Saturday 11 October 2014

Les couleurs! [Gasp]

Flat calm this morning, and a clear blue sky with the sun making the hills look as though they were lit from within. Gaspé lies at the mouth of the St Lawrence Seaway, and according to National Geographic is numbered fourth in the world? USA? for autumn colour. It doesn’t really matter: the point is that it’s glorious, thanks to deciduous trees completely outnumbering the conifers. Oak, ash, aspen, birch, maple, poplar… they were all stars today, the hills swathed in gold, orange and red.

My excursion this morning was to Percé, about an hour’s drive away, to where an immense rock of almost vertical limestone strata lies off a point, and is pierced by a large hole. It’s pretty impressive, although I couldn’t help feeling that it would have been improved by being able to sail through the hole – I’m spoiled by the Bay of Islands back home, sorry. Then we circumnavigated Bonaventure Island, which hosts the world’s largest gannet colony (*cough* Cape Kidnappers *cough*) as well as lots of very cute spotty grey seals and some more anonymous harbour seals. There was also a distant sighting of a Minke whale, which I’d never encountered before.
The island used to be inhabited by a community of cod fishermen, supplying the European market, but now it’s a national park and only the gannets live there.

Back in the little town, it felt quite strange to be speaking French to the people in the shops and the café (where I finally had a delicious lobster dish: in a toasted roll, with mayonnaise and lettuce, same as I saw in Halifax at the quayside Farmers Market but tragically didn’t have the time to queue for); and it was almost dislocating to see regular-looking Canadians walking along the street with baguettes under their arms, wishing me “Bonjour”.

On the way back, rather excitingly, there was a red fox, out in the middle of the day and trotting along the edge of someone’s lawn, bold as you please and sporting a splendidly fluffy brush.

He mightn’t have been quite so confident if he’d seen, as I did in a souvenir shop at Percé, the display of furs hanging at the back. Yes, there was fox; there was also, unusually, a skunk skin tailed cap  (no, it didn’t smell – I checked) for $180 and a coon skin one for a very reasonable $30. The beaver pelt was luxuriantly thick and soft – also $180 – and the polar bear skin complete with claws, was unpriced. Presumably, if you had to ask, you couldn’t afford it. Not, of course, that I’d want to buy any of them: so much more appealing with the original owners inside them, don’t you think?

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