically trying to sort everything out before leaving, and saying goodbye to people.

I will still be blogging! I still have a couple of posts left to write up for Quebec so don’t run away just yet! As for Ecuador and beyond, I’m moving to this address: http://www.areddawayaway.com as I would like to keep this blog as it is- the story of my adventure in Quebec! So if it interests you, please come check it out, although it is still in the baby blog phase.

When I started writing A Québécois Adventure I thought no one but my friends and family would read it, I never expected to have over 50 followers! Thank you so much for being with me on this journey, I am really flattered that you have been reading my posts. Stay awesome!

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Road Trip Part I: Amos to Tadoussac.

At the end of May I finished my job and was at a bit of a loose end. I loved my school and my students and I was really sad that it was all over. After a couple of days of sitting around moping I decided to pull myself together, I really wanted to do something before I left Québec.

When I was interviewed for the job back in May 2012 I was asked where I wanted to go and I said the Gaspésie, which is the region on the other side of Québec by the the sea. In the end I said I would be happy anywhere as I just wanted to go, so the interviewer said “Even Barraute?” and I said “I guess so!” I have loved my time here and don’t regret saying yes, but I have always had the Gaspésie as a “What if?” at the back of my mind.

Thus Project Gaspésie was born. At first I was pretty daunted by my plans but I am so glad I did it. I drove 3,482km/ 2,163.6 miles in 12 days and went through over six Québec regions. Now if there’s any way of proving to yourself what you are capable of, this is it.

Here is my route:

Road trip

So on the 5th June I set off in a car full of stuff: food, a tent, sleeping bag, a cheap map, a sense of adventure and some very disappointing cereal bars*. My plan for the day was to reach Lac-Saint-Jean, I was starting with one of the more ambitious legs of the trip as it involved taking the road north-east into completely unknown and mostly unpopulated territory and involved about 8 hours of driving. The first leg was simple as it was the road to Barraute, however I then turned left towards the North and the Unknown. After 60km the road disappeared and became a gravelly dirt track and I prayed that the whole 8 hours would not be like this as the rocks leaped up in the air around my car. This lasted for about 60km until I very happily turned back onto tarmac. This was soon followed by a sign saying “Région Baie James, Bienvenue au Grand Nord!” (“James Bay Region, Welcome to the Great North!”). Although geographically I wasn’t very far north, in terms of roads this region is as north as you can go unless you catch a plane.

Even though it was a long drive I was very rarely bored, it was a beautiful day and the views were absolutely stunning. I thought I’d seen lots of trees on the road up to Abitibi but here it was much more wild and impressive. Occasionally I would go over a hill and all I could see for miles around was trees dappled with the occasional blue. I only went through two towns in 6 hours and a couple of desolate looking villages. Signs cropped up saying “Gas Stations: 1km and 192km.” Excitements included signs in Cree and the largest pile of logs I had ever seen. It was all completely magical, I felt like I was on the top of the world.

Eventually I descended back south again through a nature reserve to the Lac-Saint-Jean region, which is where one of my friends is from. The contrast was immediate. Everything was a soft, lush green, with fields, farms and villages dotted around. I stopped in Saint-Félicien, a small town just before the lake. A very apologetic woman in the tourist office told me that most things were shut, so I walked around a bit, ate and then got back into the car to drive on to the campsite.

I camped by the lake in a reserve called Mashteuiatsh. I could see the lake and the beach from my tent and I watched the sunset sitting on the sand. I felt happy that I was there and proud that I had driven so far, but still a little overwhelmed by what I still had to go. But everything was overridden by my love for this amazing province.

In the morning I got up and set off much later than planned. I was even more delayed but a mechanical problem. My petrol tank is opened by a lever in the car that has always been a bit stiff and I was having problems so I asked a man to help me, who then proceeded to yank it straight off. Panic! A very nice mechanic managed to get it open with pliers and we taped it shut with duct tape, which has proven to be a much more reliable system. So I finally headed off for Roberval, much later than intended. It’s a pretty town, I love the style of the houses. There’s a little walkway that takes you out onto the lake and so I went along that and admired the immense stretch of water before heading back to the car.

