Part 1 Beloeil Chocolaterie Belge Montreal City Tour TC-40 From Montreal to Québec - St Louis du Ha ! Ha ! Beaupré Basilique Ste-Anne-de-Beaupré Montmorency The Falls of Montmorency Part 2 Ile d'Orléans the best French Fries west of Belgium... Quebec City Tour T-C 20 From Québec to Rivière-du-Loup Rivière-du-Loup Whale Watching ! other pages Quebec : overview and history | other provinces | articles Articles La Nouvelle France | the French and Indian War
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L'Ile d'Orléans (the isle of Orleans) is an island in the middle of the St Lawrence river.
According to our information, it contained a farm where buffalos are being raised. We did the complete tour of the island, but never found any buffalos...
What we did find however was a "friture", with the beautiful inscription : "Les meilleures frites à l'ouest de la Belgique"!... (The best french fries west of Belgium). At that, they were indeed quite good...
The nicest part of the island is definitely the northeast side, with a magnificent view over the enormous width of the river.
Quebec City is not very large, and it is built on top of a mountain, so that all the main roads run east-west along the ridge. The outside of the city is residential, with modern homes and condominiums. The old walled section, called Vieux-Quebec, is the only remaining fortified city on the American continent!
The city is protected by formidable walls, even though they didn't help in the least when the English utterly trashed the French army, just outside the city, on the Champ de Bataille... Now it has become a beautiful park.
Within the walls, there is an extremely busy tourist frenzy. There are narrow and picturesque streets, one boutique next to another, small hotels, restaurants, beautifully restored houses, and of course the inevitable monuments to the honor and glory of the victorious generals...
However, the center of the old city is rather small and the walk is soon over.
A real hidden treasure is "la Chapelle du Bon-Pasteur" (1866) (Chapel of the good Pastor), located in la rue de la Chèvrotière. This chapel was built in a monastery. There have been no Sisters for a long time, but even though the monastery is empty, the chapel is still there. Someone has to point it out though because the chapel is located on the second floor, and there are no indications anywhere.
It is light, warm (a wooden floor, no stone !) and perfectly maintained. It has a baroque interior, and the construction is rather exceptional with three floors. There is an absolutely splendid main altar, and two side altars. The stone work, the light painting, and the gold paint art turn it into a real feast for the eyes. Exceptionally beautiful !
The walk continues along "La Grande Allée" to Le Château Frontenac, a huge castle in the center, right alongside the river.
Then it turns out that this building is no castle at all, but actually a fancy hotel, that was built around 1920 in the romantic style of those days...
Along the bank of the river a wooden boardwalk was built, where many activities take place. There are numerous terraces, café's, restaurants and hotels.
During our breakfast radio Quebec babbled plenty, obviously in French. Depending on the patois of the speaker the text is either understandable, slightly less intelligible, or completely incomprehensible... They'd better invent subtitles for the radio...
A distinction should be made between "la Province de Quebec" and the rest of Canada. In Quebec there has been a strong separatist movement for years, simply because their mentality is radically different from the rest of the nation. The Québécois are the only ones who call their province notre Nation (our nation), instead of notre Province, whereas the other provinces reserve this name for the whole of Canada!
Rivière-du-Loup is located about 200 kilometers further north, and seen on the world globe, the latitude is about the same as Denmark. The landscape changes back to beautiful and large fields, like swaying seas. It is more quiet, and remarkable is that the vast forestation is predominantly made up from pine trees, rather than trees with leaves.
Sometimes the St Lawrence river becomes visible on the left of TransCanadienne 20, and here it is about 30 kilometers wide. Gradually the foothills of the Appalachian mountains appear, with some quite impressive peaks left and right. Splendid views !
Rivière-du-Loup is a beautiful and well-kept city. The banks of the river provide magnificent vista's in the afternoon sun. The local Visitors Center provides ample information about whale excursions, and it provides immediate bookings. We received the good advice to wear a thick sweater and a parka, and a typical Canadien expression to boot ; "et prenez aussi vos mites" (and also bring your gloves) !...
