Here we are in Canada, freshly landed in Montreal, back to summer time too !
Montreal has a big city feel with a quietness that resembles the small towns’. After all the agitation of Lima, walking under the sunshine in the multiple parks of the city center feels really restful.
And here, in Quebec, they speak French! It wasn’t that long ago we were in French Polynesia so we got to speak French there but after two months of Spanish and half a world away, finding this out still feels astonishing. French in Quebec is different from the French spoken in France, in accent and words. Our first encounter with these differences happens in a bar, Thomas goes over to pay and the waiter says “Justine” as a question. Thomas does wonder who this “Justine” person is but nods and the waiter doesn’t insist so we go away. Next in a restaurant, the waitress says again “Justine?”, we nod but look at each other and once she turns away we ask each other; “who is this Justine person they keep speaking about?”. Trying out the local accent, we say it and suddenly it dawns on us “Juste une?” meaning “Just one?”, speaking about the bill and whether it should be split or not! It is so unusual as a question as it is assumed in France that there is only one bill and the parties have to take care themselves to arrange the accounting that it hadn’t come to mind immediately. We have a good laugh about it and start paying more attention from now on.
My mother arrives the next day, ready for a trip around Gaspesie. As she is only here for two weeks, we have selected a beautiful area of Québec to make a tour of together. When she arrives, the first thing after a huge warm hug, is to show her what I have done. A tattoo! And not a small one, made in Tahiti, representing both my family, my transformation and concepts that I want to be central in my future. After a face, saying that she birthed me without scars on my body, she accepts it and even finds interests in the meaning of the various symbols intertwined in the swallow on my shoulder plate.
Next I am so happy because we are meeting up with Adrien and Candice, very very good friends whom I have been missing since we left and they are here in Montreal for a few days! We are invited to their friends’ place for a BBQ in a residential nice area of Montreal, it is a very good time to be altogether. Candice is pregnant and shines with happiness, Adrien is his usual happy and kind and it warms my heart to spend some time with them, realizing that although this travel is a once in a lifetime experience, it is also very hard to be far away from friends and family.
We enjoy a beautiful day in the Botanical Garden of Montreal which has a very impressive edible and useful plants garden, with many different spices but also various plants used for making textile or dyes, I just can’t get enough of it!
The night of beautiful full moon, Thomas, my mother and I also enjoy an amazing firework as part of a worldwide competition, it is a magical and unexpected moment !
The next day we rent a car and start our road trip. First thing we hear turning on the radio “We are minutes away from a war between Iran and the US”. Nice. Finally, either the journalist was being really dramatic or the political experts are just unable to predict the reactions of our modern world in general but nothing happened so far, at the very least not the all-out war predicted. Made me think about how the journalists and economists of this world were all afraid at how the tax war that Trump wanted to have, and had, with China and the rest of the world would result in a complete chaos for the economy and how actually nothing much happened at least at the dramatic scale it was expected to. It is as if we are being fed myths about the unavoidable need for liberal exchange and the scary shadows of imminent wars here and there to prevent us from seeing the world as it really is and mostly avoid any actions that could lead to less profits for a small fraction of the population. Almost as if…?
The next item on the news is the celebration between Trudeau and Tusk celebrating the setting of the CETA, a free trade agreement that gives even more power to corporations to sue the states and pollute the European market with cheap, fossil-fuel fuelled, chemical filled food. And they say, the test for this agreement will be… France. Great, and Macron would give anything to be part of the big club of free traders so for sure he is in. Let’s turn off the radio and go back to enjoying beautiful Québec landscape!
We had a nice meal to celebrate our birthdays with my mother close by a lake, we leave the city for an amazing succession of lakes and forests. Finally we are back in nature and the air feels so fresh and nice. We pass by the GREB HQ, the Eco-Hameau de La Baie, but no one seems to be there so we just get to enjoy the strawbale based houses before we go to Tadoussac and enjoy our first micro-brewery beer, starting a road trip long habit of stopping in one every day of this trip as they are flourishing everywhere in Gaspésie! I specifically discover there the Cream Ale, which has a very enjoyable velvety texture to it.
We cross over to Rimouski, enjoy the view of some dolphins jumping in the Saint-Laurent before vistiting the farmer’s market there. We make a very nice discovery, the ACER, a wine based on maple sirup. It is so very interesting and such a nice way to diversify from maple syrup! It has a nice elegant taste to it, not too sweet at all surprisingly. I love this market because we see some lindy hop dancers making a demo there, I wish I would have danced a bit there but unfortunately I had my flip flops on as well as my shyness of strangers too, missed that chance!
We move over to visit the Jardins de Métis. We enjoyed two things particularly there. A house built with many features to make it more environment friendly. We make a small video on an interesting technology here. (check laquelle c’est) The second thing is the art contest at the back of the garden where artists create huge pieces of art using the natural frame of the area. We all enjoy very much this interactive visit and we all find back our children joy, going on swings and trumping down corn kernels with bare feet then jumping up and down the trampoline. Good times!
