Today we drive past Montreal, along Hwy 20 to “L’Entre Deux” outside Victoriaville, QC. There had been a misunderstanding when I called to confirm. When the owner asked when we’d be arriving, I told her that we’d be leaving Toronto around 9 or 10 and it would take 6 or 7 hours. She replied, in French, “OK. So you’ll be arriving around 6 or 7 in the evening?” Too lazy to explain the difference, I just said ‘oui.’ So when we arrive at 5:00, there’s nobody home but 11-year-old Guillaume, who eventually shows us to our room.
L’Entre Deux Ferme B&B near Victoriaville, Quebec
We grab a shower and catch a snooze and go into tiny St. Albert for dinner. Five wings with poutine (that’s fries with cheese curds and gravy - a Quebecois specialty), and 2 draughts for me, some fries, a white wine and a chicken fajita for Sharon leave us both more than a little bloated, but the vibe of the place and of the other patrons make it a wonderful dining experience for the first night of our trip. Everybody in the place seems to know each other. A young couple with a pair of freckled redhead 8-9 year olds… another young couple comes in with a stroller containing the cutest, smilingest little 2 year old. They wave hello and join the table, occupying the chairs left vacant by the redheads who have gone outside to play. Then, in walk two elderly couples, who also smile and greet the table of youngsters. They have old Quebec faces. They sit at a neighbouring table and begin to coo and play with the two year old. Sharon and I surmise that one of the women is the grandmother, since she looks pretty similar to the mom. A quick walk, an unsuccessful attempt to get a photo of the redheads, a quick shot of the fumier, and we head back to the B&B. about 4 km.
The “Fumier” apparently carries smoked pork, fish, and cheese, according to the sign.
We meet Marie France, daughter of the B&B owners, 8-month-old Rusty, and 12-year-old Betty, the farm dogs, and have a look at the cows in the pasture. Sharon loves cows. Marie France says they have 1,000 of them. We take a pass on her offer to fire up the hot tub, and accept her apologies on her mother’s behalf that they can’t be here because they are attending the 25th anniversary party of some friends. We will meet the mom in the morning for breakfast, then be on our way to Tadoussac.
Sunday, 22 June
I’m up early and out for a walk through serious farm country near St. Albert. Across the street from the B&B, I see a cow, lying on the ground. Her neck is twisted and tangled up in a gate. She must have been pushing against it, her head through the bars, and toppled it over. I think she is dead until I look closer and see her rib cage is moving slowly up and down. I walk back to the kitchen where Jacinthe is preparing breakfast for her guests. It is about 6:45. I do my best to explain what I have seen – I know vache, tombé, presque morte, encore vivante, but can’t remember the words for gate or fence or neck. I end up drawing a picture and miming with both hands around my throat. She says she’s going to go wake up her husband. I go back to the pasture and look at the situation. The other cows, about 50 one-year-olds, are beginning to head slowly for the downed gate. If I make the slightest move toward them, they retreat. The fallen cow begins to wriggle her head and neck. Within a minute or so, she has figured it out. She gets her head free, then begins to move her feet. Finally she is standing. She has a shit and a piss, then just walks off. Now the other cows begin to move in a slow wave closer toward the gate, and I decide I’d better hop the fence and stand between them and their freedom. Jacinthe and her husband have not yet come out of the house.
I have forgotten to bring my camera, so I don’t have any shots of the mishap. This pic is courtesy of Sharon, who took it just cuz she loves cows so much.
I try to lift the toppled gate. It is covered in mud and cow shit, plus it is broken and tangled. I give it a good heave and it finally uprights itself. The cows are moving slowly toward me. I feel just the slightest bit frightened. They’re timid, but still it’s about 20,000 pounds to 150, so I decide to hop the fence back out to the roadside. Within a couple of minutes Jacinthe and her husband come out. He goes right in to have a look at the gate. She asks me which cow it was, and I say I have lost track. I wonder what is French for shell game? I tell Monsieur Lansi that I stood the fence up myself. He doesn’t even say thanks. I continue my walk, which turns out to be about 45 minutes long and includes being circled by red wing blackbirds and being stalked by 4 little farm kittens. I see the remainder of the huge Lansi dairy farm. Later Jacinthe tells us it is the 2nd largest in Quebec. The largest farm in Canada is just down the road in St. Albert, and is owned by her husband’s uncle.
A lovely breakfast (croissants and raisin toast with a choice of maple butter, rhubarb jam and raspberry basil jam, followed by a quiche with potatoes and a paté of tuna or liver(?) and some delicious coffee) send us merrily on our way. All for $85 plus tax. Plus, Sharon buys 2 jars of maple butter.
The scenery heading east to Quebec city, where we cross to the north shore of the St. Lawrence, is lovely farmland, but from there on, it becomes more mountainous and dramatic. We stop along the road for a quick picnic at La Malbaie (I remember this name because it reminds me of universally known guitar instructor, Mel Bay). The tides are out and the fog is in. It feels damp and chilly until the sun pokes through and the temperature seems to rise by 10 degrees. But the sun loses out to cloud and the rest of the day is overcast and drizzly, but not enough so to dampen our admiration for the beauty of this area.
We arrive in Tadoussac around 3, after a 15-minute free ferry ride from St. Catherine from which we can see the Saguanay fjord. Tadoussac is lovely, though totally foggy to the point of feeling like one is inside a mister.
The fog-bound Saguanay fjord, at Tadoussac, Quebec. A fjord right here in Canada. Imagine that.
A ghost ship comes clear as the sun burns off the fog.
Our accommodations stretch the definition B&B practically all the way to ‘motel’, and the decor doesn’t border on cheesy - it’s smack in the middle. But the friendliness of our host, Guy, more than makes up for it all. Sharon says he must have gone to France to learn charm. He is a very good storyteller, and has a million recommendations for places to go and things to see. For instance, there is a small waterfall with a picnic table next to it just down a little road past St. Simeon (where the ferry crosses the river to Riviére du Loup), and you can pick up some lovely salads at the Dépanneur in town and have a picnic there, but the man HAS to tell his wife how much he loves her, or it won’t be any good at all.
This is Le Roupillon B&B, in Tadoussac. Piquer un roupillon means to 'catch some shut-eye'.
Guy gives me the URL for his journal about his South American travels. He also introduces me to his 25ish daughter and her friend, as I sit in the lobby checking my email, etc.
After a decent supper at the Boheme (certainly miles above last night’s poutine & wings) we go for a drive and get a magnificent, albeit hazy and overcast, view of the St. Lawrence from the dunes just NE of Tadoussac. Another world. (Although it feels a bit like Sandbanks in Picton)
Now it’s to bed. Tomorrow we hope to see whales from the land before we head to New Brunswick on our way to the Bay of Fundy in NS.
Next: Beluga whales, across the St. Lawrence, into New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.