I think about Willie Nelson whenever we leave a long-stay campsite. “On The Road Again” in his signature twangy nasal voice plays in my head and I am secretly glad to get going again. With Grey Ghost hitched up, The Dog perched on his pile of dog beds in the cab of the truck, The Dude chugs an energy drink and I fiddle with the GPS for our next stop.
Au Revoir Quebec City, it’s been a wild ride but we’ve got other roads to travel, like Jacques Cartier who discovered the St. Lawrence, we will meander along the river, minus the boats, scurvy, starvation and armed conflict parts of the journey.
We embark on a side-trip to pick up a parcel from home. Our destination, the bustling metropolis of Pahenagamook, population 2,700, which loosely translated means “all the good town names were taken”.
A torrential thunderstorm the night before flooded the main street of town and the road was clogged by trucks and workers. I don’t know if this is the norm or the “new norm” for weather, but we have experienced more wild thunderstorms in our brief stay in eastern Canada than my entire 20 plus years in B.C. I await the locusts which are apparently the next sign.
Trois Pistoles–you know this town gotta’ have some serious gun-slinging history to it. A French settler, a buxom farmers’ daughter and the stable hand who loved her, type of story. Typical of our Canada and our gun laws, it was actually named for a goblet that cost three “pistoles” an old French coin. I prefer my version.
Our campsite is huge, there are bike trails nearby, the St. Lawrence lies below, a perfect place to spend a number of days, except, there is no room at the inn. Apparently Three Pistols is a Quebec hotspot. We see the attraction as we bike through town down the hill toward the ferry landing, where travelers can voyage across to the northern side of Quebec. The river is magnificent, so large that a tide twice a day uncovers the murky brown bottom where people forage for oysters and mussels. Or phlegm in a shell, as I like to refer to them.
We notice something strange as we venture east, a distinct lack of representation by other provinces. We are in a sea of La Belle Province Blue and White. Stops at gas stations and restaurants reveal that we are the only Anglophones. English speakers are non-existent. Where are our fellow adventurers, the hordes of sunburned, map-waving tourists snapping photos of each other?
Just as we feel our tiny stock of French phrases is exhausted, we arrive at Metis Sur Mer and meet Pearl and Bob, finally and rather late it appears, as Pearl’s first words are “It took you long enough.”
Pearl is the feisty, gracious unofficial historian of all that is Metis Sur Mer and the surrounding area. She is mother to one of my dearest friends and has been awaiting our visit since our stop in Ottawa, which by my reckoning is one flat tire, a hospital stay, and five stops behind us.
I blame traffic.
After a cup of tea and some unbelievably good coconut lemon cupcakes (fresh from the church bazaar and made by one of her cousins, we are told) we are whisked out to Pearl and Bob’s car for a tour of the area.
Bob, Pearl’s 95-year-old partner, still golfs, drives like an Indy pro and has the energy and observation powers of a man thirty years younger.
Metis Sur Mer is a tiny historical town of 600 souls founded by Scottish settlers in the early 1800’s. It also had the distinction of having the only Anglophone school in this part of Quebec. Which seems weird given that we are in what appears to be the cottage country of Quebec. Maybe they smuggle in the students.
Pearl, a walking, talking encyclopedia of fun facts, is apparently related to half the population of the area. She points out homes owned by The Birks and The Molsons. If you don’t know those names you have never owned jewellery or bought beer.
The area is a mix of craftsy cottages and richy-rich mansions surrounded by a rainbow of flowers and impossibly green foliage. It’s gardening on steroids out here.
Metis Gardens, the main tourist draw, is one of those stops The Dude fears. Hordes of tourists, kitschy displays, tacky presentations. He couldn’t have been more wrong. The garden is peaceful, verdant and divided into sections that allow for meandering aimlessly, at which we excel. The piece de resistance is the art garden, a wild puzzle of interactive displays that are reflective of the artist’s vision of nature. I’m certain in some cases, psychedelic drugs or shots of tequila were involved.
Thanks Pearl and Bob, and can you get me that recipe for those cupcakes.
Next, Au Revoir and Bonjour?