We drive on and find ourselves after a few days in the Parc de Forillon, where we have a nice stroll to a wooden tower for a view point and have the chance to sight a fox on the side of the road afterwards. We have a delicious homemade meal with a chicken, which you stuff with a stout beer can and roast in the oven. The meat is very tender thanks to the evaporated beer sweating through the whole thickness of the chicken.
While we enjoy the landscapes, the fresh sea salted air and the amazing fauna as well as good food and many micro-brewery beers, we pass by the office that registers vehicles and learn that it is not so complicated to purchase a car in Canada. We browse through possi ble offers and find out cars are not so expensive in Québec. We already know to get to our next farm where we have planned to volunteer it will be complicated due to the absence of public transport aside from the big urban centers. Getting from this farm to the other ones we’d like to visit seems to be very tricky without a car. Moreover, crossing over the Canada, it would enable us to take our time and visit places instead of just cruising on a multi-days uncomfortable bus ride and see nothing. We decide to purchase a second hand car once we get back to Montreal and to arrange it so we can sleep inside in order to save even more money. Our budget has not recovered yet from our expanses in New Zealand and we know that North America is not a cheap part of the world so we hope to realize some savings with this purchase.
Ten days into this road trip we arrive in Percé where we stay at a wonderful airbnb. The hosts are super nice and they raise some ducks. They even offer us one frozen duck from their last year’s harvest and we have an amazing dinner with this bird and beers they also offered from the local brewery, we are super spoiled! The next day we go on an excursion to Île Bonaventure, this island is completely full of birds of many different kinds and the most impressive is the Gannet bird. An enormous colony of them nestled on the edge of the island. A nice walk through the island takes us there and it is an impressive sight; hundreds of them all nesting there though looking a little closer, a lot of the youngs are dead. The guide told us that there isn’t enough fish this year around so they are losing a lot of baby birds. It is a cruel and sad sight, some adult birds still nesting or protecting their dead baby.
At Matapédia, we have the chance to visit a little photography exhibition in a beautiful natural environment overlooking the valley. Tom loves the pictures, I don’t find them really that nice. There is a meaning to these and the artist has thought very carefully about the arrangement of the objects to telle an interesting story that gives meaning and commitment to his art work. The visual aspect of the picture is very realistic with garish colours and strong contrasts, a rather flat and kitch feeling comes out of the picture. So is a picture good because of its aesthetic, which is very subjective, or by the meaning or commitment it pertains? That is our debate of the day.
We stay at a guesthouse, Les oiseaux migrateurs, in the next town. The man taking care of it left the big city for this guesthouse in order to increase his food self-sufficiency and to be able to choose his rhythm of life. Could it be that life in the countryside while more laid back and work not being necessarily easier, but with a different rhythm, perhaps more in tune with the natural ones; lets humans be more at peace than surrounded by cement walls?
We go deeper into the Gaspésie and stay one night at a Pourvoirie, a kind of inn in the middle of the forest made out of huge and beautiful comfortable wooden cabins, built by the father and his son running the place. The beams are gorgeous. They are located around a lake, on which we go late in the afternoon with shallow boats and the man running the place to sight the beavers that live around there. We have the chance to admire them for a good long time, swimming around from nest to nest, even one on the ground gnawing at a branch and to inspect their beautiful constructions.
We enjoy breathtaking views at the Parc du Bic and sight some lounging seals close to the beach where we walk around floated wood. We have a nice light meal and beers at the Tête d’Allumette brewery which is full of bikers at the time we stop there.
Finally we get to Québec city, it is already nearly the end of the road trip with my mother and I feel so glad we had this chance to spend some time together. Spending time as an adult with your parents is so precious; it can be hard too as parents and children know how to get under each other’s skin in a blink of an eye but these are moments stolen from the impetuous flow of time and they are to be cherished.
Québec old side of the city is a bit too touristy to our taste though beautiful as a cross between Saint-Malo’s old rock walls and a Montmartre kind of atmosphere to it. We do prefer the area where we stay, a bit outside the city with nice wide streets, trees, a farmer’s market and nice micro-breweries to enjoy a meal in.
Before we leave we have to go to Île D’Orléans of course, even if just for the name. We are not disappointed! This island is full of artisans and craft makers and farmers. We have a delicious time cider tasting and another nougat tasting. We of course take this chance to go see the beautiful Montmorency Waterfalls which are a very very high and give the impression of a natural cathedral.
And then we are already back in Montreal, dropping my mother off to the airport, and caught up again in the real flow of time, frantically looking for a car and a place to stay for the next two nights, definitely closing this little surreal Gaspésie family time bubble.