Monday, May 31, 2010

A Trip to Gaspe

Since I got home, I have been busy!  So this post has been written, in short increments, over multiple days.  But it's now finally finished!
On Tuesday the 18th, we left.  Late.  I think we got out of the house at 3:00 in the afternoon, or close to it!  But, once we actually got on the road, we were cheerful.  The three of us enjoy traveling together.

Yeah.  No explanation needed (we didn't start off well rested, okay?).

We've developed a habit, while traveling, of writing short poetry.  We'll be driving along, merrily talking, when suddenly Emi or I will see something that sparks inspiration, and will quickly drop out of the conversation, shush the others, and start scribbling in our notebooks...
Tree farms pass
some old,
overgrown with
a woman waters her
Green Farmhouse
while guitars play
from the stereo.
We drove through the Quebec countryside for the rest of the afternoon, on into evening, at which point we were getting painfully close to the coast, close to the gulf of the Saint Lawrence river, that salt water, rocky shored, beautiful place.
Out of the mist
Soft mountains rolling
Toward the sea
lights fall,
as we breath deeply:
searching for the Ocean.
We started looking for a motel around 9:00 or so, I think.  I know it was fully dark, and had been so for a little while.  We could smell the sea.  Just a bit, but it was there: that special tang on the breeze.  We found a motel surprisingly soon, considering the usual difficulty we have (my mother and sister are highly allergic to synthetic scents, of which most motels use plenty!).

I sit on a worn comforter
Banged up old motel
And listen to my sister's laugh ringing
Through the open window.
We left (much too) bright and early the next day.

After not much driving at all, we reached the coast.

low tides rocks stretching-
salt water on my feet and face:
Doubly blessed.
We spent a loooong time on that beach.  I headed straight out to the furthest rock uncovered by the tide, wading through shallow pools of ice cold water to get there, dipped my finger into a retreating wave and tasted the salt.  Then I just stood there, soaking in the sounds and scents and sights of the sea.  I have to admit to even getting a bit teary.  It was like revisiting a second home for the first time in 9 years.  I missed it so much.

We found these amazing water centipede like things.  We watched them in fascination for a while, and even rescued one from a tide pool that had gotten dangerously low for the poor critter!

Doesn't (s)he have a cute face??


Just a little ways down the road, we stopped again.  This time the beach was home to statues, which stretched out into the water, walking inwards from the sea, up onto land, and then stretching off along the side.

Emi liked the statues.  And she made the same face as some of them.

We stayed for a loooong time on that beach, as well.

But finally, we had to keep going.

There are two ways to get to Gaspe: one, is by going around the coast.  The second, and most popular route with Gaspesians, is going through the mountains, through Murdockville.  Now, the latter is NOT my favorite way.  It may be faster, but it's along high, winding roads, the shoulder washed out in places from the rain, and an extremely narrow shoulder at the best of places.  Plus, if you do happen to have an accident and go off the side of the road, you have a nice 200 foot drop!  Woo hoo!  So, being kind to her daughter, my mother agreed to go by the coast.

Looking out the car window
Eyes flicking lazily.
A waterfall!
Tumbling down the rocks
Gone in an instant.

We saw so many waterfalls!  As long as it was safe too, we'd pull over every time we saw one, so I could take pictures.

I loved how we'd be driving along, then when we'd go around a curve or get to the top of a hill, we'd suddenly see a village, nestled between the mountains on one side and the water on the other.

There are dozens such villages scattered along the coast.

Finally, we arrived in Gaspe, surprised to find that, out of the motels that were open (many aren't open this early in the tourist season), most were full or nearly full!!  But, though it was a bit pricier than we'd hoped, we ended up staying in a very nice motel in the dead center of Gaspe proper.  These photos were taken around Gaspe on Thursday, our first full day there:

It's probably not a surprise that the second place we went (after the cemetery, where many relatives are buried) was to my great-grandmothers house.

My great aunt's trailer...

The birch grove in front of my great grandmother's house that I always loved playing in as a child...

The house.

 The barn/shed...

On the trip to Gaspe, I saw so many crows!  Flying past our car, swooping in front of us, sitting, stately, on dying trees by the side of the road...  I said they were watching over us.  Emi said I was silly.  But when we walked back into the fields from my great grandmothers house, there was a crow feather, sitting straight up, caught in the grasses before our feet.  Emi found it.  I told her the crows were watching over us.

A field of forget-me-nots, one of my favorite types of flowers...

My grandmother, who stayed at my cousin Linda's house (she lives two or three houses over from my great-grandmother's house) arrived in Gaspe this day, the Thursday, and after spending some time at Linda's, saw our car here and headed over to say hello.  It was a very grey day though, it was raining off and on (making picture taking risky), and I was suffering from truly horrible allergies, so we didn't stay very long.

We took my grandmother out to supper with us, at a nearby casse croute (aka greasy spoon).  We spent a lot of time with my grandmother throughout the whole visit, and amazingly, the four of us got along extremely well.  That never happens!!

After supper, since the beach we always visit, Haldimand, is just five minutes from the restaurant, we headed there.

Gaspe is often chilly in May, and near the water it's even colder!  But, gods, is it beautiful. 

On Friday there was the viewing (remember this whole trip was because of my Nan, my great grandmother's, funeral).  The day of the viewing was a day of much family trouble (not between my mum, sister, grandmother and I, but with extended family), so stressful, but I did get a couple of good shots when at Linda's house...

They say the eye is a window into the soul, don't they?

This was the view I looked out to from our motel room.  Isn't it lovely?

The next day, Saturday, brought the funeral.  It was a beautiful, bright day.  It was also, predictably, a sad one.

After the reception, we all wanted the relaxation and beauty of the beach.  So that's where we went again.


