Travel: Québec City 2022

Travel: Québec City 2022

Travelogue time! A brief account of a few days spent as a tourist in Québec City from July 12 to July 16, 2022.

Québec City does have a strange and complex reputation, depending on the language of who you ask.  To Anglophones, it’s often perceived as a leading tourist destination – an Europe-meets-America kind of thing, an excuse to dive deep into French-Canadian culture and go back in time.  (Few consider “modern” Quebec City to be interesting compared to modern Montréal – most of the attractions are about the past or playing up the rural aspect of French Canada.) Ask Francophones about La Ville de Québec, on the other hand, and you’ll get far different answers.  It’s the seat of Quebec’s government, for once thing – the aloof centre of power away from Montreal or the regions.  It’s also a famously conservative area, and not in a respectable “traditionalist” mode – rather the ugly reactionary kind of conservatism.  It’s also perceived, reasonably enough, as the zoo in which Anglophones and Europeans takes a look at French Canada as this exotic, rather harmless bunch of farmers and ceinture-flechée colonials.  That’s a lot of centuries-deep baggage for a moderately-sized city, but it does mean that it’s uniquely interesting in ways that many other tourist destinations struggle to achieve.

I was reasonably familiar with Quebec City – Thanks to a few conventions, events and party invitations from friends living in the area, I visited once every other year-or-so for the past twenty-five years.  But by the same token, I did very little touristing during that time – there was always something else to do.  So, it seemed like the ideal destination to launch a hopefully annual tradition of road trips with my daughter.

For me, it was a modest return to tourism after a good decade having far more household-focused pursuits, with the added wrinkle of a ten-year-old partner.  (The original plan was to do this in 2021, but pandemic pushed back those plans to this year, and even then, it was a narrower margin than I would have liked with Covid cases once again increasing to the point where the radio news on our way in were telling Quebec City residents to avoid visiting the Emergency Room due to staff shortages.  What fun!)

We were relatively lucky in terms of weather – decently hot and humid but not debilitatingly so, and rather sunny at one dramatic exception – see Thursday evening.  The city was clearly steeling itself for the following week: not only were Quebec’s construction holidays slated to begin on the day we were returning home, but the Pope’s upcoming visit to the city meant a few warning signs warning residents against reduced parking, radio hosts speculating about the disruptions to the city, and even Orleans Island snack bar owners musing aloud about doubling their foot traffic.

Tuesday, July 12: Travel from Ottawa to Quebec

With plenty of preparation work, and pre-trip jitters leading to a rough night, we were all ready to go well before 9:00 on Tuesday.  Car packed, cat sitter fully briefed, phones charged and a rough schedule all ready to go, we left in good spirits.

There are a few ways to get from Ottawa to Quebec, but the one I picked (as refined by many trips throughotu the years) avoided the islands of Montreal and Laval entirely — through Autoroutes 50, 15, 30 and then the 40.

Autoroute 50 – Gatineau to Saint-Jérôme

The plan was to put a lot of mileage under our belts before stopping for the first time, and that was helped along by the specific nature of highway 50 from Gatineau to points east.  The 50 does not have many good stopping points (yet – a business opportunity right there?) until Lachute, so our plan was to stop right after our frequent exit toward Grenville/Hawkesbury.  Alas, that resolve was tested by an additional half-hour: Construction work on the 50 meant a busy detour on the smaller 148 from Grenville to Saint-Philippe, meaning that it took 40 minutes to go over a stretch that usually takes five.  Picturesque, but slow.

Our first stop was at exit 254 near Lachute – not a rest stop in the strictest sense, but a handy collection of stores and restaurants located next to the highway.  My intention in picking this as our first stop was to use the Wal-Mart’s restrooms, and pick up anything we’d realized we’d forgotten since leaving the house.

