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Gaspé North, Part I

Les Jardins


September 6, 1999

Our first night on the Gaspé Peninsula, we stayed in Trois-Pistoles in a small "mom & pop" place called La Signeurie. Keep in mind that we find these places as we go. On these whirlwind driving trips through Canada, we rarely call ahead for accomodations, and we usually luck out. This was one of those gem finds—well appointed and charming.

After an early rising and light breakfast, we set out along the northern coast of the Gaspé, eastward bound. Our first stop was Les Jardins de Mètis, which featured 40 acres of gardens and a manor. The gardens had been developed by Elsie Reford, neice of Lord Mount Stephen, first president of the Canadian Pacific Railway, in the early 1900s. While it didn't compare to Buchart Gardens in Victoria in terms of grandeur, it was very nice, and the manor had a lovely restaurant overlooking the gardens where we had lunch. We also went on a tour of the mansion, but couldn't tell you much of what the tour guide said as she spoke only French. When someone asks you if you speak French in Quebec, beware of saying "un peu." That "little bit" goes a long way—whomever you're speaking to usually launches into a stream of speedy French they automatically assume you understand, blank expressions notwithstanding.

We continued our exploration of northern Gaspé, following the eastbound road that wound through small villages along the coast. The villages were photogenic, but the weather wasn't cooperating. It was misty and gray almost all day. The air was so humid that my hair had that "finger in the electric socket" look almost the entire time on the peninsula. You would think that so far north and surrounded by so much water that winters on the Gaspé peninsula would be brutal; however, we were told otherwise by the locals who claimed that winters are temperate and that Montreal is much colder by comparison. Hmmm...I wonder how temperate that weather would feel to a native Virginian! Actually, I've also read about the "harsh" winters, so the jury is out for those of us who don't live there.

As we came around a bend in the road, we were surprised by the sight of a large number of spidery white structures, as far as the eye could see. We had reached Cap-Chat, a municipality located between the sea and the Chic Choc mountains, where lay Le Nordais, one of the largest windmill parks in Canada. We learned that these windmills, still being built, provide electricity to a large portion of Quebec.An elderly couple parked in a trailer nearby were giving tours of the Eolienne, supposedly the largest vertical axis windmill in the world at 110 meters high. The tour turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip. The fellow who took us up to the windmill was very knowledgeable and interesting. It was obvious he had an in-depth understanding of the structure and a keen interest. The windmill, erected as a prototype, had been a success, however had had to be shut down in 1994 due to provincial legislation prohibiting privately owned companies from selling electric power. Our tour guide not only was well versed in the history of the windmill, but had an engineer's knowledge of the technology employed. When I asked him if he was an electrical engineer, he said, "Almost, but that he had had to work to eat and it had never worked out." It made me sad for him.

By the time we came out of the Eolienne, the area was completely enshrouded in fog. Our tour guide explained the history and function of the windmill park as we drove around in his truck, but all we could see of the structures were vague ghosts in the mist.

We found lodging for the night at a motel called Beaurivage, located right on the banks of the St. Lawrence. The back door to our room led out to a lawn that abutted a beach, upon which we took a stroll before dinner. (*Really* bad hair day.) The beach was very rocky and coarse, and populated with a number of interesting green rocks the color of jade. A restaurant down the road recommended by the motel staff turned out to be very good (plus we received two glasses of complimentary wine, courtesy of Beaurivage). The motel room was also pleasant—it had a small kitchenette, cable TV, and was nicely decorated; however (!) the accoustics were interesting. The toilets in the building flushed VERY loudly, and we could hear the guy next door snoring. Maybe that's why they ply their customers with wine. In the end, we managed to sleep well in spite of the cacaphony.


Manor at Les Jardins de Metis








Le Nordais Windmill Park




Windmill in the fog


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