A TRIP TO GASPE
The Two Laurie's Train Adventure
Click on each link below to view each set of photographs:
We arrived at the Brockville train station on Wednesday, October 3rd, 2001, at 1:50 p.m. One hour before departure. This was the only time our ride
was available. Laurie utilized her time practicing some French phrases, I meanwhile reminisced about train travels
of my youth, in particular, my first train adventure when six years old. It was a four-day holy pilgrimage to
shrines in Quebec. My grandmother, sister and I arrived by streetcar, suitcases in hand, to the old Ottawa Union
Station. There were so many entrances with heavy glass doors adorned by brass bars and push plates. Once through
those doors, burned into my memory, are the marble floors and huge pillars, polished brass everywhere, mile high
ceilings, ticket wickets and long line-ups. Brass poles with red velvet ropes, beautiful light fixtures, but most of
all,.....Best of all..... I remember the acoustics. It was in a corner of the old Ottawa Union Station that my
sister and I discovered we could yodel and tap dance at the same time. Our grandmother must have realized that
sooner or later we would have to be claimed, so she left that line-up, and ended our concert.
Knowing my tendency for tardiness, Lorraine insisted on an early arrival at the train station. We sat on the
benches,“ keen, and keener”. Could we survive on our high school French which she admitted failure to; myself,
barely passing. A giggle shared and shared over. I recalled the 1970’s. A friend and I had driven around the Gaspe
in a very ugly and un-reliable orange Gremlin. The hospitality had been over whelming . Here I am thirty years later
travelling with another friend on a more reliable conveyance. The excitement remains the same. I hear the
announcement over the speaker.
“ Est-ce bien le train qui va `a Montreal”? Laurie asked .Train number 60 from Toronto had arrived. We boarded
and the train departed on time. It was 2:50 p.m. and our adventure had started.
Our destination, the Gaspe Peninsula or Gaspesie region, is the mountainous south- eastern part of the province of
Quebec lying south of the Saint Lawrence River and reaching the Gulf of Saint Lawrence north of Chaleur Bay. The
area is predominately French speaking. We both have heard the stories of the “French only” attitude, so our quest on
this journey was to see if the two Laurie’s could survive on our high school French..
The Via 1 club car was full, so we went to a coach car where Laurie claimed the last empty seat.
This train set consisted of:
- 6414 engine
- 8606 baggage car
- 6006 coach car
- 8135 coach car
- 8134 coach car
- 4003 Via 1 club car
My seat mate on this train is Ken Bick , from Glousester England. He admits he loves touring Canada by Via train.
He explains that the trains in England are notoriously late and service is erratic on any given day. He is bound for
Cornwall, and we converse about our perspective lives and families. He promises to look up Train Web when he gets
home. In Cornwall Lorraine was able to join me and she explained how she practiced her French on the car attendant..
Oh Mon Dieu!!! Lorraine admitted that she had planned to teach me a phrase of salutation to be used when meeting
people. The joke of course being that I was asking people if they were married. We laughed a great deal over this,
but I was thankful she did not risk embarrassing me.
Service manager Louis-Philippe Beauchamps insisted I take his seat and kindly brought Laurie and me a cold drink,
Laurie also had a delicious looking muffin. As expected, the Via personnel were very attentive.
There was a delay before reaching Cornwall. A freight train ahead of us was experiencing mechanical problems. Since
we shared the same track there was no passing, so our train backed up onto a siding,( for safety concerns ) while
the freight train was being repaired. Announcements kept passengers informed of the events. During this down time,
Louis-Philippe asked about our destination, and said that I could practice my French on him. He was most gracious as
he strained to comprehend what I was saying..
We were underway within twenty minutes. A number of passengers detrained in Cornwall, and I was now able to sit with
Laurie. We chatted and enjoyed the scenery. The trees were starting to change colours. Following a brief five
minute stop at Dorval, we were on our way to the Montreal Train Station.
We arrived in Montreal shortly after five, and went immediately to the information kiosk. We waited in the wrong
line-up (our fault). We were sent to another location, ( wrong line ) and were finally directed to the correct
line. We were not alone in this confusion. This new line was for those people who had pre-booked sleeping
accommodation, and was meant to “ fast track” these people, I think.
When we were finally in the correct line, ahead of us, creating quite a stir and focus was a young lady with her
dog. The dog, obviously a mutt, was extremely well behaved and comfortable in its surroundings. I overheard that the
dog had even travelled to Europe. I intended to get the owner’s and the dog’s story but suddenly the line was
moving and my borrowed suitcase with wheels would not co-operate. I was pulling it forward as the valise, on a
course of its own, pulled first north then south. My attempts to correct it were embarrassing. It chose an east,
then west course and simply would not yield to any chosen direction. I finally picked it up, wishing instead that I
was leading that dog.
We boarded the train at 6:25 p.m. with l5 minutes to spare. Our three bed compartment was # 31A in sleeper car #
8210, the Chaleur Jolliet. It was quite spacious and at first impression looked like a sitting room. There were two
comfortable arm chairs and a couch-sized bench seat. There was a toilet en suite, storage closet, sink, electrical
outlets, and a large viewing window with privacy blind. Everything looked very clean and orderly. We met John, our
car attendant / air conditioner specialist. John went the extra mile when our room’s ventilation system wasn’t
working. Our train set consisted of :
Our train set consisted of:
- 6452 first engine
- 6404 second engine
- 8620 baggage car
- 8223 Chateau Rigaud - sleeper
- 8210 Chateau Jolliet - sleeper
- 8205 sleeper
- 8407 diner
- 8515 Dome and bar car
- 8138 coach
- 8120 coach
- 8140 coach
- 8113 coach
- 8505 dome/smoke/ t.v. car
- 8401 diner car
- 8204 Cadillac - sleeper
- 8208 Dollier - sleeper
- 8224 Roberval - sleeper
- 8229 Viger - sleeper
- 8215 Moyne - sleeper
- 8202 Bienville - sleeper
- 8704 Park Car
We went to the diner at 6:40 p.m. and were pleased to find it nearly empty. Lillian Despres, a native of Gaspe, and
retired for the last four years, joined us at our table. She was returning to Gaspe after a three week holiday in
Brantford visiting relatives. She explained that when she was working she always took the plane, but now that she
is retired and has more time, she only goes by train. I thoroughly enjoyed my breaded grilled haddock, mixed green
and yellow beans with baby carrots, and sauteed potatoes . Sliced cucumbers, tomatoes, and fresh lemon garnish,
were appealingly arranged on the plate. A tasty piece of maple cake and fresh coffee rounded out the meal. Laurie
said her fish chowder was delicious. She wasn’t too hungry after the muffin she had on the first train, so opted for
a cheeseburger, which hit the spot.
Lillian, a native of Gaspe was seated with us. She knew many people on board and talked to several passing through
or eating in the diner. She had worked at the hospital in Gaspe as a receptionist for thirty five years. Seated at
the table beside us was a famous heart surgeon. As Lillian acknowledged him, she explained to us that she would
recognize him anywhere. We glanced at him thinking of his busy practice, and how he must enjoy the quiet, and
anonymity on the train.
We said our good -bye to Lillian and headed for the Park car which was our favourite of the train. It was a
wonderful place to join in conversation with fellow travellers, or to sit back and enjoy the scenery. Fresh perked
coffee was always available. The lower level, or bullet lounge as it was called, was full, so we ascended to the
dome section where we relaxed in the quiet atmosphere. Darkness enveloped us; the only light was the running lights
along the floor and the moon and stars above. Peacefulness obviously was felt and enjoyed by our fellow travellers.
Such was the sense we shared as we looked to the sky, meanwhile the train rumbled forward through the night. When
we reluctantly returned to our room, the beds had been made and were most inviting. The gentle rocking motion and
comfortable bed set the stage for a good nights rest. Sleep came early to two tired companions.
