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Itinerary Help!

Connecticut
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Itinerary Help!

Hi Canada Experts!

I need some help planning a road trip in May or June. We definitely want to visit both Quebec City and Montreal and would like to drive to Nova Scotia too if we have time.

Can someone help me with driving times? How many days do you think we would need to visit all 3 places and and how many should we spend in each place? Should we spend more time in one place vs another etc.. I am thinking a 9 or 10 days trip..

Also we like luxury accomodations any reccomendations you can make about where to stay that is 4-5 star in best area would be helpful too.

Thanks,

Sun

Ottawa, Canada
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1. Re: Itinerary Help!

Hi Sunryz710,

Welcome to the MONTREAL TRAVEL FORUM.

Sounds like a great trip. You should be in for a lot of fun, and some great sightseeing.

I did a little playing around with GOOGLE MAPS (a great Trip Planning tool by the way to use in conjunction with TA)... and just plotting your points of interest comes out to 1,841 Miles (and a Driving Time* of 33 Hours). That is routing that includes CT - Montreal - Quebec City - and Halifax (thru NB) and then back to CT (via the Ferry at St John and thru Maine, NH and Mass).

*NOTE - Driving Times are just that... times spent driving not accounting for things like Stops, Breaks, Sightseeing, nor Delays caused by Traffic, Construction or Weather.

Now if you add in some serious sightseeing in Nova Scotia (Cape Breton, Annapolis Valley and Bay of Fundy) and this trip can easily come in at 2,400 Miles and close to 2 Days (48 Hours of Driving Time).

As a basic calculation I would count on a minimum of 2 Days in Montreal, 3 in Quebec City, and 2 more in Halifax... so we are already at 7 Days and that isn't accounting for the Driving.

Here on the CANADA TRAVEL FORUMS we typically advise Travellers to plan on 2 to 3 Weeks per our geographic regions... in this case you are combining 2 (Quebec and the Maritimes)... PLUS in my mind you are selling yourself short... why travel all this way and skirt-right by Prince Edward Island? It is by far one of the MUST SEES when it comes to the Maritimes.

I agree with JDP112456 who has replied to this same Question in the QUEBEC CITY TRAVEL FORUM... select one region (Province of Quebec or The Maritimes and focus on that). Even then with just 9 or 10 days you won't be able to see it all.

Hope this is helpful,

Cheers!

Wine-4-2

Connecticut
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2. Re: Itinerary Help!

Very helpful.. thanks.. I will probably have more questions as I narrow things down.

Montreal, Canada
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3. Re: Itinerary Help!

Actually I will say that you did right by posting on both Mtl and Qc City forums since the provincial ones are not read by all contributors, that is even if your query was extending farther than the sole cities or province. I don't know if you also posted on the Halifax or the province of Nova-Scotia ones but anyways I totally agree that you are overtesting your stamina over such a trip, as all other contributors stated.

Of course Nova-Scotians will preach for their parish and I will do for mine but, anyways, I will give you some hints...

Maritimes Provinces, including Nova-Scotia are much more quaint and close to the sea but the sea temperature is really not what anybody coming from more hospitable climates will qualify as nice. Halifax is a very nice small old city with many historical buildings but a good chunck of it has been wiped out by an explosion during WW I. Louisbourg fortress is really impressive but is a total reconstitution of the original (as most part of your Williamsburgh are). Crossing the Confederation bridge going to PEI is amazing and this island is absolutely charming (think Anne of Green Gables and Road to Avonlea on TV) and Cape Breton Island really has beautiful natural scenery.

If you choose the province of Qc, possibly with side trips close by in Ontario, you will find less impressive scenery in the plain of Saint-Lawrence but very interesting ones in Charlevoix, the Gatineau and Laurentians and the 1000 Islands. If you are looking for a different kind of culture the province will fill the bill as being so majoritarly French but without the attitude and always with a possibility to get along in English.

Québec City is really the "grande dame" of old cities in North-America and cannot be beaten, you will really feel like being in a small town with a beautiful location in France. Nearby starts the Charlevoix region along the mighty Saint-Lawrence river with so many stunning places and you could go as far as Tadoussac for whale watching or cruise on the Saguenay Fjord.

