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Eric: St. Lawrence River
The Towns on The
Saint Lawrence River:

The Charms on the Chains

By Nancy & Eric Anderson
Photography by Authors

he St. Lawrence River runs from its headwaters roughly 2350 miles, a relatively insignificant number (versus the Nile’s 4180), but the value of this river belies its length. From Québec City alone 1,000 ships laden with lumber leave its harbor every year. From minerals to maple syrup, from wood and paper to frozen fish, they all stream east while resources from the Old World sail west up this eminently navigable waterway. As “Egypt is a Gift From the Nile” so the St. Lawrence channels life as well as resources to French Canada.

Visitors curious about what lies along the banks of such a river find, like pearls on a necklace, a string of small cities -- cities that, in contrast to the medieval towns along the Danube or the Rhine, are comparatively recent human settlements; Montreal, for example, did not have a foot on the ground until 1676. Those places are all French-speaking and culturally similar. Vive la France! seems to be their song. Yet, they are individually unique, all different – and proud of the difference. Each seems to have a special je ne sais quoi, either a natural creation put on the land by our Maker or something built up by Man. Four of our ports of call are even members of the 35-strong Association of the Most Beautiful Villages of Québec.

This is surely a place where people, in different directions, look in wonder. The passengers of our gorgeous 132-cabin ship, for example, are staring at towering rocks that could be from a strange lunar landscape even as the residents on shore are gazing in appreciation at Le Boréal and marveling at its beauty. The locals say they have never quite seen anything so small yet so elegant. But they do notice the ship is flying the Tricolor and immediately start to smile in welcome.

the Le Boreal, a cruise ship of the Companie du Ponant

The Compagnie du Ponant is the only cruise line sailing under the French flag. The line deliberately builds small ships because they can go anywhere and offer different cruise experiences to travelers who have cruised widely before.

Magdalen Islands

The Magdalen Islands were formed, our guide says, during an ice age 70,000 years ago. They have been created simply by the constant erosion of the red sandstone cliffs and are essentially long sand dunes. And populated with residents, we think, who must be scared stiff by the prospects of global warming. Yet the people are clearly a hardy lot: in winter snow storms and fog, individual cars travel the low lying highways in convoys, and residents welcome the waters freezing as the ice protects their shore line from further erosion.

scenes from the Magdalen Islands: the Le Boreal of the Companie du Ponant at the Magdalen Islands, coastal scene showing eroding red sandstone cliffs and a fisherman on a boat

The 13,000 or so residents of the seven inhabited islands enjoy an uncomplicated life not all that different from its beginnings when some Acadians managed to escape the Royalist deportations of 1755 and find their way here. The economy is still dominated by fishing although tourism is becoming important. Visitors can check out the second largest wooden church in North America in Lavernière, or a long-established herring smoke house in Havre-aux-Maisons, or a simple village museum at Site d’Autrefois created by a lobster fisherman who nearly died in a shipwreck.

Percé

It’s easier for visitors to get a grip on Percé, it’s more compact with a smaller population of about 3,500 hardy souls (Southern Californian writers tend to see any population that has to endure winter as “hardy” and in fact, residents of this little village at the tip of the Gaspé Peninsula say their winters are milder than Montréal’s. The sea warms then to a degree in winter.)

scenes from Perce: the enormous rock sheltering Perce's harbor, Perce coastal scene and the Charles Robin Company town store-turned tourist attraction

So here’s a little place with an enormous rock sheltering its harbor -- a rock that weighs 5 million tons even with that hole pierced in it, the hole that gives the place the name Percé. The sights include the scenery that has brought artists since the 1930s, the rock itself, the surrounding cliffs, the harbor and, four miles away, a general store that goes back to 1928 when codfish was king and the fishing industry flourished. Catholic France always had an enormous appetite for fish on Fridays and any colony that could easily send the mother country what it needed would prosper. The Charles Robin Company town store that gave endless credit to local fishermen -- and so indentured them for their lifetime -- ultimately failed when the seas were over-fished. A local barber bought the store but died of a heart attack trying to make a go of it. His two sons now run it as a tourist attraction as a tribute to their father.

