Posts filed under ‘Lighthouses’

percé: finally!

Well, it has been almost a year since I last posted on this blog. I guess I’ve been busy. I’ve had a lot of adventures since Gaspé 2012, so in the interest of getting to those adventures eventually, I’ll pick up where I left off. To recap, in July 2012, I took a week-long road trip with the usual suspects, Jules and Christina. We explored a good chunk of Québec, including the Gaspé Peninsula. In my last entry, we were just beginning our circle tour of the peninsula and were bowled over by the beautiful landscapes, and we still had half the day to go.

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Our next stop was the classic lighthouse at Cap des Rosiers. Unfortunately, this lighthouse was surrounded by a fence and required admission to get into the little park. Since we were only making a quick stop, and since none of the other lighthouses on the peninsula appeared to require an admission fee just to view them, we decided not to go in. This was taken from a few steps outside the fence.

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No admission was required at the little beach near the lighthouse, though, and we took a few minutes to enjoy the view and the sea.

After Cap-des-Rosiers, Highway 132 curves into Forillon National Park. We kind of wanted to stop in the park and take in the view from the end of the big peninsula, but we had trouble finding the right road, so we decided to keep going in the interest of making it to Percé in time to check in to our hotel. After a stunning drive around the bay, we were in Gaspé, the capital of the region.

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And we needed coffee! Christina had a recommendation for Café des Artistes, and it was just perfect. Great coffeehouse atmosphere and great coffee.

Here’s a true story: I like drinking coffee out of bowls.

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After coffee, we walked a little bit and poked into a couple of shops in the area, but they were just about to close for the evening. Despite it being a holiday week, downtown Gaspé felt fairly quiet and peaceful. Soon, we were back on the road for the short drive to Percé, where we were stopping for the night.

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Along the way, we stopped for photos when we crossed a charming little brook, and Jules schooled us in skipping rocks, as usual.

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We made a quick stop to photograph St. Luke’s Anglican Church, a picturesque country church along Highway 132.

And before long, we were driving down a mountain into Percé! The view was fantastic, but I took better “above” shots of the town the next day, so I’m saving those for the next post. We checked in at Auberge Les Trois Soeurs, just west of the main stretch of town. It was far enough from town that it was quiet and we had our own beach, but close enough to leave the car and walk into town.

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We snapped a few photos of the view, which included the famous Rocher Percé (Pierced Rock). The western view doesn’t show the hole in the rock, but it’s still quite impressive!

I had first read about the Rocher Percé in a French textbook in high school, and visiting Percé had been on my travel list for over a decade. This trip was Jules’ pick, but I was just excited as she was to finally make it to Percé.

We ventured into town and walked around a bit, checking out the shops and comparing prices for boat tours that offered a close-up view of the rock and possible whale sightings. I had done the whale thing a couple of years earlier in Newfoundland with my mom, but Jules and Christina hadn’t. They decided to book a tour for the following morning, but I was already veering over budget, so I decided to sit this one out.

Before long, it was “blue hour,” the perfect time for a walk down the main pier for views of the town, the rock, and a children’s group singing “Achy Breaky Heart” in French.

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We finally saw the legendary “percé” part of the rock!

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And a dreamy view of the town of Percé!

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And the moon over Bonaventure Island!

After a bit of photo time, we had dinner in a big touristy barn-type place, because we figured that the seafood would be great, no matter where we went. We were right!

Perhaps one of my favourite non-photographed memories of the trip was sitting out on the beach by our hotel that evening, sharing a bottle of wine and talking for hours with two of the best friends a girl could ask for. We finally went to bed, later than planned, and set the alarm for just a few hours later. I had big dreams of getting up to photograph the sunrise, preferably as seen right through the hole in the rock. Fortunately, my friends will usually allow me one day of crazy early alarm clock per road trip, in the interest of travel photography.


March 30, 2014 at 1:55 pm 2 comments

on the gaspé!

When we left on day 3 of our road trip, we were finally in the Gaspésie region, which comprises all of the Gaspé peninsula. It’s a common vacation spot for québecois families, but less well-known in other parts of the continent. I know approximately zero people in Chicago who didn’t need a geography lesson when I told them that I was road tripping the Gaspé.

And I wouldn’t want that any other way. Because it’s pretty gorgeous and you never have to stand in line to see the deep blue sea!

Careful not to get eaten by any stray whales, though!

