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 20, 2015

Back to Ottawa from Mont Joli

This briefly describes our homeward journey on June 30th. 

Last call at the Auberge Portes sur Mer

Rimouski from above

The weather was no longer rainy; once again we were in luck, although very reluctant to leave this part of Canada behind. As we left Mont Joli on an IFR flightplan, climbing over the scattered clouds, we followed ATC's instructions to climb and maintain 6000ft. St. Fabien-sur-Mer, as we passed it, where we'd been the day before, was under a layer of mist.
St. Fabien visible, St. Fabien-sur-Mer concealed by mist
Beyond Rivière du Loup we headed back over the water for 35 minutes in the direction of Quebec City, eventually climbing to 8000ft. The ripples in the clouds beneath us (dissipating fog) looked like water, too. 

Ripples of fog over the St. Lawrence
The clouds were similar on the other side of the fleuve, with similar mist in the Baie St. Paul and over the Isle aux Coudres (its southern shore just visible). As usual in this part of Canada pilots were broadcasting messages from solitary and remote locations, from Shefferville, for example, way up north, where all the airspace is unmonitored (uncontrolled), and from Sept Iles. As we crossed the St. Lawrence and approached the Isle aux Coudres area, we could hear that an American plane was preparing to take off from Charlevoix airport, and expected to see it climbing towards us, but its departure was delayed, so we never did.

Low cloud in the Baie St. Paul
By the time we passed Quebec, moving inland, the skyscape began to look more like what we're used to. Once again, we stopped at Trois Rivières for lunch and then flew home from there above flocks of summer cumulus clouds.


The following day was Canada Day, not so fine and sunny. Although we did get outside, it was a wash-out. We had the Rockcliffe Flying Club Canada Day breakfast in the hangar with friends, and in the afternoon got soaked to the skin during a cloudburst in town. I have never before seen Rideau Street looking like a river, but that's how it was! In the evening came dryer, cooler weather and an excellent firework display, that we watched from near our house.

A grey day around Rimouski

Down the hill to St-Fabien-sur-Mer
On Monday, June 30th, we spent the morning in Rimouski, where it rained on us as we walked along the Promenade de la Mer with its ship-like lookout points and its tide towers, and back and forth along the Rue St. Germain Est / Ouest, which has quite stylish shops, including well stocked stationery suppliers and bookshops. We noticed an EV charging station in the parking lot and the public conveniences were impressively modern and clean. This is a forward thinking municipality. Then after lunch, when the clouds started to lift a little, we drove west of Rimouski to the Parc National du Bic, taking the hill from Saint-Fabien down to Saint-Fabien-sur-Mer, the tiny location of an annual music festival, where there are holiday cottages. It looked idyllic, but fairly deserted. Parking at an entrance to the Parc National du Bic we realised it would cost a fee to walk there, and there were plenty of blackflies about, so we just sat on the beach for a few minutes instead, under massive cliffs.

The shore at St.-Fabien-sur-Mer

Parc National du Bic scenery, with orographic clouds


One of the three foxes
The clouds began to lift as we drove slowly back towards Rimouski and we veered off the road again to gaze at the marshes and the islands: wonderful, watery views. Chris was impressed by the orographic clouds! In the reeds we spotted a fox (or vixen?) and then two more foxes, maybe the cubs of the other one, busy hunting for food. A local gentleman came up and talked to us, showing us the pack of photos he carried in his jacket pocket. It turned out he was a pilot too, who in his heyday had landed a biplane on this small strip of land. He lived by the water's edge, not fazed by the occasional floods that wash into his downstairs rooms.

The submarine with visitor, for scale

Tipping the museum building

The other side of Rimouski, at the Pointe au Père, a no-longer-used submarine is tethered; we stopped there as well, to take photos for our grandsons. You can have a guided tour inside it, as we did in September 2009. There's also a museum about the wrecked Empress of Ireland, and an historic lighthouse with flying buttresses and associated buildings. We took a look at the exhibition inside the Fog Alarm Shed. Lighthouses were extremely important along this treacherous coast in the days before GPS and modern depth sounding equipment, so had to be well manned and maintained.

