We awake to welcome the first of only a couple of sunny days, our berth bathed in morning rays, piquing our positivity for the hours ahead as we take in our 180 degree view, gas-burner coffee in hand, on a deserted park bench not 10 yards from where we sat on rocks in the dark. Peace comes naturally this time, so I let the crickets do the talking, and we re-remember with the help of some bottles what beers we had sipped on (siroter, word learned!) just hours before. Packing the tent as painlessly as we’d erected it we hit road again, this time with me behind the wheel for only my second time on Canadian roads, following instructions to “follow route 132 forever”. It rapidly becomes clear I can’t yet simultaneously speak and drive in French as I clip someone’s mirror pulling over for brunch and a beer in Riviere-du-Loup. Aux Fous Brassants outrageously isn’t yet open at 11h43 so we endure another lengthy wait for a coffee next-door, waking up to the fact that we’re no longer in the city and service may not have the urgency to which we’re accustomed. Discussion centres on London’s darling; the Flat White, yet to be seen in these parts, so I show Laurence McDonalds’ excellent advert satirizing the drink, and we forgive them yesterday’s break-farce-t. I pick up another new word, encouragingly on page 1 of Leo the Lion’s children’s book (gargouiller – to rumble stomach…which I use a lot) and it’s time to take our Passeports en Fut for a spin. It’s is a handy app giving the drinker a 3$ flight at 13 microbreweries of their choice; no brainer. We opt for sessionable stuff as we have driving to do, and it’s not our only beer stop, relaxing on a quaint, sunny high-street mostly populated by florists.
As we cut south across the peninsula on the only part of the route not hugging spectacular coastline, we pass through the unremarkable Rimouski where Le Bien, Le Malt is our first disappointment. The bar itself is fine, but our server gestures unenthusiastically at the chalk board and sighs “the beers are up there, but there’s nothing left”. Charming. Luckily a sour-ish concoction, which for whatever reason (tourism, operational incompetence etc.) is our only decent choice, is a real banger, taking a tour of the tastebuds through acid, to salt, to a long bready finish not usually present in the style. We refuel our bodies on more saucisson and nuts - this time accompanied dried cranberries and some local cheese! – and our phones as we’re free-camping tonight. I would stress that the tech has been used strictly for Maps & Spotify thus far, and no scrolling; surely a cardinal road-trip sin. Besides, what ARE our favourite letters? Not X or OK…too mainstream.
On the next stretch begins Laurence’s essential initiation into UK Grime Music 2005-13, of which the clear favourite is Akala’s poetic powerhouse and song of the day ‘Shakespeare’. Pulling up in an already dark (no sunset today) Carleton-sur-mer we make haste in setting up camp on the beach before the oncoming rain and wander along to Le Naufrageur just six minutes too late for dinner. Openly devastated (a man cannot survive on cured pork alone) we accept the apologetic chips and dip and actually take excitement in picking out a petrol station picnic next door before pulling up a stool and saying Re-bonjour at the bar. We always sit at the bar; good things happen when you sit at the bar. Having previously hosted a 35 strong tap takeover, I was already aware that the beers here are well-made and delicious so I wrap my lips around a Calico Jack, a new world IPA so mango-and-peachy I can’t believe there’s no fruit added. Our misfortune continues as we order the chalkboard bottle special we’ve been eyeing, only to find out that she too (beers are female) is sold out. No matter, the friendly barman distracts us with chat of the sociological impacts tourism here and our beloved service sector. I embark upon what will be a lengthy paper vocabulary list for the trip with the super Quebecois “Je te feel” and “solide” which may seem simple, but you only know to just say the same word in a French accent once you’ve heard it. Finishing up what was another superb swiggathon with a few free shooters of variously blended imperial stouts, our new barman friend saves us a twenty-minute walk with a lift in his van/mobile summer bedroom. Great; people are kind here too.
Our Petro-Canada sponsored midnight feast of Korean BBQ jerky, egg sandwich and 'Bulles de Nuit' (sparkling wine-juice ‘mousse’ in a can) goes down a treat - as really anything would - reclining on a driftwood pillow next to my quickly cave-manned campfire, alone save for each other under the stars. Day 2 in the books, and despite having missed both beer and dinner at our checkpoints, it was perfect.
Aux Fous Brassants