Even though it’s been raining off and on (mostly off, hooray!) for two of the past three days, I honestly can’t think of any place I’d rather be. My sweetheart Marilyn and I are celebrating a major milestone in our life together with . . .you guessed it! . . . a getaway focused on shared outdoor activities. When we were planning this celebration together, I asked her where she wanted to go and what she wanted to do. She hesitated all of a nanosecond before choosing Quebec foliage season.
Right now we’re in the Eastern Townships, just north of the Vermont border. Later today we head for Outaouais, the portion of Quebec just north of Ottawa. We’ve hit very near peak foliage and the colors as we’ve hiked, biked, and paddled the last couple of days have been spectacular.
On Sunday, we drove up I-91, crossed the border with no problems at all (remember to bring your passport!) and less than half an hour later were comfortably ensconced at Estrimont Suites and Spa just outside Mont Orford National Park. We only had time for a short hike, dodging the intermittent showers, and a blissful, long hot soak/sauna session in their outdoor spa before it was time for a fabulous dinner in the hotel. In the U.S., we rarely eat in hotel restaurants. In Quebec, we make it a point to try them and have NEVER been disappointed. In fact, the quality of the dining is one of the big reasons we keep returning to Quebec. We both love to eat well to fuel our exercise.
After sleeping long and well in a superb bed, we got up early, ate an excellent breakfast and started pedaling our tandem on a segment of La Route Verte.
Later that afternoon we drove to Lac Brome near Knowlton where we checked into Le Cyprès a classic lakeside motel/cottage resort where we had a lovely room with a deep bathtub for two. That night we ate another superb dinner at Les Relais at the Auberge Knowlton, the oldest continuously operating hotel/restaurant in the Eastern Townships. The next morning we biked around beautiful Lac Brome and back into Knowlton for some shopping.
For a change of pace that afternoon, we canoed through the Quilliam Nature Reserve behind Le Cyprès. The foliage was spectacular, the area was alive with migrating waterfowl and other birds. Even Marilyn, who is not an avid canoeist (she much prefers her kayak), thought it was spectacular.
Our final night in the Eastern Townships was at the Auberge and Spa West Brome which boasts a wonderful sauna and heated pool, and yet another excellent restaurant.
News Flash: The sun just poked through the breaking clouds and we are off for a couple of hours of biking through the beautiful rolling farmlands of West Brome before we have to jump in the car and head for more adventures in the Outaouais Region. Too bad you aren’t here to ride with us.
Quebec Foliage Season: Bike Routes and Back Roads
Much of the countryside is gently rolling hills that seem flat to a New England rider, the roads tend to be wide enough for comfortable riding, and everywhere we’ve gone in the Province the accommodations, food and services are superb and cyclist-friendly.
La Route Verte or, in English, The Green Route is an $88.5 million dollar system of marked bike routes along roads (many with extra-wide shoulders), and superbly maintained dedicated bike paths that lead you across the province from the tip of the Gaspè to the Ontario border. If you love to pedal, you simply have to check it out. I can’t begin to tell you how wonderful this is. The US is decades behind Quebec in creating and maintaining beautiful, safe places to ride your bike.
Many regions across the Province also maintain their own bike routes and most offer excellent cycling maps to help you out. Plan a cycling vacation in Quebec. You won’t regret it.
Quebec In Foliage Season: Taxi Velo
The Eastern Townships is doing everything they possibly can to make their region more attractive to cyclists. One of the best ideas I’ve heard of is the “Taxi Velo.”
All of the local cab companies in the Townships have cabs set up with racks to carry up to four bicycles. If your bike breaks down beyond your ability to repair it on the road, or you over-estimate your abilities or underestimate the distance, or you just want to cycle point to point without having to loop back to your starting point, you can call a toll-free number (877 766-8356), and they’ll come get you at any road crossing along the designated bike route within the hour. The vehicles can carry four cyclists and their bikes. The set fee is $40 for the first 30 kilometers and $1.45 for every kilometer thereafter.