The rest of the highway 50 segment was uneventful.  Quite a bit of evidence of construction and dynamiting between Masson and Thurso to expand the highway to a full four-lanes over the next few years.  Great picturesque views of the Ottawa River nearing Grenville-sur-la-Rouge.  A few planes visible while driving next to Mirabel Airport.

(My usual route to Montreal usually goes by the 50, then over through Hawkesbury to rejoin the 417.  Going to Quebec City, however, I wanted to avoid Montreal as much as possible, hence the 15/640 combo.)

Autoroute 15 – Saint-Jérôme to Sainte-Thérêse

A short stretch of highway, quite a bit busier than the 50 (six lanes throughout, sometimes eight.) The Bell Helicopters manufacturing plant is always worth noticing, as is the Boisbriand megamall near the exit to the 640.

Autoroute 640 – Sainte-Thérêse to Charlemagne

Another short stretch of highway, usually four-to-six lanes wide.  Not terribly busy, and that’s the point – going around Montreal on the north shore of Laval Island.

Our second stop was at exit 26 leading to Lorraine and a small Provigo grocery store next to a small mall which has washrooms and an opportunity to pick up some food for the hungry.

Some ambulances racing past, and a more difficult than expected junction to highway 40 were the only other thing to note about this stretch of the road to Quebec.

Autoroute 40 – Charlemagne to Québec City

Highway 40, compared to the south-shore Autoroute 20, is the oldest (The “Chemin du Roy”, even if said Roy never made the trip to visit) and slightly more picturesque one.  It’s shorter but definitely not faster, as it goes through Trois-Rivières in a weird bit of routing.  Most people take the 20 if they have the choice… but we’ll talk about the 20 in describing our way back to Gatineau.

This was the last stretch of our way there and the longest, going all the way from east-of-Montréal to the heart of Québec City.  Reasonably busy but not overly so (at least for a Tuesday afternoon in late July).

Our biggest disappointment of the day was the third stop planned at exit 118 – the semi-infamous Point-du-jour rest area which, for generations, represented the first significant rest area east of Montréal.  I have friends with semi-traumatized stories to tell about family trips where they all stopped at the greasy spoon restaurant in the middle of the highway for poutine, then filled up at the gas station before setting out against points east, with the usual family dysfunctions playing out in a microcosm during the brief stop.  I myself often stopped there for a quick lunch on my way to Saint-Tite or Quebec, or filling up coming back from trips eastward.  I was looking forward to the trip’s first poutine… but that wasn’t to be.  Sometime in the past year or so (Ah: July 2021: Here’s an article about it), they tore down the restaurant and gas station, replacing them with wholly unsatisfying washrooms and parking areas.  Food?  Good luck with the vending machines’ egg sandwiches.  Gas?  Not here.  Ugh, what a disappointment – while I’m reasonably sure the old restaurant was a heath hazard and the ground nest to the gas station took months to decontaminate, I’ll miss the folksy stop.  As a result, this stop is no longer recommended.

Hangriness oblige, we stopped at the next significant exit – 144 near Berthierville, which has a collection of familiar restaurants and gas stations.  One A&W Teen Burger combo later, we were back out east on our merry way.  A much better stop at one of the next exits is the Baie-de-Maskinongé Service Centre that has washrooms, two restaurants, and tourist information for the Mauricie tourist area.

Trois Rivières was the usual step up in pacing – double the traffic for a half-dozen exits as the highway goes through the downtown area and suburbs.

Our fourth planned stop of the day (and my intention was to stop more often than strictly necessary) is exit 202 leading to Boulevard des Estacades – a commercial agglomeration in east Trois-Rivières with a Wal-Mart and the usual collection of other big boxes and franchise restaurants. The washrooms in this specific Wal-Mart are terrible, but I have fond memories of this store saving the day during a difficult trip.  I’ll skip over the embarrassing story, except to say that this time it did some good to walk around the store.  Onward!