Montreal is a big North-American city but much more lively at the core than almost any other US cities of the same size or larger. Also the cool and relax without being lazy atmosphere is easy to feel and appreciate, heck this "bon temps" has even rubbed deeply on our important anglophone minority. There are many sights around and a lot of special festivals, although May/ early June is not the really big time for those, that is except for the Grand Prix race week when the town is overwelmed with free spenders and hotels are charging the max and upscale restaurants are overbooked. If you like this kind of car racing that should be the time to come (race will be held on June 13) but otherwise you should avoid it. Oh, yes; Mtl has also a historical section but you sould plan to visit it before Qc since it is much less impressive but has a few must see attractions.

A nice loop can also be added by going trough the Laurentian mountains to Mont-Tremblant, then Montebello, then Gatineau and the steam train trough the Gatineau park and then across the river in Ottawa and finally the 1000 islands. Ottawa in fact is a quiet but very interesting city with lots of museums around and also all the garnments of a national capital but set so close to nature that it is almost incredible.

Finally if you want to splurge you could be sybaritic on a budget here. Yes our more upscale hotels and restaurants are definetely lower priced than in any other large North-American cities and the countryside options still beating most of other rural areas. Another thing is that the B&Bs have not all been converted to chi chi places, many still retains the original purpose, but, on the other hand, we have an incredible amount of small very upscale hotels offering a wide range of activities and always fine dining which even the most overdecorated B&B cannot offer. Of course we also have Grand Hotels like the most photographed one in the world, Fairmont Château Frontenac in Qc. In Mtl there are also quite a few top end boutique hotels with georgous modern designs (even if most are located in historical buildings). All in all for a splurge you will get a bigger kick for your money than almost everywhere else in North-America except Halifax and the Maritimes... But choices will be much more wide ranging here.

In fact i could write you a full ittinerary right away but I will refrain since you must first choose between Québec and the Maritimes. Also if you decide to come here and even if I mentioned that the provincial forums were not so heavily read, I will suggest that for over the province or complete ittinerary you post on the Province of Québec forum since the bunch of regulars will be able to answer your queries or refer you. As for specific questions about attractions, you can post them on the specific cities forums.

Finally it is a shame that you cannot have a full 2 weeks since I could have suggested a tour of the whole Gaspé Peninsula in a trip to this province. That's where you will find the most stunning scenery on the Atlantic East Coast.

Montreal
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4. Re: Itinerary Help!

It's sad that the maritimes are so darn far, it's true...

Another option for a road trip that's still ocean-like, which rickb mentioned, would be the Saguenay region north of Québec -- very impressive with mountains and fjords and great vistas and beaches and seaside towns and whale watching. As you get further out, people start referring to the St. Lawrence as the sea, and you'll find both freshwater and saltwater fish as the freshwater of the river mix with the ocean. It's not quite the quaint Nova Scotia coastline, but it's still charming and a LOT closer. You may want to do a loop and take the ferry across from St-Siméon to Rivière-du-loup and head back along the old route for more variety.

Another great region to see would be the Eastern Townships -- it's has lots of lakes and litte towns and hills and mountains and farms and back roads, so a lot more varied terrain than the St. Lawrence valley, and prettier (in my opinion) than the endless forests of the Laurentians. Plus, there's a lot of English mixed throughout, so you get a break from your dictionary and sign language.

For all your road trip options in Québec, I say check out these suggested country routes at bonjourquebec.com/qc-en/routescircuits0.html

As well, as a proud Montrealer, I would of course say spend more than 2 days here, and I'd reverse the minimum days between Québec and Montreal. Oh, I love Québec city and it does indeed have a lot to offer tourists, such as its incredibly beautiful old town and some impressive nature close by. But Québec's beauty hides its other reality: a fairly conservative government town of 700,000. Montreal, in contrast, is Canada's 2nd largest city at 3.6 million, and what a city at that! It's rough around the edges, but very interesting and cosmopolitan and sophisticated and vibrant yet somehow very relaxed -- plus despite its size, it remains human-scale and very easy to explore.