We were awakened by the sound of the train whistle at 6:45 a.m. I had a marvellous sleep, waking a few times, but
falling back into a deep sleep. I headed for the shower with my Via shower kit. This wonderful convenience saved
you the inconvenience of packing shampoo, soap, towel and facecloth. Each sleeper car had its own shower which was
pretty straight forward to use. We both finished getting dressed then headed to the Park car to enjoy our
continental breakfast. We discovered that, when the train separated overnight, OUR Park car went to Halifax.
Actually most of the train went too. We were down to one engine, one diner, a couple of sleepers, a dome and a few
coaches. I was too upset to get the numbers but realized how soundly I must have slept. We wondered if many of the
people on the Halifax train will continue their trip on the Bras D’or run to Cape Breton.
The train numbers were:
- 8138 coach
- 8515 smoking/dome/skyline
- 8407 diner
- 8205 sleeper
- 8210 sleeper
- 8223 sleeper
- 8615 baggage
- 6455 engine
A scaled down continental breakfast was served in the dome car. There were croissants or muffins with different
jams or other toppings, juice and fresh brewed coffee. Laurie had a croissant with peanut butter, juice and
fresh coffee. Unlike the Park Car, where breakfast was a buffet, in this car it was served by an attendant.. It was
relaxing in this dome of light, as we enjoyed scenery while sipping coffee. Though somewhat disappointed that we
could not enjoy our continental breakfast in OUR Park car, the young attendant more than made up for it with his
finesse and willingness to please. I’m sorry we did not get his name, but we did get his picture.
Passing through the diner on our way back to our room, the aroma of toast proved irresistible. We each ordered
toast and coffee. There were not many people on the train now. We met Gladys Mullin, a native of Gaspe now living
in York, just outside the city of Gaspe. She was visiting her daughter, son in-law and two grandchildren in
Brockville, Ontario, and was now on her way home. She was the first to call herself Gaspesian. It was a term we
heard many times over the next few days. People would say that they were a Gaspesian from the Gaspesie.
Laurie went on to the dome car, and I joined a conversation with three Via personnel who were taking a break. Jean
Luc Nadon , chef ; J.C. Landry, service co-ordinator ; and Philippe Allaire, service manager.
They are all long time Via employees, and it was fun listening to their banter. Lyle Roberts, an off duty Via
employee, on his way to the Gaspe for the weekend joined us and told a few of his stories. It seems that years ago,
in each sleeper car, there was only one ladder for each sleeper section of the car. If you needed the ladder to get
up to your berth, you would take it and use it. If you wanted to get down, you would buzz the car attendant and he
would bring the ladder for your use. One night, late in the evening, there was a lot of commotion. The ladder could
not be found, and people wanting to get to bed were becoming agitated. The poor car attendant had searched
everywhere, but it was nowhere to be found. One older gentleman opened the curtain of his berth and asked what all
the fuss was about. When told that the ladder was missing, he produced it from within his berth and said, “here, use
mine.” Rest assured, Via is a progressive company, and that problem has been rectified.
Natalie Bonin, a porter, stopped by to say “hi”. She agreed when Lyle stated that the Gaspe has only two seasons;
winter and July. Definitely a taste of eastern humour . Philippe Allaire was most helpful by letting me know a bit
in advance of an approaching train station. This train leaves Montreal for the Gaspe three times a week, Wednesday,
Friday, and Sundays, returning on Thursday, Saturday, and Mondays.
I decided to join Laurie in the dome car. Of note; any attempt on my part to speak French resulted in an English
response. All Via personnel seem to be bilingual and even those with a “heavy” French accent speak much better
English than I do French. My only error so far has been asking for l’eau au chocolat instead of lait au chocolat.
We approached Chandler. Seated in the dome car I became engrossed in the conversation of two fellow passengers who
were obviously train buffs. One pointed to something not far from shore, and explained it was a shipwreck. In reply
to my query they told me that in l983 a ship docked at a nearby wharf lost its’ mooring in high winds and smashed
on the rocks. I stared at the wharf and the cormorants diving along the shoreline as the waves lapped up on the
beach. I was mesmerized and pictured this disaster and the rescue of twenty eight lives on board. This began an
hour long conversation with the train buffs while the overcast sky turned to rain and our clear view became obscured
by raindrops hitting the windows. Mike Adams is an air force retiree now living in New Brunswick. When I asked about
his love of train travel he told me he had taken the rails from Halifax to Vancouver no less than four times in the
last four years. He seemed to know a lot about the cars themselves explaining that in l990 the dome cars were
refurbished, for the first time since l953. He and another passenger, Ron, an American from Pittsburgh
Pennsylvania, began to discuss the differences between Amtrak and Via. They had much to say in favour of Canadian
rails , apparently their first choice. From a few seats ahead, a man turned and agreed whole heartedly. His name is
John Beck and he is an American from Connecticut. He praised the cleanliness of Via trains, and the convenience of
the showers. Ron, Mike, and John began to share stories of foreign rail experiences. It became obvious how well
travelled these train buffs really are. Stories of people atop a train in Venezuela, and a journey aboard a Mexican
train sharing seat space with goats and chickens greatly entertained me. Ron chose Norway as his favourite train
trip. John said the train from Chile to Argentina, known as the “Cloud Train” because of the height it reaches, is
his favourite ride. Suddenly Mike jumped up. This was Perce and this was his stop.
I only caught the last ten minutes of their conversation, but I was intrigued. Lyle Roberts visited the dome car
with his beautiful daughter, Laura, who entertained us for a bit. The train rumbled on skirting the shoreline of the
Gulf of Saint Lawrence. Clusters of houses hug the coast of this great peninsula.
The green, orange and yellow patch-work suddenly became more prominent in the hills that surround these coast-line
settlements. The Virginia creeper was now in its’ crimson glory. The soil, no longer brown, suddenly became red.
Golden sumacs laden with bright red berries, lined the track as we passed New Carlyle. Our arrival was imminent. At
Haldiman’s Beach an attendant pointed out the seals bobbing in the water. They playfully flipped under water and
We laughed a great deal over the fact that we had just discovered that the anonymous heart surgeon aboard was
nothing of the sort. It was a case of mistaken identity by Lillian.
The train pulled into Gaspe station at l2:10. We said good-by to John and thanked him for his help.
We were met by Marcel Burton of National Car Rental . Marcel had the paperwork all ready and even had the car warmed
up. The weather in Gaspe was quite cool, so we really appreciated his thoughtfulness. Mr Burton loaded our bags into
the trunk and we were on our way in minutes. With another kind gesture he instructed us to follow him and he would
show us to the Motel Adams, our home this first night in Gaspe.
The clerk, Gaetan Mainville, checked us in, answered our questions and provided us with brochures of the area. We
deposited our luggage into our room, then went for lunch at the Adams restaurant. It was l2:45 p.m. Ron, a fellow
train traveller, was also waiting in line so we decided to share a table . There was a bit of a wait, as it seems a
lot of local people patronize Adams restaurant, which keeps the waitresses pretty busy.
Laurie had a large chef salad and French onion soup. I could not resist the smell of fries, so thoroughly enjoyed a
hamburger with poutin.
We finished lunch at 2:00 p.m. then headed out to find park Forillon, south area. The beautiful scenery distracted
us and we found ourselves lost a few times but finally managed to locate the park entrance. Park guide, Nadia
Brodeur, greeted us and explained that the park opens the first week of June and closes the eighth of October.
Parts of the park are open in winter for camping, skiing and hiking. We thanked Nadia and drove on into the park
enjoying the beautiful fall foliage. When we left Ontario the fall colours were just starting but here they were in
full bloom. The weather was misty and had been drizzling for most of the afternoon. Travelling down a slight
decline and rounding a bend in the road, we came upon Plage Beach. We stopped for a while to explore the lovely
little beach and watch a gaggle of ducks. The setting was very pretty. Plage Beach sits at the bottom of a small
valley and, when you looked up at the hills, you were enveloped in this garden of colour. The trees were glorious.