I had another minor issue as I discovered that, unlike what it says on my map, Saguenay is not actually a town but a series of lots of different towns. I got lost a couple of times but eventually managed to get over the bridge to the road to Tadoussac along the Fjord. The Fjord is absolutely stunning! I stopped in a village called Sainte-Rose-du-Nord along the way to admire it.

I got into the hostel in Tadoussac early evening, where camping by the hostel is only $12! It’s a very nice hostel with friendly staff and a lot of people to socialise with, they are always organising events. I arrived in the middle of some sort of free festival. This was the first time I realised that the Québec tourist trail is swamped with people from France, they are everywhere! One night there however taught me that there is a reason why camping is only $12 and I swiftly swapped for a dorm room for the second night.

Tadoussac is beautiful! It is a very important historic site and is also one of the best places for whale-watching in the world, so I booked myself onto a zodiak cruise straight away. We saw lots of whales- Minkhe, Fin and Humpback (the one whose tail comes out the water when it dives) from up close but sadly no Beluga. We also saw a colony of seals. At the end we went up the Fjord. Our guide, Nicolas, was amazing. The way he says “Minkhe Whale” in English made my day. He decided the sea was too smooth so he followed another boat’s trail for a while to make our trip more exciting.

In the evening I went on the beaver walk offered by a slightly crazy-looking old man who does them from the hostel most days. He’s been doing it for over 20 years and observes the beaver families who live in the lake by the hostel. We saw four beavers, one less than 4 metres away! Another Canada achievement unlocked.

*Every now and then the usual part of me that knows what she likes and sticks to it is overriden by the “Why not try a different brand? Come on, live a little!” part (I just realised that my definition of excitement is trying a new brand of cereal bar. I may need to rethink certain aspects of my life).

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ESL activities

Hello all!

I finished work recently and therefore had to go through and sort everything in my desk. As I did this, I realised how much of a debt I owe to other bloggers and to ESL teaching websites for ideas for activities. So I have decided to return the favour! Here are a few activities that I have done or that the teachers I work with have done over the last nine months which have worked really well:

Learning the parts of the body- primary level.

I worked with three teachers at the primary school, my favourite of whom was Laurent (sssh) because we had so much fun. He isn’t normally an English teacher but teaches P.E. and he just took on the job this year. This meant he often had great, alternative ideas for activities. Lessons often ended up in the gym.

For this activity in particular, we had gone over the parts of the body in class the week before and we did a follow up lesson entirely in the gym. Laurent’s logic was that the best way to learn the parts of the body was in using them. For the first 10 minutes they were allowed to play whatever game they wanted, and then we did stretches in English. After that we did a few classic games like Simon Says and we sang the Hokey Cokey, One Finger One Thumb Keep Moving and other such songs.

The best part, however, was the last 30 minutes. Using any material they found in the cupboard, they had to make a monster or some sort of creature. When they finished they had to describe the monster, eg. “It has three big eyes”. They really enjoyed it and were all very proud of their monsters, so they really wanted to show them off and describe them. Therefore getting them to talk wasn’t a problem!

The kids really enjoyed the lesson because it was different and it put their learning into practice, so I definitely recommend it as an activity.

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Dumb Ways To Die– advanced primary to all secondary (some adaptation)

All thanks go to Sabra for this, this was the best lesson ever and was my final class with almost every group. Last year an Australian train company commissioned a song about train safety and the result was “Dumb Ways To Die”, which is absolutely brilliant.

I did a gap-fill with the lyrics in the song and then moved on to discussion. This song can be used as a springboard for many things: whether a fun activity thinking of stupid ways to die, or the Darwin Awards, or safety, or advertising and how effective the campaign is. The kids loved it. On the way to Ottawa they were singing it in the bus and I must have heard it about 50 times in one week.

