“What is Glamping?” you ask.
Glamping is Glamourous Camping
Let me be perfectly clear that even when my family goes full-on tent camping, we book an RV spot so that we have electricity & water on site…but Glamping…is a whole different ball game.
Our “Glamping” accommodations consisted of a Huttopia: A pre-set-up tent on a raised platform, with beds that fit all 6 of us, electricity, lighting, a mini-fridge, heating and a kitchen table & chairs inside the unit. All dishes, cookware & flatware were provided, as well as dish soap, dishpan & a sponge.
Compare & contrast, when we go tent-camping, we pack:
- multiple coolers
- 2 tents
- a gazebo
- 4 single air mattresses plus one queen
- sleeping bags for all 6 of us
- a portable cooktop
- multiple plastic bins filled with pots & pans, dishes, flatware & utensils, flashlights, hotplates, clothesline & clothespins…
- ….and the list goes on.
In other words, we usually have to pack all of the same things that you see already in the huttopia above…in our car!
ON A REGULAR CAMPING TRIP:
Set-up is a lot of work and even less ideal in the rain.
Once we are set up, we can pretty much deal with almost anything – rain or shine.
When it’s time to leave, it always seems to be raining- and rolling up wet tents is not fun. You can also imagine that loading up our roof top carrier is no great joy when I am getting drenched whole doing it.
As a result, we’ve taken a break from camping for a couple of years.
Basically, my husband and I work hard at our jobs…really hard. That means that when we think of vacation, the last thing we want to do is more work.
Make no mistake, camping is a great experience, including the set up and all. It is a great way for the kids to learn how to take responsibility and how to work as a team, but the last couple of years, we have just been feeling TOO TIRED (or lazy…take your pick, lol!).
BUT THEN … I was invited by SEPAQ to explore a Québec National Park with my family…and I found out that they have “Ready to Camp” options…aka “GLAMPING” . My husband & I were so “IN”! We had already been discussing whether we might be interested in trying out a “Ready-to Camp” option and this presented the perfect opportunity.
So I visited the SEPAQ website. OMG.
The choices were overwhelming- there are places close to Montreal & far from Montreal. We were able to narrow based on “Ready to Camp”, but there are many options even under “Ready to Camp” – you can rent a tent trailer, a Huttopia or a Hekipia. You can see the ready-to-camp options by clicking here. In addition, you can experience a Québec National Park in variety of cabins, rustic shelters or a Yurt! Although we were enamoured with the idea of a Yurt, we had to rule out it out because as a family of 6, we are too many people to fit- but what a COOL option! Not sure what a Yurt is? Check it out by clicking here.
We were enamoured with the idea of a Huttopia (more later) so we narrowed our search a bit that way, but there were still so.many.options!
We also narrowed our search based on activities- we were interested in hiking or biking and wanted to be near a body of water.
We had also been discussing a whale-watching trip so we discussed the possibility of heading out to the Saguenay area.
We finally settled on the Parc national du-Fjord-du-Saguenay, which is part of the Parcs Québec network. At this park, we’d have the opportunity to watch belugas from a lookout at the end of a hike and the possibility of bicycle rentals in the park – It would be perfect!
The day of our trip we packed food, clothing, books, games and sheets (you can rent, but since we had we brought our own), sleeping bags, towels & cosmetics. We brought one flashlight just in case
We packed up the car & we set out en route to Saguenay.
Did I mention: No gazebo, tents, air mattresses, no pots, pans, dishes, plastic bins, etc?
It was a 6.5 hour drive but it didn’t feel long at all. The kids were terrific in the car (not always the case). Interestingly enough, they did not even watch one single DVD for the entire drive! We have discovered iPod Nanos – equipped with music and only music – no games, no apps, just music to listen to while they took in the scenery…and guess what? They NOTICED the scenery!
We arrived at the park at around 7 PM and found out unfortunately that there was no power in the entire park. There had been violent winds earlier in the day and apparently a 150-foot tree fell and affected the power lines. So much for glamping…I was slightly concerned about whether the coolers had enough ice to last until the AM now that we would be without a fridge. I also wanted to get settled before dark…
As we drove into the camp we saw a spectacular double rainbow…this was the beginning of the magic we would experience on our trip.
We arrived at the Huttopia tent which was fabulous and adorable!
