Published: August 6th 2007July 7th 2007
21st century generating station
Canada'a leading edge electrical generation at Cap-Chat, Quebec.
It's hard to say where the St Lawrence River ends, and the ocean, in the form of the Gulf of St Lawrence, begins. In the whole world, this may be the river for which this question is the most contentious. We're told the water becomes noticeably salty as far inland as Ile d'Orleans but many locals will tell you they consider it a river all the way to Cap-Gaspe, right at the end of the peninsula. Presumably it is even more difficult to decide on a precise spot on the North Shore as there is no convenient and arbitrary peninsula on that side.
The children did not worry about the semantics. As soon as they could smell the salt air they were convinced the water in front of them was ocean. This occurred at Riviere-du-Loup. We stopped there to meet up with our friends Mary-France and Yvan and their two children, Eve and Yannick. From there we planned to do La Tour de la Gaspesie as they say in this region. Being a mostly French-speaking region was part of the allure for us, as well as all the trappings of the ocean such as lighthouses and seals and shorebirds and
Tallest Lighthouse in Canada
At 34 metres, this lighthouse at Cap Madeleine, Gaspesie, Quebec is the tallest in the country.
harbours and, well, you get the idea.
About the lighthouses: We saw at least ten and all were remarkably different. We climbed up the 128 steps of the spiral staircase inside the second tallest one at 33 metres. The tallest was at Cap Madeleine and it was billed as the tallest lighthouse in Canada at 34 metres. We stopped at the lighthouse at Le Martre as well and had a picnic. One thing we could not get over was the number and quality of the picnic sites. It literally puts the rest of North America to shame. There is no where else on this continent we feel confident to say that has more official picnic spots per kilometre. And most of them are situated in spots with stunningly beautiful views. Every single municipality, no matter how small, has its "halte municipale" with a small number of picnic tables, many of them covered, a washroom or two, running water and a view of the ocean/river. It would seem, as a point of pride, each municipality ensured the tidiness of their "halte" and litter was essentially non-existant. Between many of the municipalities there were a number of scenic look-outs which had
This is billed (no pun intended) as the second most important gannet nesting site in the world.
picnic tables as well. We don't think you could go more than about 20 km around the entire peninsula without coming across picnic tables. This is the way all roads on which tourists might venture should be. Needless to say, we picnicked daily.
When not picnicking most of us were sampling the fresh seafood. The lobster roll ("guedille homard") is a staple everywhere; you can get them at little take-out shacks beside most wharves and at most restaurants. For those who have not experienced this culinary creation, it consists of lobster meat with mayonaise and cole slaw on a hot dog roll. In my opinion this creation deserves to have caught on across the country more than the ubiquitous poutine. But I think New Brunswick actually lays claim to the first lobster roll, even if they are more evident in Le Quebec Maritime.
So we got out to the Cap-Gaspe on schedule. The last 4 km were on foot as the road ends shortly after entering Forillon National Park. The highlight was not the lighthouse on the point as expected, it was the black bear we saw - thankfully on the next point over, maybe 300 metres or
Just offshore, "Rocher Perce" is 88 metres tall.
so away. We had wondered what animal had left the great black piles of evidence of its existence on the trail...
Then of course we arrived in Perce and did the touristy thing which is to take an excursion out around Ile Bonaventure and see the gannets. We also saw guillemots, cormorants and seals in abundance as we circled the island. Then we were dropped off and we hiked across the island to get the closeup look at the gannet nesting site. They estimate that there are 280 thousand birds nesting on this island, most of them honking incessantly.
We knew that you could walk out to the monolithic Perce Rock at low tide and so immediately after we got back from the island we marched out there as the tide had just reached its nadir. The children all decided to bring back a souvenir piece of the rock from the sand around it. Much more appropriate than the plastic or wooden junk the shops tried to sell you as souvenirs we thought.
Another highlight of our trip was the Reford Gardens at Metis, more commonly know as Les Jardins de Metis in Quebec. Tremendous diversity of
...And the other way
The view from Perce Rock back to the shoreline at Perce before we made the mad dash back as the tide came in.
flowering plants - remarkable considering the climate which one local (Yvan's father actually) described as consisting of two seasons: winter and July. We also saw the 1928 authentic general store at L'anse de Beaufils and Miguasha Park (a UNESCO world heritage site) which is famous for its ancient fossils. At both these last two sites we had guided tours in French. We all understood much of it, although the kids took pity on their mother and translated some of it for her.
On the morning of Saturday the 7th we bade farewell to our friends as they were returning to visit relatives. Across the Baie des Chaleurs, New Brunswick awaited us...