The scene reminded me of Joseph and his coat of many colours. However, overcast skies will dull the colour
brilliance in our pictures. Laurie called this evening to say that she thinks plage means beach in French. I
double check; she is correct. For one whole week we have referred to the little beach as Plage, and even made sure
we had the correct spelling. Duh!
We stopped at a small beach in search of driftwood. Ducks were swimming near shore. We were so happy to be this
close to the ocean that we ran out for pictures . Lorraine got her feet christened by a wave as I snapped her
picture. Despite the dismal drizzle we were having fun. As I caught a faint whiff of the ocean here on the Gulf of
Saint Lawrence, I pinched myself to say we were really there on the Gaspe.
We left the beach and continued on our way. The colours were breathtaking as we drove along the road. We came
upon the William Hyman and Sons General Store. We dashed through the rain to get to it’s door. Inside we discovered
a general supply store depicting the cod fishing era of the 1800’s and early 1900’s. The shelves were lined with
simple and typical supplies of the era such as salt, sugar, flour and molasses and everything from cloth, dishes,
articles of footwear and kerosene. Here we discovered that two powerful fishing companies dominated the salt cod
trade on the coast. The export of salt cod in the 1800’s was extensive; and catches were shipped to Italy, Spain
and the West Indies.
Since the fishing season only lasted from May until the end of October, the area inhabitants farmed as well, to
sustain a life on the Gaspe. Viewing a film in a theatre in the store, made it clear that the inhabitants had a
hard, arduous life, and made me realize the strong attachment these men had to the sea. The warehouse on site
smells of salt cod. Names of companies are stamped on the wooden walls and barrels. I looked out at the shore from
one of the windows and felt myself transported back in time.
The second floor had an exhibit and account of the cod industry in this area a hundred years ago. We both enjoyed
the basement warehouse. Here we found barrels filled with salt cod ready for export to the different countries. An
old wheelbarrow lies, discarded for the day, waiting to be put into use tomorrow after the cod are caught. Rounding
a corner we caught sight of old Mr Hyman hiding the day’s receipts in a secret vault hidden within these cellar
walls. We felt like time travellers as we toured the Hymans’ store. At 4:45 p.m., we reluctantly left and back
tracked to Gasp`e.
We decided to have dinner at Adams restaurant. It was just so handy and a short walk across the parking lot from our
motel. Laurie enjoyed a tender, tasty steak with all . the trimmings. After a day in the dampness a bowl of hearty
homemade soup suited me perfectly. The service was prompt and attentive. We retired to our room and phoned for a
wake up call at 6:30 a.m. We watched a bit of TV. but mostly updated our journals. We were both sleeping by l0:00
Travelling, no matter how enjoyable, extracts energy, so being rested is not only wise but essential. Before
falling off, I commented to Lorraine about the hospitality of the people on the Gaspe.
Friday morning we were up and ready by 7:15, so decided to pack the car first, then check out at the office, before going for
breakfast. Gaetan was on duty this morning, and check-out took a minute. We found our accommodation at the Adams
Hotel to be very clean and comfortable. Staff were friendly and the Adams restaurant was ideally located. We went
for breakfast at 7:30 a.m. All of the waitresses that served us at this restaurant were bilingual. This morning our
waitress, Monique, actually answered me in French when I spoke French to her. She was, as were all of the other
waitresses, very pleasant and efficient. Laurie had scrambled eggs , bacon, diced potatoes, toast, and a lemon slice
on lettuce. I enjoyed my egg over easy, diced potatoes and toast. There was a basket containing a nice variety of
jams and toast toppings. Monique was around many times with fresh coffee refills.
We were on the road by 8:30 headed for L’Anse-`a-Valleau to visit the historic site of Pointe-a-la-Renomme`e which
is fifty km from Gaspe. Again we got lost a few times, but found, whenever we stopped, absolutely everyone was most
helpful. When we explained that we spoke a little French, they helped us in English. If someone spoke only French,
they would point us in the right direction.
We arrived on time for our 9:45 meeting at the information centre. Gislaine Henley greeted us, and we met Francoise
Dupuis, our guide today, and Martin Laflamme, also a guide.
It was a very cold damp morning as we followed Francoise to the lighthouse. At least inside the building there was
no wind, but it was still very cold. The first lighthouse was built in l880, the second one in l907. Francoise led
us up the steep, metal, circular steps and explained that each lighthouse had its own particular light code. Each
revolution of this light took thirty seconds. In each ten second interval there was 7.3 sec black, .04 sec. red,
and l.3 sec. white light. Total weight of the prisms is two and a half tons, and the parts were made in Paris,
France, but assembled in Canada. The first lantern used whale oil. We stepped out onto the observation deck. The
lighthouse rises only fifty feet, but it seemed like five hundred when standing on the deck. The light can be seen
fifty nautical miles out to sea. We also saw the site where the original fog horn was situated. Like lighthouses,
each horn had its own code. This horn sounded four seconds of every minute when in use. We followed Francoise next
door to the telegraph museum. There were model displays of what the settlement looked like over a hundred years ago.
Many photographs lined the walls, and display cases contained interesting artefacts from the telegraph station and
lighthouse. They even had the original telescope used in the first lighthouse. A copy of the communication chart
showed the location of the Titanic when it sent its distress signal to this site. Francoise told us that they hope
to have the re-construction of the small fishing village completed in a few years. As we followed her back to the
warmth of the information centre, we noticed the nice play area for children, and rest areas, all of which are very
well maintained. We warmed ourselves for a few minutes, as we thanked them for the tour. All three are justifiably
proud of this historic site.
At ll:30 we left the lighthouse and headed for L’Anse-au-Griffon to visit Manoir LeBoutillier. It is a 30 km drive
along the coast. The mist enshrouded hills were breathtaking. Dark green evergreens dotted the fall coloured
escarpments. The clouds suspended themselves just above the waterline; the water now calm and grey-blue. We arrived
at 12:10 p.m. at a beautiful manor.
We entered the house and were greeted by Martine Vallerand, our guide. She was very gracious and excused her English
but we found her very charming and had no problem understanding her English. If anything, her accent added to the
allure of the tour she was giving. Manoir LeBoutillier was built in the 1850’s for Monsieur Boutillier who was one
of the rich salt cod merchants during the late 1800’s .The home was constructed by his boat carpenter from
Kamouraska: hence the curved roof line which is so typical of much of Quebec. The influence is European as
Monsieur Boutillier came here directly from Europe’s Jersey to set up the cod business. The house was beautiful but
Martine told us it was only used for business. The servants’ quarters looked typically early Canadian although we
were surprised at the bright green and yellow colours of the kitchen. The dining room was furnished in European
richness. Of most interest was a picture of Perce Rock when it had two holes. Martine explained that the eastern
part shattered when it was hit by lightening during a terrible electrical storm. A beautiful grandfather clock, a
moose foot ashtray, a piano, and games table graced this room.
Ascending the sweeping staircase to the second floor, we visited the accounting room complete with two windows that
overlooked his work yards . We were amazed at the guide’s account of Monsieur Boutillier’s first in command who was
required to remain unmarried and distanced from the fishermen. Nonetheless, he was an unusual business man for his
time. He built roads and schools on the Gaspe for the fishermen’s families, yet ensured that his top men never
befriended the workers. He had seventeen boats, which took forty days to deliver the salt cod to Portugal, France
and the Caribbean. He operated seven such fishing posts on the Gaspe. At seventy two years of age he became a
senator in Quebec City.