Havre St. Pierre

You don’t have to poke about in the general store merchandise of the last century to find the charm in St. Pierre. It’s all around you along the shore line of the islands in its archipelago: the giant monoliths of what is now called the Mingan Archipelago National Park.

from top: the Le Boreal at St. Pierre; tourists admire the giant monoliths at the Mingan Archipelago National Park

You down size from your “mega-yacht” and take one of several 45-passengers boats to sail along the archipelago to reach a favorite island, Niapiskau. Some of the immense rocks look like whales or turtles, some like human faces one even like Richard Nixon. And of course, St. Pierre has an old country store, too, one that is now an interesting museum.

Tadoussac

Tadoussac is a delightful compact walk-able town with its friendly people, its Victorian hotel (used for the location of the movie Hotel New Hampshire), its replica of a fur trading post – and La Chapelle des Indiens, the oldest wooden church in North America. Originally built in 1747 and restored in 1880, it stands still functioning, on its walls some of the original religious items used in the Jesuits’ attempts to convert the Montagnais natives to Christianity.

top: Companie du Ponant's cruise ship Le Boreal at Tadoussac; bottom: La Chapelle des Indiens in Tadoussac

At the confluence of the St. Lawrence and Saguenay rivers, this is a beautifully situated town, on one of the only two in Canada of the World’s Most Beautiful Bays. It’s been there and prospered for a long time. The fur trade lasted from 1600 to 1859, the lumber industry from 1838 to 1897 and tourism from 1864 to today. Attractions for visitors include whale, bear and bird watching; boat excursions up the fjords of the great tributary of the St. Lawrence the Saguenay river, or strolling up to the charming Tadoussac Hotel, with its white washed walls and bright red roof, for afternoon tea. This is a great little place proud of what it offers and the informal winner amongst our passengers trying to choose the spot they might want to return to and visit another day.

Saguenay

About 75 kilometers up the river of the same name, Saguenay will always be remembered by Le Boréal passengers by the warmth of its welcome. We are a city, a fjord, a river – and a community, exclaims Nathalie Gandreault, a tourism assistant director. The population of Saguenay is 146,000 year round and for a moment it seems as if they are all at the harbor in period costume singing and dancing a welcome for us.

scenes from Saguenay: residents of Saguenay in period costumes singing and dancing a welcome for the Le Boreal and its guests, tourist observing a hut at the original New France settlement and a small boy attempting to climb a wall near a church

One of the shore excursions that passengers raved about was a show of regional history called La Fabuleuse put on with a cast of 200 volunteers – and animals. Other choices were to take the tour up to the original New France settlement that was established in the 1600s and reached its peak in 1712. The city itself is worth a walk and it is fun to watch a small boy attempt a climbing wall after he attended Mass – and a pleasure to understand his reply when we applaud his efforts at climbing. We applaud his reply, too when he tells us with a proud grin, he speaks English as well as French.

Maybe he’ll grow up one day to be an Anglophone tourist guide on this long-ranging river of top-ranking towns.

Related Articles:
Cruising the St. Lawrence River; Montreal; Canada's Queen Charlotte Islands; Nova Scotia; New Brunswick; Prince Rupert and Digby Island, BC; Victoria, BC


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Tell Eric what you think of his article.
In the meantime, here are some of the feedback we have already received:


Hey Eric and Nancy! As a fellow Traveling Boy journalist, and as a confirmed WW2 aficionado, just wanted you to know how much I loved your story on Arnhem. Really great stuff, and truly brilliant riveting writing.

I’ve been there twice and covered it on my KNX radio show when I was on LA radio, and your story and evocative photos brought back a ton of wonderful and poignant memories. This could have been an amazingly brilliant military operation – as you both know – that might well have ended the War in Europe maybe a year earlier. However, allied misreading -- and in my view disregarding certain aspects of the situation in Holland -- plus the fact that they dropped the paras over 3 days and not in one huge assault at night (and not in the day as they did) doomed the mission to failure.