The most picturesque locations of Highway 40 are in-between Trois-Rivière and Québec: Three stretches where the highway plunges down to a river and you can see 10+ kilometers straight ahead.

Our fifth stop was redundant but quite deliberate: Exit 290 eastward is the Cap-de-Pierre Service Centre, which has great rest rooms and a tourist centre where we picked up tourist information that served us well during the rest of the trip.  I would normally zoom past a final rest area a mere twenty-five kilometers from our destination, but I wanted to see the tourist brochures, and we were  grateful for one last stop before making it to Quebec.  It’s even more important considering that after that, things get hairy in terms of driving.

Québec City!

I have enough experience driving in Quebec City to say with confidence that I don’t like driving in Quebec City (the full rant has a riff on hiring at the Ministère des Transports being too inclusive for people who can’t do their jobs, but never mind) – the city clearly predates the automobile, and they’re still patching the problems inherent in having roads drawn by horses.  Add to that the vertical component to a city built on a giant rock and the dumbfounding way its intersections are structured and you’ve got a headache even for skilled drivers.  Anyway – Highway 40 leads to boulevard Charest, which gradually becomes slower and narrower until you reach Quebec City’s downtown area.  The GPS thankfully led us smoothly to our hotel shortly before 16:00, but make sure your car can handle steep inclines!

I picked the Delta as our hotel for a few reasons – it’s a middle-of-the-road hotel catering to international travelers, so it offers a good compromise between comfortable accommodations without going overboard on the luxuries.  More importantly, however, is the location – comfortably within walking distance of the Vieux Québec, the downtown commercial streets, Parliament, Plaines d’Abraham, the lower city, etc. – it’s reasonably close and reasonably affordable.  What’s more, I had already stayed there for a convention so I knew what to expect.

While nothing about our hotel room on the sixth floor was special by my usual convention-travelling standards, it was a solid home-away-from-home.  Two good bed, great view of Parliament and Hotel Frontenac (which later turned out to be quite nice), Netflix on the TV (we had to supply our login).  I disliked the bathroom – low water pressure on the “eco” shower, noisy “turbo” toilet and I lightly cut myself on the rough lower lip of the counter marble-top because their faucets were so short.  Hopefully those are room-specific issues.

But I’m anticipating the rest of the day.  Before then, we still spent a few hours making the most out of being in Quebec City early enough.  We went to get high-end supper poutines at the Snack Bar Saint-Jean (once again marveling at how much more expensive everything is), made our way through much of the Vieux Québec and walked down the boardwalk in front of Hotel Frontenac.

If there’s one essential experience in Québec City, it’s to walk down Rue Saint Jean from the Porte Saint Jean to the City Hall, then make your way to Château Frontenac and have an ice cream on the boardwalk.  Rue Saint-Jean is the one with the big curve, and it’s a rather charming mixture of upper-scale stores blended with unique restaurants, all set against old-school French architecture.  It’s blocked to automobile traffic during the summer, adding to the atmosphere.

There’s a bit of construction at the moment around City Hall, making the link between Saint-Jean and the Chateau Frontenac more difficult than usual.  Still, Rue de Buade is a solid choice, then go through the small Rue du Trésor alleyway to end up at la Place d’Armes and the Chateau Frontenac.

Have an ice cream as you walk to the end of the boardwalk and back, occasionally peering down at the Saint-Laurent.

When you’re done, walk on Rue Saint-Louis for more restaurants and French architecture before exiting Old Québec right in front of l’Assemblée Nationale.

That’s it!  Essential Québec completed!  Sure, you’ve missed plenty of things, but that’s enough for a great first impression of the city.

We were beat at that time, so it was a return to the hotel followed by an early nap for me.

 

Wednesday, July 13: Around Québec City

My original plan was to visit Québec on Wednesday, then go outward on Thursday.  This got switched when I took a look at the weather (rainy Thursday), which ended up fitting rather well with other plans.