Back in Ste. Flavie at the end of the day, we drank local beers from the Rose des Vents (Compass Rose), a recommendable fish and chips restaurant. We'd eaten there the evening before, as well.

The gardens and the wilds

At the Belvedere, Reford Gardens
Sunday morning, June 28th, we drove to the Reford Gardens, aka Jardins de Métis. Métis is the nearest community to the lodge and its grounds where the Reford family lived. Elsie Reford was quite a girl, beautiful in her youth, bold and creative in her 50s when, inspired by the example of Gertrude Jekyll in England, she started making these gardens. This year, black and white photos from the 1920s can be seen through telescopes dotted around the grounds. I went here on my own once; this time I persuaded Chris to come and look round with me.

Blue poppy at the Reford Gardens, June 2015
We found the famous "glade" where the blue poppies from the Himalayas were blooming; Chris makes fun of people's reverence for these rare plants, calling them the purple turnips. Unlike the poppies we're familiar with, this variety grows in the damp and the shade. I was also delighted by the yellow lady's slipper orchids in the vicinity of the poppies, by the peonies on the verandah of the old house, the lupins in the meadow and the pansies and primulas by the woodland walks. It features rock gardens and garden sculptures––the latest installation being of shiny "fish" (with scales made from sequins) leaping through the topiary. This place is the eastern equivalent of the Butchart Gardens that I saw in March, with a lookout over a salt water inlet that reminded me of the views from Vancouver Island. To my amusement the flowers blooming in the Gaspésie at the end of June were the same ones that I saw blooming in British Columbia in March.

Ladies Slipper orchids at the Reford Gardens

Lupins and buttercups at the Reford Gardens
Azazleas at the Reford Gardens

Pansies, primulas and ferns at the Reford Gardens

Rivière Matane
After the Gardens, we drove along the coast road to Matane for lunch, where we walked round a nicely / recently landscaped playground and park on a river island to stretch our legs. We ate at an old favourite place for the locals, the Café aux Délices. followed the Matane River inland from Matane (by the coast) and parked by an information hut for the sake of a short hike in the forest. We could have driven 40km further into the wilds of the Réserve Faunique and seen some spectacular scenery, but the river with its cliffs was satisfying enough. So we also saw flora in the wild that day: bunchberry flowers under the fir trees. By the narrow trail near the river were heaps and heaps of moose droppings along with moose hoof prints, but we never spotted the actual moose. No other fauna either, except for one very large hare (snowshoe hare?) that hopped in front of our car as we set off back to the main road.

Bunchberries in the wild

Rivière Matane

Moose droppings, with Chris' foot for scale!

For the rest of the afternoon we drove along the country roads of the Gaspésie, fun to drive, like a switchback––Rte 195 to Amqui (where we stopped to see another playground and a covered bridge over the Matapédia River), then Rte. 132, past Lac Matapédia, and along back roads through farmland, back to Ste. Flavie.

Bridge at Amqui

Saint Octave de Métis, St. Laurent estuary in the distance

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Ste. Flavie revisited (1st day)

This post refers to June 27th, 2015

On Saturday, June 27th, we bypassed Montreal across the Laurentian Mountains (Laurentides) to reach Trois-Rivières (CYRQ) airport for lunch. Squawk code 4252, climb to 7000, via TAKOL, ESTEL, AKLUK, heading on Tango 781 to SOKYE, thence YRQ direct where the sky was clear, the visibility greater than 9 miles, the winds light and variable: i.e. in super flying conditions. Having lunch at the airport restaurant, Le Pilote, gave us an interesting view out of the window: on the apron stood a cluster of highly strung (!) parachutists waiting to depart. There was a fairly elderly gentleman among them and a young, attractive girl, being assiduously helped with her harness by the young men. How many parachutists and their gear can you cram into a Cessna (with the door off)? The answer, if you lay them one on top of another, is six, plus the pilot. Later we saw him land with an empty aircraft so had to assume they did all jump.