Your clever words and great photos brought all this graphically to life, and it should be required reading for anyone interested in any aspect of WW2, and certainly should be read by today’s teenagers. Again Bravo and well done!!!!

John Clayton
Travel with A Difference

We just couldn't leave your website before saying that we genuinely enjoyed the high quality information you offer for your visitors... Would be back frequently to check up on new stuff you post!

Raanana

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What a fantastic write-up!

I could almost copy and paste most of your narrative verbatim as it reflects our fantastic experience with Fantasy Cruises almost to a tee. It was truly one of the greatest vacations my girlfriend and I have ever experienced.

Cheers!
Mike Richard, Editor, Vagabondish.com

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One of my dreams is to go to Alaska by way of cruise. This article very much intensifies the longing for that dream to come to fruition. I simply cannot wait much longer. And I will never again be able to think of a waterfall without picturing myself "nosing up" to it. Thank you for this intriguing, virtual journey.

Sandra Mines, Seattle, WA

Thank you for writing, Sandra. Alaska really is a wondrous place. Re "Nosing up" to a waterfall: we have a different article up at Physician's Money Digest on the same cruise (Small Ship Cruising: Alaska by the Back Door). The third last set of images there shows a crew member filling a jug of ice water from a waterfall while standing in the bow of the ship! Best wishes. Get there! To Alaska one day.

Eric & Nancy

Loved your photos from Alaska! Because I am the Director of Sales & Marketing for Westmark Hotels, I am up in AK and the Yukon quite often to visit our hotels and staff! But your pictures were so enjoyable-love to see the "real" Alaskans!

Heidi Howeiler, Seattle, WA

Hi Ms. Howeiler, That was kind of you to write and yes, you do see real people in Alaska, don't you? Alaskans always remind us off rural Texans or Australians in the isolated Red Centre of their country: hard working, sensible, rolled-up-sleeves people with no affectations. We love your Westmark hotels and we take our hats off to the person who started your company, Chuck West. What a great guy!

Eric & Nancy

Enjoyed your realistic and practical comments on Provence. Always wanted to go there ever since reading Peter Mayle's 2 books on Provence. But the two times I went to France, time was always short, so we spent our days in Paris. And now you say, it is losing its unique charm to tourism. (Sigh). It's always a choice between sharing beauty, and keeping it hidden. The world lurches on. Thanks for your thoughts.

Dette, Iligan City, Philippines

Hi Dette, (Would love to see all your waterfalls), Thank you for writing. Provence is busy in the tourist season but it hasn't lost all its charm or the quirkiness Mayle talks about in his book Provence A to Z. It's still a place to visit. Appreciate hearing from you. Best wishes.

Eric & Nancy

What a great article, especially regarding Louis XIV. I was not aware there was a contemporary account of his execution. It was fascinating. Thank you!

Celtic fan, Nashua, MA

Dear Celtic fan, Thanks for writing. I didn't know about the account of his execution either till I stumbled upon it. Sad to think that the French revolutionaries thought they could be both judge and jury. We are lucky to have a more elegant system today. Thanks for writing.

Eric & Nancy

Nancy and Eric,

Enjoyed reading your article on Santa Fe, NM. I was in AZ travel nursing in 2008 and 2009 and made it to Santa Fe. Took a lot of pics and really loved walking around the old town while I was there. Hope to be able to take the wife there in the future.

Brett Eidson, Soso, MS

Hi dude! Nice to see your site. It's beautiful. My congratulations.

New York

Hi New York, Thank you for writing. Best wishes.

Eric & Nancy

Hi www.travelingboy.com! Your web-site is very interesting and I want to tell www.travelingboy.com G'night.

New York

Dear New York,

Thank you for writing. Glad you find the site interesting. We are here for you. Keep visiting.

Eric & Nancy

* * * * *

This is all genuine. I will return to scan.

Keflavik

Hi Keflavik, Thank you for writing. We are happy you will return.

Eric & Nancy

Good article.

On Behalf Of Diane, Port Ludlow, WA

Thanks for writing from Port Ludlow. We hear that's a beautiful place. Best wishes.

