A couple of years ago I presided at a wedding in New Richmond, QC. (more about that in a later post). We were gobsmacked by the beauty of the land and the spirited hospitality of the peoples. Due to the short travel deadline due to the wedding, we did not have much opportunity to explore the area, so we vowed to return. This summer was the year of return. We dedicated the better part of a week to exploring Forillon National Park.
We travelled through Campbellton and made our way along the eastern shore of the Gaspe (Québec Coté Mer) on the 132 East. With the ocean to the right of us and lovely, distinctive Québecois houses, farms and fishing villages to the left of us, we thoroughly enjoyed the travel. However, it was slow. The highway moves right through working communities that are filled with tourists at this time of year. Children, dogs and the like dash onto the road and the camper does not stop very quickly. We had to creep at times. There were some impressive rock formations such as Percé Rock, a mini-Gibraltar that kind of rises out of the ocean with a colour and
textural distinction all of its own (see image). It is one of the world’s largest naturally occurring arches in water. The touristy nature of that particular area meant that the entire length of coast-line with the best view of the giant outcrop was taken up with cottages, hotels, restaurants, food stands, tourist shops and so on. It was difficult to meditate upon the wonder of this remarkable geological formation while trying not to run over the pedestrians staring at their phones as they meandered the road. It was also problematic to stop to view the magnificent hunk of limestone, as parking was at a premium.
We expected as we moved northward that the houses and settlements would become less frequent. We were wrong. The area is well populated. Do we sound cranky? We were not. The view, the drive and the people watching all had their inspirational moments. It is a well-known fishing area so you might want to stop to pick up some seafood. Lobsters are usually reasonably priced if you can get them in season. Stores sometimes carry delicacies like pickled fiddlehead ferns, pickled clams, whelks and cohaugs. Of course, anywhere in Québec you may come across a Fromagerie (cheese store). Do stop if you like cheese. The fresh curds are to die for. At the risk of annoying my own home province of Nova Scotia I must declare that no one makes cheese like Québec cheese-makers. As I am addicted to cheese, I am not to be trusted in one of these stores.
If you exclusively speak English, don’t worry about the language differential. At all of our stops we struggled to use our high school French, but were usually rescued from our butchery of that beautiful language by anyone we spoke to as they took mercy upon us and replied to us in English. There was a fairly hilarious incident at a Canadian Tire which I will blog about later. In essence, an entire line-up of French speaking people at the cash register got together to help the sales clerk understand what I wanted.
We took the 132 West when we left the Park this year to go to Montréal. It was surprising how different the geology is. The tail end of the Appalachian Mountain Range creates craggy shorelines. You would be forgiven if you thought some giant race of tricksters had taken colossal buckets of white paint and just sloshed it randomly all over the various sizes of beach rocks. He-who-knows-geological-things says these are quartz veins. There were many tiny communities to be driven through who had seen better tourist days, shuttered motels and so on. Most of these small communities had a welcoming sign and a picnic area. Take a hoodie though, the temperature is often quite cool with prevailing winds a little brisk. We noticed that no one swam on the beaches due to both the chill and the lofty waves. We had real worries about some of the people venturing out in small, seemingly- perilously bobbing tourist boats. The volunteer medical responder in me found it difficult to look away!
We were determined to see the valley area of Gaspé Peninsula so on our way back from Montreal we turned south at Mont-Joli and took the 132 South. (I guess this could be called our 132 trip). We had driven quickly through this area in our previous trip and wanted to really take our time to let the exquisiteness of the area sink in. The area is part of the Appalachian mountain range. Following mountain ascents there were sometimes descents into verdant, green valleys sculpted, with some struggle no doubt, into farmland. We felt there was something around virtually every corner to admire. Close to the Campbellton area the mountain vegetation begins to change with the steepness and the road follows a rocky-bottomed river that is frequented by salmon fisherman. Carl, a skilled salmon fisherman himself, was driving and would slow to count them and to see if anyone had caught anything. My nerves. I should have driven through that part. If you are coming from Montreal to go to Forillon you might want to take this route and then take the 132 East at Campbellton. It is well worth the effort and time if you like mountains, valleys, rivers and quaint towns. Toward Campbellton there are several fishing and outback kinds of tour possibilities.
Québec has an excellent website outlining all of the possible ways you can explore the Gaspé Peninsula www.quebecmaritime.ca Check it out before you go to Forillon Park.
Next post: Forillon National Park – The Park