Before this weather switch, however, I had booked ourselves for the one guided tour of our trip – a hour-long visit of the Morrin Centre starting at 10:00.  I was already familiar with the Morrin Centre – I had participated to a writer’s convention there a few years ago, and was eager to revisit one room of it.  In order to do that, however, you either have to be a member of the Morrin Centre Historical society, or follow a tour.  Tour it was!

The Morrin Centre is notable in that it remains, even today, a rallying point for the Anglophone presence in Québec City.  Built as a prison, it later became a college and then a historical/cultural centre.  It was re-opened to the public only twenty years ago.  The guided tour takes you through this history – first in the dark dungeons of the prison, then in an amazingly well-preserved classroom and finally in the room I was most eager to visit.  Along the way, we heard about the last public execution in Quebec City (an event that attracted thousands of spectators, including schoolkids), the crimes that warranted execution (murder, yes, but also stealing tea – an expensive import from China at the time, but also an affront to the British Crown), the ways single mothers took advantage of the prison’s excellent health care (by getting condemned for prostitution long enough to deliver their baby while imprisoned) and the ways the college was providing university-level education to women despite McGill’s objections.

But then we visited the room I was most eager to see again — their terrific library, one of the most picturesque in Eastern Canada.

The picture doesn’t do justice to the room, which is fully wrapped in books two floors high.  The second floor is reserved for older books – the first-floor collection is a surprisingly entertaining mix of contemporary fiction.  There’s also another room next to it with non-fiction and children titles. The General Wolfe statue at the upper right has an amazing story that’s too long to summarize here – read this article instead.

But onward!  Our next stop was eastward and outward: The Montmorency Falls.

It’s easy to be underwhelmed by the falls: For all of the thrill of watching the 83-meter falls and feel the breeze of the water, it all remains, well, falls.  If you’re interested in going to the top of the falls, you can wait for the cable car or take the stairs and suffer through the ascent.  In our case, neither of use were interested in going to the top — and an episode of The Amazing Race (or some equivalent show) was shooting and blocking visitors from the east side of the falls.  We paid our way in, we walked as close to the falls as the official walkway allowed, we ahhed, and we went back to the visitor centre.  I have a feeling that the site’s renovations are only half-finished – there was a curious blend of new structures and half-finished areas suggesting more to come.

But the day’s big-ticket item was yet to come: a tour of the nearby Ile d’Orléans, a bit of an obligatory act for anyone visiting the area.  L’Ile d’Orléans is a rather large island just east of Quebec that, for centuries, has been cultivated by settlers, farmers and restaurateurs.  Great soil, good year-round humidity and clement weather means that almost all of the area is used for food production, and the road plan of the island (which has one road circling all of it) invites travelers to drive, stop, eat and drink.  Dozens, maybe even hundreds of places advertise their wares in the tourist guide.  Despite numerous visits to Quebec, I had never taken the time to complete the 80-kilometer drive (roughly 90 minutes of driving – you won’t go the speed limit most of the time) and the weather was good enough to try it.  Gigantic plastic fruits and vegetables advertise what you’ll get if you‘ll just stop to pick fruits or purchase them.

For someone with a deep rural Quebec background like myself, I can’t say I saw anything all that new (well, aside from endless fields of potatoes) during the drive – it’s like a curated distillation of countless roadside snack bars, produce fields, artisan shops, small churches, vendor stalls, wineries and oddball attractions.  It’s as if they’d taken farm-filled rangs from across the province, boiled them down to their most interesting bits and strung them along a single 80-kilometer road.  I can certainly see the point for tourists eager to experience rural Quebec.  It’s obvious… but it’s rather fun.  At least a dozen snack bars invite you in for a burger or poutine.  There’s enough variety in the road to keep it interesting in-between  village areas, big expansive fields, river lounging or more forestry-themed twisty passages.  You can breeze through the island in slightly more than two hours like we did, or spend an entire weekend checking off the wineries and restaurants listed in the guide.