From the moment we stepped into the foyer, we knew that this was a grand house. It was wonderful walking from room
to room, viewing the house as it would have looked one hundred and fifty years ago. Martine said that all of the
furnishings are on loan from either private sources or from museums. Laurie and I both found it kind of sad that it
was strictly a place of business for Monsieur Boutillier and that his family never lived there.
Manoir LeBoutillier opens June lst and closes October l5th. There are numerous activities during the summer months.
Tea and desserts are served here, and they have a wonderful boutique bursting with good quality items. They also
have some antiques for sale. When we said our good-by to Martine and the door closed behind us, I could feel all of
the ghosts come out from hiding, and peek at us from behind the curtains.
We leave the manor at l:45 p.m. Our schedule is shot. It seems the “hurrieder we get, the behinder we are.” We were
on our way to Park Forillon, north area. It was still overcast and damp but Laurie’s sense of humour had us laughing
in no time, and we found many things to amuse us. We noticed another lighthouse and stopped to investigate. When
you live inland, these houses are a joy to investigate. This was Cap des Rosiers and it was closed, but we walked
around the grounds and looked at the different displays and read the plaques. I just happened to notice that Laurie
missed reading the one sign that described this as the tallest lighthouse in Canada. When we neared the car I
mentioned that this was sure taller than the one at Pointe-a-la-Renommee, to which she agreed. Then I said, “I’ll
bet this is the tallest lighthouse in Canada, and I don’t care if it is or not, I’m going to write that it is”.
Laurie was horrified. “You can’t write that; people will know that it’s not true. You can’t make that up.” Like a
lamb to the slaughter, for the rest of the week I enjoyed talking about my tallest lighthouse, even though Laurie
cringed every time I made reference to it.
We arrived at the interpretation centre for Parc Forillon at 3:00 p.m. Inside we met Jos`ee Dion at the
information desk. The walk through the museum revealed that 450 million years ago this land was pushed out of an
ancient sea by the earth’s pressure. Numerous photos depicted the natural life and habitats to be found in the park.
A quote from the museum display: “The sea, this vast expanse of salt water subjected to the action of tides, the
currents and the winds in turn influences the whole peninsula. It tempers the climate, shapes the shoreline, fills
the air with saline aromas and with unceasing sound of waves.. But above all, it offers ever changing moods of which
one never tires”.
After viewing the many aquariums and displays we headed out for the board-walk which took twenty minutes to
traverse. Slowly we headed towards the water surrounded, first, by rose bushes teeming in rose hips and then by
raspberry canes with the odd few berries that we sampled. Fireweed, now gone to seed, was still beautiful in fall.
We descended a short distance to the beach below and explored brown ruffled seaweed streamers. We collected
interesting shells and pretty sea-washed stones. We walked the wharf to the end where a flock of seagulls flew away
as we intruded the peaceful setting. To the west was a lighthouse (my tallest lighthouse) and to the east,
precipices shrouded in mist. The waves continued to lap the shore, happy and lulling. I felt a part of the
landscape, wanting to; needing to.
It was 4:00 p.m. when we headed to the parking lot. Our next stop was Perce, 110 km from the park. Another couple
were about to leave and we asked them for directions out of the park and to the highway leading to Perce. They more
than obliged, and indicated we were to follow them. The obliging couple was Marie Claude and Louis-Philippe Hebert of
Heading back, we stopped at an antique shop just outside Gaspe . The furniture and collectables were beautiful, but
we didn’t know if our returning train had a baggage car. We were sure this beautiful armoire would not fit into our
sleeping compartment on the train. On the highway again, the sign said 76 km to Perce. We skirted the coast
enjoying the peaceful view as well as the distinguishably small, colourful clapboard houses that lined the road en
route. Rounding the bay of Gaspe , Perce Rock came into view. We drove up and down, and around, then up and down
and around more bends on the last leg of our journey to Perce, the town, marked by a twinkling of lights in the
dark. A sea of motels bombarded us as we entered the village in search of the Perce Hotel.
We arrived at the Perce hotel at 6:30 p.m. The spacious lobby was very tastefully decorated. Alain Bujold greeted
us at the front desk then looked over our itinerary and made helpful suggestions for the next day. Apparently the
weather did not look promising for a boat ride to Perce rock. “Let me make a call” he said, “I can arrange this”,
or “I can inquire for you” comments, led Laurie and me to believe that Alain could arrange just about anything. He
told us where the boat departs in the morning, and gave directions to La maison du pecheur where we were dining that
evening. Alain insisted on carrying our heavy suitcases (rock collection) to our upstairs room.(where we were
ensured of a great morning view). He explained that his brother, Renaud, would be working the early shift. On the
way up we detected a whiff of burning wood “Ahhh” said Alain, “that would be my father smoking fifteen fresh
salmon.” He promised us a taste....“maybe.”
We headed out for supper at La maison du pecheur. We were seated at the end table of what looked like one of two
dining areas. The decor was pleasing. A glance at the menu proved seafood to be the specialty of the house. They
did have other selections, but the late hour and our hunger convinced us to order pizza. They could not produce the
one we chose , so we made a second choice. We watched people around us obviously enjoying their seafood platters.
This restaurant seemed popular with tourists and locals alike. When the pizza finally arrived, it was just warm and
truly unworthy. For dessert we were led through our dining room , into the next , to the dessert table where we
pointed out our selections. We returned to our seats, “ sans dessert,” and waited to be served. We kept looking for
We walked back to the motel, tired after our busy day ,and anxious to catch up on notes. I stood out on the balcony
listening to sounds coming from Perce or Bonaventure island. They sounded like nothing I had ever heard before:
somewhere between moans and a high pitched uttering. In the morning I learned it was the seals.
We were up bright and early Saturday morning. We headed for breakfast before 7:30 and caught a glimpse of Perce
rock. It was a dull, rainy morning. We were greeted by Renaud Bejold, Alain’s brother. Renaud’s parents bought the
hotel in the l950’s and the three brothers have been running it since l981. We were shown to the roomy, sparkling
clean dining room. The atmosphere was relaxing and I noticed the crisp soft-pink linen tablecloths. I ordered toast,
cheese, and juice. It was very appealingly arranged on the plate, along with a wedge of watermelon, orange,
cantaloupe, and fresh ground cherries. There was a nice selection of jams and toast toppings. Laurie had scrambled
eggs and ham, fried potatoes, toast, grapefruit juice, and the same fresh fruit garnish. Fresh coffee completed our
very satisfying breakfast. While we ate, Renaud sat at the next table and talked of Perce and tourism, and some of
the attractions we might want to visit if our plans must change. He told us that 35% of the tourists come from
France and Europe. Like his brother Alain, Renaud was extremely informative and helpful. We left the hotel and
sauntered down the street to the ticket outlet of the boat tour operator.
When we arrived, we were told to shop for half an hour and then come back. Maybe the winds will have died down by
then and the boat will venture out. We went to a few shops and looked at the souvenir displays, before purchasing
a few items. We returned in half an hour only to see our boat leaving the dock. The captain told us that the
weather was getting quite bad and the boat was now heading for a safe harbour to ride out the brewing storm. He
reported that this was only the second time this year that the boats did not go out, and on yesterdays tour, four
humpback whales were spotted. Lorraine suggested we visit some shops to search out local crafts.
We were very disappointed about the cancelled boat trip. Our morning freed up, we walked along the wharf and did
some shopping. Many items were 50% end of the season sale priced. Laurie still looked like she could trip on her
bottom lip, so we went back to the hotel for suggestions from Renaud. On the way back we ran into Marie Claude and
Louis-Philippe Hebert, the couple we met in park Forillon.
Back at the Perce hotel, Renaud suggested a trip to la Grotto. We didn’t know if we would be back in time for check
out at noon, so we packed the car and asked Renaud if we could leave a camera battery on charge with him and pick it
up on our way back from the mountain. “Certainement” he said.