Interactive story activity (I don’t really know what name to give it) – advanced primary and all secondary depending on the text.

I stole this idea from the staff Christmas party. You take a story with a lot of repetition (I used a shortened version of the Grinch) and choose some of the words that appear often. Then give each kid a word and ask them to keep it a secret. Read the story, every time they hear their word they have to stand up, run around their chair, and sit down (or just stand up if it’s an excitable group). They all have to guess who has each word. It was great because they’re active and they have to concentrate in order to hear their word. By the end everyone knew which word everyone had and enjoyed yelling at the people who forgot to get up. I also gave Dany the most common word (“and”, it appeared about 45 times) and they enjoyed watching their teacher have to get up every two seconds.)

Murder Mystery– advanced students.

This was Dany’s idea using a Murder Mystery set she had bought. A lesson in advance we gave out all the characters to them in pairs and let them take time to translate the information. We sent out invitations and the day of the Murder Mystery they all dressed up and Dany provided food and drink. Although there was a lot of reading straight from the cards they did a lot of talking and I think they enjoyed it. However it needs to be either a really simple scenario or you need to set aside two lessons for it because we only got about half way through in the first lesson. Also, obviously a proper Murder Mystery needs an advanced group of kids, we did it with Year 11.

The Chair Game – all ages

A classic ESL game, I am throwing this one in just because it was so popular. The year 11s asked me if we could play it every week (we didn’t). Basically, you need enough flashcards or vocabulary sheets for all but one of the students. Go over the vocabulary before you start the game. I recommend laminating.

Every student has a chair in a circle (or sat on the floor) and a vocabulary sheet but one, who stands in the middle. The student in the middle (or the teacher) calls out words (from two to however many you want) and the people with those words have to stand up and try to swap chairs before the person in the middle can take it.

The person who loses their chair has to hand the card to the person who took it. That way they learn more words than just the one they had at the beginning. You can do it with anything: animals, clothes, months, or even definitions. When the older groups asked enough I used it to go over expressions or ideas in articles we read or to compare British and American vocabulary (I would call out the British words and the students with the American equivalent stood up)

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Ottawa and the joys of broken buses

Last week I went on the Year 10 trip to Ottawa, which was a lot of fun. What set it apart was that the kids funded the trip themselves, having spent the entire year selling things and organising events to raise money. It was an amazing leveler, and they had worked so hard that they even managed to put some money aside for next year’s trip to Toronto and have $70 for food each. It taught them a lot about teamwork, responsibility and the value of money. It was very impressive.

Another thing that set it apart as far as I’m concerned is that we set off at the very acceptable time of 8am, no 4am buses to Heathrow on this trip! We spent seven hours staring out the window at the interesting varieties of trees (pine tree, pine tree, pine tree, pine tree) and lakes (water, water, water, ooh look that one has an island in it (with trees)!, water) and arrived just in time for our tour of the Canadian Museum of Civilisation at 2pm. Our group was split into two and I, unfortunately, chose the group led by Philippe, who is not the most interesting guide on the planet. The museum, however, is really interesting and really well laid out. I definitely recommend it to anyone going to Ottawa. Starting with the First Nations and ending in the present day you walk through a brilliant collection of reconstructions of houses, farms, ships, villages, schools, etc with various artifacts inside. I think the kids really appreciated it, they connected with the layout much better than just with artifacts in a white room. The building is beautifully designed too.

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Next we went to the Canadian War Museum, which added to my impression that Canadians are very good at designing museums. It is a relatively new museum and it is very well thought out, I was really impressed. The entrance hall has slanted walls and an uneven floor, which is supposed to put the visitor out of their comfort zone.  The theme of the museum is regeneration and forging new beginnings, and a lot of the materials used are recycled (in particular the old Parliament’s roof) or reflect materials found in war, like the wood used for one of the walls laid out like in trenches. Among the things to be found in the museum are the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and also one of Hitler’s cars. The kids loved it.

