Let’s deal with how to get there first. Either use Orleans Express, which runs buses on the Montreal-Quebec City route, and will sell you tickets for as little as $25 if you book 8 days or more in advance. The bus I travelled on was on time, comfortable, not full of screamers or strange folk. Not full at all, in fact, despite several pick-up points. Or, better still, and I am kicking myself for not finding it, use kangaride.com/amigoexpress.com (the same site, but in EN/FR, respectively), which matches you with people driving the same routes, plus others (as far as Ottawa I have seen as a regular, for instance), for as little as $10 (it covers the US and Canada, so that may be a USD price). You also need a membership, at $7.50, and the site talks about calling first-time passengers to check they are real people etc. – Freetone is an app offering a free US/Canadian number, if you need one. Baggage space can be limited, but if so, that is clearly stated.
The town is small (though with 100,000 inhabitants, I was told, so not tiny). Downtown has developed in recent years – previously a dive, now there are a couple of streets full of restaurants and bars. Plus, apparently, and unbelievably to a Brit, still cheap house prices. Sign me up!
The first day I was there, the 1st October, was a beautiful day. It was as cool as the date might suggest, but with bright sunshine pretty much throughout the day, it was warm for walking around and exploring. I strolled round, and round, the town centre, looking for somewhere I fancied for lunch, and a grocery store (shop!). I didn’t find the latter – head a little further out of town, on the Boulevard du St Maurice is a Super C. Lunch was Poutine, a first for me. Not bad, but not to be repeated – those cheese curds squeak their way down your teeth.
In the sun, the water looked fantastic, and a few big ships glided past. It was election day, and just the right level of busy for me to enjoy wandering.
Essentially, this place has everything I wanted. All the major services are in town, albeit with French-language cinemas, there are museums and sights, but nothing so unmissable that I am pressed to run around catching up. Just a nice place to be for a few days. My French has worked well enough; how are you, fine, how are you, all good etc. worked in the supermarket, though I was foxed by the “do you want to donate to x charity” request until (sticking at it) she wrote it down. Later, in the post office, we were able to laugh together that my letter was .01 over the lowest posting amount, pay, pay too little, realise, apologise and give over the rest. Good enough, if not quite showing the improvement from “total immersion!” my hosts in Charette had suggested I might find.