This is the road you were looking for

photo: This is the road you were looking for

winding road between steep hills and the sea

Somewhere about 10km east of Ste-Anne-des-Monts, the northern coast of the Gaspésie peninsula changes again. Now the road is trapped against the sea by tall and steep hills, even cliffs - and the road itself is evidently struggling to maintain its integrity against the encroaching sea. The road is built on concrete buttresses to raise it 2-3 metres above the sea, with a big lip overhanging the sea to tame some of the waves. Apparently that's not enough: there were a couple spots with safety barrels along collapsed edges, and a couple long stretches where the seaside edge of the road was partially obscured by heaps of massive defensive boulders. There were pictographic signs warning us to be careful of rock slides. There were more to warn us about snow slides. And my favourite, which showed a wave coming over the edge of the road to sweep you and your car into the sea. I think it was meant to say that the road might be slippery because of water, but the delivered message was more entertainingly dire.

In all of which I've failed to mention that it was a gloriously beautiful drive. I stopped a lot, took a lot of photos. One of the other beauties of this road, as a driver, can be seen in the picture above: I stood in the middle of the road taking pictures for about a minute before I had to clear out for another car. It's that little-used.

One of the many pieces of literature I've received from Tourist Info centres along the way is a map of "The Lighthouse Trail." The St. Lawrence has always been an important shipping channel, and until the advent of GPS, lighthouses were vital safety instruments. The shore is littered with them. I've enjoyed visiting two or three, but was rather put off today when I got to the one in La Martre. Not the lighthouse itself, but its keeper (if she can be called that). As usual, there was a small house acting as a reception, and the lighthouse itself. The house was locked, with a sign saying "next tour in five minutes" (in French). So I waited. Two people emerged from the lighthouse, and the younger woman marched right past me to the house without even looking at me. She took my $8 inside, let me into the lighthouse and immediately started messing with her phone. When I tried to ask a question - "no english." Back to her phone. My question was, why is it still running? Most of the others are out of commission because GPS has replaced them. They're just tourist attractions now. Bright red on the outside and primarily constructed of wood, this one was a bit of an oddity.

Somewhere along the way I stopped at a lighthouse where Marconi transmitted an early (first?) transatlantic radio message.

photo: The Marconi Lighthouse

The top of a lighthouse over a hill beside two deck chairs

Smells of the day: wood smoke (lots of wood smoke - a lot of people apparently still heat their homes with it), and the sea.

The north entrance to Forillon Park (at the tip of the peninsula) is at Cap Rosiers, which got its name for the abundance of wild roses in the area. The walkway from the parking lot to the parks building is lined with these roses. What it also has that was considerably more surprising, was two nearly domesticated porcupines (I'm told they're common in the park). Apparently the fruit of the bush is quite tasty to them: I was within two metres of the first porcupine before I really registered what was going on. Instead of leaving, it just gave me the evil eye (it's a porcupine - "leaving" is the other creature's problem). Further down the row I heard that peculiarly loud grinding/chomping noise they make when they eat: this time another porcupine was a metre in the air suspended on the very thorny rose stems and nosing about for the rose fruit. Quite a surreal experience. To commemorate the occasion, I made my first ever non-test video with my camera. On review, I find that while it's astonishingly good, it's actually not terribly exciting ... It's a porcupine eating in a bush.

photo: At the north entrance to Forillon National Park. Who knew porcupines were so cute?

a porcupine in a rose bush

I was very pleased (although I wish I'd found out sooner) to find that there's a Microbrasserie (micro breweries) tour map of the region. (Of course there is.) It's just as well I talked to Tourist Information about it as I was headed for Frontibus microbrasserie - which doesn't open until October 16. So instead I went to Cap Gaspé microbrasserie, just opened six weeks ago outside the town of Gaspé. Unfortunately, they didn't really serve food - just a few snacks. Their sample set consists of four five ounce glasses, but they had five beers on tap. That was an easy decision because one of the beers was a white beer: I just had the rest. A Pilsner (fine, but not my thing), an Altbier-styled red ale which was quite dark with kind of carmelized notes to it (fairly good), a really lovely New England IPA - not very bitter, a lovely mix of tropical fruit and citrus flavours, and finally a stout with notes of chocolate and coffee ... and maybe possibly grapefruit again, not my favourite.

At the recommendation of the bartender (a young woman with several tattoos and a deep and abiding interest in beer that suggested she might be the owner or at the very least the brewmaster) I went to Brise Bise in town for dinner. I got chatting on my phone with Sarah about the meaning of the name (with much - and quite possibly totally inaccurate - assistance from Google Translate). Pronounced, it sounds like "Breeze Bees." And the first word may mean either "Break" or "Breeze." The second word is "kiss." So it's still not making much sense. But Sarah found a translation of the whole term: "a short curtain, often of lace, hung on the lower section of a window." So ... the curtain breaks the wind? If you'll pardon the expression. As I said to her, it seems to have about the same level of absurdity and utility as an antimacassar (there's an English word you don't hear much). But the waiter claimed that the word meant two types of breeze, so we continue to guess.

I had the "Seafood Crouton," which was shrimp and scallop on hamburger buns with cheese. The buns were cheap-ass soft hamburger buns obtainable from any supermarket, and the cheese was indifferent, but both the shrimp and the scallop were excellent and the whole effect was surprisingly good.

My hotel is somewhat inconveniently located in L'Anse-au-Griffon - convenient to the park which I hope to hike tomorrow, inconvenient to any actual restaurants (Gaspé is 40 km away, and there's construction on the roads ... although admittedly not too bad). This isn't totally fair: there's a cafe half a kilometre away that's apparently pretty good if a bit pricey, but the next restaurant is 10km away, and the next 20km ... I like to be near a selection, but I also like to be near the park. <shrug> You makes your choices.