Awoken not by the expected pitter-patter of raindrops on canvas, but the same lilting waves that sent us off to sleep, I’m momentarily filled with hope that maybe the bad weather has passed us by. A tentative poke of head through zip to reveal a very British greyness and some worrying dark clouds over the water banishes this flight of fancy, and though still alone on the beautiful beach, we opt to decamp to the highly recommended and only café in town, Brûlerie de Quai, before we’re soaked. We are nonetheless caught in drizzle while trudging (my opportunity to teach some English as apparently our range of stroll, saunter, wander etc. have no equivalents) back through a seaside town which I can now see is much more charming than any UK settlement I’ve graced ending in “on sea”. Though our pillows are now damp (an oversight in carrying them loose) our spirits are lifted with by a couple of Americanos and a browse of the Microbrewery Micromarché featuring salmon, local wagyu-style yak steaks, hop tea, fishing coats and preserved Gaspésian insects. Unfortunately, our plan of kayaking the nearby Bonaventure river is scuppered, but we decide to head on up to Percé and the promise of a shower and a real bed, then drive back in the morning.
This road-heavy plan is vindicated immediately by the increasing beauty of the 132, which on my left is shadowed by rolling mounts and river valleys overgrown with firs, pines and spruces (all different on account of needle positioning apparently) and not 10 yards to my right either endless, calm open water, or sheer cliff. It won’t be such a chore to spend 5 hours a day on this after all, however my only wish is that, with yellow hazard signs constantly promising meese (if multiple goose are geese?) and deer, I would actually like to see some wildlife bigger than the shouty campsite chipmunk. The “animalerie” we pass is apparently more of a pet store than moose-sanctuary. Fun fact: “kites” here are “cerf volants” or “flying deer”. A strawberry farm drop-in to pick up some wine and a tart for our future hosts passes pleasantly until the shop-manager goes all frosty on us for not buying 5 cases of rhubarb wine each, and I’m reminded why I prefer the beer community.
Percé is the touristic capital of the region, one of those villages of a few thousand which swells one-hundred-fold in peak summer season; the favourable Canadian dollar over the past few years bringing anglophones from other provinces, along with the irrepressible and apparently highly irritating French (from France)! Today though it’s deserted and as we round a bend and crest a hill, the jewel in it’s crown, the Rocher Percé comes into view. I’m thrice assured that this vista is much more beautiful when it isn’t raining, but really a 100m rock formation pierced by one of the worlds largest natural arches is breath-taking enough today. On entering town we swing by the mythical, only ever whispered (some might say overhyped) Auval Microbrewery down an un-signed gravel track. They’ve barely enough stock of the one beer available – IPA Arcane 17 – to fulfil our maximum personal allocation of six bottles, and when we later uncap one, I notice it was bottled that morning; fresh as can be! It’s phenomenal beer, but clearly a case of rarity-driven demand.
Pulling up to Pub Pit Caribou, the heart of the community and a brewery I’m very familiar with from Montréal, I’m a touch nervous to meet a band of Laurence’s friends and potentially lose my vacation chill while trying to be hilarious, charismatic, and indisputably justify (in reality to no one but myself) my presence on this trip. Within minutes of meeting Kevin, Christine and Alex however I’m at home and my hitherto tedious preoccupation with passenger-seat French practice pays off in a dazzling display of breezy bonhomie. There’s really not much to be done except commit to the pub at 15h30, so we settle in, ordering pints of chocolatey-comforting, cold-brew-refreshing Gaspésienne 13 porter and then a smashing “all dressed” pizza from the supermarket deli next door. We’ll return here often so I’ll save the review and attach a blurry picture summarising the scene. We shift spots for a very necessary hot shower, displaying our gratitude to host Alex with a case of lukewarm Laurentides (think Rolling Rock) and a canned Cab Sauv left over from last night’s picnic. His fridge is brimming with Pit’s spontaneously fermented specials and stashed Auval, but he’s effusive in his thanks and welcome, as is Charlot his handsome young Bernese Mountain Dog who devastatingly 2 days later is diagnosed with terminal cancer. A night of fairly freaky virtual-reality musical light-sabre games (yes) followed by some classic Mario Kart & Party action, and accompanied by an out-of-this-world moose Bolognese courtesy of chef friend Greg replenish my rain-tested contentedness back up to 100 (or 110 if you’re a footballer) before we hop in bed and crash harder than Donkey Kong on Rainbow Road.
Song of the Day: Rebirth of Slick (Cool like dat) – Digable Planets
Miller High Life (“The Champagne of Beers”)