There are some encounters with Mother Nature that last a lifetime. Watching a Whale burst through water’s surface is one such incredible experience. The province of Quebec in Canada is one of the best places on Earth for Whale Watching. Head towards the St Lawrence River which is teeming with 13 species of Whales attracted by shellfish. Go get a life!
Quebec is a blend of magnificent natural beauty, abundant flora & fauna and a rich cultural heritage. Did you know that Dickens, Kipling, Twain, Thoreau, Henry James, Walt Whitman and Conan Doyle are just a few authors whose writings were influenced by their stay in Québec!
Ever since Jacques Cartier first explored it in the 16th Century, the St Lawrence River has become the lifeline for Quebecers. Over its 1,600-km (995-mi.) trajectory, the river broadens into an estuary and then a gulf that’s more like an inland sea. Every summer, 13 species of Whales visit the St. Lawrence River and that is the single biggest attraction of this region.
The best way to watch these gentle giants is on a Zodiac cruise in the Baie-Ste-Catherine area. Thanks to the special habitat created at the confluence of the Saguenay Fjord and St. Lawrence River, there is abundant food by way of krill & capelin to attract the Whales. It is interesting to note that tides have an influence on the distribution of fish and plankton. And these Whales actually are intelligent enough to adjust their behavior to feed efficiently!
This region is home to the Blue Whale, the largest mammal on earth at 82 feet! Other key inhabitants are the Fin Whales, the second largest Whale species, Belugas, the small arctic Whales, Porpoises and Dolphins. It is truly awesome to see the giants of the sea in their habitat.
There is a lot of research work is happening in the St Lawrence area towards conservation of Whales. Researchers are trying to find answers to questions like the following
Do Beluga Whales have friends?
Is their immune system still intact?
Why do Blue Whales pair up during fall?
Is it possible to do a pregnancy test on them!
Despite having shared a long history with whales, we still know very little about them. Yet their survival depends on our knowledge about them and more importantly on our will to act.
The Saguenay Fjord region overwhelms tourists with its beauty. It was formed four billions years ago during the geological formation of the Canadian Shield. The natives used to refer to it as the “road that walks”. It was an integral part of the Fur route during the colonial era. Today, it is best known as a Cruise destination. The Saguenay National Park is the crowning jewel of this area. It is home to 76 species o fishes like Speckled trout, cod, Atlantic redfish and the enigmatic Greenland shark. The fjord is also home to a wide variety of benthic marine organisms like starfish, sea urchins, marine worms, and gastropods.
Another obligatory visit would be Baie-Saint-Paul located on the delta of the Gouffre River. It is known for its art galleries, shops and restaurants. Artists like Clarence Gagnon, Marc-Aurèle Fortin, Jean-Paul Lemieux and Daniel Brunet have put it up on the international art map. The Paul's Museum of Contemporary Art situated in downtown Baie-Saint-Paul, is a good place to catch up on your Art lessons!
The best place to meet some artists would be at the Rêves d'automne, Festival of Landscape in Painting. It is the scene of numerous exhibitions and also hosts the National Painting Contest held every year as part of the Festival. For the symbolic price of $5, the Rêves d'automne badge lets you access all the Festival's activities. If you dig Classical music or Jazz, a visit to Le Domaine Forget International Festival held every summer will be worthwhile.
Quebec City has a striking resemblance to Europe with its charming old buildings, cobblestone streets and imposing stone walls. It is the only remaining walled city in North America, earning it a UNESCO World Heritage Site designation in 1985. The interpretation centre at the fortification site is a good place to start. You can either take a self tour or a guided one.
Fairmont le Château Frontenac is one of the most prominent landmarks of the city. This hotel has hosted luminaries like Grace Kelly, Alfred Hitchcock, Prince Rainier, Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt. In fact, several summit meetings between Churchill and Roosevelt were held here, resulting in strategies that helped the Allies win World War II.
Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec is a fine museum to visit for fine arts. The collection comprises of more than 20000 Québécois art pieces across 12 galleries.
Notre-Dame-des-Victoires is an interesting Church to visit. While it was built in 1690, it got its name in 1711 after the French defeated an English fleet. The interior work is impressive, featuring art work from different eras.
Basilica Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré is a popular pilgrimage centre. It is built in the shape of a Latin cross, using elements of both Gothic and Romanesque architecture. You will be impresses with its design comprising two soaring spires, white interior, elaborate naves and 200 intricately designed stained-glass windows.
Quebec has been featured in many Hollywood movies. Some of the more popular instances have been in "Taking Lives" with Angelina Jolie, Alfred Hitchcock's "I Confess" (largely filmed at the Fairmont Chateau Frontenac), the West German scenes in "Elvis and Me," and parts of "Eye of the Beholder" with Ashley Judd and Ewan McGregor.
For my travelogue on Cruising on Fjords of Norway, check Norwegian Fjord Cruise.
For my photoblog on Incredible India, please visit India Travel Pictures