At a local bakery we purchased a loaf of fresh bread, and hunk of cheese; Laurie wanted to experience a “typical
French lunch” sur le montagne.
It had rained for two days and the steep winding dirt road was slippery in spots. The red earth contrasted sharply
across the white coloured hood of the car. We arrived at the parking area, and carrying our lunch, headed out on the
path that led to la Grotto. The path was well maintained, with railings on the steeper parts and sturdy wooden seats
strategically placed along the way. No written description could ever prepare us for our first impression of la
Grotto. Before it actually came into view we heard water splashing, then rounding the bend, there it was in all
its splendour. We were surrounded on three sides by a huge rock formation, and standing back far enough for a
panoramic photo proved impossible because it was so massive. High on a ledge perched a holy statue with
out-reaching arms, embracing us much like the rock walls all around us. The ambiance of this place was both peaceful
and reflective. We started back down the path and decided to have lunch. Seated on a bench we literally “broke
bread”. We forgot to bring drinks and Laurie joked that the only thing missing was the wine. As for the French
lunch..... I decided that Laurie watches far too many foreign films. On the way down, we made a small detour to
Belvedere lookout. We were told that it is a beautiful spot overlooking the town of Perce, but the weather did not
co-operate, and it was too foggy to see anything.
The drive to “la Grotto” stressed the car as we climbed and climbed the rough red dirt roads of Mount Ste. Anne,
that curved and dipped then rose again. We parked the car and walked the remaining footpath with our repast of
bread (purchased at the Perce Boulangerie) and cheese. We could hear water falling, faintly at first then louder
and louder until La Grotto came into view. The beauty of this place left us speechless. Water cascaded some twenty
metres above us from an over-hanging grey boulder, falling clear of the cliff past multi-coloured rock to a pool
below. There the red gravel sparkled in the crystal water as it meandered into a stream following the downhill
slope. Someone had placed a statue of the Virgin Mary high on a rock ledge. It was easy to see why this place was
considered Holy and people came here to pray. Someone had left an offering of wildflowers. We returned to one of
the many benches placed on the walkway and, in the fresh air, enjoyed our rustic lunch of fresh bread torn from the
loaf with chunks of cheese. We left, stopping at several parking area lookout points(Belvedere 1,2,3 and 4) along
the road. Unfortunately the fog was so thick, we could not glimpse the town of Perce below.
It was after l:00 p.m. when we returned to the Perce hotel to pick up my battery and say good-bye to Renaud. We
were now on our way to Paspebiac, a 115 km drive to visit the historic site of Banc-de-Paspebiac. (The history of
fishing in the Gaspe peninnsula)
The weather was bleak. It was raining when we started our trip and an hour later, as we passed through Chandler, it
was pouring. We arrived at the site just after 3:00 p.m. and were greeted by Christiane Delarosbie in the
information centre. She explained that there would be an English tour in the morning, but we were most welcome to
tour the site ourselves. She gave us a brief history of the two founding families of this settlement, and a map of
the different buildings on this site.
This was a museum of many buildings depicting the late l7th and l8th century cod trade. The guide spoke
predominantly French and apologized for the absence of an English guide at this time of year. Lorraine and I spoke
our broken French which I admit was improving somewhat. With gestures and single words exchanged in both languages
we headed off on the site’s course, noting there were sheets of French and English in each building to explain the
exhibits. Two major fishing merchant’s businesses in the area during the late 1700’s and early 1800’s were on
display. Charles Robin began his business in 1765 and LeBoutillier Bros. in 1838.
The first building was administrative and offered us a display of safes, desks, accounting books (even an early
adding machine and typewriter) used to calculate the early comings and goings of merchandise and workers.
Following the map provided, we moved on to a warehouse displaying the shipping aspect of this commerce. Outside
this building were several wooden fishing boats and masts. We explored these through the drizzle of rain. There
was even a skeleton frame of a barge giving the onlooker an idea of how a boat was constructed. I marvelled at the
craftsmanship. The next building was a carpentry shop depicting all the tools necessary to create boats. It also
housed a section of boats in various repairs, such a part of the whole enterprise during the fishing trade.
Numerous scale models of the many boats were on display; barges, brigs, and schooners, all used in the fishing
industry. In the downpour we raced to the blacksmith’s shop to inspect forges, anvils, wheels and tongs and the
ever present horse shoes needed to shoe the many beasts that laboured along side the workers.
We met Christiane Delarobie closing up. We bade “adieu”; Lorraine and I wanted to say more. Perhaps our high
school French really failed us at this point. We simply wanted to be bilingual in our gratitude, but all we could
say was tres, tres bon.
It was 4:45 p.m. when we finished our tour of the different structures, and like all of the other sites we had
visited, the time passed too quickly. Some of the exhibits were so authentic that you had tangible moments of being
part of that period. What a difficult, laborious existence these men endured. We said good-by to Christiane, and
aimed for Bonaventure, a short 20 km drive. The weather seemed to be getting quite stormy and the winds were
definitely stronger. In no time, we arrived at Chateau Blanc, a beautiful motel perched right on the shore. I felt
relieved to be escaping the stormy weather. We entered the spacious lobby and were met at the front desk by Helen
Babin, a friendly receptionist at the Chateau Blanc for the last sixteen years. We inquired about the Christmas
decorations which, although beautiful, seemed a bit out of place for early October. She explained that two separate
groups would be arriving to partake of their Christmas festivities, and October was the only month when all could
attend. They did a wonderful job, but were only half finished according to Helen, as she gave us a little tour of
the dining area, bar, and lobby, complete with Christmas tree.
Our room was on the second floor, so we retrieved our luggage from the car and hauled it upstairs. The room was
quite comfortable looking and very clean. From our balcony overlooking the Bay of Chaleurs, we sighted a beautiful
double rainbow. It was wonderful to see and feel the sun for the first time since our arrival to the Gaspesie
region. Within the hour, as sunset approached, the rain returned, the wind began to howl, and the waves crashed over
the rocks onto the shore.
Laurie’s suggestion of dinner was declined; my notes needed attention and venturing out into the storm did not
appeal to me; besides, we still had some of our “sur le montagne French lunch”. Laurie left to find a restaurant,
so I unpacked and started updating notes. The room felt increasingly chilled which prompted me to turn up the
thermostat. The combination of wind and crashing waves was frightening; I was relieved to see Laurie back from
dinner. We talked and laughed, and worked on our notes a bit, but all the fresh air today took its toll, and I
crashed early. A few times during the night the sound of the wind invaded my sleep, and visions of the surf smashing
the windows and dragging us out to sea had me wishing morning would come sooner.
Lorraine decided to skip supper and catch up on writing so I left to explore the town in hopes of finding a little
restaurant. I was not disappointed as I came upon “Le Bec Flute”, a restaurant converted from an old brick house.
It had the atmosphere of a cafe: artsy, cosy, and quiet. The tables and floors were painted artwork themselves. A
room to the side was filled with artisan pottery for sale. The food (whole wheat crepes filled with seafood) was
healthy and delicious. Returning to Hotel Chateau Blanc, Lorraine and I agreed the weather was now scary. There
was a consistent roaring of wind as it pushed against our windows with great fury, and whistled through unseen
cracks. Below, the waves smashed angrily against the rocks sending spray onto the balcony. We nestled into our
beds pulling the covers tightly around us feeling safe and warm.
We awoke around 6:30 a.m. Sunday morning, the storm was over and the sun was rising. The water, once menacing, was now calm, and
the gentle waves lapped at the shore. The beach was strewn with seaweed and driftwood deposited during last night’s
storm. We would have both loved to explore the beach this morning, but still had to pack, have breakfast, and be in
New Richmond by 9:00 a.m. Arriving in the lobby at 7:30, we were greeted by Caroline Geauthier, the morning
receptionist. She took our order, and served breakfast. Laurie enjoyed her eggs benedict, juice, melon slices, and
toast. My toast, juice, and numerous coffee refills was very satisfying.