On Sunday, we rested.  No, really, we did!  It was a gorgeous day again: this time not just warm, or pleasantly cool as it had been, but hot (in the early 30's celcius).  We lazed around, spent more time at the beach, where it was finally hot enough that we could comfortably wade and slash around, since getting wet was much more comfortable anyway in the heat!  I wish I could have taken pictures, but it was windy, with sand blowing everywhere (stinging my legs like miniture needles as it hit), and I wasn't willing to subject my camera to that.  So I had to take a picture in words, instead.
remembering a day
when the sky landed on the beach
to play in the waves
that stretched long fingers
over the sand
We went out to a mediocre supper with my grandmother, which I shamefully didn't take any pictures of, either, then packed.

The next morning, we looked out the door of our hotel to see the mountain being swallowed by the mist.

We said a final goodbye to my great-grandmother's house, and to my great-grandmother's grave.

Then we set off..  It hurt, leaving.  We were there such an incredibly short time, and I'll miss it.  I do miss it.

We stopped for french fries here.  They have very good french fries! (Note the cloud so low it obscures part of the mountain.)

We arranged to meet my grandmother, at a motel she knew to be nice, that night.  It felt like we'd come full circle, when we arrived there.  It was the same little town where we'd first stopped to walk on the beach nearly a week before.

We all went out to supper at a lovely little place just down the road with delicious food.  They had the most kickass vegetarian pizza ever!  It had onions, peppers, tomatoes, green beans, carrots, baby corn...

This was our view when we stepped out the back door of our motel room:

We went down the steps onto the beach, listening to the crashing waves, way bigger than last time we were at this beach (a storm was on its way), and with the tide most definitely coming in, not out!  I walked out to the furthest rock I could get to, and just reveled in the sheer glorious, beautiful, power of this place.  I was finally coaxed back out to solid beach, and the place where I had been standing was covered by water in just a little while.

My grandmother got a motel room just two doors down from ours, and came to hang out with us for a while.

It got steadily darker, and the wind started picking up.  We opened the blinds, eager to see as much of the storm as we could.
three generations
we stood, foreheads pressed
against the cold window
watching the lightning zag
the lighthouse flash
and the whitecaps crash.
the roar of the ocean
held us close
in the cozy hotel room.
It was incredible, and we fell asleep with the window open, listening to the crash of the ocean.

This was the view in the morning from our motel window:

I was sad to leave the coast in the morning.

It was another rather misty day, and when we left in the morning, a cold one!  My grandmother, determined not to get lost (as she very often does), arranged to follow us for the entire way to Montreal.  She stopped where we stopped, turned where we turned.  It was nice to have her with us for the trip.  And, of course, Emi and I wrote poetry!
A cloud landed
On the top of a mountain
Slid down onto the road
And enveloped our car.
Muffled, we drove through.

I breath deeply
the water
in my bottle
smells of ocean
even though
we've left the waves
far behind us.
It was rather funny when, not far from Quebec city, we took a pit stop and were struck with a wave of heat upon stepping out of the car!  We'd gone from 9 degree weather in the morning, to 33 degree weather in the afternoon!!

And there really isn't much more to say.  We drove for a while more, then arrived back in Montreal.
Driving through the city
(Oppressive air
And crumbling pavement)
when, suddenly-
a bird flits by
lit golden by the setting sun
to disappear down an empty street.
We crashed at home.

I still miss Gaspe.  But, I'm glad to be home!

Or, should I say, glad to be back at one of my homes.



  1. Beautiful, poignant post, and lovely, lovely pictures. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Beautiful place, beautiful pictures, beautiful writing! That picture of Emi and the statue is too cute, and that one of the window in someone's (Emi's?) eye is *amazing*. Real art.

    Your family is so blessed to have had your great-grandmother around for so long!

  3. Beautiful post Idzie. Love the little poems throughout!

    Totally unrelated, but have you seen this TED talk by a kid? I watched it today and thought you might like it.

  4. Spectacular photos, beautiful landscape, neat verses!

    Thanks for sharing.

  5. my favorite;
    A cloud landed
    On the top of a mountain
    Slid down onto the road
    And enveloped our car.
    Muffled, we drove through.

    by the time i got to this point in your post i was there with you, muffling through.

    beautiful, thanks

  6. Wow. And Wow. I feel as if I were right there with you on that adventure. Thanks for sharing so much, I had a beautiful trip.

  7. Even though you and I have different ideas, I enjoyed reading your blog very much. Your pictures and descriptions are fantastic, it looks like you had a wonderful trip.

  8. Looks like you had a lot of fun!

    I love Gordon Lightfoot. In his song Canadian Railroad Trilogy he sings..."Into the muskeg and into the rain, Up the St. Lawrence all the way to Gaspe..." It sounds like he is saying Gas Bay, ha! But is he saying Gaspe? How do you properly pronounce Gaspe? My Mom and I have been trying to figure out what and where is he singing about?

  9. @Anishinaabekwe: He's saying Gaspe! :-) The anglophone way of saying it is similar to that, but I'd say more like gas-pay than gas-bay... For first language french folk, the pronunciation is different!

  10. Awesome, now I know what he is talking about in that song, haha! Gaspe is really a nice place! ;)

  11. I ended up here randomly, wandering through blogs. I haven't read yours yet, except for this text. I'm from Gaspé and grew up there, even though I live in Montréal now. I love Gaspé. Beautiful place. You made me curious about that song, I've never heard of it.

    By the way, if you happen to go back to Gaspé, don't be afraid to take Murdochville's road (Unless you're scared of geese). Actually, the coast is much more windy and has narrower roads. I agree though, it's the most beautiful way to go to Gaspé.