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Day 1: Quebec City
One of the oldest, and loveliest European settlements in North America, Québec takes its name from the Algonquin word meaning ‘where the river narrows.' The city that Champlain founded in 1608 was the capital of New France, and later, British North America. Today, the proud capital of the province of the same name boasts the old-world charms of Vieux Quebec, the world-famous Chateau Frontenac hotel, and the only remaining intact citadel walls in North America. Cultural riches, superb cuisine, and an incredible view over the river make Québec the perfect place to begin our voyage!
Day 2: Fjord du Saguenay
Home to Aboriginal cultures for thousands of years, the Saguenay Fjord's first European visitor was Jacques Cartier in 1532. The Saguenay drains fresh water from Lac St. Jean, but the greater part of its volume is salt tidal water from the St. Lawrence Estuary. The result is ideal habitat for marine mammals including four species of whales – fin, minke, blue, and the famous (endangered) Saguenay beluga population. Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park and Saguenay Fjord National Park both protect the region's vast natural riches.
Day 3: Le Bic Prov Park
It's easy to forget Quebec is a coastal province – but not at Parc National du Biq. Watching the seabirds swoop and dive, viewing seals basking in rocky coves, or basking in the region's glorious sunsets, the spirit of the Atlantic Ocean is ever-present. Salt marshes and rocky hills define the park, located on the South Shore of the St. Lawrence. Aboriginal artifacts dating to 5000 BC attest to the region's natural riches; many such artifacts are now preserved in the park's interpretive centre. Walking trails give access to Le Bic's unique landscapes; birding and wildlife opportunities abound.
Day 4: Havre-Saint-Pierre / Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve
Due north of Anticosti Island on the North Shore of the St. Lawrence, Havre-Saint-Pierre has a unique history. The village was settled in 1857 by a group of Acadian deportees from Georgia, by way of Magdalene Islands. The local dialect retains strong elements of Acadian French to this day.
Day 5: Anticosti Prov Park
A huge island in the very mouth of the St. Lawrence River, Anticosti Island is known for its breathtaking scenery and extraordinary birdwatching opportunities. Larger than P.E.I, Anticosti is the twentieth-largest island in Canada by area, but has a human population of only a few hundred. By contrast, more than 160,000 non-indigenous white-tailed deer make their homes on Anticosti – rightfully known as a hunter's paradise. It's also a great spot for birds: 60 per cent of Quebec's known bald eagle breeding grounds are here, and more than 220 species of birds have been sited at Anticosti, along with numerous seals and whales.
Day 6: Forillon Nat'l Park / Gaspé
The Gaspe Peninsula, also known as Gaspesie, separates the mouth of the St. Lawrence from the Baie de Chaleur. Dominated by high cliffs on the north shore, the Gaspe includes the eastern tip of the Appalachian Mountain chain and consequently offers amazing views, both of, and from its highland regions, which jut above the treeline.
Day 7: Île Bonaventure Prov Park / Percé
Parc national de l'Île-Bonaventure-et-du-Rocher-Percé is the formal name of the Park at the eastern tip of the Gaspe Peninsula. But most Canadians are more familiar with its best-known feature, the awe-inspiring Percé Rock. Less well known perhaps is the area's superb Northern Gannet colony, extolled as the largest and most accessible in the world.
Day 8: Iles-de-la-Madeleine
Long frequented by Mi'kmaq people, likely walrus hunters, the Magdalene Islands in the Gulf of St. Lawrence were first sighted by Europeans when Jacques Cartier sailed among them in 1534. Today, although closer to Nova Scotia and PEI, they form a regional municipality of the province of Quebec.
Day 9: Southern Coast of Newfoundland
You could be forgiven for not knowing the French history of Newfoundland: sections of the island's coastline changed hands multiple times, and the remnant communities have in general come a long way since they were unequivocally French. The name of the tiny outport of Francois, for example, is pronounced locally as ‘Fransway.' Accessible by boat only, this charming fishing village surrounded by spectacular cliffs offers a glimpse of a way of life that has largely disappeared.
Day 10: Saint Pierre-et-Miquelon, France
On a trip that traces the history and geography of New France, it's appropriate that we wind up… in France. The small islands of Saint Pierre and Miquelon remain officially a part of the French Republic, albeit only a few dozen km off the shore of Newfoundland.
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