At 09:00 am the boat leaves for a three-and -a-half-hour trip. The first leg is to the north, across the St. Lawrence River, and almost to the mouth of the Saguenay River. The St Lawrence river is about forty kilometers wide at this point, and more to the north, this widens to more than 100 kilometers!
Most tourists are well-equipped in terms of clothing, but some just wear a light T-shirt. A few rain drops, along with the cold sea breeze, usually and quickly sweep these visitors from the upper deck...
On the water, there are many stripes with seaweed and waste, which is caused by the strong currents. These in turn are caused by the bottom topography, the wind, the arrival of fresh water from the Saguenay river into the salty sea water, and finally from the ocean tides. All these factors make these waters very dangerous, with treacherous maelstroms and whirlpools.
There is a marked difference between the salty sea water from the St Lawrence river (with surface ridges) and the fresh water of the Saguenay river. Where these two meet, there is a lot of food and fish from the two different environments, and this is what attracts the whales. The depth of the river bottom varies from 30 to 300 meters.
Along the way we saw a few small gray seals. We cruised to a cluster of other whale watching boats, and usually the captains warn each other when a whale is sighted. After some 30 minutes we sighted a Beluga, a whale of some 4 meters long and weighing about 1,000 kg. The excellent marine explanations on board were given by a marine biologist, who simply juggled with names, numbers and interesting information. He taught us that the name "Beluga" is Russian, and actually means "white".
Later we saw several Minke whale or "petit Rorqual", a whale of some 8 meters long and weighing "only" about 8 tons. Finally, we also saw a couple of "Rorqual à Bosse" or Humpback whales, about 22 meters long and weighing 50 tons! These are so long that they waive their tail just above the water for a moment when they start their dive for food. They stay underwater for about 10 minutes and then resurface to breathe. That is when they press out the old air, which produces the classic "smoke plume". Whales are mammals, and as such they have no gills for underwater breathing.
Unfortunately we did not see the largest whale, the blue whale (or cachalot), that is some 30 meters long and weighs up to 130 tons. However, the biologist told us many interesting facts. It is known that a whale can easily dive 300 meters deep, but there have been experiments when a depth gauge was attached to the back of a Cachalot, and this gauge was crushed by the water pressure at a depth of 3,000 meters (almost two miles deep)!
The reason why a whale is not simply crushed by water pressure at such depths, is because it does not keep any oxygen in his lungs. On the contrary, the whale completely empties and flattens its lungs, but it stores an incredible volume of oxygen in the hemoglobin of its blood. This allows the Cachalot to remain under water for 90 minutes or more! Which in turn is the reason why a whale's flesh is almost black.
On the way back we received more interesting information about a whale's diet, an example of whalebones (of which there are 500 in the whale's mouth), and their sexual life. The ladies were absolutely fascinated by the three-meter-long penis of the male, but then again, the whole fertilization takes a mere fifteen seconds, which sounded far less interesting...
When baby whale is born - tail first, otherwise it drowns - the mother swims underneath and gently pushes it to the surface. The baby actually feels no difference between seawater and the amniotic fluid, and it doesn't realize yet that now it has to breathe by itself. Immediately thereafter it receives its first feeding. Mama Whale has two formidable breasts, with a capacity of about 40 liters each. Since the lactation happens under water, they are very strongly muscled. The baby does not suck, but the mother actually squirts a large quantity of milk into the baby's mouth, under high pressure. Unfortunately this feeding system is not very efficient, because much of the food is lost in the water. Which is also why the mother can only feed one young, and of the rare twins one is doomed to starve! It is imperative to fatten the baby as soon as possible, because it needs to be well insulated for the migration to colder waters.
Taking pictures of diving whales is certainly not the easiest thing in the world. By the time that the whale is sighted and the camera is focused and correctly exposed, the whale usually has dived two more times...
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