Eric & Nancy

* * * * *

When I was hurt in a boat accident my life would be changed totally. I really don't post much but thanks for the good times I have here. Love this place. Long time lurker, thought I would say hello!

Miami

Dear Miami, Thanks for writing. It's nice to hear from you. Hope you are getting better. Glad you get some good times at Traveling boy. Good luck.

Eric & Nancy

* * * * *

Dear friends,

My name is Adelina. I am a 22 years girl from Italy. I was looking for a free translation software and I found one. Program's name is Babel Fish and it supports 75 languages. I installed it but I could not understand how to use it. I am not a computer expert. Can someone help me please on how to run this.The link is here :http://access.im/3/babelfish. I thank you very much for your help.

Adelina, Celaya

Adelina, I didn't want to download it but I saw examples online. It seemed easy. You select the page you want translated, copy it and paste it into the box. You then click on the button to translate. You may have to do one page at a time. You can also use Google to translate a page; that's what I do because I don't want to load too much software.

Eric & Nancy

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Amiable brief and this mail helped me a lot in my college assignment. Thanks you seeking your information.

WordPress Themes, Gray Mountain

We are glad to have been of help. Best wishes.

Eric & Nancy

* * * * *

What's up everyone? Great forum. Lots of lovely people. Just what I need. Hopefully this is just what i'm looking for. Looks like I have a lot to read.

Spanish John, Benidrom

Encouraging to get your feedback. Glad to hear from you. Thank you for writing.

Eric & Nancy

Nice dispatch (http://www.travelingboy.com/travel-eric.html) - and this enter helped me a lot in my college assignement. Thank you as your information.

Gray Mountain

Hi Gray Mountain,

Thank you for your comment. Your email reminds us all at TravelingBoy how important it is to be accurate in what we write. Good luck with your studies and have a great life.

Eric & Nancy

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Hello people, I just signed up on this splendid community forum and wanted to say hey there! Have a wonderful day!

Jacksonville

Hi Jacksonville, We are pleased to hear from new readers at TravelingBoy. Your feedback encourages us all to do better. Thank you for writing.

Eric & Nancy

* * * * *

What a fascinating bit of Russian history you wrote about! How sad to learn that 100,000 churches were reduced to create skating rinks and such during the revolution, after seeing the photo of the interior of a magnificent church filled with art! War is so devastating on so many levels! The art of their culture is so beautiful as is shown in the image of the painted box! Thank you,

Yoka, Westlake Village, CA

Dear Yoka,

Thank you for writing. Nancy is originally Lutheran and Eric is a dour Scot, more used to the frequently cold and often cheerless churches of his native land so we were both overwhelmed to see the beauty of Russian churches. It was kind of you to write, Yoka.

Thank you,
Eric & Nancy

Interesting observations.... Very informative and thought provoking. Questions.... What would be the best way to get from Moscow Airport DME to boat dock? taxi? prearranged limo? prepaid Viking Tours transfer? Any idea on cost and travel time for taxi or limo or Viking Cruise pickup from airport to boat? We shall be flying to Moscow on our own. Do you happen to have an address for the river boat dock that Viking Cruises uses in Moscow? I would be nice to Google map the situation. Thanks,

Robert Hopwood, Ottawa, Canada

Hi Bob,

Excuse the delay; we were on a trip. I do understand your question and will try and get you an answer. The Viking river dock in Moscow was for us in the north part of the city but once we were on the boat it was an easy ten minute walk to the Metro station that had us downtown within 30 minutes. I'm a lot more relaxed at the end of a trip than at the beginning and therefore I always feel taking the cruise-line sponsored trip from the airport to the dock makes sense: What starts right usually ends right.

Eric & Nancy Anderson

Hi Bob,

I’m back with more information. The river port’s address is Northern River Boat Station Leningradsky Prospekt, Khimki. If you Google that you will see it is about 15 minutes’ walk from two Metro stations. http://www.aptouring.com.au/files/documents/17/29022_Moscow2.pdf .

