Backpack & Budget : Rollin' Along the St. Lawrence

Budget travelers are being offered a unique opportunity for exploring French Canada this summer: sailing through one of North America's best whale-watching areas on a traditional schooner and spending nights en route on the boat or at youth hostels.

Trips on the St. Lawrence River are arranged by Voyages Temps Libre, a travel company affiliated with the Quebec branch of the Canadian Hostelling Assn. The ship, "La Licorne," was constructed using plans dating from 1895.

On board, bilingual guides provide information on the flora, fauna, marine mammals and rich marine history of the region.

The ship will make eight-day tours between Riviere-du-Loup and Cap-aux-Os, Gaspe. One whale-watching stop, Tadoussac, situated where the Saguenay River joins the St. Lawrence, has very deep water and is rich with shrimp and tiny fish called capelin. Finback, humpback, white beluga and even great blue whales are known to feed in this area.

You can join up for the full eight days or take portions of the trip: A half-day is $23, full-day $35 or sunset cruise $15 from Riviere-du-Loup. Or travel for one to seven days between different points.

The eight-day tour costs $385, including breakfast, four nights in hostels, four nights on the boat, all taxes, services of a qualified sailing team and a bilingual biologist-guide. Lunches, dinners and bedding are not included.

Departures from Riviere-du-Loup are scheduled for Aug. 2 and Aug. 23. Departures from Cap-aux-Os are scheduled for July 21, Aug. 11 and Sept. 1.

For details, contact Voyages Temps Libre 4545, Pierre de Coubertin, Montreal, Quebec H1V 3R2; telephone (514) 252-3117.


New budget accommodations are available in Montreal this summer. A former three-star hotel in downtown Montreal has been renovated and turned into a youth hostel, and is within walking distance of shops and entertainment, at 1030 rue MacKay, H3G 2H1; tel. (514) 843-3317.

The hostel features 250 beds in rooms of four to six beds and bathrooms. All rooms have air-conditioning and visitors can use the kitchen to prepare their own meals. The cost is $12.30 per night for members of Hostelling International. Non-members pay 14.50.

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