Something marvellous happens along the length of the St. Lawrence seaway each autumn. As the seasons change, a vast carpet of slowly reddening leaves blankets the pine forests that march silently down to the banks of the river on both sides. The air becomes cooler, yet somehow sharper and more intense.
Mother Nature reserves one of her most spectacular floor shows for this time of year, and the only way to get a grandstand view- quite literally- is to take a slow, meandering cruise that brings you up close and personal with the small communities, as well as the teeming cities, that line this ancient, much travelled waterway.
These voyages usually start in the most spectacular way possible, with a night time departure from New York. Clad in its own coat of brilliant, shimmering lights, the fabled skyline never fails to make the adrenaline run faster. Just add some glacially chilled Moet, and you’re off to a stupendous start.
You might amble into amiable, patrician Boston, or sturdy Halifax, with its clapboard houses, fishing fleets, and historic links to the Titanic. Other cruises stop off at breezy, yacht studded Newport. But the real voyage begins once you enter the St. Lawrence proper.
Vast, jagged rock formations loom sharp against a petrol blue sky. The banks nearby are swathed in serried tiers of deep, dark pine trees in a hundred shades of green that slope down to the water’s edge. The water is as still and impassive as the face of a mirror.
The odd whale or two might breast the surface of these same waters when you least expect it. Eagles wheel overhead in the noonday sun. Little fishing boats fuss upstream. The whole scene is like some incredible, random canvas that you project your own moods onto; vibrant, multi-hued, and headily spectacular.
Most cruises end in chic, sassy, French accented Quebec. It’s a spectacular moment as your ship rounds a bend in the river, and the great city sprawls across your entire field of vision. Dominated by the vast Gothic confection of the famous Chateau Frontenac hotel, this is easily the most European accented city on the entire American continent.
Stroll the breezy expanse of the Dufferin Terrace, and savour cool jazz at one of the cosy cafes that line the winding, cobbled lanes of the old town. Enjoy excellent seafood and the fabulous, free wheeling vibe of this charismatic, civilized old world outpost.
There’s a lot to be said for cruising New England in the fall. And; best news of the lot is that it’s all good.