In our case, we drove, took pictures of unusual sights, stopped at the observation tower at the easternmost tip of the island (a wooden tower that swayed perceptibly in the high wind), stopped again at a charming snack bar for burger and poutine, then completed our tour of the island and drove back.

Our next stop was far less high-minded – the Briques TOYS jouets store, the only independent (i.e.: second-hand) Lego store in eastern Canada.  This was maybe my fourth or fifth stop there in a decade, so I knew what to expect.  We picked up a few mini-figurines.

I think of my approach to tourism as revolving around a kickstarter system of sort – I’ll aim to cover the essentials on a given day, but give me extra minutes and I’ll include stretch goals.  So it is that the next stop, in the middle of a local upscale mall, was a stretch goal conceived in the early hours of the previous night, as I paged through “local attractions for kids” mindful that the day should have at least one big highlight for the younger member of our expedition.  I kept the destination a secret until we turned the corner of the mall and found ourselves standing before… the Mega Parc indoors amusement park.

Entirely built inside the mall, this park still manages to include a roller-coaster, a Ferris wheel, an expansive carrousel, bumper cars, spinning top, falling chairs, an ice-skate rink and a dozen other thrill-rides.  I’m not a big fan of amusement parks, but this stop wasn’t about me and the intended visitor really enjoyed the following 90 minutes.

Afterwards, we headed over the bridge to the other side of the Saint Laurent, to visit a friend of mine in Lévis.  Once it was all over, we made it to the Lévis/Québec ferry with a minute or two to spare: Taking the ferry at night gave us a view of Chateau Frontenac in a Harrypotteresque twilight.

Then it was back to the hotel for another big night of sleep.

Thursday, July 14: Québec City

We had a special guest join us for this day spent visiting tourist attractions within the city – a long-time friend of mine who spent her childhood and teenage years in Québec City and volunteered to give us a tour of the lower city.

Our first stop was at the Aquarium du Québec.  Anything with animals tops my daughter’s wish-list of things to see, and I’m used to aquarium visits whenever I visit a city with one.  (The best, for the record: Boston.)  Semi-recently refurbished, this one focused on aquatic animals specific to Quebec… with a few arctic land animals (polar bear, owls, arctic fox) for good measure.  The place was too busy for my liking (we certainly wore masks) but was otherwise everything we hoped for.

The place’s big highlight is a tunnel ”under the sea”, but it’s not particularly well showcased/signposted at the end of the tour – ah well, no matter: it’s a good aquarium nonetheless. Great jellyfish exhibit.  Some rain, but only when we were inside the aquarium’s facilities.

We then headed back downtown for the next leg of our visit: a trip through the lower town (“Basse-ville”, aka Montcalm area).  We were going to the Musée de la civilization, but made enough time to go to lunch and visit the area.  The essential street to see here is Rue du Petit Champlain, which is packed with restaurants, public art, French architecture and a distillation of everything tourists expect from Old Québec.  There’s a cableway to take you to the Frontenac Hotel boardwalk if you want, but you can also walk between upper-town and lower-town through the steep Cote de la Montagne.

We had lunch at Le Cochon Dingue while it rained outside some more, then moseyed through the area.  An unexpected stop was at the (free) Museum of Bad Art – a comedic take on art exhibit that took over an older gallery space in what must be some kind of tourist-friendly temporary arrangement.  While not to everyone’s tastes (and that’s the point!) an exhibit of bad art sparked some interesting father-daughter discussions about the nature of art and what makes it good.  If you have the right kind of humor, the real fun of that half-hour visit was the parodic take on art gallery commentary.  The museum is currently scheduled to close at the end of 2022 and faces historic Place Royale – which is worth visiting anyway.