I spoke to Nancy at customer relations at Viking Cruises at the new LNR Warner Center in 5700 Canoga Avenue, Woodland Hills, Calif.

She was very helpful and advises you to take the Viking transportation service. She is biased, of course, but she’s right. Moscow DME airport is 40 miles away on the opposite side of the city, at least two hours driving time. The airport has no Metro station; you’d have to take the Aeroexpress train to Paveletsky station then change to the Metro and go to Rechnoy Vokzal station then take a cab to the port. A cab all the way from DME would cost at least 2000 rubles (more than $70). That’s less than the $60 each that Viking would charge…but…I think you’d be ill-advised to do it on your own. Why start the trip where the potential to screw up is so likely? Moscow taxi drivers are as dishonest as most tourist city cab drivers and probably yours won’t speak English. I think the address in Russian is

BUT...

I strongly discourage you from economizing on this and doing it on your own. Buy the transfer and save money somewhere else.

We have other Viking Volga web articles up at http://travelingboy.com/archive-travel-eric-russia.html and at http://www.ericandersonsworld.com/story.php?id=6LvDg.

Good luck. Great show Canada’s putting on for the Olympics!

Eric & Nancy Anderson

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

Reseller Hosting, London

Hi, Is it Britni Freeman?

Thank you, we think... We suspect your comments are valid. In fact we think all of us writing for TravelingBoy are starting to get into the swing of things and do a better job -- and your encouragement spurs us to do even better. Thank you for writing. Have a good 2010,

Eric & Nancy Anderson

Dear Nancy and Eric

Thank you so much for the wonderful article on statues in Europe. Statues are my favorite art form and your descriptions were delightful to read - knowledge and fun together. I do still wonder about that foot in Rome...

Peggy - Pasadena, CA

Hi Peggy,

Thank you for writing. We appreciate your comments. We used to be critical of people who can't identify the persons on statues in foreign cities -- until one day a tourist stopped us in our own San Diego and asked us, in vain, for details on a statue we'd never noticed before! We wonder about that Roman foot too. If Eric had stood any closer he'd be in his typical foot-in-mouth position.

Eric & Nancy Anderson

I live in Santa Fe and see and delight in it every day, but your writing makes it sparkle even more. How nice to see Santa Fe through your eyes. Great photos!

Cynthia Whitney-Ward - Santa Fe, NM

Dear Dr. Anderson:

I have followed your writing career for as long as I can remember, and I think the thing I enjoy the most about your travel writing is the sense of joy and discovery that leads the reader to anticipate ever corner you turn in your travels.What a delightful traveling companion you are, and I know have always been, with that wonderfully eternally youthful joie de vivre...I wonder:do you feel that East, West, home is best? And where IS that place you have never been, but want to go most of all,yet? Bring we, your devoted readers ever along!

CAT -- San Diego (Scrips Ranch), CA

Dear CAT,

Thank for taking the time to write to TravelingBoy.com. You are very kind. We don't know that travel writers make the best companions; we suspect they may be obsessed with getting the best photograph or may monopolize the guide with questions so that others don't get to ask what interests them. What place is best? Well, it may be fun to sit in a rickshaw in Beijing or try to master the Metro in Moscow, but -- as you imply -- it is good to get home after trips.

Home is as comfortable as a pair of old shoes and home for many of us fortunately contains family.

We've never been to Easter Island and may have missed the boat (no pun intended) there. The island is losing its innocence; we've seen that happen at Machu Picchu or, closer to home, at Lake Powell in Arizona. So maybe the best travel advice is: Go when you are fit and healthy, before rising prices make a destination inaccessible -- and before hordes of tourists ruin any destination's mystique.

With best Holiday Wishes from Traveling Boy,

Eric & Nancy Anderson

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What a fantastic primer on New York City. I think you have really captured its essence with this exciting overview of its offerings. Well done!

Gillian Abramson - New York

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You describe a city on wheels - er, wings - and an absolutely perfect way to travel. SHOWERS & FLOWERS! Amazing! I love that your passion for all-things-aviation comes through in this story about an almost unbelievable airplane. Thanks for breaking the news in such an engaging way!

