Quebec, Gaspe Peninsula, July 10 to 13, 2008

3 09 2008

Robin Joins the Great Gathering

The Field of Chez Jean

The Field of Chez Jean's

We made it as far as Riviere de Loup the first night, and camped at an RV Resort called Chez Jean’s. It was one of those situations where everyone there was in a semi permanent site, and then there was a large field in the back for transient campers of which we were the only ones, and that was great because we had a big field to ourselves and also were the only ones using the bathrooms reserved for that area. I wondered how people amused themselves there all summer but in the morning I saw a lot of the men enjoyed mowing their little patch of grass, and there was a lot of neighbour chatting with neighbour.

Early afternoon we made it to Rimouski where I left Step at the internet café so I could shop for some “mosquito pants”. This was a bit of a challenge for me as I relied on him as an interpreter and most people in Rimoulski have no English at all. Still, I managed to get some heavy duty yoga pants for night and later we went to Canadian Tire and there was a Zellers next door where I got some big but lightweight pajama bottoms for hot nights.

A New Friend

A New Friend

Another hour down the highway we stopped at Fromagerie des Basques where they had all kinds of Quebec cheeses, which we sampled many of and bought a few, as well as a wild game and blueberry pate. Soon we started getting into The Gaspesie, the local French name for the Peninsula. The beauty starts at Ste. Flavie, and is commemorated by a public atwork by this guy, Marcel Gagnon, which is around 100 concrete figures that span out into the sea, so at different tides different things are visible. It’s called “The Great Gathering”.

Matane is the last major centre until Gaspe, which is sort of on the tip of the penisula. We tried to get propane in Matane but the guy had gone home (I think—-the people of the Gaspesie definitely have less English. I could only say “Je voudrais le propane d’auto, SVP” and I think that’s what she answered. Anyway, we couldn’t get it). What we did buy at Poissonnerie Borealis in Matane was some fresh what they call shrimp and we would call prawns and some in-house-smoked salmon. A very large handful of prawns cost only 5 dollars! That night, it became a stand-up stirfry.

A Typical Gaspesie Roadside Scene

A Typical Gaspesie Roadside Scene

There’s only one road around the peninsula, and when you get to Cap Chat you marvel at the spectacle of a giant wind farm. Our pictures really don’t do it justice, so I won’t post one.

View from Camping Du Rivage

View from Camping Du Rivage

We hesitated to camp at Camping du Rivage in Ste Anne Des Monts, but we were really glad we did. The owners were so friendly and you can have a fire right on the beach. Norman, the husband portion of the ownership, introduced us to another couple from BC who were traveling in a PleasureWay, which is the ‘00’s answer to the Get-Away. We were curious to see the inside but they didn’t invite us.

That night we cooked outside and it was so windy by the sea the pan wouldn’t heat up, and cooking items kept blowing away. We have those roll up cutting boards and when I went to the beach with a headlamp looking for a bowl lid I recovered one I didn’t even know had blown away. That didn’t stop the fresh seafood dinner from tasting so good, though.

The next morning I woke up and the sun was shining and I don’t know why but I was SO EXCITED about the day. I knew it was going to be a great day and it was, although nothing particularly special happened, except I was on vacation in a beautiful place with a beautiful person I love a lot. Over breakfast I notice the spice box lid that had blown away the night before was in the beach peas. Beach peas look like sweet peas except they’re wild and they grow by the beach. (If you see some, I don’t think you should eat them, as some wild peas can cause paralysis).

Sound Sculpture on the Beach

Sound Sculpture on the Beach

We drove around Ste. Anne Des Monts thinking maybe we could find some propane, but all we found was a whozzy beach side sculpture with all kinds of made-up heads on it and a thing in the middle that it took us a while to notice made sounds in the wind.

Grande Vallee

Grande Vallee

We started driving along the north side of the peninsula making frequent stops for beauty, and one for a lunch of the smoked salmon with baguette and probiotic cream cheese. The road is lined with frequent small fishing towns, that the houses seem to be built in at random rather than a grid. Most of the houses are a freshly painted white with colourful roofs, and mowed yards and flower gardens, making for a very cheerful effect. We stopped for espresso and a cupcake, then at Gaspe for propane and another Poissonnerie where we bought a halibut steak, and then again at one of the many poutine stands along the road. Our goal was Perce, home of the famous rock, and we got there before twilight even! Step had it in his head that we would find a campsite overlooking the Rocher Perce (Perce Rock), and as unreasonable as that may seem with no reservation at the height of tourism season, that’s what we got at Cote du Surprise.

