On the Road to Métis II: From Trois-Pistoles to Sainte-Flavie
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.

 

Photo: Linda Leith
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 maritime, which 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.
Photo: Linda Leith
Pointe-au-Père lighthouse
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 creature.
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
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Q&A with Bharati Mukherjee

LL: You have been writing about the culture shock experienced by immigrants from India in the United States for 40 years or more. Do you see yourself as being a pioneer in this exploration of the immigrant experience?M

BM: My short and emphatic answer: Yes.

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