June 10 to June 24
Armed with all of the French knowledge that a four-hour audio book can provide, we charged ahead into French-speaking Canada.
Canadian culture is pretty interesting and obviously fairly complex but I’ll try to summarize. Canada started off as a confederation of provinces and as I understand it, most of the power still rests at the provincial level. With this (and plenty of other factors) as a backdrop Quebec frequently considers dropping out of Canada and becoming it’s own country. And what a beautiful country it would be!
With this in mind, we noted a definite lack of red and white maple leaf flags in Quebec.
While all of the signs in Ontario were in French and English, signs in Quebec are only in French. This is done, so they say, to preserve their linguistic heritage, but it also led to some nervous moments on the road.
When there were English signs, they were sometimes a little bit off such as one campground that said “The music is forbidden.” The English side of a zoo brochure advertised “Rather charming polar bears.”
When we encountered French speakers, I tried the few phrases I had learned and found people to be very patient with me. While we had worked to learn a few phrases starting with out audio book back in Montana, we had neglected to learn very much of what people would say back to us.
Upon encountering his first group of French-speaking children on the playground, Braden came back to me to report “They’re speaking some kind of language.”
“You are, too,” I responded.
In Quebec the black flies feasted on us. Jess and I counted 18 bites a piece at our first stop at Parc national de la Mauricie (Mar-e-SAY National Park). They seemed immune to our puny American bug spray and we had to buy a Canadian version that was designed to thwart them. At one point we wanted to stop at a scenic overlook, but the cloud engulfed us and the only thing we could do was run back to the car.
After La Mauricie, we chose to go up the northern coast of the St. Lawrence to Tadoussac and see the southernmost fjord in the East. We’d never seen a fjord before, so we were pretty excited and the view didn’t disappoint as we ferried across the fjord. We saw whales and seals from the point at Tadoussac and had a fantastic view of the town from the campground high on a ridge. We also met two very nice English speakers: a tri-lingual German lady and a kind couple from Manitoba.
Unfortunately, the staff at the ferry where we were to cross the St. Lawrence from Les Escoumins to Trois-Pistoles did not speak English. “Le blanc y le bleu” I told them, pointing at the white RV and the blue Honda. We managed to get everything worked out thanks to help from another bi-lingual Manitoban. As a bonus, we saw beluga whales from the ferry terminal.
Jess was one of the first cars on in the Honda, but Braden and the dogs and I were the very last in the RV. We were considerably bigger than anything else on board and I was a little worried we weren’t going to fit. The door/ramp folded up with a foot to spare.
Across the St. Lawrence
The south side of the St. Lawrence is an are called the Gaspésie. It’s amazing.
Our first stop was a bike ride through Bic National Park. It’s known for seals, and while we didn’t see any, we did see sea urchin shells (skeletons?) and thousands of tiny snails in the tide pools.
On Father’s Day we stopped and order more Poutine at a McDonalds. I was quite worried about ordering in French and had practiced my order over and over, but they have a bilingual touch pad screen that made things easy. We hardly ever eat at McDonald’s in the states, but we ate there several times in Canada — mostly because they had good, fast poutine.
Our next stop was one our our prettiest campgrounds on the entire trip. At Camping Parc Et Mer Mont Louis we were right on the edge of the water with views of the northern most Appalachian Mountain. I’ve seen Lookout Mountain here in Chattanooga labeled at the southern most of the Appalachians, so it’s kind of cool to have seen where there the mountain chain begins and end 1,700 miles apart.
We went along the coast of the Gaspesie to Forillon National Park which will forever be a truly special place for us. There’s a spot called Land’s End in the park and if you look at a map, it truly is the end of North America in that direction.
It’s also the end of the International Appalachian Trail, which instead of ending in Maine continues into Canada. We hiked the last 4 kilometers of this trail to a lighthouse on a beautiful point overlooking the ocean. This may have been the prettiest hike of the entire trip. It was certainly the only trip where we heard and saw a whale spouting and saw seven porcupines. Braden retold the story of The Wizard of Oz during the 4k hike to Land’s End after only listening to the audio book once.
While we were there at Mile Marker 0 on the trail, we met a hiker name Ma-Ki who had just spend 7 days on the trail. She needed a ride to a hostel so we hiked the 4 kilometers back with her and we gave her a lift. Her English was pretty good, though heavily accented and we learned more about the Québécois culture. She told us that people in France do not like the Québécois French and think they are all uncivilized lumberjacks.
After dropping her off at the hostel, we stopped at the grossest grocery store ever, grabbed a few urgent needs and headed back to the camper.
On one short day at Forillon, we saw razorbill (Petit Pingouin in French because they look like little penguins), harlequin ducks, two moose, seals and several porcupines. Braden was stunned by the wildlife. “We are the luckiest people in the world to see a porcupine and a seal in the same day,” he told us.
It was the perfect thing for him to say because knowing that we had only about a month of this trip left, we were all feeling very lucky. After Forillon, we would more or less start heading in the direction of Chattanooga so we were all feeling a little nostalgic there.
On our way out of Forillon we saw a hitchhiker who as we got closer recognized at Ma-Ki. We picked her up and carried her to the next town on our way to New Brunswick.