Rocher Perce

Rocher Perce

That night by the campfire the town of Perce twinkled on the water and the fish tasted extra barbecuey, and I told Step it had been one of the best days of my life, and it was true.

Step Rocks!

Step Rocks!

We woke the next morning to another sunny day and I laughed at the funny signs in the bathroom, such as “Please your shower curtain inside” and “Do not be washing the dishes in the lavebo”. We wandered around the town all morning, looking at the rock and taking pictures of the red dirt cliffs. Perce really has only one street of commerce, and it’s the most touristy town on the Gaspesie, but it’s not corporately developed so it still has its charms. There’s a big island across from it, Bonaventure, that is a bird sanctuary you can take a tour to, but we didn’t. After a nice saladly lunch we had “done” Perce and headed back down the road along the Baie des Chaleurs, where all the best swimming is to be had.

The Village of Perce

Roadside Art of the Gaspe Peninsula

Roadside Art of the Gaspe Peninsula

I guess because of the warm ocean this south side of the Gaspesie gets more traffic and more tourists, even though it is slightly less charming than the north side. French men stand on the side of the road with shelves of brightly sailed wooden boats they have made, waving and smiling at you, and pointing to their souvenirs. They were so nice we felt sort of guilty for not stopping and buying one, even though we have no use for a wooden boat. Sometimes we would see yards full of art more off-beat, as well. We stopped here and there for staples. At Bonaventure we stopped for smoke salmon and Step bought a kite that looked like a lobster from a lady named Solaris. He also bought one of those wooden eggs you shake and it’s a percussion instrument. We hadhad a green one on the cupholder of the Boogie Bus the whole trip, but he had accidentally left it at Pete and Mary Anne’s—which is a great place to leave a rattling egg, if you are destined to lose it.

On the Jette

On the Jette

At Carlton there is a giant jette out into the ocean and it has a campsite on it. It was really full but because the Boogie Bus is so self sufficient we don’t actually need water or electric hook-ups so we can camp in the tent areas, which usually aren’t nearly as crowded, if the campsite will let us. Carlton Campsite let us and we were able to get a spot right on the beach. A walk along the beach was the first thing we did, and soon we came across a little table set up with glasses of wine and a plate of snacks. As I photographed this picturesque scene the man responsible arrived and said he and his partner had gotten the idea in Normandy, where many people did it. Step and I haven’t done it yet, but I’m sure we will someday soon.

Romantic Seaside Snacks

Romantic Seaside Snacks

We barbecued these fresh, giant scallops we had bought at a random poissonerie, and had big vegetable and brown rice stirfry, and then sat by the fire roasting guimauves, which are a special French marshmellow that are exactly like all other marshmallows. It was an incredibly still night, and the sea was smooth as glass.

The next morning we were woken by loud thumping, which a quick look out the window allowed me to instantly ascertain our awning had been thrown clear over the roof of the Boogie Bus by the strong wind coming in from the sea. We leapt out of bed and outside. We somehow managed to pull the awning back to the right side. Some of the poles were bent, and there was a little rip in the canvas on one end. Fighting the wind, we managed to bend the poles back in shape enough to put back in the holder, and roll the canvas in. We were distraught to see the awning had come unanchored on one end and hung loose from the bus. After a dejected cup of coffee, and when the wind died down a bit, we mustered the courage to examine the situation more closely. The awning had been sort of jerry rigged onto the fiberglass raised roof, which had been put on when the van was being converted to a camper. If you are familiar with fiberglass, you know it to be a material through which a screw can find no purchase, so pieces of wood had been placed on both sides and the fiberglass had been sandwiched between. We recovered the screw which had held the end on, only to find it was completely decrepit and looked more like a fatigued piece of random metal than a screw. Still, we reassembled the whole thing as well as we could, and Step devised a complicated system of guy lines to ensure the whole thing didn’t just rip off and kill a bunch of people while we drove down the highway.

We felt pretty foolish and dejected after that. In retrospect in seemed obvious we should have rolled the awning in, or secured it to the ground. We were camping on a jette on the ocean! We noticed all the campers who had not rolled in their awnings had multiple guylines with serious spikes holding them down, and some people had them secured to their picnic tables. To compliment or grey self-flagellating mood, the sun went away and the day turned cloudy as we moved on into New Brunswick.

A Roadside Poutine Stand

A Roadside Poutine Stand

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