I got the kids busy with putting the sheets on the bed while I tried to get a read on what the ice situation was in the coolers and started to prepare the food that we had planned for dinner.
The wash-house that was right next to our Huttopia tent was closed – no electricity meant no water pump, so only one washroom was open but it wasn’t too far away.
My hubby took 3 of the kids to the washroom that was open and then continued onto the store for firewood ice and candles. My eldest stayed back to help me to get dinner going.
Someone from the park stopped by our tent to make sure that we were ok for water and to offer us an additional lantern for light. I was impressed & grateful that the park went to this extent to make sure we were ok.
We used bottled water to get the pasta pot ready, we made a salad and grabbed another pot to get the tomato sauce going. The two-burner gas stove provided on the porch was perfect. P.S. It was attached to a large propane supply – no issue with running out
We had a beautiful dinner inside of our Huttopia tent by candlelight.
After dinner I whipped up a batch of Jiffy Pop – a camping favourite We snacked while we played a game of gin rummy and then it was time for bed. We all had long PJ’s which we wear to avoid bug bites and I had gratefully packed an extra two sleeping bags which we used to keep warm so the lack of a heater wasn’t a bid deal. We were chilly as we are when we’d be tent camping without a heater, but once we were all tucked in we were ok
Morning came & I was up early with my youngest and one of the boys. After going to the washroom, we came back & I made them some hot chocolate and cereal. They then went to play catch – with two balls Just watching them made me smile. This is what I have been missing about camping – the good, old-fashioned play that doesn’t involve any form of electronic or battery operated device.
My hubby woke up and we all walked over to the washrooms together and discovered lots of ‘natural treasures’ along the way
…even Wild Strawberries!
On our walk back we bumped into Graham, one of the staff members at the park, who spent some time with us discussing the various activity options that we might consider during our stay. He strongly recommended the Zodiac (boat ride), which we had already been considering- he convinced us that it was a great choice.
He also enlightened us to the fact that although the Beluga lookout “Halte-des-Belugas” as well as the bike trails were in the Parc national du-Fjord-du-Saguenay, they were in the Baie Sainte-Marguerite sector while we were in the Baie Éternité sector. Could we drive there? Yes, but it would be about a 2-2.5 hour drive (plus the hike). We figured we’d wake up early and do it the next day and then go home from there. TIP: The parks can be IMMENSE. Make sure to stay in the sector that offers the activities that you seek That said, we didn’t allow ourselves to get disappointed…we were already seeing and discovering so much and we truly felt like we were ‘enjoying the journey’. We were just grateful to be enjoying such a beautiful family experience.
When we got back to the tent, we woke up the other two sleepyheads, made sure that everyone had something to eat & packed up some snacks for a little hike. We drove up to the Visitor’s Centre where we finalized the booking of our Zodiac excursion for later that afternoon
Note: The Visitor’s Centre had a fantastic Boutique Nature selling all kinds of things that you might forget at home, from head lamps to rain jackets as well as souvenirs (practical ones, too!). The prices that I saw were quite reasonable and I will fully admit- I was surprised! It’s good to know that the shop also offers fun products such as lunch bags, scarves, cell phone cases from the Collection Fonds Parcs Québec. Not only are they fun & stylish, but $1 from each purchase goes towards the Fonds Parcs Québec that supports conservation projects in Québec national parks. You can feel doubly good about purchasing one of these items!
We left the centre and set out for a short hike (about an hour) on the Méandres-à-Falaises.
We saw more incredible scenery and appreciated the fabulous beauty that Mother Nature offers us.
Random red leaves, we kept spotting, unsure of where they came from
Checking out more scenery…
“Look up Mommy! That’s where they are coming from!”
“Look at these Mommy! Can you take a picture?”- My kids were getting excited by what they were seeing…and it wasn’t on a screen!
Pretty Pink Flower
My Little (and not-so little) Explorers
Greyish Mushrooms, maybe?
After our little hike, we headed back to the tent and found that the power had been restored- Yay!
We grabbed a quick bite for lunch and headed back to the Visitor’s Centre to take our Zodiac boat-ride.
Mathieu, our guide, was great. He explained the safety rules to the kids and once we got on the Zodiac, he ‘kicked it’… The kids were thrilled! I, on the other hand will admit to being terrified they would fall out of the boat, G-d forbid! Apparently my fear was unfounded
The experience of being in a zodiac, which is essentially a motorized, oversized dinghy, compared to the majestic Fjord is insane. How small we felt compared to the enormous face of the Fjord! It is as high as 500m above the water in some places!