Going from low art to high art (well, maybe not – keep reading), we made our way to our second big goal of the day, the Musée de la Civilization.  This is one weird museum.  It hasn’t quite figured out what it wants to be, so its two permanent galleries (one on Quebec history, another on First-Nation history an dart) are flanked with an ever-revolving succession of visiting or temporary exhibits.  As of July 2022, this meant a visiting exposition about Pompeii (with surcharge – we declined to visit), a temporary exhibit on “generosity” that felt like an excuse to rummage through the museum’s pop-culture holdings, two temporary exhibitions playing on perception (including a rather nifty art/technology experiment combining real-time analysis of your movements to superpose pictures of someone else in the same poses) and a gleefully scatological exhibition that’s all about toilet-related matters.  It’s actually quite an interesting exhibit – and seeing vulgar words printed in big characters on the walls of a museum is a thrill, “Kakawaii” being the least of it.

If you get the impression that the museum doesn’t have much of a coherent identity, you’re right: it feels like a grab-bag of fun stuff but nothing quite as focused as Ottawa-area national museums.  Still: not a bad time, especially given the buckets of rain outside.

We called it a day after that, and were happy to drive my friend home. The way over there, however, was more dramatic than we expected: after the day’s downpours, the way we took to get back to Sainte-Foy – the lower Boulevard Champlain, next to the river – was getting increasingly flooded as we drove.  Twice, the rush of the water coming down from the upper city had water spraying out of sewer grates, and we made our way through inches-deep pools of water a few times (or swerving in the opposite lane to avoid such a deep pool).  My friend told us that had we waited fifteen more minutes, the road may not have been passable.

But we made it.  Then we laser-focused on supper.  I wanted some pizza from Nina Pizza Napolitaine, a place I had read about in the tourist guide.  Taking our time through lingering rain, twisty demented streets and the GPS guiding us to the nearest locations of the place we wanted to order from, we eventually assembled our supper and ate at the hotel.  The pizza was terrific – we probably would have ordered it again had we stayed longer.

After contemplating the city and how much energy we had left, we made one last trip – to the nearby (downhill) Musée du chocolat, a small one-room adjunct to upscale chocolatier Erico.  Packing a surprising number of artifacts and information in what’s essentially a one-room advertisement for the chocolaterie, the Musée du Chocolat is a fun stop, especially if you’re staying only a few minutes away.  Obviously, I followed that visit with a dark-chocolate-raspberry slush for me. (Which tastes even better than it sounds.)

Then it was back at the hotel.  We thought we were done for the night, but it turns out that Québec had another surprise in store for us.  At 22:00, we started hearing booms from outside.  Taking a look through the window and then (briefly) at the internet, we realized this was the opening night of the Loto-Québec Fireworks series.  Our hotel room was positioned in such a way as to give us a great (if small) view of Chateau Frontenac as foreground to twenty minutes of increasingly impressive fireworks.  I took almost a hundred pictures, but here’s only one of them:

And that was the capper for the trip.

Friday, July 15 – Back home!

We had a few small things left to do before leaving, so after a leisurely morning wake-up and packing, we set out to complete those last stops in Québec City.

The big event of the morning was a trip on the other side of the street, then up thirty-one floors to the Observatoire de la Capitale, a panoramic gallery at the top of the city’s tallest building, offering a spectacular 360-degree view of Québec and its surroundings.  I voluntarily kept it for last, as I was able to retrace the entire trip (“This is where we went to the amusement parc, where we picked up my friend, where we went to Levis, here’s the bridge to l’Ile d’Orléans, etc.”) as one last play-through of the entire holidays.

What was left?  Another trip to the Chocolatier Erico – I wasn’t against a dark chocolate banana slush for the road.

We left shortly after check-out at 11:00.  This time, in the interest of variety, we went through the longer, but faster and far duller Highway 20 south of the Saint-Laurent.  The big highlight of that route are the bridges – first the Pierre Laporte heading out of Quebec, and then later on the Highway 30 bridge spanning the Saint-Lawrence.

