Rimouski to Matane

Despite the heinous forecasts last night, the weather today was if anything slightly better than it was yesterday. Still drizzle much of the day, but a bit less of it, and I was able to take a few more photos.

Breakfast was at the highly recommended Crepe Chignon in Rimousky: I had the apple, Emmenthal, and maple syrup crepe. That's about as odd as it sounds, I didn't think any particular flavour magic happened. It was well made and fairly good given the odd contrast of the Emmenthal and the syrup. I also got a bowl of Moka - as the reviews said, their coffee wasn't great. But so European! I've never had coffee in a bowl before ...

I hadn't done enough homework so I ended up staying in the motel room until 1100 figuring out where I was going. I hope no one is holding me to my word from yesterday, because Matane is less than 100km from Rimouski - not much of a driving day.

The first place I went was the "Maritime Museum and Pointe-au-Père Lighthouse National Historic Site of Canada" (now with added Onondaga). We'll get to that last part - but it's very weird to see a grounded sub looming out of the fog when you don't expect it. A large chunk of the museum is about the Empress of Ireland, a liner that sank off shore in 1914. had it not been for the Titanic two or three years previously, this would be the most famous nautical wreck in the world ... but then, no one remembers second place. The Empress was much better equipped for safety than the Titanic: the Titanic had time (2.5 hours(?) between hitting the iceberg and fully sinking) but not enough boats, whereas the Empress had enough boats but no time: it was 14 minutes before it sank, but well before that it was listing at 50 degrees, making getting around inside the ship essentially impossible - while compartments were flooding, and the electricity and all lighting failed ... imagine trying to navigate through rooms and passages tilted at 45 degrees, while they're full of water and pitch black ... The percentage dead was roughly the same as the Titanic, on a passenger list about 30% less.

The lighthouse claimed to be the tallest in Canada at 33m - which doesn't seem terribly tall. Don't get me wrong, that ain't short! - but I wouldn't have expected that to take the prize. (In hindsight it may be the "tallest concrete lighthouse in Canada.") I always love going up those things ... eight or ten people in a tiny space up top: the talk was in French, oh well, good views and cool fresnel lenses.

The Onondaga is a decommissioned Canadian military submarine (ran until 2000?). A sub is NOT a good place for a guy who is 188cm tall ... I didn't injure myself, but bumped stuff repeatedly. They claim to be the only visitable sub in Canada ... I visited a couple in the U.S., just assumed there'd be a few/couple in Canada.

photo: Display panel in the Onondaga

red lighting and big green CRT displays

A few km down the shore is Centre d'art Marcel Gagnon, apparently best known for the huge installation artwork outside, "Le grand rassemblement" ("The Great Gathering"). This is something on the order of 80 figures coming up out of the St. Lawrence and onto the shore. My first reaction was that they looked like they were done by a five year old: I guess it's "folk art" ... But petty jabs aside, it's still impressive.

photo: Le grand rassemblement ("The Great Gathering")

stone and wood figures emerging from the St. Lawrence onto the beach

When she heard I was heading for Gaspésie, my grandmother recommended I go to Jardins de Métis, aka Reford Gardens. It's important to understand that my grandmother is a fairly quiet woman, not given to casually throwing out superlatives. So when she told me this place was worth visiting, I made a point of it. (It doesn't hurt that everyone else seems to think just as well of the place.) It started out as a "fishing lodge" for the founder of Canadian Pacific Railway - that implies small and casual, but this is ... hmm, well, it doesn't have a ballroom, but it used to have multiple bedrooms - it's NOT a small building. And that's not counting the property that goes with it. The place came into its own when Elsie Stephen Reford inherited. She lucked into a useful microclimate, and went to town on the gardens. And she had an idea that others would do well to imitate: don't cut the forest flat, put paths through it and add flower beds occasionally along the paths. It preserves the natural beauty of the local forest and enhances it: I found it absolutely wonderful. With the drizzle, I almost had the place to myself: it's a big property, and there were maybe 10 cars in the lot). I spoke to an English speaking couple, as they were pretty much the first English speakers I'd heard in a day and a half. Care to guess where from? Toronto.

photo: Reford Gardens

Colourful flowers and reeds beside a pond

As I continued north, I stopped at a Fromagerie and got very fresh cheese curds with herbs. A bit on the salty side, but very good.

My hotel tonight is a few kilometres outside Matane. I may be the only person here in a 20 room place. I'm in room 31 - which is in between 12 and 14 (get it?). And the guy who checked me in was less creepy than Anthony Perkins in "Psycho." Nothing can go wrong ...

Drove into Matane to the Poissonnerie Boréalis for dinner, as I'd been told Matane is very good for shrimp. I had the Gourmet Poutine (with shrimp and bacon). It was ... unimpressive.

I tried the SAQ (the equivalent of Ontario's LCBO) to get a beer for the evening, but their beer selection sucks. I keep forgetting that in this province you go to the corner store for beer. So I tried a supermarket, but they have a walk-in cooler full of Bud Light, Molson Canadian, and approximately fruit-flavoured coolers. Urgh.