By 8:15 we were headed towards New Richmond, 40 km west of Bonaventure. Our destination this morning was the Centre
de l’heritage britannique en Gaspesie, a historic British site, a museum of buildings depicting the early English
settlement on the coast. It was a gloriously sunny morning but very cool. We chatted while enjoying the
beautiful coastal route. We were early, arriving at 8:45 a.m.
We entered Gendron General Store, the reception area of the grounds. Once inside we were met by Patricia Leblanc
and Andre Audet, both British settlers dressed in period costume. They told us a bit of background history of this
village. We were shortly joined by Edward Garrett, grounds foreman. Patricia showed us through the store and gift
shop. It was easy to see how much she enjoyed her work as she spoke with great enthusiasm and answered our many
questions. We viewed a valuable collection of cards under glass which depicted the “who’s who” in the British army.
This had been a private donation. In the back store, a sort of storage area, we discovered a child’s coffin. It
impacted on us just how many infants and youths died during those early days. In the west side of the house was a
display of placards with descriptive writings from several early settlers. Surviving the crossing alone was a feat
in itself as conditions were crude and many illnesses plagued the ship occupants. Here we met Joan Dow, long time
president of the historic site since 1984. She suggested we read an account of one such arrival. It was the story
of David Parry who sailed from Liverpool in 1812. While walking from the boat to the shoreline he slipped through a
crack in the ice. He stayed there two days and one night before he was found. A carpenter and sailor amputated his
one leg, using common implements. The second leg was amputated the following day. Amazingly he survived. David
then made his living by driving a dog pulled cart up and down the coast selling his story to people. Upstairs we saw
the beautiful array of period costumes for the site’s workers, a local seamstresses handicraft. Onto Harvey House to
view the Jersey room filled with period furniture that had crossed with the British. From a corner cupboard in the
next room came a sample of Cuthbert dishes, also privately donated. In the following room were mannequins
displaying articles of clothing, some with very interesting histories that Joan was only too eager to share. This
section housed the area’s genealogy records. Joan explained that the museum was instituted in 1984 with the 200th
celebration of the Loyalist’s landing. Actually they had received very little provincial or federal funding and
survived on fundraising and private donations.
We then toured on a tractor driven wagon as the buildings were quite spread out on the site, a mile in length ending
at the shore. We visited the W.H. Willet Store filled with wonderful artefacts of its day. After hearing an
account of ruthless American Revolution pirates we headed to the ruins of the 1765 Carswell House. Master
shipbuilder George Carswell had come to Gaspesie with William Cuthbert to build ships. Next came the Duthie House
dating from 1832. Perhaps the most interesting of all was the Campbell House. When the house was moved to the
site, part of the roof had to be removed so it could get under some overhanging electrical and telephone wires.
What surprised the carpenters doing this job was the discovery of a secret hidden room entirely sealed off from an
upstairs bedroom. Inside this secret room was a loom, spinning wheel and wool winder, an iron kettle and button up
boots. As history goes, a tradition of Scottish people (Campbell) was to seal a wife’s beloved things in a wall, at
her death, so the second wife would never touch them. The home was very quaint. One of the rooms wooden walls was
polished smooth from skeins of wool that once hung on them years and years ago. I loved the kitchen with its
pantry. Beside the kitchen table was a baby’s cradle hollowed out of a huge maple trunk. It was so heavy a man
could not pick it up alone.
We ended our tour with the Willet House where the site’s restaurant was housed as well as the meeting room for the
corporation members. Both rooms had lovely atmospheres. Upstairs, several furnished bedrooms were part of the
We were thoroughly enjoying this site, and hadn’t noticed the time fast forward to almost eleven o’clock, the time
we were due at the Biopark, our next destination. Patricia kindly offered to phone. We explained our dilemma and
changed our arrival time to 1:00 p.m. There was so much to see. The secret room and second floor spare bedroom that
housed the hundreds of articles to be catalogued were among favourites. Joan explained that everything on site had
been donated. Of great interest was the genealogy centre where they welcome all inquiries from anyone whose
relatives came from the Gaspesie, and for a very reasonable charge will do a thorough genealogy study. We both
enjoyed walking the woodland trails to the various sites.
Of all the enchanting sights we’ve seen today, the simple wood cabin with the log bed, straw mattress, and dirt
floor drew my breath away. I realized, that this would have been the type of dwelling for both my French and Irish
ancestors. They came, not for adventure or commerce, but out of necessity, and this would have been “home”. You
read about a dirt floor cabin, but then to see a bed on a dirt floor cabin was heart wrenching. In that moment, I
felt the dampness, the bleakness, and their despair; in those few seconds, I think our souls met.
We had rushed the end of the tour noting it would be best seen in a whole day. We said our farewells and relayed
our enjoyment with the visit and our appreciation of the warm welcome.
It was 12:20 p.m. and we were on the road again headed for the Bioparc de Bonaventure, a 40 km drive back to
Bonaventure. We arrived just after 1:00 p.m., and met with Elaine Bernier, director, and Julie Belanger, our guide.
We started out viewing the multi-media room with its big screen and many benches. Here groups could watch a film
about the park before walking the grounds. The park boasts five bio-systems of the Gaspe Peninsula. It having opened to the public in June 1998, this was its
fourth season. Today entrance was free and many families had come to enjoy the wildlife display’s.
From a grounded lobster boat we looked out over a pond and saw sea gulls, ducks and cormorants in their natural
setting. Next we moved on to look through the glass of three aquariums displaying the various bottom organisms
found along the coast. Lobster, crabs and star fish were just some of the aquatic creatures we viewed. Julie
picked up an oyster and showed us (carefully) how to make it open. Next came a huge salt water pond where seals
happily bobbed and showed off their professional swimming techniques. The pond was built into the side of a hill
where a glass window was installed to watch the seal’s underwater swimming. We learned not to stand close to the
glass as the seals would not appear. Consequently, when we stepped back they came into sight and performed their
The next area was called the lagoon which Mallard ducks and Canada geese agreeably shared. It was hard to
distinguish the young from the adults at this time of year. Onto the river environments (fresh water) where we saw
raccoons who diligently washed their hands in the water close to the fence. A replica of an osprey was perched high
in its nest. I was surprised to hear from the guide that these birds were the most common in the world. The stream
in this display collected in a pool full of fresh trout which dove to the surface when Julie threw food pellets on
the water. Ducks and mergansers also shared this habitat. Next we encountered some otters, part of the weasel and
skunk family, playing happily in their fresh water pool.
Onward we walked to a forest environment where porcupine, foxes and coyotes co-existed. Here we learned some
startling statistics. 70% of all forest fires are started by humans. Though this replenishes the forest floor and
creates new environments, a lot of wildlife perishes. We were astounded by the size of the cougars but Julie told
us how shy these animals really were and that no accidents with humans were reported in the area. Beautiful small
cats with tufted ears, called Lynx’s lived on small prey of rabbits, moles and mice.
We then came upon another park attendant displaying an array of antlers collected from deer, caribou and moose. We
touched the velvet of youthful antlers, moss like and soft to the touch. It was hands on and wonderful, especially
for the many children who roamed the park. Speaking of kids, we visited a play area for children, where they could
burn off energy. All the games were related to animals, such as the turtle see-saw, and monkey swings. The many
kids present on this day were enjoying this section.
We learned that this was a non-profit organization, a corporation run through grants, and heavily donated to by
We headed on to the bear exhibit. Watching these creatures, I admitted my fear of them only to be told by Julie
that confrontations were very few on the Gaspe and usually involved a sick animal. Next we visited the bio-region
of the tundra which exists minutely in the Gaspesi at the top of its mountains. Tundra is a Russian word meaning
“land without trees”. We could barely glimpse the snowy owl, great horned owl and bald eagle. We did visit huge
and dauntless moose. At this point Julie ran ahead to the caribou area after spotting guys, old enough to know
better, bothering some of the caribou. A few words with them sent them on their way.
