Gaspésie Journey – Day 1

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I tell you this story about the most beautiful place I have ever seen in my life, but come to prepare for a long drive and hard hiking. It is about a breathtaking place, one that is full of curious equivocations; somewhere half serene, half rugged, on the lip of a body of water that is half river, half sea. I think everyone should know about it for it holds so much beauty, so much Canadian history. Recognized by National Geographic Traveler as one of Canada’s 50 Places of a Lifetime, Gaspésie gives you the opportunity to discover four national parks; famous Percé Rock; the world’s most accessible northern gannet colony; a UNESCO World Heritage Site; moose; summits over 1000 metres; lighthouses; Chaleur Bay, one of the most beautiful bays in the world; remarkable historic sites and much more.

Our remarkable trip to Gaspésie took us 4 days and started from the famous Percé Rock – a huge sheer rock formation in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and has about 150 fossil species. The Percé Rock, described as “the monstrous giant; pierced through by an immense eye, now green, now gray, now blue or violet, according to the moods of the sea”. There are several legends about this place, and by one version of the legend, which is narrated by the local people of Percé town, is that they see the rock in the shape of a “phantom” during storms and hence call it “Le Génie de ľisle Percé”. This, however, could be interpreted to mean that the vapoury clouds that engulf the “vast flocks of water fowl” could give such an impression when viewed from a distance. Indeed, the whole coast is a magnificent natural spectacle that’s incredibly photogenic with rocky outcrops, towering cliffs and surf. Another favored local site is the Grande Crevasse near Mont-Blanc.

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Gaspé, the main town of the peninsula and the administrative and commercial center, is on a hillside overlooking the York Rivière. The town owes its fame to Jacques Cartier, since it was here that he first set foot on the continent of North America  in July 1534, fashioned a wooden cross under the gaze of the local settlers, and took possession of the land “in the name of the King of France”.

Gaspésie is a mountainous, wooded wilderness, but the peninsula has a wild and rugged north coast where the people live in small villages and depend partly on fishing for their livelihood. The south coast is gentler and not so steep and has some farmland as well as the usual timber.Well worth a visit, the Musée de la Gaspésie tells of Jacques Cartier’s voyages, and also gives an account of the Anglo-French struggle for power over this region.

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Our next stop at the Gaspé Peninsula, is the scenic Forillon National Park – wild and rugged with mostly limestone cliffs. The southern coastal strip is less grand, but just as impressive with opportunities for bird watching and for whale watching trips by boat. For anyone wanting to know more about the wildlife of the area, there is an information center at Cap des Rosiers – which is also the site of a historic lighthouse, the tallest in Canada. Further on, at Cap Bon-Ami, a narrow path leads down to the beach for a magnificent view of the cape and the cliffs.

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The Canadian province of QC once had at least 275 lighthouses, but only about 80 remain today. A number of historic towers have been carefully restored, but lighthouse preservation as a whole has been a little slower to take hold in Québec than in the maritime provinces. Proud witnesses to the past, today some 20 of these lighthouses are enjoying a second career thanks to the actions of a few enthusiastic souls who have transformed these sentries of the sea or their outbuildings into museums, inns or cottages.

Cap Gaspé is a limestone headland at the tip of a peninsula, on its eastern side, the cliffs fall nearly 700 feet into the sea, but are much lower on the southwestern and western side. Looming just off the southeastern shore, awash at high tide, is Flowerpot Rock, also known as the Ship Head or The Old Woman, which vessels must round as they enter Gaspé Bay.

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”I want a love like a lighthouse. Not a love like a burning fire that is bright at first, but ends up being so overpowering that it eventually burns away all of the oxygen in its fiery passion and is quickly extinguished.

I want a love like a lighthouse, not a shooting star, careening across hearts, fascinating everyone with its flashy image, only to disappear seconds later into the dark night sky.

I want a love like a lighthouse. Sturdy. Strong. Never changing. They do not flee. Lighthouses stand proud, leading the way, even in the darkest of nights. They shine a bright, dependable beam of hope into the chasm of darkness that is the sky.

Lighthouses lead people safe to shore. They show people where to anchor in safety. They breathe comfort and security even in the midst of typhoons and hurricanes. They stand strong through all and never stop guiding people home.

I want a love like a lighthouse.”

To be continued…

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