Cruise to the Magdalen Islands (Iles de la Madelaine) in the St. Lawrence Bay.
You can reach les Iles de la Madelaine from Montreal either by air (four hours flight) or by ship. We took a longer option, three days of sailing and three days of enjoying the Islands. The ship was a cruising vessel called Vacancier, medium size, some forty years old, well maintained, with tiny passenger cabins. The day of departure from Montreal was warm and the seagulls were saying good bye to us in the Port.
Everybody was on the deck when we sailed under the Jacques Cartier bridge. Cartier was the discoverer and creator of la Nouvelle France that is now a part of present Canada. He was the first European to travel inside the American continent. He discovered, among other places, les Iles de la Madelaine in 1534.
A few kilometres down the river we saw on the port side an unusual construction, a housing group, looking like sea containers placed one on another. They are called Habitat 67 and were built for the Expo 1967.
The river was getting larger and larger. We passed two nights on sailing. Both sunsets were spectacular.
We arrived at a point where we could hardly see the river southern bank, the northern bank was simply beyond the horizon. Looks like a private waterway, we are still on the St. Laurence river
We finally arrived at the main port of the Islands, Cap-aux-Meules. Les Iles de la Madelaine consist of eight major islands populated by 12 thousand population. Most of the islands are connected by bridges so we could easily drive from one island to another to see the landscape, beaches, musea, houses and restaurants.
The city around the port is peaceful, quiet and colourful. Almost all houses on the Islands a painted in bright colours.
The fishing industry was a predominant economic activity a few decades ago. Now, it is tourism, the Islands’ population is about 10 thousand and the annual number of tourists is estimated to some 80 thousand. Out of thirty fish smoking plants a few decades ago, only one traditional smoking plant is active now.
The church of Saint-Pierre on the island of Cap-aux-Meules is the second largest wooden church in the Americas. A legend says that it was originally built from the wood recovered after a ship carrying timber crush landed on a beach nearby. The villagers collected the wood and built the church but the wood’s owners were not very happy with such destination, they would rather prefer that the wood be sold with a profit.
Tourism is the most important industry on the Islands. There are three hundred kilometres of beaches, most of them very wide, covered with immaculate golden sand but some of them in the form of dangerous cliffs.
There are several musea on the Islands, probably the most original is the Sand Museum.
On the way back we sailed close to the famous Percé Rock on the tip of Gaspé Peninsula.
and we sailed to the fjords on the River Saguenay. However, we missed the beauty of the place because of fog and pouring rain.
… and finally … back in Montreal again