After this came the longer leg of our journey, Trois-Rivières to Mont Joli, first following the St. Lawrence River to Quebec. We crossed Quebec airport at 7000ft. Beyond Quebec the St. Lawrence widens and we crossed it at a long slant for about half an hour, flying over the Île d'Orléans, then the Isle aux Grues, then the Isle aux Coudres and so on, wearing our life-jackets. The end of the journey was in sight for miles: the runway at Mont Joli airport. We pulled into our tie-down spot next to three tail-dragger crop sprayers and went into the terminal building to pick up the rental car we needed for the next three days. We didn’t use the car the first afternoon and evening though, except to get us down the hill to our lodging at Ste. Flavie, the annex to the famous motel, Le Gaspésiana––65 years old according to its website and still going strong. The meals there are haute cuisine, superbly flavoured and presented. Supper costs a little more than we'd usually pay when dining out, but my goodness, it’s worth it for a special treat. We treated ourselves that night. Most other diners got through a bottle of wine but one glass of the house white was enough for me. My starter, a salad featuring watermelon, olives and feta cheese, was unforgettably good, as was the soup that followed and the beautifully marinated pavé de saumon rôti, beurre blanc à l’estragon et orange grillée. I decided I didn’t have room for the dessert du jour so let that be served to Chris, but when it came (a sort of light carrot cake with a soupçon of sauce) it too was so delicious that I shared a few bites of it and finished the meal with a delectable tisane.

Marcel Gagnon's Grand Rassemblementis still on the edge of the beach at Ste. Flavie with his concrete figures and coming up from the sea's edge. The figures right at the back get submerged at high tide, but this time it was low tide so I walked right up to them, very happy, taking photos. There’s something magical about this installation; although it’s “primitive” art, it has an inexplicably positive effect on me. Aches, pains and nagging stressful thoughts disappear in its presence. This untrained artist’s key message is a thought that struck him––nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita––the idea that you cannot make others happy unless you are happy yourself. I have probably mentioned this before in my blog. By the way, I think the faceless tall figure on the shore, to which all the others of various statures and facial expressions are turning, is supposed to be Jesus giving his Sermon on the Mount, but I can’t find any evidence to support that guess. 

We also went on the promenade the other side of the pier that evening and watched the sun sink into the hills in the far distance across the estuary. There were biting insects in the air, unfortunately; we tried to ignore them, but I still have the scars.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Longing for a pause

Zen Buddhists recommend that we do one thing at a time, and that one thing with all our concentration. It will take a while before we get to the point where Chris and I can get to the point where I can properly comply with that.

So far this month, not wanting to waste my festival pass for Music and Beyond, I've been at fourteen concerts. I've also attended a series of lectures ("Understanding China") learning about Confucian pacifism, Daoist monasteries, The Needham Question, and so on. Chris has just travelled to the Stuttgart area of Germany and back for some intense business meetings and has just submitted the final proofs of his latest book for publication. Hooray! He's off to Germany again at the end of August, taking me along. Before that, I'm going to the UK on Tuesday for a two weeks' family visit, then coming back to Ottawa to welcome a couple of friends who'll be staying with us here for another two weeks. We have just bought a new car, a Chevrolet Volt (a "hybrid" designated as an Electric Vehicle––it plugs into the mains and hasn't yet needed any petrol) and we have made a start on re-organising our garage by throwing out old junk and ordering new shelves. Sometime between now and the autumn we'll have to have a 240 Volt EV-charger installed in the garage which will require rewiring work done by a professional electrician, and I have asked another contractor to come asap and replace our front steps and garden edges. I must make sure they don't turn up on the same day.

Chris reading on the balcony at nightfall, Ste. Flavie
The Germans have a noun for this lifestyle: die Hektik. Last month and the end of May, after our return from China, were so frantic that I was becoming chronically absent minded and fatigued, making mistakes galore, but before Canada Day, we did fit in a five-day respite in eastern Quebec, flying to Mont Joli in our little aeroplane for the sake of three nights on the south shore of the St. Lawrence, which helped a little. Our room at the Auberge Portes Sur Mer overlooked the beach, so that, as we went to sleep, we could hear the waves breaking. I wish we could have stayed there longer.