By Jacqui Snyder
I always thought of bike & boat trips as something you had to travel to Europe to experience. That is until I came across Latitude 45 Nord at a travel trade show put on by the Quebec Tourism Board specifically for tourism around cycling. Any country or province , for that matter, who hosts cycle-specific travel trade shows has to take their cycling seriously. And Quebec does. They have for a long time. Their award winning Route Vert is tribute to that. It was selected by the National Geographic Society as one of the best bike routes in the world.
With canals and seaways winding between Montreal and Ottawa, Kingston as well as Quebec City, Ron Houde decided Quebec provided the perfect place to introduce the Bike and Boat concept in Canada. I have an affinity for Quebec and always describe it as a little bit of Europe in our own backyard. It is steeped in the history of our country including the tensions between the British and French settlers and the development battles over the local fur trades.
I joined them for a few days on the start of their Lock Keepers Tour. We met at the port of Old Montreal, which is the perfect setting to make you feel like you are far away and on vacation. Surrounding buildings are a mish-mash of the architectural history of Montreal including blackened limestone block structures and more modern glass buildings tinted in metallic tones. The Cirque du Soleil tents glow in their yellow and blue stripes. Craft vendors have their stalls squished in next to each other down the long dock displaying colourful arrays of clothing, jewels and nick-knacks.
When I first saw the boat, I was surprised. It was much larger than I had expected. I suppose I was thinking of a longer, lower-lying barge style boat. Latitude Amsterdam is 2 full storeys with a roof-top deck. The bottom level has all the bedrooms, which are efficiently laid out to maximize the small space typical of boat trips. The 2nd level houses the dining room, bar, lounge and kitchen, with expansive windows providing panoramic views of the surroundings. There is even a roof-top deck with patio furniture to bask in the sun- or starlight. The Rocky Mountain hybrid bikes are stored up here when not in use.
On the first day we went for a little warm-up ride to fit the bikes and got a sense of Ron’s deep knowledge of the area as he stopped at a couple of points to explain the history of the locks.
Returning to the boat, we were treated like royalty, starting with a local sparkling wine that was very impressive. Well balanced and crisp. The “house” Chef had put out a delectable spread of starters. The first was small cups with tomato concasse-topped-couscous with brochettes of smoked scallops and cherry tomatoes. The other was Beef Tenderloin Yakatori stuffed with Asparagus. There were also delicious spirals of smoked salmon stuffed with crème fraiche on sesame crackers. After these we were served a roulade of salmon on citrus scented rice that was so fresh and bursting with flavour, I couldn’t get enough of it. It was served with sautéed fennel and yellow peppers. The colours were as vibrant as the flavours. This was washed down with a lovely Pinot Grigio. I couldn’t believe they then expected us to have room for dessert, which was a Raspberry Chocolate Torte. Most people found room for it! Our Chef had a fabulous resume, including Cirque due Soleil and Club Med.
That evening there were fireworks over the port, so we wandered up to help digest the dinner and watch the spectacle.
After a fabulous nights’ sleep in the comfortable beds, we were served a simple continental breakfast and food was laid out for make-your-own lunch. Breads were always fresh and healthy; multigrains. There was an assortment of cold-cuts, cheeses, fruits and chicken salad. They had thought of all the details including little freeze packs to put inside the insulated lunch bags so our lunch would stay fresh and cold.
Today we cycled along the Lachine Canal through Verdun, La Salle, Lachine, Dorval, Pointe-Claire, Beaconsfield and Baie d-Urfe. Early in the day we stopped at the Atwater Market…a food and plant-lovers mecca. In La Salle we stopped at a Beaver Museum which provided a detailed history of the local fur trade. In Lachine we saw an outdoor sculpture museum. As we got further from the Port, the area became more urban. We cycled through the grounds of McGill University and then reached our next port at Ste. Anne de Bellevue which had a lively strip of restaurants and bars with thriving patios. We settled on one for a cold beer. Again we were served a sumptuous dinner, but after only 45k, I don’t think we’d burned off the calories from the day before, let alone those for tonight and the nights to come.
On my final day we started on the boat which turned out to be a blessing as there were some rainstorms. These cleared as we reached the point where they dropped us, at some lovely old buildings that were being used for theatre and arts. We passed windmills, lighthouses and estates. We cycled on to Pointe des Cascades, visited an historic fort, stopped for ice cream at Willy’s and continued on to Salaberry de Valleyfield. This was my departure point, and I wish I had been able to stay a little longer. It was so relaxing and interesting. Friendships were developing between all the passengers and the service was excellent. For more information, visit Latitude 45 Nord at or feel free to contact me.
ADVENTOURUS Active Vacations
Jacqui Snyder is an avid sports-person, trained Chef (George Brown College graduate; trained in Switzerland and England), foodie, people-person and traveler. She is a certified CAN-BIKE instructor and has cycled for as long as she can remember. Jacqui runs ADVENTOURUS Active Vacations, organizing skiing, cycling, and hiking vacations.