September 35, 1999
It seems like every chance we get, off
we go to Canada again. There are so many beautiful locations
to visit there that it seems like we'll never get enough of
it. Gaspé had been calling to us ever since the last
time we were in Quebec, so when another chance to get away for
a week presented itself in early September of 1999, we answered
The timing was special. I was leaving
a company where I had worked for eight and a half years, and I was
preparing to embark on a new and exciting journey in my career.
My last day at the old job, and the day we left for Canada,
was also my birthday. What better way to celebrate the dual
occasion than with a swing up through my beloved New York and
an exploration of the far reaches of a Canadian province?
Our first stop was the town where I grew
up, Eagle Mills, NY, where we celebrated my birthday with my
best childhood friends. In case you're curious, here pictured are my
grounds, complete with the house I grew up in.The house was
blue, the trees were a lot smaller, and the road was unpaved,
but aside from that, it was the same old place!
The next morning, we made a beeline for
the Canadian border, crossing over at Rouse's Point. We spontaneously
decided to retrace some of our steps during our last trip to
Quebec for two reasons: a good dish of spaghetti and some whales.
First target then: Isle aux Coudres in
the Charlevoix region, north side of the St. Lawrence Seaway.
Our intended destinations were the Gite de la Maison Blanche
for sleeping and La Mer Veilleuse for eating, where George fondly
remembered a very good plate of spaghetti. Silly us to think
we could walz in a month earlier than last time, and on a holiday
weekend to boot, and expect a vacancy at the B&B. It was
not in the cards this time. In fact, having caught the last
ferry over to the island for the night, we almost found ourselves
stranded with no place to stay. We were contemplating finding
a spot to pitch the tent we had thrown in the back of the car
for "just in case," when we stumbled on one of what
was very likely the last two vacant rooms available on the entire tiny island. They were located in a charming little campground
filled with French-speaking campers enjoying their blazing campfires
in the chill evening. We took one of the rooms, a small, basic
affair with a shared bathroom, but clean, comfortable, and cozy.
Once we got ourselves settled and had made the acquaintance
of some of our neighbors, we headed for the watering hole, hoping
they were still open for business at 9 p.m. They were, and in
fact bustling with a Saturday night crowd. Since it's one of
only two or three places to eat on Isles aux Coudres, this was
hardly surprising! George enjoyed his plate of spaghetti. The
trip was worthwhile.
We didn't realize quite what a charming
spot we had ended up in until the next morning when we rose
early to get started on the next leg of our journey. The dawn
revealed a small lake outside our door, overhung with early
morning mist and dew. The cabins were surrounded by lush vegetation
and wildflowers. George had a hard time prying me away from
this great photo opportunity, but we had a boat to catch.
Our next destination was Tadoussac, which
we had rushed through on our last trip, missing the opportunity
to see whales in action. We caught an early ferry from Isles
aux Coudres back across to the northern shore of the St. Lawrence.
We had been disappointed that the 19% grade road that lead down
to the ferry had been regraded since
our last visit to a less exciting incline; however, the ferry
ride turned out to be, in itself, an adventure. We were so engaged
in "communicating" with an amiable French speaking
passenger from Lac St. Jean that we noticed a bit too late that
Captain Cowboy piloting the boat was approaching the dock at
a higher rate of speed than usual. One minute we were standing there gawking at the fast approaching bulkhead, and
the next, we were sailingthrough the air, but fortunately not
over the side of the boat. George managed to catch himself,
but I kept on sailing and skidded to a stop on my knees. You
never saw ferry attendants rush so fast to scoop up a passenger
off the deck, all the while, I imagine, seeing "lawsuit,
lawsuit" flashing in French in front of their eyes! I dusted
off my scraped knees, merci-beaucouped, and limped off to the
car, resolving that on future ferry trips I would always be
IN the car by the time the boat docked!
The drive through the Charlevoix region
of Quebec was every bit as beautiful as we had found it during
our first visit. We didn't have as much time for stopping to
admire the views this time though.
We were on a mission: to embark on a three hour whale watching
cruise in the prime whale feeding area where the salty water
of the St. Lawrence mixes with the fresh water of the Saguenay
We arrived in Tadoussac just in time
to grab a quick bite to eat before boarding the Crossières,
which would take us out to see the whales. We had heard others
who had taken this cruise say they had spotted no less that
50 whales during the course of the trip. They were right! Once
we were underway, the whales started appearing non-stop, almost
as if they had been hired to put on a show for their audience.
We saw long Minkes, Fins, and the beautiful black and white
Belugas. We even spotted a couple of all white baby Belugas.
They leaped, cavorted, and shot their plumes of spray in the
air for us. The photos don't do the memories justice, and it
was just as well my camera battery conked out after a while
so I could watch the spectacle without a camera lense in the
After the cruise, we spent some time
in the small town of Tadoussac, mostly searching for a replacment
camera battery. Now I know why professional photographers advocate
taking along spares, particularly when traveling in remote regions.
Once thebattery problem was resolved, we headed for Escoumins,
a spot in the middle of nowhere that just happened to have a
convenient ferry crossing the St. Lawrence, rather wide at this
point, to the opposite shore: the northern portion of the Gaspé
Penninsula. The ferries in non-populated regions are few and
far between, particularly in the almost off season, so we had
a bit of a wait for the next and last one of the day.
While waiting for the boat, we chatted
(i.e., stumbled through English/French communications) with
other travelers and watched nature in all its brutal reality.
A small seagull with a broken wing was fluttering in distress
around the parking lot, an apparent victim of an accident, altercation,
or predator. A couple of guys tried to help him, but realizing
they couldn't do much, set him afloat in the water. He couldn't
fly, but he could swim, and swim he did to a rock a good distance
out from the shore. As he perched there, the "bird communications"
started. His compatriots were amazingly expressive in their
concern and distress for this one small bird. They hovered around
him for quite a while giving noisy moral support before finally
flying off to leave him to die in peace.