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Camping Le Genévrier in Baie St. Paul , QB
Monday, August 16, 2010 - 2:30pm by Lolo
360 miles and 7 hours from our last stop - 1 night stay
Much to the boys’ chagrin, the border crossing went very smoothly—no RV searches or body pat downs. After a brief stop at Customs to exchange for $100 Canadian, we continued on our way towards Baie-Saint-Paul.
Our drive took us along Autoroute 40 on the northern shore of the St. Lawrence River from Montreal to Quebec City. After Quebec City, Autoroute 40 ended, but we continued along the river on Route 138 towards the Charlevoix region of Quebec.
Before reaching the village, we stopped at the visitor center, which sat atop a hill overlooking the village and the river. The views were wonderful. This is also the place we realized that our lack of French was going to be an issue. Unlike the cities of Montreal and Quebec City, most people in the more rural areas did not speak English, so this was going to be a challenge. I had spent the past few months using the Rosetta Stone program to try to learn French, but hearing the language rattled off at great speeds resulted in nothing more than a blank expression on my face. French is so beautiful because of the way its words just flow together, but for me that meant that I couldn’t distinguish one word from the next. I had a much easier time reading it than understanding it spoken. The information centers did, however, usually have at least one employee that spoke English.
Rather than turnoff into the village right away, we decided to check into our campground first and then bike back into town so that we didn’t have to deal with the issue of parking the RV. After all, the campground was only 3km further on Route 138, so how bad could that be. However, much to my disappointment, I had to agree with Herb that the road was not very bike friendly. Besides the fact that it was pretty hilly, which we could deal with, there was no shoulder, and trucks were whizzing by at very fast speeds. We would have to think about coming back by RV, but since we didn’t have a reservation, I wanted to at least go to the campground first to ensure that we had a place to stay for the night.
The campground was called le Genévrier and it was quite impressive. These people are very serious about their camping. There are over 400 campsites, most of which seemed to be permanent. I think people from Quebec City used this campground as a sort of summer retreat. There was a lovely little lake for swimming and 15 km of mountain biking trails. This was perfect for us, because whenever we stop we have to find a place for the boys to run. They are both college cross country runners, so finding a place for their daily training is always a challenge on our trips.
The campground was so nice, that we decided to not even try to go back into town today, but to just enjoy the trails. After driving all day, Herb wanted to relax, but I decided to follow the boys on their run on my mountain bike. I thought that with the mechanical advantage of wheels, I would have no trouble keeping up. Boy, was I wrong. These were pretty serious trails, with many hills and twisty turns, and some very serious mountain bikers along the way. I soon found myself falling behind. The boys found a way for this to work. Whenever we approached a steep hill, they would take turns holding on to my bike seat to give me a little help motoring up the hill. I never flew up hills so fast. At first I told them I didn’t want their pity, but soon I found myself calling to them whenever another hill loomed before me. We had a great time.
I do, however, not like when my pre-trip plans don’t unfold as I had envisioned. Here we were, technically in Baie-Saint-Paul, but I hadn’t even set foot in the village yet, and tomorrow we were scheduled to continue on to the Isle-aux-Coudres. We decided on a compromise. Since we would have to come back this way on our return, we would spend time wandering around the town then.
The Charlevoix region is the cultural and historic heart of the province of Quebec—an area of farms and charming villages as well as dramatic landscapes. Baie-Saint-Paul is the first of those charming villages that one encounters when driving north on Route 138. Before reaching the village, there is a Visitor Center, high atop a hill with wonderful views of the village and the river below. To get to the heart of town, turn off Route 138 onto the main street through the village, the rue Saint-Jean-Baptiste.
Baie-Saint-Paul is an eccentric town filled with art galleries and museums, sort of the “Soho” of Quebec. There are several galleries and small museums displaying the works of local painters and artisans. The Centre d’Art (4 rue Ambroise-Fafard) has a permanent exposition of 20 Charlevoix painters (admission is free), and the Centre d’Exposition (23 rueAmbroise-Fafard) has three floors of contemporary and modern art (admission at the time of this writing is $3 for adults and $2 for students). One can also visit the Laiterie Charlevoix-Economusee du Fromage, a cheese-making factory. There are dozens of interesting restaurants and cafés as well to stop for a pleasant meal or coffee and watch the people stroll by.
There is camping just 3 km away at Camping Le Genévrier (1175 boulevard Mgr-De Laval), an enormous family-oriented campground with over 400 sites. The campground has a small lake for swimming and 15 km of biking trails along the Rivière de la Mare.
Camping Le Genévrier in Baie St. Paul location map