Friday, June 24, 2016

Cruising down the Saint Lawrence (Part 1) The Saguenay and Reford Gardens

Leaving Quebec City
The first day of June dawned sunny and mild; a group of stalwart travellers set forth from the Fairmont Chateau Frontenac to explore the beautiful and historic city of Quebec, the only surviving walled city in North America north of Mexico. After some time for sightseeing on our own and a chance to try out one of many local restaurants, we were met by Adventure Canada staff for a transfer to the Ocean Endeavour. There our small group of 22 met the rest of the 179 passengers boarding for the nine-day Adventures Afloat program, Exploring the Mighty Gulf of Saint Lawrence.

There was time to get settled into our cabins before our lifeboat drill and orientation. We set off just after 6 p.m. in a light breeze, passing by Montmerency Falls and l'Île d'Orleans in beautiful evening light.

On the Saguenay
We travelled down the river through the night, then turned up the Saguenay Fjord to begin our first full day of sightseeing with a leisurely cruise back down to the confluence with the St. Lawrence. On the way, under clearing skies, we spotted a few of the area's famous beluga whales along the shore. At Tadoussac we tendered ashore to the community's floating dock in the ship's fleet of Zodiacs and made our way to the local church for a welcome ceremony complete with snacks, drinks and music along with a few words from the mayor. We worked our way back to the ship taking in several of the town's attractions - including the exceptional Marine Mammal Interpretation Centre - along the way.

It rained while we were in Tadoussac, cancelling the town's plan for a beach bonfire to celebrate our visit, but it didn't dampen our spirits. One of my favourite memories of the trip is of walking through the town on my way to the ship, with a huge smile on my face, happy to be where I was at that moment. I looked up to see a member of the Adventure Canada expedition team walking in the opposite direction, wearing the same delighted grin!

Dessert at Reford Gardens
The following day brought a visit to Reford Gardens, a beautifully tended collection of plantings. Once privately owned, then operated by the Province of Quebec, the site is now under the control of a foundation headed by Alexander Reford, who served as the tour guide for our Road Scholar group. After a walk through the gardens, this group enjoyed a superb lunch prepared by the foundation's chef, who explained each course as it was served, beginning with a "bloom spoon" - a collection of flower petals and berries presented in the bowl of a spoon, designed to be consumed as a single mouthful. What a remarkable burst of flavour! This was followed by an asparagus and tulip salad, a choice of Reford Gardens lamb or fresh turbot, and a tempting dessert that was flavoured with lemon geranium.

We returned to the ship to take in some of the excellent on-board programming.

Hotel Tadoussac

Adventure Canada's Mighty St. Lawrence cruise has been named by National Geographic as one of its “50 Tours of a Lifetime".

Next: continuing down the St. Lawrence bound for Gaspé.

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