Inside a mini submarine

Inside a mini submarine

Dalek's final form

Dalek’s final form

After the museums we went to check into the hostel and then go to the ByWard Market to grab supper. At least that was the theory. It turns out that Ottawa has nowhere to park a big bus and so a lot of time was wasted driving around looking for parking with increasingly frustrated and hungry 16 year olds (and teachers). None of this is helped by Ottawa’s very confusing road systems. But we got there in the end and headed off for food! Some of the students joined the four of us teachers which was really nice.

Our hostel was really good, it is a converted jail with dormitories in the original cell blocks, with the original cell doors and bars on all the windows. Apparently it is haunted and was the location of the last hanging in Canada. They do ghost tours and tours of death row. All very spooky. We were in the larger rooms in the old hospital wing, for which I was grateful because the cell blocks were a bit scary! The staff were very friendly too so it is a great place to stay.

The next day was even more jam-packed than the first. We started with a walk to the Ottawa locks (did I mention it was very hot and humid, by the way? Cue student grumblings.) The locks are the Northern entrance to the Rideau Canal, where three lock groups lower boats 115 feet to the level of the Ottawa River. After playing around on the locks we headed to the parliament buildings, which were next to the locks on Parliament Hill. The Canadian Parliament has all the beauty and grandeur of Westminster (upon which it is modelled), but with the advantages of space and greenery. Viewed from the other side of the river it is absolutely stunning, I hope whoever designed it after the old building burned down won something. The kids didn’t seem particularly excited by the Parliament (pity) but they did enjoy climbing on a statue of Queen Elizabeth II. I was wrenched away from my exploring by our very strict schedule, I’d love to go back and look around properly.

Queen Lizzie

Queen Lizzie

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Half-way down the locks

Half-way down the locks

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On our last educational visit of the trip we went on a tour of the Royal Canadian Mint, which was good although with all the specific vocabulary I struggled a bit. I learned however that, over time, the Canadian Mint has provided currency to about a quarter of the world’s population (if I understood correctly). Also, in 2007, the Mint produced the world’s first 99.999% pure gold coin, worth $1 million face-value.

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After this we set the students free to shop or do as they chose for a couple of hours before heading on an ill-fated journey home. First Mathieu lost one of his souvenirs, then we got lost, then the bus’ engine overheated and it was too late to go see a mechanic. We stopped and started several times and eventually decided to stop for supper, which arrived at the time we were meant to be back in Barraute, still six hours away. Luckily we happened to park opposite the houses of two helpful and enthusiastic men who spent an hour under the bus trying to make it work. We bought everyone ice creams to take their minds off it, but they were pretty good. We finally got going again at about 10:30pm! I slept for a while and woke up an hour away from the school, when I was rewarded by the Northern Lights. My second sighting! According to Joanie, the Geography and History teacher*, they were the best she’d ever seen, they were 9/10 strength (terrible translation). In Abitibi they aren’t as clear as what you see in photos but they were still completely captivating, the whole sky lit up in green and white dancing across the sky. It was a welcome home reward for our journey. We finally pulled into Barraute at 2:30am, very glad to be home!

I really enjoyed accompanying the trip, the rewards made up for any difficult moments (ill students, bus troubles, complaining about the heat). It’s nice to discover places with your students and see things in a different way, and it was great to get to know them outside of school. Ottawa, too, is a wonderful city and I would love to go back. Everything can be done on foot and the people are friendly. It’s a good size too, not too big. There is also green everywhere, although I would never, ever want to drive there!

*Subjects put in that order purely to annoy my dad.