She then explained about the moonlight walks to view the wildlife of the bioparc. How beautiful. Julie explained
that sick or abandoned wildlife could come to the bioparc to recuperate, then become part of the park. Being an
avid animal lover, I embraced and respected this most about the establishment.
We used their washrooms before leaving, marvelling at the environmental toilets. No water needed, and the toilets
flushed to a system below that composted effectively. Should be a trend but unseen to this point.
We had toured the biopark in just over an hour and a half. A minimum 2 hour visit would have been more relaxing and
The biopark was open from the beginning of June untill the middle of October. It was an educational observation of
the different wildlife and plants native to the Gaspesie area, presented in their respective ecosystems. Julie
explained that the number of deer was dwindling so a hunting ban had been in effect for many years. Knowing that
Quebec have plenty of deer, I asked her, “why not take a deer or two from there”? Her eyes widened, and she said,
“We never catch or trap animals for show. We will buy from a zoo if they have excess, or we will accept an injured
animal”. It was obvious at this site, that the welfare of animals took priority. We visited the gift and souvenir
shop, then said our good-byes and “Merci” to Julie and Elaine.
It was just after three p.m. when we left the biopark to trek l35 km back to Perce. It was a beautiful sunny
afternoon for enjoying the coastal scenery. We had fallen in love with the multi coloured houses, the people, and
history, and were thinking of re-naming our travelogue “The West may have the Rockies, but the East has Gaspesie”
It was after six and dark when we arrived in Perce. It felt like a homecoming when we checked in to the Manoir
Perce and were greeted by Alain. We deposited our suitcases in our room then headed out for a bite to eat. We
chose a small restaurant, enjoying homemade pea soup and a grilled cheese sandwich.
We then took off for the artist’s house on the cliff overlooking Perce rock. (we referred to this house as the
“artists house” because it was once owned by American painter Fredrick James) It was already dark. We parked, then
scrambled up to the top of the cliff . The artist’s house was closed, but we enjoyed the walk, and made collective
jokes about the trip throughout. The heart surgeon, and Etes-vous marie,? continued to be fodder for our amusement.
Tired, we returned to the motel, where Alain greeted us, complaining that he was in pain, after eating three
lobsters for dinner. He received no sympathy from us. The garlic smells were heavenly as we inquired about his
life on the coast. He admitted his love of windsurfing in the bay when the wind reached twenty five knots. “
Incroyable”!! He did not offer to teach us, but did suggest we rise early and watch the sunrise over Perce. “ It
is”, he said “most beautiful”.
Monday morning the alarm sounded at 5:30 a.m. I was up and out on the beach before 6:00 a.m. There was a faint glimmer of light on
the horizon. Behind me, and along the coast, the lights of Perce twinkled in the cold and dark. I wondered if Alain
was still in bed. Laurie was not out yet so my only companion was a seagull walking the shore. The horizon was
getting a bit lighter, it was therefore easier to distinguish Perce rock. It loomed in the distance, the opening
clearly visible. I thought of all the sunrises witnessed by the rock The sun will rise between Perce rock and
Bonaventure island, closer to the island. It was now 6:l7 a.m., where was Laurie? My hands were so chilled I was
tempted to return for my gloves but the sky was showing different hues of orange. As I examined the smooth stones
on the beach a family of ducks swam nearby, and my seagull friend faithfully followed. It was 6:23 and still no sign
of Laurie as the horizon glows a brilliant orange through pink. The first glimmer of sunrise and it is 6:24, I
scanned the beach for Laurie and spotted her watching the sunrise and gathering stones. The sun rose quickly, and by
6:30 it was too bright to watch. When I faced Perce the suns rays were permeating the mountain; slowly the
colours of the trees were coming to life. Alain is off the hook. It was as he said, “most beautiful”.
Lorraine was on the beach before me. In the still grey light my feet hit the rounded stones of the beach. The
saline scent of the sea assailed my nose. The beach felt so private. Looking out at the blue rippling sea my heart
almost stopped: so peaceful a scene. I walked along the shore wondering how many eyes over the centuries had
witnessed and felt its beauty. The gulls called as they skirted the shoreline. Some dove for fish further out,
their spray cascading opal and pink against the sun rising between Perce rock and the Island of Bonaventure. How
utterly magnificent. The beach was a tranquil haven as I stooped to pick rocks and shells. The sun rose quickly
over the water, a luminous yellow orange ball ascending to greet the day. I felt happy to be there, so far away
I left the beach and headed back to the motel to warm up and finish getting ready for the day. Laurie finally came
back from the beach and we headed for breakfast at the hotel dining room. Renaud greeted us, a bit surprised at our
early rising. My toast and coffee hit the spot, the garnish is so decorative, with wedges of watermelon,
strawberry, banana, kiwi, orange, and cantaloupe appealingly arranged alongside the toast. Laurie enjoyed sausage,
potatoes, scrambled eggs, toast, juice, and the fruit garnish. Plenty of fresh coffee follows. While we are eating,
Renaud sits at the next table and keeps us company. He talked about life in Perce, and mentioned that he went to
the Train Web site and had read the travelogue of the two fishermen in northern Quebec. He told us that his uncle
had gone hunting up there for the last twenty five years. We finished breakfast and bid adieu since we were on our
way to the boat dock and didn’t want to be late.
The water was calm and the sun shining as we boarded one of the boats operated by Les Bateliers de Perce. It was
8:50 and many people were aboard despite the lateness of the tourist season. The boat was quite large with very
comfortable indoor seating for protection from the elements; it is even air conditioned. The wind was quite chilly
so we were happy to be wearing the head gear we purchased in Perce earlier in the week. As we got closer to the
rock, we noticed all of the imperfections, or maybe character of the rock. Close up, the rock of five million tons
was ominous to behold; truly an icon of the earth rock. We rounded the end of the rock and viewed it from the far
side. We heard that it was possible to walk out to it at low tide. We sped off for Bonaventure Island and circled
the gannet colony. Thousands of birds perched high on the cliffs in every available nook and cranny. The air was
filled with the sound of birds. Alain and Nichele de Parcevaux of France came prepared; they had binoculars which
they willingly shared with us. We saw black cormorants on the shore and learned that the grey ones were the
fledglings. Some seals lolled in the sun on shore, while twenty others bobbed in the waters not far off.
We docked at Bonaventure Island just before 10:00 a.m. and stood among the throng listening to a French speaking
guide. There was an interpreter standing beside the guide, waiting to interpret for the rest of us; he did, but in
German. We did understand that there was a $3.50 fee required per person to be on the island. While standing in the
ticket line we met Don Curry and Denise Macarones of Maine. Don is the curator at the Sea Shore Trolley Museum in
Kennebunkfort Maine. There was only one trail open this late
in the season, and if we took it to the bird colony on the other side of the island we would never make it back in
time to board the 11:00 boat returning to Perce. This was imperative because we had a train to catch.
We decided to explore a few old abandoned houses in the area, so wandered off on our own. We found a lovely little
path and followed the trail up the hill, exploring the abandoned houses along the way. It was a crisp, sunny day.
We looked across at the town of Perce, nestled along the coastline. We found a pretty little beach that begged
exploring but could not be reached. It was 10:30, we had to think about getting back. We came across a beautiful old
house that was once owned by Monsieur Boutillier. We peeked into the windows and saw the lovely wood floors and walls.
An old wood heater was the only furniture in one room. We were lost in time. I happened to glance down the hill
and saw our boat at the dock obviously preparing to leave. The two Laurie’s ran very fast down that hill shouting,
“arreter, arreter”. The crowd parted like the Red Sea; I actually witnessed Laurie clear a five foot barricade.
