We had attended an international zoology conference in Toronto, Canada, and were offered a post-conference whale watching excursion to Tadoussac as part of the package.
Tadoussac is the place where fresh water from the Saguenay Fjord reaches the mighty St Lawrence river. It is a tiny village, the oldest surviving French settlement in the Americas, with fewer than 900 inhabitants, in Quebec. Tadoussac Bay is recognised to be among the most beautiful bays in the world, It is renowned as a whale watching destination.
We stayed at the glamorous Hotel Tadoussac, built in 1865 by rich quebecois and rebuilt and renovated in 1942. Hotel Tadoussac has for over 70 years welcomed guests from all over the world to experience its historic authenticity and old-fashioned elegance. Located a stone's throw from the sea and within walking distance of the village, this historic hotel has 149 guest rooms, spectacular views, and a unique dining-room with antique panelling and wall fresco. Comfortable indeed!
Day one - an expedition on a large vessel up the Saguenay Fjord with its rugged cliffs and breathtaking scenery. And, of course, the whales - minkes, belugas, grey seals and harbour porpoises.
Day two - out in the bay in a Zodiac. We are told that Zodiacs get closer to the waves and offer the most exciting, if roughest, rides. What a challenge! So at the crack of dawn, well about 6 am, the temperature is 3 degrees; we head down to the wharf. This is where What I Was Wearing comes in. A full, yellow (for rescue purposes?) lifesaving outfit. Not only designed to keep us afloat in case of a capsize, but also to prevent us from freezing! Topped off with a black beanie usually worn during a bank heist. Weather forecast not good, and unusually high seas. Twenty people, ten to each Zodiac, all embark excitedly.
All nice and calm as we head out of the bay and into the St Lawrence River. Then pow, three metre waves crashing and tossing us about like corks in a washing machine. Some passengers panic, pleading to return to shore - back to calmer waters where some were loaded into one Zodiac and the others, more stoic or stupid, stayed in the other. Then out again for more excitement. And what excitement! I have never been so afraid or challenged in my life, before or since! Our leader said a blue whale could have come underneath us, tipped us over, and we wouldn't have even seen it. And I was wearing a bright yellow survival suit - sitting on the deck of a Zodiac holding on like grim death to the ropes around the side.
What an adventure - whales - blue, fin back, beluga, minke and porpoises. The experience of a life time.
From there we headed to New York, another story, for another time.
(Would you like to find out more about whale watching expeditions in Tadoussac? - here's an informative link https://offtracktravel.ca/whale-watching-tadoussac-quebec/)