The trip starts with an inauspicious visit to McDonalds. Hung over from “working” a sun-baked kiosk at Chambly Beer Festival, fatigued from the back to back “AFD” work shifts required to earn the holiday, and having collected my necessary backpack so carelessly left in a Chinatown drinkery, me and my friend/travel companion/Quebecois Spirit Guide Laurence are cursing the slowest fast-food branch known to man, and awaiting two McBagels and the first two of 1000 large, black roadside coffees. We remind ourselves that there’s no rush, we’re on holiday, and we can just relax. We’re destined for the Gaspé Peninsula (or Gah-spay-see in French pronunciation for mum) a highly spoken of outstanding area of natural beauty to the East of Quebec, host to innumerable flora and forna (some of which I hope to eat), mythically beautiful sunsets and microbreweries galore.
Once nestled back in the passenger seat - having inhaled my bagel – I set to the task of embodying the ultimate travelling companion, seeing as Laurence is providing the car, travel route, tent, sleeping mats, itinerary, friends to stay with (and arguably some excellent company of her own) having trodden this route solo half-a-dozen times before. Another quick pit-stop for fresh & squeaky cheese curds “we’re on holiday already!” thrown down our necks like cinema popcorn, and I begin to fill the four hour drive to Kamouraska with what I consider the highest form of road-trip chat and tunes (this article comes with a playlist) ) ultimately wondering the big question; “What IS my favourite letter? Don’t worry, I suppose I don’t need one!”. The response from the driver’s seat: “You know…the greatest sign of a friendship is when you can just be silent together….”. Point taken. Wounded as I was, she will later complain of laughing so much as to re-aggravate a 3-month-old cheek injury, so I’ll “quietly” consider mission accomplished. This will be the only day without an accompanying song, as to acclimatise to a heavily French foray into rural Quebec we opt for a bilingual, comedy podcast.
Having arrived in Kamouraska, we pitch our tent in just enough twilight at one of the most beautiful campsites I’ve ever had the pleasure of staying at, on the edge of the ever-widening St Laurent river. I quickly discover that insect-repelant is not optional - but Laurence has me covered here too, literally - so we stroll off eagerly down a fairy-tale, cross-clearing garden path to Microbrasserie Tete d’Allumette and our first beer. Braving the mosquitoes on the waterside patio just long enough to witness a cloudy sunset, we get more comfortable in a glass conservatory, and later a warm, wood-panelled taproom. Our tasting list (we share everything) over four of five hours of increasingly profound conversation follows this post, with highlights including the Imperial Stout Tete de Gasket (was there a Cognac barrel involved?) accompanied by a locally made blue cheese saucisson. Though delicious, this was the first of a few over-estimations of pub kitchens capabilities in the tourist off-season, of which we were purposefully bang in week 1. Some top notch maple caramelised nuts would have to see me through the night, so we take the three beers we haven’t tried in bottle from the neighbouring kiosk, pay a hefty but well worth it bill, and retire to the rockery that is our tent patio for the night, swapping stories and ever more enthusiastic sentiments of how happy we are to be making this pilgrimage together, quaffing pear barley wine from the bottle in the pitch black, surveying the blinking lights on the opposite shoreline. Disappointed and relieved to be told we won’t be troubled by bears in this particular spot, day 1 comes to a snug close in the trusty two-man.
Song of the Day: Podcasts