Monday, Sept 2, 2013
“Again? Where now?”
“South bank of the St Lawrence near Quebec City. My Chouinard roots are in St Jean Port Joli. ”
Above Greenville, Maine the sky really got dark. The wind whipped whitecaps on Moosehead Lake in Rockwood. Rain came in torrents, making the road slick. Off and on, to the border above Jackman, the rains came. In Quebec, the clouds began to lift, but it didn’t get sunny again. I had thought of driving country roads down to the St Lawrence looking for rural Canadian scenes. But with the poor light, it was a straight shot to Lévis across the river from Quebec City.
Lévis is a bedroom community for QC. Near the expressway Rt 20, it is ugly with strip malls and businesses of every type. The drive down to the river goes from ugly to charming. Down beside the river is Old Lévis where a ferry frequently crosses the river between there and QC. We found a cul-de-sac terrace above the ferry port and watched a gorgeous sunset behind the lights of Frontenac and QC.
The scenic “Route des Navigateurs”, Rt 132, follows the south banks of the St Lawrence east beyond Rimouski to the Gaspé. Originally the land was sectioned off with narrow frontage on the river and farm land or woodland extending far uphill and back towards the south. This region now has large farms that grow a lot of feed corn, grass/hay, sunflower, alfalfa, and some potatoes and wheat. Rt 132 is pleasant, with diversions off the route into villages along the river. The architecture is French Canadian and almost every car has Quebec plates. Most shop keepers speak “un peu Anglais”. Beaumont, Saint Michel, Saint Villiars with its 300 anniversary signs and displays, Berthier sur Mer, and Montmagny.
From Berthier sur Mer we took a river tour. The boat stopped at La Grosse Ile to leave some passengers, while others of us continued on to L’Isle aux Grues. La Grosse is a Canadian National Park devoted to the memory of Irish immigrants who, in the late 1800s, were quarantined there for 40 days before being allowed to land. Passage fees were cheaper to Canada than to USA. Later, many walked into the USA without papers. Ile aux Grues is largest of the nearby river islands. It has a permanent population of about 130 and many visitors in summer, and during the spring and fall when the snow geese stop here on their migration.
Saint Jean Port Joli is where my Chouinard ancestors took root. Jacques Chouinard emigrated from Beaumont La Ronce near Tours, France in the middle 1680s. He eventually married in 1692 and settled here in 1698. I trace back to the first child, Pierre the elder, born in 1695. There are two memorials to the Chouinards. One is on Rt 132 at the site of Jacques home and one in the cemetery to the Chouinard Ancestors. We stayed in a B&B two doors from the church; a lovely stay in a very old house and with an artfully created breakfast of homemade tasties. B&Bs are wonderful places to stay. You meet and talk with folks from all over. The food is very good to excellent. The “leaving early” is a problem because you want to linger in conversation and ambience. Go with the flow, the road will be there later.
More small towns and villages to the east along 132. La Pocatiere had a small pastry shop that made French macarones. Subtle little bites with a decidedly Canadian version with maple syrup in it. Kamarouska had an art exhibition and pleine-aire painting demonstrations. Then in Saint André we headed south toward Maine. The river plain had given way to rolling hills with forests forcing the fields to be smaller and irregular shaped.
Pohénégamook. Try to say that after looking at the name only a couple of times. In this town, there was an unexpected “Route de Frontier” sign. The border?? I thought we were at least an hour away from it in New Brunswick. But, WhoKnew? A century ago the small river bridge was constructed by local concerns to facilitate smuggling of liquor and cigarettes between US and Canada. There IS a legitimate border crossing there still for lumber trucks between Maine and Quebec. It was closed to traffic when we went past; I did not take its photo as I didn’t wish to offend Homeland Security.
Fort Kent was the entry. A tiny border station with a Canadian officer one side and an American officer on the other. Clearly we needed to be checked as it was a boring end of the day. Questions and trunk inspection; he let us keep the two recently purchased apples, even though we weren’t supposed to import fruit. Here is the beginning of US Rt 1 and across the street, Gas and Food. I have to say the chili was OK but the coffee was horrible at Rock’s Family Restaurant.
Presque Isle to Andover, a long day’s drive; US Rt 1, Houlton, US Rt 2A, Bangor, US Rt 1A to the Searsport on the Maine coast. We had a break in Rockland to visit the Farnsworth Museum. The Wyeth painters’ works are there, along with a few others. Supper was a Mexican twist on Maine ingredients. Down the road toward home because it would have been another $100 plus night in hotel and then Labor Day TrafficThroughTollBooths! Easy decision as Rockland is just under 4 hours from Andover.
HomeAgainHomeAgain JiggedyJig !
“travel light and wear a smile.” Jack Holmes