Two Days of Driving, With Stops

On Friday morning I left Amqui, again following the amazing Route 132 which loops right around the Gaspésie peninsula and back onto itself near the west end. It's popular with bicyclists all along its length, and motorcyclists - although I think there are more trikes than regular motorcycles! And almost all of the two-wheels-in-front variety. I dropped into a couple more micro-brasseries on the way - Tête d'Allumette was a little disappointing as they only had 1 litre bottles and I'd decided to top out at 750ml. Found a random bagel store on the way (in St-Simeon?), bought a onion and bacon bagel. It was quite good, but didn't have the density I like to think of as true Montreal-style. Also stopped at a Poissonnerie where I picked up a piece of smoked trout with black peppercorns, possibly the best I've ever had (not an idle compliment: smoked trout is available in Toronto and I eat it a lot). It was a pleasant day of driving local roads.

Spent the night in Hebert Hotels in Becancour (the other side of the river from Trois-Rivières) - incredibly rural location, with an attached pub ("Pub au Cochon Fumé") that has excellent reviews on Google. Their beer list is very good, their booze list is excellent, and they smoke their own pork - what's not to like? Well, now that you ask ... they don't brew their own beer. :-) They did carry one of Trois-Rivières' local brews, but only in bottles and none appealed - so I had a St-Ambroise blonde because that's not currently available in Toronto. I also had a shot of Sortilège, a liqueur made with whisky and maple syrup that they recommended and I've been meaning to try for a while - I will be drinking that again. The pub was definitely the life of the town on a Friday night, very busy.

The hotel was very nice, but all the staff were apparently tuckered out from serving at the pub: I had to check myself out at 0745, there was no one available.

I did manage to fit in two tourist destinations on the way back to Toronto: the first was Sanctuaire Notre-Dame-du-Cap in Trois-Rivières. In Quebec, every small town has a big church - but I gave up trying to visit those early in the trip, despite my guidebook recommending some: they're all locked up tight except for services in the off season. But this isn't the old local church: I took one look at this massive octagon and thought "Art Deco!" So I asked when the building was designed, on the assumption that it was the 1920s or possibly 1930s. Apparently construction started in 1955, so it would appear that I was somewhat off. (Friends have pointed out that A) Art Deco hung around for quite a while, and B) the design may have been from quite a while prior to construction.) A side effect of that aesthetic was that the abundance of stained glass was in a period style that I dislike - sort of simplistic folk art. I would much rather they'd gone for pure Art Deco geometry ... Despite which the interior is rather lovely. Big grounds too.

photo: Sanctuaire Notre-Dame-du-Cap in Trois-Rivières

Big grey stone art deco church

After that I went to Parc Des Chutes De Ste-Ursule Inc. - I take it they're a private enterprise with that name. The forest and underlying granite screamed "Canadian Shield," reminding me I was no longer at the northern tip of the Appalachians. The Maskinongé River takes a 70+ metre tumble over a similar horizontal distance, and they've built boardwalks and trails all over so you can go look at it. Fairly sensibly they haven't cleared the trees out of the way along the edges of the chasm - which unfortunately makes it rather hard to photograph, although it was great to see. And to imagine what it would be like in spring. The river clearly splits in spring flood, and there's a separate barren stone path just waiting for the torrent ....

photo: shot at Parc Des Chutes De Ste-Ursule

A yellow plant glowing with the sun behind it, surrounded by darkness

At the end of that visit I realized it was 1230 and I was still well east of Montreal. So from there it was Autoroute 40 and the 401 back to Toronto, where I pulled in around 2010. Unloading the car took a while: There were 33 bottles (and cans) of beer. One of those is claimed, and of the remainder, only one is a duplicate (I have two bottles of the Auval Saison). This will take a while to work through, even with the assistance of friends.

If you visit the Gaspésie peninsula, don't drive: way too much driving (I put 3950 km on the car in twelve days). The best stuff is at the tip of the peninsula, and I talked to someone who grew up in Percé but was now visiting from Australia: they flew in to Gaspé. It's probably expensive, but I'd guess it costs less than car rental, gas, and 2.5 days of driving and hotels - twice. So yes, that was the big frustration of the trip, but I brought it on myself. Still, I get to remember the beer, the pubs, the food, and - most spectacularly - several fantastic parks (Forillon, Gaspésie, and Bonaventure being the stand-outs).