Perce, QC. Mile 2210

Up at the crack of about seven thirty again this morning for another attempt to harrass whales. Inevitably Tom slept in and we felt bad about waking him. Not quite bad enough to let him keep sleeping though. Due to the complete and utter lack of whales yesterday we were on the standby list for another go this morning and we drove the half an hour to the south side of the park only to discover that the boat was full and “perhaps later”. No. Time to move on.

Before we left I heard the captain delivering his background briefing again and he used the same words he gave us: “the whales are very far out at the moment which can be frustrating”. Translation, they are so far out that we can’t find them. I just looked at their website and in the fourteen trips they did in the third week of July, they only spotted one blue whale and six minkes, so I think even if we had gone, the chances are pretty good that we would have come back frustrated. ONE DAY though, I will see a Blue Whale. They are the largest creatures on earth, after all.

Never mind. It gave us the chance to linger on the coast road to Gaspe a little bit and enjoy the little houses and the blue sea and the rolling hillsides. Its all quite Scotland, though with brilliant sunshine. Its all the more peaceful because the people here are spread so thinly. You can stop at a gorgeous stretch of beach and there are perhaps five other people on it. If you pull into a picnic area, there will be picnic benches available. What tourists there are seem to be local – we never hear English spoken around us. People check out our DC license plate and stop to stare at our unusual vehicle.

The town of Gaspe is a tidy but functional kind of place. Plenty of gas stations and supermarkets and fishing supply stores, but there is a smart little street running through downtown which was mostly built by the same family and has been restored and prettifed. We found the inevitable coffee and wifi place at the Cafe Des Artistes where we downloaded blogs and uploaded caffeine. At a big supermarket on the edge of town we re-stocked the fridge and drove on to find a lunchspot further up the coast. By a narrow spit with a clear river tumbling out into the sea we had sandwiches and plums and lemonade. Tom, who had woken up a bit by now ran off into the sea and swam with little waves breaking over his head. P and I looked on with the air of people who certainly could do that if we felt like it.

On to Perce. This was perhaps the loveliest bit of coastline yet, with golden sandbars giving way to rich green marshland – some of the most important marshes in North America says Mr Michelin. Fir and pine strees framed the views across sparkling blue water and over to rocky headlands. Brightly painted cottages were scattered along the shoreline. It was a grand drive and the view down to Perce and the “pierced rock” which gives it its name was breathtaking. The town itself was amazingly busy with crowds ambling along the pavements and touristy shops lining the main street. It was a bit of a jolt to suddenly re-enter the world of summer holidays and if Perce wasn’t so lovely I think we might have been tempted to drive on. But it is lovely, with carefully painted and preserved timber framed houses by the harbour and That Rock looming like a beached ocean liner just offshore. You can walk to it when the tide is out.

We had supper in a rather fine establishment on the wharf. Given the numbers of people trolling about, we had booked and were offered either five or eight thirty, so it was busy. We were there at five, admiring the polished wood and crisp tablecloths. It rather fancies itself does the Maison du Pecheurs and we were looked after by an amusingly abrupt waitress who clearly had little time for us at first. She asked if we wanted an aperitif and, with our wedding anniversary in mind I was reckless enough to ask if they did champagne by the glass. She gave an incredulous snort and went on to the next table. That was the last we saw of her for a bit. Eventually though she deigned to return and we lowered ourselves even further beneath contempt by asking whether they served frites with the children’s menu. A curt “non” and there was an unspoken suggestion hovering in the air that we should get our coats. We redeemed ourselves slightly by ordering fish for Tom and the table d’ote for us. It came with seaweed soup which they are rather proud of but which Tom said was “hmm yes, a mixture of pea and mushroom. Its OK” Thank goodness the waitress didn’t hear or we would have been slung out.

She warmed up in the end thanks to effusive “mercis” from Tom and a “magnifique” about his rather fine chocolate mousse. The ice was broken, she smiled, we smiled and it was a nice evening. We promenaded on the promenade and watched a couple of fishermen pulling in mackerel after mackerel, before heading back to Harvey and our busy campsite. We are on a ridge overlooking Perce and a little unnerved to hear low voices around us following our three nights in silent Forillon. After more than a month of heading north we are finally beginning our journey south and it feels somehow like going back to the real world even though we still have many more out of the way places to come.

Author: Richard Lister

Chasing horizons...

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