They were so kind to wait for us. It was embarrassing boarding the boat, everyone was snickering, but we were ever
so thankful to the crew for waiting. Had the run been uphill, this account would have had a different outcome.
We disembarked on the island and stood waiting in line to purchase our entrance fee. I spied a fox. In my
excitement my French did not fail me as I cried “le renard, le renard. J’ai vie un renard”! People turned to see as
the fox disappeared like a ghost in thin air. Because of time constraints, we opted to visit some abandoned fishing
houses we had seen from the boat. We headed up the hill and followed a trail to the grey, weathered buildings once
owned by the leBoutillier company. The plaque revealed that these sturdy, but small buildings housed three or four
fishermen who left their families to live there during the fishing season. The buildings were locked but we looked
through the windows before heading back down to the main buildings where several carpenters were busy restoring. We
crossed the porch of a beautiful house with interesting and unusual trim work and looked in the windows as it was
now closed for the season. Though substantially large, it was considered a cottage and was owned by the fishing
company in the 1800’s. Just then Lorraine noticed the boat docked at the wharf. We ran down the hill, waving our
arms frantically and yelling for the boat to wait. We ran past tourists who had gotten off the boat, their faces
alarmed by our dramatic predicament and antics. Out of breath, we apologized as we clambered aboard where a handful
of occupants sat smiling and laughing. We had literally almost missed the boat. When our embarrassment subsided,
we shared many laughs provoked by the image of the incident. Thank goodness we had made it and could meet our
train. Standing at the back of the boat we watched the white crests of churning water as we sped for shore. My
heart was already longing to return.
The boat ride back to Perce from Bonaventure Island took only ten minutes. We were back at the hotel at 11:30 a.m.
to pack our bags. We stopped in to say our good-byes to Renaud and Alain. They invited us to their kitchen to meet
their parents M. and Mme Bujold, and to sample a bit of M. Bujold’s freshly smoked salmon. We both agreed it was
the best we had ever tasted. Once again we said “adieu” and thanked Alain and Renaud for their care and kindness.
Our stay at the Manoir Perce had been memorable.
We were on the road headed to Gaspe to catch our train. It was a 75 km drive and we caught our last glimpse of
We arrived in Gaspe at 1:15 p.m. and got a quick bite to eat in McDonalds. Then it was off to the airport to meet
Marcel Burton and to sign the final papers for our rental car, before heading to the train station. We arrived at
2:30 p.m. We got settled in our room and just sat for a minute, finally relaxing after a hectic five day schedule.
The train left on time, it was 2:50 p.m.
- 6428 engine
We moved two cars forward, as the attendant discovered we were in the wrong compartment. He apologized for the
inconvenience and carried our heavy bags (rock collection). We settled in then headed for the dome car for coffee
(Lorraine) and wine (for myself). The train retraced the coast we had travelled in the past few days. “Au revoir
Gaspe: Je regret beaucoup a departer cette place tres belle”
We met Lyle Roberts on our way to the dome car. He was on his way to Montreal to begin work the following day, and
the last joke he told was “why did the shark cross the road? To get to the other “tide”. Eastern humour, go figure.
We passed through the diner car and joked with the chef, telling him that this being Thanksgiving Monday we wanted a
full Turkey dinner with all of the trimmings.
I retired to the dome car and exhaled. This was definitely wind down time. There were a few people occupying the
dome car and I was content to simply listen, and to watch the passing countryside. I overheard one gentleman
comment about a fellow who seemed to be standing pretty close to the train track. The other gentleman looked and
said that he had been talking to the fellow on an earlier train to Gaspe. He was from Florida, and had come all the
way to the Gaspesie to take a picture of this train. I took a picture of the Floridian, but would love to see the
picture he took of this train.
In the bar car I joined Laurie as she worked on her notes. There were a few people sitting at the tables and the
conversation was general. The bar car attendant, doing paperwork, overheard me tell Laurie of my desire to take
pictures of the train stations missed on the way up. He told about a nice train bridge coming up soon. Since
stations can be on either side of the track, I asked of him “on which side of the track is the bridge??” He did not
miss a beat, nor look up as he replied,....“on both sides I hope, Madam”...Well the passengers exploded into
laughter, and it seemed like everyone travelling on this train happened to be walking through the car at that
particular moment. We went for dinner at 7:00 p.m. Laurie had the tasty Thanksgiving grilled haddock which she
thoroughly enjoyed, and I partook of the tender Thanksgiving pot roast, served with sauteed potatoes, yellow and
green beans, carrots, tomato cucumber slices. We lingered over dinner and decided to call it a day. Laurie just
made it into bed when the power was cut. We were in Matapedia, this is where the train from Halifax hooked up with
this one. It was 9:50 and since we were in the last car, I decided to watch the trains uncouple, and re-couple. It
took just under a half hour to complete the process; we left the station around l0:30 p.m.
I awoke at 3:00 a.m. Unable to sleep more at 5:30 a.m. I dressed and went to the dome car to read. I was surprised
to see several people sitting there enjoying the journey in the dawn. At 6:00 a.m. I asked for a coffee and muffin
and continued to read and enjoy the wooded sights from the dome car. Lorraine joined me shortly after 8:00 a.m.
I enjoyed another great sleep on the train and awoke at 7:00 a.m. on Tuesday morning. Laurie was already up and gone. I had a quick
shower and found her in the dome car. There we met three university students on their way back to school in
Montreal after enjoying Thanksgiving at home in Gaspe. I just had coffee this morning as we would be arriving in
Montreal shortly. It was fun listening to them recount their train experiences.
We retrieved our bags from our compartment; it was 8:50 as the train pulled into the station. Laurie, once again,
was struggling with her suitcase which prompted me to chuckle. We then headed to the first class lounge to await
our next train. A cup of coffee, a courtesy provided to first class travellers was appreciated. A nice selection
of juices and canned drinks were also available. Boarding for the VIA 1 Club Car was announced and we headed to the
escalator. Our car attendant Gail welcomed us aboard and Fawez, another attendant, placed our luggage on the racks
at the head of the car. We were finally seated at 9:30. We were very surprised to meet Benoit Laporte and Guy
Falkner of VIA Marketing, who took time from their busy schedules to come on board and say hello. They inquired
about our trip and were delighted to hear about the hospitality shown us by the people of Gaspesie. They kindly
obliged when we asked to take their photo.
As the train left the station, the coffee cart made its way down the aisle. Juice and muffins were offered. Both
Fawez and Gail were kept busy refilling coffee cups and collecting plates. As we looked around we saw people reading
the morning newspapers, talking on their cell phones, or using their laptop computers. The seats were roomier and
had extra leg room. It reminded me of business class on an airplane. I would say that 85% of the people in this car
We stopped in Cornwall at l0:00 a.m., people detrain, and board. Snacks (peanuts and chips) were served as well as
drinks before lunch. Service was prompt and courteous.
Lunch menus were passed out, then picked up after a choice of lunch and seating preference. Laurie and I both
declined as we would reach Brockville during the first seating. We relaxed and enjoyed the remaining time by
summing up our adventure to the Gaspesie. The weather for the most part was typical of October, but in no way
detracted from the beautiful scenery which impressed us so much. The always friendly and helpful VIA personnel, were
a big part of the adventure, as well as our compatibility. We embraced Gaspesie, and they in turn embraced us. There
is a Maritime hospitality that transcends language; it is neither French nor English, but simply, “Eastern”. Gail
informed us of our approximate arrival time, and which exit we would be using. The train arrived at 11:55 a.m. Our
adventure had ended.
A friend Mayda Sauve, was waiting for us at the train station. Notre aventure est terminee. It had been wonderful
all the way. I was left with one thought: My wish to return.
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