Boasting around 40 000 inhabitants, the town is really the fusion (merger) of two cities, Rouyn and Noranda. The fusion occurred in 1986 and further smaller towns and villages were incoropated into Rouyn-Noranda during the municipal fusions set forth under the PQ government.
By Car: From Montreal, Autoroute 15 will take you directly to Rouyn-Noranda. Don't be surprised as the road becomes Highway 117, part of the Transcanadian Highway. You will remain on that road for most of the 6 hour drive. There are several towns along the way where one can stop for food. Don't expect a high culinary experience during the trip. If at all possible, you should try to avoid the overpriced and generally not so great food at La Domaine in the Parc de la Vérendrye (one of Quebec's national/provincial park or réserve faunique).
By Bus: Three busses depart daily from Montreal's Station centrale = on Maisonneuve by the Maheux company. The trip takes 8 to 9 hours depending on the departure time (some buses stop in nearly every town over 200 inhabitants along the way) and generally stops for a half hour or so in Grand-Remous or Mont-Laurier where you can eat. It is recommended to cross the street and eat in a restaurant different from the one where the bus stops because the latter is more expensive.
Driving in a small town in northern Quebec is fairly easy. The streets are wide, parking is normally available anywhere and at anytime. Driving is often more practical than the city bus system, which, although generally well suited to the needs of the locals, is not so great for tourists. The bus system has three lines, two of which run only every 2 hours off-hours. It also runs only during the week and during normal store opening hours.
Cycling is probably one of the easiest way to get around the city. You can ride anywhere in Rouyn-Noranda. It is quite safe given the width of the streets and the sparsity of traffic. Several bike paths have been built, some around the Lac Osisko, which borders the downtown area.
In the winter, snow paths are built within the city and it is possible to get around town with a snowmobile.
Several festivals take place:
- La fête d'hiver
- Festival de musique émergente
- Festival du cinéma international en Abitibi-Témiscamingue
- Festival du DocuMenteur de l'Abitibi-Témiscamingue
- Festival Nez à nez
- Festival des guitare du monde de l'Abitibi-Témiscamingue
- La Muse Gueule (Abstracto)
- Café Bistro Chez Bob
- Crêpe Chignon
- La Semence (shop)
In any case, you should try the Poutine. The best poutine in Rouyn-Noranda (and,as the sign says, presumably the best poutine in the world) can be eaten at «Poutinerie du cuivre» on the mall. Or if you are in their close time you could try «Morasse Poutine» on the murdoch street. It is particularly appreciated on friday and saturday nights at 3am when bars close and all the young people meet there for a late night snack. You should expect to wait 10-15 minutes at that time, and sometimes during lunch and dinner hours.
Given its size, Rouyn-Noranda has quite a few bars, coffee shops and pubs to choose from, many of them located in the Rouyn downtown area, which spans Perreault Street, Main Street (Rue Principale) and Gamble Street. Several smaller joints will be located on the adjacent streets.
- L'Abstracto, Perreault Street (They also serve food during the day. If anything, you must try their Que Pasa)
- Le Cabaret de la dernière chance, 7ième Rue (in old Noranda)
Located in the center of the Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Rouyn-Noranda can serve as a good starting point for exploring that part of the canadian shield. At least two parks are located nearby that are worth visiting:
- Kekeko: Roughly a 20 minute car ride south of the city, this small (unofficial) park reserves many adventures. Trails are relatively undevelopped with sections consisting of former, or still used, paths for snowmobiles and other vehicles. The park is not a protected area, although many locals will tell you it should be. It is possible to hike to the so-called first lake in 45 minutes and enjoy an afternoon of swimming. A longer hike to the originally called second lake will fit in an afternoon, possibly a bit more. It is sometimes possible to still find a small booklet detailing trails in the Kekeko mountains. Most likely out of print.
- Aiguebelle: This park is a protected area and is quite developped. Trails are well-marked and maintained. Popular trails include one hike to a small mountain top, from where, if weather permits, Val d'Or, Amos, La Sarre and Rouyn-Noranda (the so-called Quadrangle or Quadrilatère in french) can be seen. Also noteworthy is a longer hike, for which you should reserve a day to really enjoy the scenery, that will take you across a suspended bridge that stradles the water divide line. Waters to the north flow into the Hudson Bay, while waters to the south flow to the St-Lawrence river.
One other noteworthy park is located further south:
- Enchanted Forest: Located near Ville-Marie, some 2 hours away, you'll be able to enjoy the sight of strangely shaped trees in this park.
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- Le Passant B&B, Gîte touristique, 489, Perreault St. East, 819-762-9827, lepassant.com, checkin 4pm, checkout 12noon, from $60. to $120.