Autoroute 20 – Québec to Sainte-Hyacinthe

The 20 is culturally crucial to Québec – there’s a movie about it, a friend of mine wrote a horror novel largely structured around it, and nearly everyone in the province has stories to tell about trips “up” and “down” the highway.  Part of taking that highway was getting to demonstrate to the trip’s junior partner why it’s an important road.

The first stop was largely perfunctory.  The newly-refurbished rest stop at Villeroy (exit 255) is nothing more than washrooms, vending machines and parking (exactly like that disappointing rest stop on the 40) but it was an occasion to say “wow, we made it out of Québec” — the traffic on the bridges can be difficult.

The main stop on the 20 is the legendary Madrid 2.0, so famous that it has its own Wikipedia page.  Well, that’s not true – the Wikipedia page is about the first incarnation of Le Madrid, which was a cultural touchpoint for generations of Québécois and was demolished in 2011.  The current Madrid 2.0 is a soulless corporate replacement that lives on in the shadow of its predecessor.  Nonetheless, it’s still the best stop on the 20 – conveniently located at the mid-point of the road, it offers a Saint-Hubert, a McDonald’s, a large Couche-Tard convenience store, a gas station and a dinosaur petting zoo.  It’s close to a must-stop, especially now that the legendary Drummondville Saint-Hubert where I used to stop has been demolished.)

I was semi-planning to stop again near Sainte-Hyacinthe, but since my junior partner was sleeping and I had no reason to interrupt my drive, I just kept going.

Autoroute 30 – Sainte-Hyacinthe to Vaudreuil

I’ll admit it – if I’m driving in this area after hours (as I usually do coming back from Quebec), I’ll gladly dive into the heart of Montréal Island.  Absent heavy traffic, the late-evening combo going from the 20 to the Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine Tunnel, then highway 40 going through Montréal is a fun drive.  But at 3pm on a Friday?  OH HELL NO.

So: As the traffic steadily built up throughout our approach to Montréal, I did the sensible thing and took the off-ramp to Highway 30, which circles the south shore of Montréal and links up again with the 401/417 without driving on Montréal Island.  This only recently (2012) became a possibility with the completion of the 3$ toll bridge over the Saint-Lawrence.  That segment ends with two bridges over the Saint-Lawrence, and a toll.

Autoroute 40 – Vaudreuil to the Ontario/Quebec border

This forty-kilometer stretch of highway is unremarkable, but it does have two places where you can stop.

The most noteworthy one is the government-built Rigaud rest area (exit 12), best for eastbound trips – it’s got a Saint-Hubert, Couche-Tard convenience store and gas station, plus an expansive tourist information area.  That’s where we stopped this time around even if we were westbound – my last stop back in November was well after hours, and I wanted to see it during the day.

But if you’re west-bound, there’s a just-as-good private rest stop at exit 17, the “Hudson Inn” with Pizza Hut, Subway and Burger King. Tim Horton is on the other side of the street, and there are two gas stations as well.

Highway 417 – Ontario/Quebec border to Ottawa

Well, that stretch of the road is a snore – and deservedly so: At this point, I wanted nothing more than an easy drive.  There are a few rest stops, but nothing big, compelling or fancy – and at that point, I just want to drive on.  (Although I did momentarily toy with the idea of stopping in Saint-Albert for cheese curds and poutine.)

The rest of the drive was particularly uneventful.  We made it back to Ottawa just in time for the dregs of the afternoon traffic on the Queensway, but nothing major.  We were home a few minutes before six o’clock.

And that’s it for the trip.  We had a lot of fun, saw plenty of things, and still had enough left over for us to go back.  As for me, I’ve made a few notes as to what to change or update in my road trip planning.  A few adjustments in my packing, quite a few more photos during the trip (I’ve clearly lost touch), a more reasonable idea of what I can expect now that it’s a decade after my last big trips.  Fortunately, there’s Toronto nearby to help put all of these in practice already!