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Petit Train du Nord

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

It’s a Saturday morning in August and my family and I, and our friend’s  are sitting on a patio at café in Val David located in the Laurentians , Quebec.  We are in love with this town that is full of cyclists, pedestrians, cafes and funky little stores.   We are more than half way done our cycling trip on thePetit Train du Nord, a 200 km rail trail that runs from Mont Laurier to St Jerome (there are extensions to the route as well).  Petit Train du Nord means “Little Train of the North” and the trail is built on an old railway line that closed in the late 1980s.  Our trip began in Mont Laurier, where we left our cars  at an old train station.  When we arrived at the station, which is also a restaurant,  it was full of people eating lunch and singing in French  to a live piano player.  We felt lucky before we even started the trip!  We are carrying all of our camping gear and finding campgrounds as we go.  We are cycling on average 50 km a day through stunning scenery, small villages and bigger towns.  We are  loving being part of a cycling culture where people of all ages, abilities and sizes are out on the trail for day trips or staying at bed and breakfasts or motels.  We are finding great cafes, lovely French restaurants and lots of really friendly people.  My daughter, who has been in French immersion since SK, is speaking French confidently to everyone she meets along the way.   We are being treated to art that is inspired by cycling in many of the villages.  Many of the old train stations along the route have been developed into information centres/ cafes/ restaurants, rest spots and some have cycling shops incorporated.  These old train stations are really busy, especially on a Saturday morning. One station we visited had an large  display on Herman 'Jackrabbit' Smith Johannsen who is considered one of the world’s great pioneers in skiing. He spent time in the Laurentians and did extensive work on the trails and skied there as well.   My family has participated in our local Jackrabbit program for many years and so it was delightful to come across the display.  We are informed that over 1 million people a year use the rail trail for biking, walking, running and in the winter some sections are designated for snowmobiling and some are designated for cross country skiing.  As a parent what I really love about this trip is that my daughter and her friend can cycle way ahead of us and be totally safe on the trail.  Everyone can ride at their own speed. It is the perfect family vacation that is combining adventure, culture and lots of exploring which  is giving us lots of stories to tell to our family and friends when we return home.   I really love a vacation that inspires me in so many ways.  I will be spending more time on bike this fall for sure.

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