Next stop is prompted by a
glimpse of the extravagant spires of the Notre-Dame-des-Neiges church in Trois-Pistoles, where you think you
might catch a glimpse of the redoubtable nationalist novelist and publisher
Victor-Lévy Beaulieu but of course you don’t.
What you do hear, as you’re
wandering around the church grounds, is English, a few words of spoken English,
and this is so entirely unexpected that you turn around to see who would be
speaking English in Trois-Pistoles. Two young men on bicycles – are they
students here? but where? – and then they go on their way, leaving you with a
puzzle until you learn that the University of Western Ontario has run a French
summer school in the village for the past 90 years.
The best restaurant in Rimouski, Bistro l’Ardoise (152, rue St-Germain est, Rimouski) is booked solid. You can make it to the
Musée regional de Rimouski before closing time, so you check out the photo exhibit
Après Strand. Bertrand Carrière http://museerimouski.qc.ca/expositions/apres-strand-bertrand-carriere/,
which includes not only books containing some of Paul Strand’s original
Depression-era photographs of the Gaspé but 2010 Carrière photos (others being
exhibited in Estevan Lodge at the Reford Gardens).
The tide and the moon are both
full. By morning, when you awaken, longing for a walk along the water, the rocks
along the shore are exposed, the gulls crying. By the time you’ve made it to
the far end of the promenade, breathing the salt air and admiring the herons,
the staff are putting cushions on the wicker chairs outside the Brûlerie d’ici
(91, rue Saint-Germain ouest), where they serve a good cappuccino.
Empress of Ireland Museum, Pointe-au-Père
In Pointe-au-Père, a young man is cooking pancakes for his family’s
breakfast beside his camper van in the parking lot of the Site historique
includes a museum evoking the shape of an ocean liner and dedicated to the Empress of Ireland, which sank in 1914
with a loss of 1014 lives. Famously sank, I might add, for the loss of life was
greater even than that of Titanic, but this was a disaster soon eclipsed by
World War I.
Empress of Ireland
The Canadian submarine Onondaga, too, is open to the public,
but I passed on that, having a history of claustrophobia. And of acrophobia, as
well, so that I admired the handsome lighthouse without feeling inspired to
climb the 128 steps to the top.
The story of the lighthouse itself is
beguiling, though, as is the material on the fog horn shed and the pilot
station based here until 1960 (when it moved to Escoumins on the north shore). The
story of German U-boats in the Battle of the St. Lawrence (1942-1944) impresses
upon you the role of this coast in naval defense, for the Germans did
make it this far upriver in ways the alarmed local population had to keep to
themselves because of wartime security.
You might be impressed, too – when
you stop to take a photo of one of the many gazebos you have passed en route –
to learn of an organization is alerting the public to the danger to sea mammals
along the coast, as a gentleman gets out of a car to staple a poster on the
lamppost with information about who to contact if you come across an injured
You leave the Bas-Saint-Laurent
and enter Gaspésie 12 km east of Rimouski. The sign in Sainte-Luce announces that you’re entering the Mitis region; neighbouring Sainte-Flavie
proclaims itself gateway to Gaspésie. I was looking for signs of the concrete
sculptures by Marcel Gagnon
on the shore, some on rafts that float when the tide is high. It turns out they
are hard to miss, with the Gagnon family’s auberge, restaurant, gallery and
boutique all on the same property.
Text and photos by Linda Leith