We took an opening self-po at our impromptu stop outside of Matane at the giant whale souvenir shop, and then got on the road! On the itinerary for day 3 was the drive from Matane to Percé, at the end of the peninsula. It’s about a 5-hour drive if you go straight through, but we knew that we would stop. We knew that we would stop a lot. Fortunately, we had awesome weather with a crazy blue sky…even better for the landscape shots!

We’d picked up the official Gaspésie guide for the summer, which has a detailed map. It’s a big help for the road trip, especially when towns get further apart. The map has icons to denote which towns have food, fuel, and public restrooms. Most of the towns are really, really small, so having this information ahead of time is essential.

The guide also helped a little with planning our stops, but most of our photo op stops originated from one of us going, “Ooo, pretty church!” or “Lighthouse ahead!”

This lovely church was one of our first stops, in Grosses-Roches. I loved the classic white church against the sky and the sea!

I mentioned before that we love anchors, so we were thrilled to see this scenic spot at Les Méchins.

This picturesque view was near Tourelle, I believe.

The cheery red lighthouse at La Martre was an awesome stop. It’s up on a hill over Route 132, and it has a great view.

The view at Cap Madeleine was pretty awesome, but better still was the playground next to the lighthouse.

There weren’t any kids around, so we didn’t feel too bad monopolizing the fun. There weren’t any adults around either, so we didn’t feel too embarrassed acting like kids!

We still had a ways to go before we got to Percé, but we were already smitten with La Gaspésie!

May 30, 2013 at 11:20 pm Leave a comment

Pink Bliss.

Day 17, Part 2 was probably my most-anticipated part of the entire Europe trip. Why? Because we were going to Perros-Guirec! Random, eh? I hadn’t heard of Perros-Guirec before I started planning for the trip in May. Then, I knew that I wanted to go “somewhere in Brittany,” but I wasn’t sure what Brittany boasted, besides women in bonnets who were photographed for French textbooks. Once I started researching, I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, until I switched languages and started researching in French. Perros-Guirec, despite its proximity to the ferries from England, was mainly publicized in French, and I was absolutely smitten with the photos of its pink granite coast. I learned that the pink granite formations are found only two other places in the world, Corsica and China, so I started looking for a place to stay in the area. Once I found a waterfront hotel in Perros-Guirec for only 60 Euros, it was settled. Perros-Guirec was officially on the itinerary. And I officially began praying for sunshine on the one half-day that we had to spend there.

We were careful not to spend too much time at Mont St-Michel, because we wanted to arrive in Perros-Guirec with plenty of light left to walk the coast. Since we were making great time and since we really wanted to see some women in white bonnets, we stopped at a Breton dance festival in Guingamp. The admission was something like 15EUR/person and since we didn’t want to spend too much time, we declined to go in, but I did snap a photo of girls in white bonnets through the fence! Mission accomplished.
Breton girls

The Bretons have their own language, more similar to Welsh than French, since they are a Celtic group of people. Brittany, or Bretagne, is mainly rural and many older Bretons live and farm in ways that are similar to how their ancestors lived on the same lands. Unfortunately, as with Welsh, the Breton language is in danger of dying out. The region has launched campaigns to save the language and culture, so festivals are common throughout the summer, and signs are usually in both Breton and French.

Retro sign
Like this sign! Mom and I loved these retro signs along the highways throughout Normandie and Bretagne. We didn’t see one for the Pink Granite Coast, probably because it’s not directly off the main highway, but this one was for a nearby beach.

We checked into the Hotel du Port first, and were so impressed with our classy room and harbour view. The woman at the reception desk (one of the owners, I think) was kind and informative, and chatted with us in French, slowly enough that I could understand, and without any apparent difficulties understanding me, which is always nice. She marked out a path to follow on a map of the region and sent us off to the coastal paths.

Pink Granite Coast 1
Prayer for a beautiful day granted! And the rocks did not disappoint. I was blown away by the beauty of the coast, and the colour of the pinks against the bright blue water.

Pink Granite Coast 2
Amazing! We loved seeing the Queen Anne’s Lace growing in occasional patches, because it reminded me of the walks that I used to take in the country with Jeannie, one of my mom’s longtime friends.