Whatever you decide, be sure to be in Montreal for a weekend when it positively sizzles :)

Connecticut
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5. Re: Itinerary Help!

Wow! You have all been tremendously helpful!

I have decided to limit my trip to Montreal.Quebec City Area.. rather than including Nova Scotia. I really need help though..

The suggestions you are giving about little areas outside of these two cities sound amazing.. but I have no idea where to start.

Tristou,you mentioned the Saguenay region... where would be a good place to stay?

Rick you mentioned you can help with an itinerary. I would love any help you all can provide to get me started. I reallly want to book somthing asap.

A question:

Do you think it is better to come in June vs May weather wise? I really was trying to keep it to around May 13-22nd if it makes sense around weather etc.

A little about us and what we are looking for. We like to stay in luxury type places. We are a couple in our late 30s and would be looking to relax, unwind see the sites.. feel like we are in a foreign country... good restaurants and pubs are great.. we would like to drink beers and eat good food while on vacation.

We enjoy wildlife so would love opportunities to see it..really just want to see canada really enjoy scenary. I took lots of french in school so think I could communicate a little..

We are not afraid to drive so if it makes sense to stay in once place and take day trips that would work.. is there a central place?

Does it makes sense to see both cities or use one as a base.. ?

Wine 4 2 mentioned a wildlife park that sounded fun but in the other direction..

I also saw a park (can't remember the name at the moment) north of QC that was a waterfall and gorge.. whale watching sounds fun.. anything on a boat is awesome..

Can you help me figure out where are we should stay..? Names of quaint smaller towns that would be of interest.. specifically on the water as Tristou mentioned..

Okay sorry for rambling.. I am just exicted and would love to map something out to start planning.. Thanks for any help you can provide.

Sun

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6. Re: Itinerary Help!

Sunryz look upTadoussac, a name I came across early on in my research for our upcoming trip, as we are also heading to Quebec province, in August in our case. It's where the Saguenay Fjord meets the St Lawrence (and you may even see belugas from the shore!). Amazingly my husband mentioned to a colleague here in Barcelona that we were going to eastern Canada and he mentioned Tadoussac straightaway as he's been there!!

The experts had already given me similar pointers (post on Tadoussac, Quebec, Montreal) but I have seen a few more ideas in this thread. The bonjourquebec itineraries are great too (the whole website is).

Edited: 20 January 2010, 18:27
Montreal
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7. Re: Itinerary Help!

May is still cool and the trees have no leaves until closer to the end of the month, so end of May and early June would be a better time to come -- especially since you'll be driving around and perhaps to northern regions or higher elevations where the trees come in even later.

Well, the best place for luxury as you head out to the Saguenay river just before it, technically in the Charlevoix region: the Fairmont Manoir Richelieu in La Malbaie. And as you go there, Baie St-Paul and Ste-Irénée are cute. There are a few others around, too, but the population is pretty sparse, so if you want to do village hopping, my original suggestion of the Eastern Townships really is the best.

Instead of giving you a list of villages, why not go to www.beauxvillages.qc.ca/website_english.htm for a few previews of what's around -- they also have some suggested tours in the different regions to help you plan your trip, much like the Québec tourisme site.

As for eating good food: well, in Montreal you'll have no problem. Québec City is more hit-and-miss. And outside of the main cities, it can require a little hunting. But don't dispair -- there are indeed some fantastic restaurants to be found, even in small little villages. the best trick I've found is to plan your stops BEFORE you're absolutely ravenous so that instead of choosing the closest greasy spoon out of desperation, you get to wander around the town a bit and find the creative coffee shop-bakery-restaurant that's the local jewel and actually serves espresso.

But even if you don't find it (or the town doesn't have one), you're in luck since Québec has some local takes on bad diner specialities that you can try out such as poutine (french fries with gravy and cheese curds), chinese macaroni (with beef and soy sauce) or hot chicken sandwiches (white bread, chicken, and gravy poured on top, with a side of very overcooked peas and mashed potatoes). Ahh, fine dining indeed.

Connecticut
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8. Re: Itinerary Help!