Here are links to the websites of some of the places we visited, for anyone who is interested:

Canadian Museum of Civilisation: http://www.civilization.ca/home

Canadian War Museum: http://www.warmuseum.ca/home/

HI Hostel Ottawa: http://www.hihostels.ca/Ontario/1166/HI-Ottawa-Jail.hostel

ByWard Market: http://www.byward-market.com/

Royal Canadian Mint: http://www.mint.ca/

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Why I am like Bilbo Baggins and Arthur Dent, and other musings

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” – J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

Like many avid readers, often I have drawn inspiration and encouragement from great literary characters. Whether it’s the courage and the intelligence of Hermione Granger, the self-acceptance of Winnie the Pooh, or the wisdom of Dumbledore and Gandalf, (or, now we’re at it, the perseverance of Hairy Maclary in his quest to keep his bone), books are a great source of learning and growth. Through books we see ordinary people struggle through situations and we identify with them. We find parallels between their lives and our own, some positive and others negative, and we can learn from them. We can also aspire to be like them.

I have been travelling a lot recently, something which invokes a lot of self-reflection, and it has become clear to me over time that there are some similarities between the above-mentioned famous adventurers and me, even though, sadly, my life will never be portrayed by Martin Freeman. Bilbo Baggins and Arthur Dent are the protagonists of some of my favourite books involving adventure and I feel that I can identify with a lot of their feelings about adventures and life in general. So here goes:

1. Sometimes (often) I need a little (big) push.  Planet destroyed? A wizard and a bunch of dwarfs turn up at your door? Your degree is ending and you’re desperately searching for something to do next? Same difference. Sometimes even the most adventurous could do with a bit of a push.

2. I feel that I could spend a lot of my life in a dressing gown, oh the comfort! Moreover, if you have ever lived in a flat in Marchmont, you know that a dressing gown is essential for keeping warm (thanks Auntie Mary!)

3. Wherever I am and wherever I go, a decent cup of tea and a good meal are very high on my agenda.

4. We are oh so very British. It was only when I left Britain that I realised just how British I am. These two characters are quintessentially British and, no matter how much they travel, they never forget it. It’s nice to embrace these quirks.

5. We come from pretty awesome places. Arthur never wants to let go of his house and his planet, as much as Bilbo loves the comfort of The Shire. Coming from a place nicknamed “The Shire”, I often find it hard to leave home…

6. …but once the spirit of adventure kicks in, off we go!

7. We learn to embrace the strange and the ridiculous.

8. I could definitely benefit from having a babel fish.

9. We do not like the idea of being chased by goblins/ strange alien creatures/ bears.

10. We can be  indecisive when faced by difficult decisions. I feel that I have developed my Arthur Dent panic mode very well, which is why a book with “DON’T PANIC” written on it in nice, friendly letters would be useful..

I could go on and on…

As a child I loved “The Hobbit”, it’s such a humble, honest presentation of the way we make choices and how we can surprise ourselves. It taught me that greatness can come from anywhere and the importance of self-knowledge. Although a different genre, “The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy”, develops some similar themes. Both characters are thrust into a world very far and different from their own and find themselves encountering different, unrealised parts of themselves. The authors treat them with affection, humour, and, most of all, honesty. These books taught me about the importance of home,  of sometimes leaving our comfort zone, of travel, of the people we meet, and the way our experiences contribute to who we are. More importantly, they taught me that it is important to embrace who we are, flaws and all, to be able to laugh at ourselves, and to never stop growing (now that I think of it, Bilbo and I are also both somewhat vertically challenged). Yet above all, I learnt that it’s ok to be a little lost every now and then. There’s no telling where life will take you or what you’ll find inside you.

Keep reading, travelling and growing, everyone!

All the best x

P.S. Here are some pictures of Martin Freeman for your patience:

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O Canada

We went camping in Parc Aiguebelle on Friday, here is some of what we saw:

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5:30am

5:30am

5:30am

5:30am

Needless to say, it was hard to leave on Saturday morning.

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