I think that this might be the house where Henryk Sinkiewicz wrote Quo Vadis; it was somewhere along the path, but we didn’t find anywhere to pick up a guide. I haven’t read Sinkiewicz, but he won a Nobel Prize, so he’s probably a fairly decent writer, and I have decided that if I also want to be a fairly decent writer, I should probably write my next book from inside this house as well. Anyone want to sponsor this plan? Haha.

I am usually a fan of the traditional lighthouse look, but a red-and-white striped lighthouse would have looked so silly here, so I’m glad they stuck with the pink granite!

Puffin Sign
It’s funny, we went out on a boat last year in Newfoundland to see puffins, since we didn’t think that we’d have that opportunity again. One year later, here we are in another town known for puffins! (After a bit of research, I think we still made the right choice…it seems like Newfoundland has a higher concentration of puffins than Bretagne!)

Beach 1
After about an hour of walking, we arrived in the centre of Ploumanac’h, where they have one of the prettiest little public beaches that I have ever seen!

Pink Granite Church just above the beach in Ploumanac’h

One more shot of of the beach, shot from up by the church

Of course, once we had hiked all along the coast, we still had to get back to our car, so we decided to cut our hike short here and start walking back, on interior streets this time, instead of the coastal path. We ended up walking past a gigantic Breton souvenir shop, where we browsed for quite a while. I bought some sea salt caramels (famous in the region, apparently) for Jules and a Bretagne mug for myself. I could have bought so much more, if only I didn’t have to worry about my suitcase’s weight on the way home!

Once we got back to the hotel, it was just about dinnertime, so we headed up the street to La Marée, on the recommendation of the friendly hotel lady. I feel like I should write her a thank you note, because La Marée provided one of the best meals I have ever had!

Seafood feast!
I ordered a combination plate of oysters and shrimp for my main course, and when they brought this plate, I was stunned and a bit intimidated. I had never had oysters that looked quite like that, and the shrimp had eyes and tentacles and such. I wasn’t grossed out by it, but I didn’t know how to eat them. Fortunately, when I started struggling with the oysters, a friendly older man at the next table offered some advice. I was embarrassed, but grateful, and it didn’t seem like he was laughing at us. When it came to the shrimp, he got up and showed me how to pull the heads off (if you pull the wrong way, you get a spray of gross shrimp juice), and then we ended up chatting with him and his wife for the rest of our meal. He told us all about how he loved the United States, and asked if we were from New York, Hollywood, or where the cowboys are. We said Chicago, and he looked at us blankly and said something else about cowboys. I’m not sure he’d ever heard of Chicago, and I think he was legitimately disappointed that we weren’t cowboys or from New York. His daughter had recently moved to Montréal, and he was looking forward to visiting her next year, when he also planned to see New York and the cowboys. Nice man!

After dinner, we walked a little bit along the docks, and when we went back to the room, I took a panoramic of the harbour. Lots of boats, and I love how late the light stuck around.

Bretagne, France, and the European Union

December 16, 2011 at 10:41 am 1 comment

Canada Day: That’s a Wrap

Canada Day was such a day. Though Canada Day 2007 will always be legendary, when we threw ourselves a cookout on Christina’s roof, I think Canada Day 2010 takes the cake for the best one yet!

I ended last post as we were driving northwest from Cavendish, heading for North Cape. We quickly left the tourist part of PEI and entered a very rural part of the province. It was so quiet—most of the residents were probably enjoying their day off at celebrations, and we had a hard time finding somewhere that sold a) gas and b) caffeinated beverages! We found a liquor store that was open on our route, but they didn’t have any Coke, and it was at least another half hour before we found an open convenience store. I think the woman in the store was pretty confused at how three girls in a car with Washington plates had stumbled into her store on a national holiday.

North Cape
We finally made it to North Cape, which might have been the least picturesque spot we found in all of PEI, actually. It was okay, just not up to the standards of the rest of the island due to an excess of wind turbines. But hey, good on ya, PEI, for creating some clean energy!

North Cape Beach
Because of the currents at North Cape, I’m guessing, the beach had all kinds of “stuff” washed up on it, including…seaweed and whatever else this is, as well as thousands of slugs. Christina relived her childhood a bit and showed us how slugs go in and out of their shells, which was thrilling for me, since I was too scared to play with bugs as a kid.