Richard Frisbie - Saugerties, New York

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Enjoyed your blog on Romania. Noticed you called Bucharest "The Paris of the East." I wonder, is there any city not called "The Paris of something." I've read San Francisco is 'the Paris of the West,' Buenos Aires 'The Paris of South America,' and even Tromso, Norway 'The Paris of the Arctic.'

Terry Cowan - Fresno

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Hi Terry,

Thanks for writing to TravelingBoy. And thanks for educating me; I didn't know that about Tromso, didn't even know there was a Tromso. I heard Bangkok called the Venice of the East when I was there and, in two weeks, I'm heading for the Venice of the North, St. Petersburg, Russia.

It does become a bit silly, doesn't it? But we are originally an immigrant nation that was Eurocentric. Maybe it gave our forefathers confidence even courage when they took old names, old ideas to the New World with them. I know I feel nostalgic if I drive around Ontario, Canada and see all the British place names.

I appreciate your email. Thank you for writing.

Eric

Eric -

Enjoyed your article on Madrid. I noticed that you find it superior to Rome. Most of the Spanish folks that I meet seem to prefer Barcelona. How would you rate that city?

Samuel K
Seattle

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Hi Samuel,

We loved Barcelona although driving around the city was surprisingly complicated as our maps were inadequate. The cathedral had scaffolding around it so I couldn't get the pictures I wanted but we found the architecture fascinating and the Picasso museum rewarding. We were anxious to get on the road to Costa Brava and didn't have more than a couple of days in Barcelona.

Thanks for writing.
Eric


Great article on Madrid. I've heard there is a rivalry between the people of Madrid and Barcelona. In which city are the people friendlier? How about for hipness? I noticed you were Scottish. I felt a similar thing in Scotland, with a Glasgow v. Edinburgh vibe.

Gary
Santa Monica

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Thank you for writing to TravelingBoy, Gary. We found Barcelona friendlier.

Maybe that's because it's not the capital and it's not so busy either. Maybe it's because the Gaudi architectural influence is pervasive and -- to both its citizens and tourists -- comforting. Maybe it's because Barcelona is the gateway to the work of artist Salvatore Dali, and his spirit catches us. (I don't know much about art but I've seen a lot of Dali's work enough to think he never took himself too seriously and often painted tongue in cheek. Maybe fun people spring for fun places?) Hipness? Madrid is more formal and dressy but Barcelona, I believe, is more hip maybe, again, because it's more fun.

Your points about Scotland are valid. It's more than a joke. The Glaswegians are more down to earth. I think we see it here in the belief that if you had a flat tire in Middle America passers-by would be more inclined to stop and help than perhaps New Englanders.

- Eric

Dear Eric,

I liked the article. As I read it, I was wondering how you as a physician were influenced by Hippocrates. What influence did this historical figure have on the practice of medicine beyond the obvious 'oath.' Why is Hippocrates considered to be such a paragon of medicine? DWA - San Pedro, CA

* * * * *


Dear David,

Thank you for writing to Travelingboy.com.

Hippocrates is revered because he believed his duty was to the individual patient, not to the community at large. This is a very important premise. The Romans, whose empire followed that of the Greeks, achieved much in health matters by emphasizing clean drinking water and personal hygiene, and created great national works like aquaducts and public baths but wealthy Romans apparently preferred Greek doctors as their personal physicians.

Hippocrates is also respected because he brought intellectual thought to diagnosis. He taught his students to use their five senses in assessing patients and was openly critical of the junk science of his day as practiced by the priest-physicians who preyed on the fear and ignorance of the ill persons who came to them.

It is true that not all medical chools today require graduating doctors to take the Hippocratic Oath but most conscientious physicians base their lifetime commitment to the practice of medicine on the life and teachings of that one man.

Or so I think. Perhaps if we knew more about our heroes they would seem less heroic. But in Hippocrates' case he did leave a record of his thoughts and some of his principles are today as strong as ever.

Thank you for writing, it is appreciated.

Eric

Stay tuned.


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