What a Trip: The North Coast of Quebec


Gilles Thibault took this picture of the Les Galets historic fishing warehouses in Quebec during a month-long trip with his wife, Susanne. (Gilles Thibault)
April 25, 2013

What a Trip is a new feature in which our readers share tales of their rambles around the world.

Who: Susanne and Gilles Thibault of Orleans, Mass. (This account is by Susanne.)

Where, when, why: For almost a month from August to September, we went to the North Coast of Quebec, along the St. Lawrence River to where the road ends at Natashquan, and then farther on a freighter. Gilles used to hitchhike on freighters along this coast as a teenager; 47 years later, we returned.

Highlights and high points: This remote area is a visual feast, with an abundance of natural beauty and history to match. There are rivers beyond rivers, and of course the mighty St. Lawrence, with its own deep history.

Natashquan, the village where song, art, poetry and folk tales meet, has an essence of splendor and unmatched friendliness. It has a deep harbor for freighters, which are still the lifeblood of the coastal towns beyond the road. We took the freighter to Harrington Harbor, and then went on by motorboat to a summer island, Ile de la Providence, where the church has been turned into a B&B without electricity.

The food: People here live off the land and the waters. Our taste buds were challenged by the puffy “pain maison” smothered in jam from freshly picked wild berries, as well as the raw sea urchins that no one would eat but me.

Cultural connection or disconnect: The mixture of “old” French with modern French Canadian culture and the First Nations people is a cultural experience that not many Americans encounter.

Biggest laugh or cry: One day we came across a bakery that was truly worthy of three Michelin stars — in a town of 361 people and 107 miles from the next closest village. Yet they were always busy! We also found a large painting on the side of the road along the water’s edge. It bore no price, no indication of a gallery — just a lovely large landscape of the St. Lawrence standing there!

How unexpected: Gilles is French Canadian. He spent his youth on the North Coast as a pioneer scout and hitchhiking on freighters, so he had rich memories of this area. When he discovered that the road was completed, he wanted to return. I wanted to love it for him, but I ended up passionately loving it for myself.

Memento or memory: The visuals were exceptional. Being a very visual person and a dabbling artist at heart, I saw the geometry of the area and realized that the visuals were perfect for the white-line block print art form that came to Cape Cod via Japan. When I came home, I started creating the block prints from photos that Gilles had taken. I realized that I love the designing and the printing, but I am not good at the carving, while Gilles loves carving. So our gift to ourselves was creating these prints together as memories of the trip.

To tell us about your own trip, go to wapo.st/whattrip and fill out the What a Trip form with your best memories, finest moments and favorite photos.

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