Currents at North Cape
It’s hard to capture in a photograph, but here, you can kind of see the double-current action that happens at North Cape. The cape is the northwest point of the island, and it’s also where the Northumberland Strait (on the left) collides with the Gulf of St. Lawrence (towards the right/top of the photo, the bigger waves). That spit on the right side of the photo shrinks as the tide is coming in. I stood out on the end and watched the two currents converge over my bare feet. It’s really neat, and I’m sure it’s part of why the wind turbines are effective at this part of the island. We actually spent a bit of time here, wandering around, and I think we all needed the time to unwind after all the driving we’d done.

I’d originally started to plan a trip to PEI in several years ago. I wanted to go to PEI for my honeymoon, and my then-fiancé agreed that it would be a nice spot. It would have been in 2005, if we’d gotten married, but we (obviously) did not. It’s been a long time and I’m over the hurt now, but I was nervous about what kind of feelings being on PEI would bring back for me. To be honest, I had a broken heart for a long, long time. It wasn’t until we were here, at North Cape, that I had a minute to stop and think. To my relief, it wasn’t a real sadness that I felt, or even disappointment, but I did wonder. I wondered if we would have driven out this way if we’d come here together five years earlier, if he would have felt disappointed by it like I did, or if he would have like the rugged beach. Fortunately, I didn’t dwell on it too much. I believe that everything happens for a reason, and if I’d gotten married then, I wouldn’t have the life that I’m so fortunate to have now, and I wouldn’t have had this amazing opportunity to travel across Canada with these fantastic girls. So enough on that topic. Let’s move on to the next lighthouse.

Between North Cape and West Point, we decided that the eastern half of PEI just wasn’t meant to be. PEI is a smallish island, but not small enough to fully see in a single day. I was disappointed that we weren’t going to make it to the squeaky beach at Souris, but I had to roll with it, and we made a new plan. We still wanted to see a prettier lighthouse and beach, so we continued with the plan and headed for West Point, the southwest point of the island.

West Point Light
West Point Lighthouse did not disappoint us! Jules, in particular, really loves lighthouses, so when we arrived and realized that West Point Light has actually been converted into an inn, she wished we could have stayed there a night. It would have been a great experience…we’ll just have to go back!

West Point Beach
The beach at West Point was also lovely! The sand had a reddish tint, but it was less cluttered than the beach at North Cape. A couple of families were wrapping up an afternoon there—kids were swimming while the adults were packing up picnic baskets and umbrellas. It seemed like a nice place to spend a day, for the beach types. Personally, I like beaches in smaller doses, when I don’t have to worry about reapplying SPF 85 sunscreen every 20 minutes.

We couldn’t stay too long, though, because we actually saw a storm coming across the Northumberland Strait from New Brunswick, heading straight for us. And we still had one very important photo to take.

Me with a giant potato!

My friends and I share a fierce love for potatoes, so a stop at the PEI Potato Museum was essential. It was already closed by the time we got there, and we knew it would be, but we absolutely had to take photos with the giant potato outside the museum. Now…can someone go ahead and mash that for me for dinner? Thanks.

With the storm still raging toward us, we knew it was a race for time to get to Summerside for dinner before it hit. We ended up picking the Deckhouse at Spinnakers Landing, a touristy part of town with lots of shops and restaurants. The Deckhouse seemed casual, but had a good review in one of the guidebooks, so we thought it would be a good spot to spend Canada Day. Fortunately, the patio seats were taken by the time we got there, so we sat inside and listened to a super awkward cover band sing the most articulate version of “I Gotta Feeling” you can’t even imagine. Ask one of us for a demonstration sometime, if you’re curious. The storm blew in while we were feasting on fish and chips, and it was over by the time we paid our bill. Great timing!

Double Rainbow!
And when we went outside, we were treated to a DOUBLE RAINBOW! (What does it mean?!?!)

It was getting late by this time, but we had one more spot to visit. It was a race against time, but Jules got us to Cow’s Ice Cream about 10 minutes before it closed. Cow’s is ranked as one of the top ten ice creams in the world, and is known throughout the Maritimes for its delicious flavours. I’d already had ice cream from two of the other places in the top ten (Ben & Jerry’s and Berthillon in Paris), so this made #3, and I decided that I’m going to have to hit all ten before I die. New goal! Anyone who’s kept track of this blog surely knows how I feel about ice cream by now.

Girls at Cow's
Happy girls!

As luck would have it, our hotel was close to the Cow’s Factory, but we were too tired to raid their freezers by the time we got back. In conclusion: what a day!

January 10, 2011 at 7:03 pm 3 comments


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