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6 best things on a Canada cruise.
Historic cities, grandiose landscapes and flamboyant nature: from Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, fragments of France off the coast of Newfoundland, to cosmopolitan Montreal, a trip to Canada is the promise of unforgettable memories. Here are the six "must-see" of our cruise on the St. Lawrence River, a spectacular adventure between fresh and salt water.
2020 marks the 500th anniversary of the discovery, by the Portuguese sailor José Alvarez Faguendes, of a string of islands that he christened the "Archipelago of the Eleven Thousand Virgins". Sixteen years later, the Saint-Malo sailor Jacques Cartier took possession of it in the name of King Francis I. He renamed it "Sainct Pierre" and Basque, Breton and Norman fishermen were the first settlers. They founded the town of Saint-Pierre and joined the Acadians to populate the island of Miquelon. A fragment of France off the coast of Newfoundland, the archipelago of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, with landscapes shaped by erosion, has a rich geological heritage and offers splendid scenery: imposing cliffs and vast plains, ponds, moors and lagoons, trails and forests constitute a small paradise of biodiversity. Here deer and wild horses, birds of all kinds, seals and little penguins, whales and dolphins live side by side. A trip to Saint Pierre and Miquelon is also the discovery of French gastronomy from the end of the world, which harmoniously combines the products of the land and those of the sea.
A trip to Quebec City takes the guest to a warm, authentic and charming city. It is here, in the heart of the old city where Samuel Champlain built the first dwellings in 1608, that the cradle of French America is located. The cobbled streets of Lower Town are imbued with an incomparable charm and on Place Royale stands the picturesque Notre-Dame-des-Victoires, one of the oldest stone churches in North America. The Upper Town also exalts a rich heritage. Overlooking the city and the St. Lawrence River, the Dufferin Terrace, a 425-metre-long belvedere, offers a breathtaking view. The famous Château Frontenac, a sumptuous building with a unique architectural style, has been the emblem of Old Québec for 125 years and is one of the most photographed hotels in the world. Nearby, on Cap Diamant, is the citadel, a true historical jewel. This gigantic fortress, erected on the highest natural point in Québec City, is home to the Royal 22nd Regiment Museum.
Montreal, a cosmopolitan city in perpetual motion, happily combines tradition and modernity. The second most populous city in Canada (4 million inhabitants with its urban area) and the second largest French-speaking city in the world after Paris, was founded in 1642 by Paul de Chomedey de Maisonneuve and Jeanne Mance. The memory of the first settlers of the New France still lives on in Old Montreal, a district of character that is home to the imposing Notre-Dame Basilica, the Seminary of Saint-Sulpice as well as the Bonsecours Market and its majestic dome. You will also find the very lively Place Jacques Cartier, as well as the City Hall, on whose balcony, in 1967, General De Gaulle launched his famous phrase, "Vive le Québec libre! » (Long live the Free quebec). The highest point in the city, Mount Royal, also known as "the mountain", is the lung of the city, with its immense park laid out in 1876 by the creator of Central Park. Around it, a cheerful bohemian atmosphere reigns, with numerous restaurants and bistros. A trip to Montreal offers a thousand other attractions, from the Biodôme to the Pointe-à-Callière Museum, the Old Port, the Botanical Garden and the Olympic Stadium.
The Saguenay Fjord is a must-see on a cruise on the St. Lawrence and offers an exceptional panorama, with its immense rocks shaped by the passage of glaciers, its steep shores and its picturesque villages. More than one hundred kilometres long, this valley of glacial origin, invaded by the sea, is the longest fjord in the world, where splendid shores, steep cliffs and hanging valleys follow one another. Magnificent scenery sculpted by the forces of nature. The fjord is home to an exceptionally rich flora and fauna. In the heart of the yellow birch fir forest, conifers dominate the landscape and a myriad of birds can be observed, including the rare peregrine falcon. Moose, wolves, lynx and beavers can be observed here, as well as seals, beluga whales, rorquals and blue whales. The Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park is an ideal place for a family trip to Canada. It remains one of the best whale-watching spots in the world and the village of Tadoussac, the first French settlement in North America (founded in 1600) nestled in a magnificent bay, has earned its worldwide renown.
Millennia ago, the Amerindians of the Micmac tribe came here to fish for seals. In the heart of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the Magdalen Archipelago includes a dozen islands with picturesque names: Grande Entrée Island, Grosse Île, Île du Havre aux Maisons, Île aux Loups, Île aux Cochons... It is impossible not to fall under the spell of this magnificent place, its magnetic scenery and its warm inhabitants, Magdalen Islanders and Magdalen Islanders of Acadian origin, known for their sense of hospitality. The archipelago is a festival of colours, between the blue of the ocean, the green of the valleys, the blond sand of the long beaches and the red sandstone of the vertiginous cliffs. It's also the unforgettable experience of a boreal adventure that's life-sized and timeless, with landscapes of unspoiled beauty that can be explored on foot, by bicycle or by kayak. The Magdalen Islands remain very attached to their culture, which can be discovered in numerous museums and in their traditions (the sandcastle competition has been an unmissable event for over thirty years). Finally, its gastronomy is renowned, from tasty lobster to old-fashioned smoked herring, not to mention Pied-de-Vent, a unique cheese with a taste of the Islands.
Quebec is a gourmet destination and its cuisine, as delicious as it is varied, is a true art of living. While preserving its traditions, it has been able to integrate various influences, reflecting its cultural diversity, thus offering the best of all worlds. Whether traditional or creative, served in a starred restaurant, a country table or a sugar shack, Quebec gastronomy promises a famous sensory experience. Of course, you can enjoy lobster or any other refined dish, but popular cuisine is also worth the detour. Its most typical dish? Poutine, of course, which even has its annual festival. Crispy French fries and cheddar cheese granules, topped with a hot brown sauce that melts it all: this is the star of the popular meal, which can be revisited in a thousand ways by adding other ingredients. Like poutine, other dishes warm the heart and the body: baked beans, "tourtière" (meat-stuffed pie), "pâté chinois" (a kind of shepherd's pie) or pea soup. In Montreal, bagels and smoked meat sandwiches are at the top of the list. Finally, what would the "Belle Province" be without its maple syrup? This ingredient is inseparable from Quebec cuisine and is used in an inventive way, from the starter to the dessert, to the delight of young and old alike.
Discover our Canada cruises on the St Lawrence River
Written by Thierry Hubac