Tristou, thanks again! I have to tell you that the food you described sounds terrible! The hotel in La Malbalie looks good better than the other ones i was looking at earlier today in Tadoussac. I was worried looking at the little shacks offered as hotels.. :)

Anyway, would La Malbaie be a good place to be based to explore? How far is it from Quebec City? I also read about taking a ferry and driving a loop? Do you know hoe long it takes to drive that loop and if there are any towns to stay in over there that have nice hotels?

I do think if we do this trip we will wait until July. I would like to see whales and also it would be nice if a little warmer..

Right now, I am thinking 3 nights in Montreal, 2-3 nights in Quebec City and then maybe 3 nights in La Malbaie I am sure I will adjust many times before I settle in.

I really appreciate all your help! The websites you reccomended are perfect!

Thanks again!

Sun

Montreal
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9. Re: Itinerary Help!

For being based somewhere and exploring: La Malbaie isn't really the best -- in fact, there are very few regions in Canada with enough towns and such to make exploring that way very much fun: you end up driving back along the same roads for hours on end, seeing the same little towns. The only regions I know of that are interesting enough for that would be the Eastern Townships and Southern Ontario (although the latter is pretty much just flat boring farmland).

I'd it's better to do a few big loops as mentioned such as Ottawa-Montebello or Laurentians from Montreal, or La Malbaie and Tadoussac from Québec, perhaps coming back through the Eastern Townships. It means you'll have to stay in a few different places -- but perhaps a bit of research will turn up some beautiful B&Bs in these little villages.

For times, I suggest you do a little exploring with Google Maps using the Get Directions link -- it shows that Québec to La Malbaie is 1h40 minutes, to Tadoussac is about 3 hours for example, so you can figure out the distances and times that way.

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10. Re: Itinerary Help!

Hello again!

Definetely mid May is still a bit of the shoulder season with no leaves on the trees etc. End of May and early June are perfect, at least around Mtl since the farther north you drive (in fact northeast) the later spring and summer happens.

One thing that you might also learn is that spring under these latitudes is really something lasting like 3 weeks. Gardeners will tell you that we don't plant anything outside until Victoria Day, which is one week before your Memorial Day, but by June 15 it is usually already summer (not the case for the last 2 years but let's hope for this one). So there is a riot of blooming and growing in that short span of time. Things that can take 3 months to happen in Delaware happens here in 3 weeks. For me it is the ideal time (except if you are in Mtl during the Grand Prix).

You must also be aware that after June 20 and until mid-Agust the weather can be almost tropical, with a lot of days in the 90sF with almost 100% humidity. Also contrarly to the Caribbean for example, very often temperatures don't abate after sunset, no nice breeze and it can still be 85F at 3 a.m.! This always comes as a shock for foreigneirs that think that we might have snow until August!

So if you come in July you will see a lot more tourists (may be too many in Qc), will have much hotter weather that could even be sometime uncomfortable but that will be the full fledged festivals season and Qc will presents it's two nightime special attractions that are really worth the trip.

Very late May until around June 20 not so many festivals and special events (except Grand Prix week), the temperature mild and everything in bloom (although we might have some cold rainy days) but you should visit the south of the province first before heading to Qc and the northeast where everything happens like one week later. Sooo... your pick!

I should stop at that for the moment except that before doing a kind of ittinerary for you I would like to know if it will be really 9 nights and days in our province or are you counting one day to drive here and another to drive back in your 9 days. Then you will only have a full week with us and I will have to tighten my proposed ittinerary.

I would also like to know if you would like to visit Ottawa and the 1000 Islands, both can be done as day trips from Mtl but with only 3 nights in town it doesn't leave so much for really exploring Mtl.

Finally I suggest that right away you place some queries on the Montreal, Québec, Tadoussac, La Malbaie (for Charlevoix area) forums for lodging suggestions, you already stated that you were looking for luxury but you could elaborate a bit more on that: plush and comfy, small hotels, grand hotels, design boutique hotels, gourmet "relais", etc. If you like the idea of one night in Otta you could post both on the Gatineau forum in the prov of Qc and also Otta in the prov of Ontario forums. Considering the limited time frame I will suggest 1000 islands only as a day trip and, as cute as they can be, skip the Eastern townships that are not at all in the same general orientation as the other places.

'Till later!