blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit

blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit
By Alison Hobbs, blending a mixture of thoughts and experiences for friends, relations and kindred spirits.

Monday, July 12, 2010

La Luciole, Ste-Irénée

Luciole means "Firefly." The name was chosen by a previous owner, Lucie. In the chest of drawers in my bedroom at this old inn by the railway line that skirts the shore, I found a poem by Janique Watier which has a Baudelairean rhythm about it:

La Petite Auberge la Luciole

Auberge qui veille, volets ouverts sur le fleuve sans âge,
Dans le soir émeraude où folâtrent les saisons
Tu tends l'oreille à ceux qui t'habitent, le coeur vagabond,
Un instant tu écoutes tous ces gens de passage.

Tu leur souffles sur le coeur une étoile nouvelle
Une force sereine qui respire comme des printemps.
Tu déploies en eux de magnifiques ailes
Les chants fabuleux qu'entonnent les océans.

Tu chantes en silence une musique que l'on entend à peine
Qui s'installe doucement au creux de nos voyages.
Tu rêves paisiblement dans l'aube qui s'amène
Tu penches le front sur de purs rivages.

Petite Luciole qui scintille sur le fleuve de velours
Tu sèmes en nous de doux bouquets d'allégresse,
Le parfum de l'été, la mer et ses promesses
Tes pas s'avancent jusqu'au bout de nos carrefours.

Tu veilles doucement blottie au creux de sublimes saisons
Et de douces tempêtes te coiffent de leur blanc frimas.
Octobre t'auréole de ses lumineux horizons
L'été s'endort à l'abri sous ton toit.

I told one of the two ladies who shares the ownership of the gîte nowadays that I had discovered the poem and commented on what a feeling for poetry people have in this province: here was a good example. To my delight she said, "But of course, this house has a real soul!"

It also has five very comfy bedrooms and a balcony from which you can contemplate the "luminous horizons" of that "velvet river". Downstairs is a living room, a verandah on two sides of the building where you can also sit peacefully (there are seats in the pretty little garden too) and a long table for breakfast in the country kitchen where you are served an excellent breakfast either by France or Debbie, depending which of them is in charge of the house during your stay (they hand over the management to one another once a week). The breakfast was so appetising that for the first time in our married lives I saw Chris eating yoghurt without demur!

They do not offer suppers there, but there seems to be a good bistro up the hill, or you could barbecue something on a beach bonfire because La Luciole has a cauldron for charcoal dug into the sand dunes a few steps across the railway line with driftwood conveniently placed for sitting around it.

On the beach you can have a pony ride during the daytime, or in the evening you can watch the mist begin to swirl along the headland and see the little waves lapping in front of you, as darkness falls.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Crossing the channel

We chose to stay on the island for a third day and a night, renting bikes again and doing a demi-tour de l'Isle after a hike on the beach. We walked around the pointe du bout d'en bas at the eastern tip of the island where there's a statue of the Virgin Mary

Notre Dame, Étoile de la Mer, protège nos navigateurs! Sois le Bon Secours de nos débardeurs! ...

and stopped for a club sandwich up the hill on the terrasse of the Hotel Cap-aux-Pierres with its view of the south shore. We played a round of mini-golf too, with only two points between us at the finish. (He won, though.) The holes had witty names: Le Trou Caché, Le Hasard, Le Pointu, Le Détour, Le Bosselé, Le Monticule, etc. On the last one, near impossible, La Montée, the balls kept rolling back down. Our demi-tour took us across the middle of the island, the Chemin de la Traverse, not a very long road through what appeared to be fields of dark brown peat and a hilly forest.

We woke next morning to thick mist and the sound of a fog horn. It looked as though our departure would be delayed and it was, till after 11 o'clock, after two calls to Charlevoix airport to confirm that the visibility was gradually improving. Here are views of the turf / gravel runway at Isle aux Coudres from the threshold of 35, and a view down through the mist of the same airport once we had taken off. Chris would want me to go into some detail at this point, concerning his quarter-of-an-hour IFR flight from Ile aux Coudres (CTA3) to Charlevoix (CYML), landing after an NDB approach and an overshoot (having approached too high across the intervening hills!) onto Runway 15. He says it was probably the most unusual IFR flight he's ever done.

