Gaspé, Percé and Bonaventure Island (aka Paradise)

Without doubt, this beautiful region of Canada is one of my favourite places on the planet! From the moment we left Quebec City, and headed towards Ile d’Orleans, we began to unwind, seeking out the special little shops, like the boulangerie for fresh bread, the fromagerie for some cheese, and the poisonnerie for delicious shrimp and lobster. All these ‘eries made us very happy, and slightly larger than when our journey began! But nothing compares to an impromptu picnic sitting beside the St. Lawrence River watching the soaring gulls and ocean bound trawlers while nibbling on a baguette and sipping some vin blanc!

One of our many stops was at the Reford Gardens (Les Jardins de Métis). This incredible park is the home of the stunning blue poppy and the site of many national and international garden art installations. Our “let’s stop for an hour” turned in to half a day as we wandered happily through several gardens with various micro climates that Elsie Reford strived to create many decades ago. Successfully I might add. If you can’t go in person, be sure to visit their website: http://www.refordgardens.com/

Another must–see is Percé Rock which is a Canadian icon. Probably the most photographed rock north of the 49th, it’s awesome when you come around the bend of the highway, and there it is for the very first time, looking exactly like all the paintings and pictures you’ve ever seen of it. At low tide, you can walk around the base of the rock, but are constantly cautioned to keep an eye on the time less the tide rolls back in leaving you stranded and more than a little wet!
Just beyond Percé is the one of the prime reasons we took this trip (besides the food of course) and that’s Bonaventure Island and the Northern Gannet colony that has claimed it as home and a great place to make and raise baby gannets. Words cannot do justice to the sounds and the smell (!) as you approach the colony, which is primarily nestled on the southern cliffs overhanging the Atlantic. There are so many birds that you can actually see the undulations of the rocks on which they sit. And they love the rocks – in fact, they won’t go on the grass, so you can approach within inches, literally, and as long as you stay on the grassy parts, they won’t move from their hard fought piece of scrabble.
We watched and watched these lovely birds with their striking blue eyes and soft peaches and cream colouring. There were thousands of them. How could they possibly go out fishing and come back to the same spot, without error? They do though, identifying their mates with subtlety unique vocalizations. There’s a lot of crowding on these high rise cliffs, but relatively little fighting. We watched as males returned to the nests, and the females immediately began to stroke their necks and beaks – a lovely gesture that calms the males and keeps their attention focussed on the family and not the big feathered butt bobbing around beside him!
Over the years, I’ve been on many beaches, and simply strolling along them is fine – rather nice actually – but searching for sea glass makes it even better! And the rocky shores of the Gulf of St. Lawrence yield up lots of shards of green, and brown, and blue, and white. Between looking up at the birds, and down at the water, gathering bits of this and snippets of that – flotsam and jetsam for the intrepid gatherer – it’s a lot like paradise – and I can’t wait to go back again!