I couldn’t stop taking pictures.
We saw kayakers along the way…They must feel even smaller than we do, I thought to myself.
Mathieu explained how the waters are composed of both fresh & saltwater mixed and that there were 3 layers: the top layer that was 95% freshwater mixed with 5% saltwater. The middle layer which is a type of sediment that does not allow any light to pass through it and renders the bottom layer (all salt water) completely dark & black. He further explained that the Saguenay Fjord’s waters are the only swimmable Fjord’s waters because of this composition…I wish I could remember why but I confess that I forgot!
The extent of his knowledge and his passion for the area made the experience all the more perfect.
Mathieu took us to view waterfall after waterfall, to the statue of Mary and told us the whole history behind her story. To imagine that the statue is 7.5 meters feet tall and looks minuscule to us down on the water gives an idea of how high the Fjord really is.
The statue of Mary upon the Fjord
With the benefit of the big ZOOM lens 😉
He showed us an incredible face of the Fjord (I can’t find that pic!) which is considered one of the world’s most challenging rock-climbing areas. He told us that it takes people about 3 days to go up and that they sleep in a hammock as there aren’t really any ledges to sleep on…So let’s get this straight, that will not be an experience that I will be blogging about…NOT.FOR.ME.
When we finally returned to the dock, my kids wanted to go again. We told them they’s have to wait for another time
We got back to the campsite and made some dinner.
The kids went to the wash-house to do the dishes – we were amazed that there was a full-fledged kitchen counter & sink to make doing dishes SO much easier than filling up a bucket or dishpan as we normally would when camping.
I started to pack up our clothing to make our departure even easier the next day.
It was time for a campfire – we roasted marshmallows and made smores
We were getting sleepy so we headed inside for a game of cards and it was time to go to sleep. This time we were toasty warm in our heated Huttopia, we had phones & camera charging in the outlets and when we finally said goodnight it was literally “lights out”.
We actually slept later than expected the next morning so we decided that we’d just have to come back to Saguenay and stay in the Baie Sainte-Marguerite sector to see the Belugas the next time.
We ate breakfast & packed up (which was a joke) and hit the road. We stopped in Quebec City on the way home for crêpes and had another perfect day.
My husband’s post-trip feeling was “I like this Huttopia business…I could do this more often!”.
The park was beautiful. The accommodations were perfect & SO easy! I highly recommend trying out a Huttopia tent if you are thinking about camping for the 1st time. Equipment can be a big investment of both time & storage space…try it this way!
That said, if you already have equipment, SEPAQ offers loads of options for tent camping, kayak camping and canoe camping…just check out the SEPAQ website – the info is overwhelming but incredible!
There are also a whole bunch of Québec national parks that are much closer to home – as close as Mont Saint Bruno, Oka and Îles-de-Boucherville! If you are thinking of a camping or glamping trip, I suggest you visit the SEPAQ website and check out what they have to offer, which is more or less anything and everything related to the outdoors. (I didn’t even mention the “adventure activities” available like the Via Ferrata or zip lining… I can keep going and going…and going!)
Overall, we were impressed with the beauty and the CLEANLINESS of both the park and the facilities. The bathrooms were spotless and well-maintained which is NOT what we have experinced in non-SEPAQ camping experiences). The staff were literally delightful. For my readers who live outside of Québec, you should know that although our family is completely comfortable and happy to speak in French, I have to say that when the staff detected that French was not our first language they would check with us and speak to us in English to make it more comfortable for us (unless we insisted that we were fine in French at which point they were willing to accommodate us, too!)
What a beautiful park, and more importantly, what beautiful memories. A two-night trip that was a real vacation. Watching our kids enjoying the world around them screen-free. Better yet – enjoying the great outdoors without the usual headache of “set up” & “pack up”.
We are grateful to have discovered “Glamping” and I predict that our family will be Glamping again I also predict that when we do have the energy to camp again, it will be in a Québec national park.
SEPAQ: You get the montrealmom.com THUMBS UP! Merci beaucoup!
Wishing you a FABULOUS weekend where you make memories, enjoy the great outdoors and discover something new