Anyway, Our Lady of the air and outer space had mercy upon us and we landed safely to see her in effigy, stuck to an interior wall in the posh terminal. Shortly after our landing a small plane full of grey haired golfers touched down, arriving from Montmagny on the south shore of the St. Lawrence. I expect they were going to stay at the nearby Fairmont Manoir Richelieu, whereas we called the gîte I fancied (having visited its website previously), La Luciole. The airport man also gave me the number of a car rental fellow in La Malbaie, who drove up to the airport with a car for us. We had a bit of communication problem because he didn't speak so clearly in his Quebec French and my French isn't exactly Quebec French in any case, but it worked out fine. La Luciole, in Ste-Irénée, did indeed turn out to be a lovely place to stay, but I'll write a separate blogpost about that.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Visiting the island

With the wind behind us, it took less than three hours' flying to reach the Isle aux Coudres on July 2nd; we stopped for lunch on the way at Trois Rivières, where a taildragger (Cessna 150) sat on the apron with new tundra tyres. It had been flown there from northern Ontario, Sioux Lookout. As the second leg of the journey, over the Laurentian Mountains northeast of Quebec City, was bumpier, we briefly climbed to 7500 feet before striking out across the bay within sight of the island, and once over the water, the air became smooth, so I was able to take these photos during the approach (click to enlarge them). Mariette, the airport owner, heard us on frequency at her house and by the time we landed (a nice smooth landing this year!) had driven the few metres up the hill with her young grandson to meet us. I chatted to her in French while Chris tied PTN down in the meadow. Then I rang La Coudrière and the proprietor / chef, Claude, came across the island with his van to pick us up and drive us to l'Auberge, where we were given a cabin room by the pond, with a splendid view of the mainland to the north. Two Muskoka chairs on the lawn outside the cabin door were the most peaceful place from which to admire it, until the insects came out at nightfall.

By the time our friends arrived, Chris and I had been for a walk to the shore and taken some photos and I had picked some flowers for the bedside table in our cabin. Carol and Elva were travelling by car from Ottawa that day on their way to the Jardins de Métis to see the famous blue poppies blooming there; they too spent the night at La Coudrière and joined us for the first of our delicious four course suppers there.

After supper Carol and Chris played with the horseshoe throw in the gardens and we also wandered down the lamplit Sentier des Amoureux in the neighbouring property on the headland, which displays a series of quotations (in French of course) about love, engraved on little placards stuck in the flower beds.

Before the ferry (an icebreaker, brise-glace, in winter) was initiated in 1959, islanders could only reach the mainland by canoe.

Plusieurs fois par semaine en hiver, quatre ou cinq équipes semblables partaient "avant le franc jour" pour aller chercher le courrier à Saint-Joseph-de-la-Rive (appelé "le Nord"). Mais plusieurs traversaient pour autre chose : transporter un malade, aller chercher quelqu'un de la famille de l'autre côté...

Nowadays they hold an annual Grande Traversée in winter, to commemorate this.

When Carol and Elva had driven off to be ferried across to St-Joseph-de-la-Rive on Saturday morning, Chris and I walked down the hill and rented a couple of bikes for the day from Vélo-coudres, in order to do the Tour de l'Ile. We hadn't ridden more than a couple of kilometres before we went astray, taking the Chemin de la Bourroche along the northern side of the island, that turned out to be a cul-de-sac onto a pebbly beach in which our wheels sank. They used to trap beluga whales on these beaches. Back to the main road then, the Chemin des Coudriers which goes round the whole isle, up and down a few steep hills. At the western end was a bakery thronged with motorbikes from the mainland, as was the Voitures d'Eau museum where the tattoed, pigtailed bikers and their pillion riders were lining up for burgers. We'd visited this excellent little museum in 2005, so didn't pause there this time. There's a windmill and a sizeable church (St-Louis) too, as well as two miniature wayside chapels. We carried on, the breeze at our backs, to stop for a drink at a barn selling old snowshoes and mukluks, decorative metal cockerels, old farm tools, framed pictures of the Virgin Mary, etc., etc. We could have bought a couple of young coudriers growing in pots, but we couldn't have got them in our plane, let alone onto our bikes.

We found a tasty lunch in a dilapidated tavern with a garden shaped like the front end of a boat before handing in our bikes so that I could cool off in the outdoor pool (the water at 20°) at the Auberge before supper. The dining room was packed, but I think we were the only anglophones. Near us sat the four actors who later performed a comedy in the next room: Le Théâtre. Chris and I sat outside and watched the sunset before settling in for a very long sleep.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Canada Day Post

We stepped aboard Nauti Buoy this afternoon, owned by Scott, a pilot at the Flying Club, who had sailed her up from Portland on Big Rideau Lake. We've been at the club too, seeing Dick P. with his sausages and Martin operating the candifloss machine. Nearly everyone is dressed in red and white, on Canada Day, and what crowds in town!