Some people travel the world while others find hidden treasures in their own country. Thus is the theme of this blog. While traveling the world does have its excitement and intrigue, right here in Canada we have these hidden gems. And it is important that we take the time to just appreciate what is here right under our noses.
La Malbaie. Lovely, quaint, quiet little town in Quebec with 98% French speaking residents seemed a little daunting at first but within a few days I realized the language barrier was indeed not a barrier at all. This little town accepted us with open arms and at times were apologetic that they could not converse the way they would like. With the help of a ‘translator’ we had a few days to just appreciate their culture and to enjoy all they had to offer.
We took a road trip here. There was a ferry that crossed near Riviere du Loup and the little town on the Quebec side of the Saint Lawrence is Saint Simeon. It was neat being on a ferry similar to what we have on our own little Island. The white beluga whales were in full view and performed for the ferry passengers and it was amazing seeing them so close.
Upon entering this beautiful little town nestled into the side of mountainous terrain, we were famished after our long drive. Our escort told us it wouldn’t be a trip to Quebec without tasting their famous brisket or smoked meat. Without further adieu we were ushered into ‘Joe’s Smoked Meat’ where Blues music wafted through their speakers and we felt we had been blasted backward in time. Not only was the smoked meat divine but the atmosphere was perfect! I doubt if we would have visited this establishment if we had been on our own. A local drink called ‘Spruce Beer’ which is non-alcoholic was offered. I didn’t want the drink per se…but the bottle was perfect. No problem at all! I was given the empty bottle, and happy as a lark I left with yet another amber bottle for my collection!
One of our first road trips outside La Malbaie was to Baie Saint Paul where the main street is one way but is infused with gallery upon gallery of local artist’s paintings. While I enjoyed them immensely, I did not have the funds they were asking for their precious renderings. Lunch was recommended at the local ‘brewery’ and restaurant (Microbrasserie Restaurant). It was lively and packed! The food was delicious but we did decline the ‘sampler’ beer tray. It was lunchtime after all!
Further down the road was a stop at one of (many) cheese factories. This was in the middle of nowhere, or so it seemed. Goats and sheep dotted the fields out front and it has a quaint rustic feel about it as we winded our way through overgrown brush to an opening where the most beautiful cheese factory stood. We sampled cheese that was set out for that purpose and viewed the ‘aging’ room where rounds of cheese were stacked in dozens of racks. The Familee Migneron have won awards for their cheese and my only regret was not being able to haul some home with me. (I had to mentally forget that some of their cheeses came from the goat’s milk and sheep outside in the fields.) Outside they had the most beautiful flower gardens and an outside building for tasters. For now I had to be satisfied with the samples.
Then the final stop, but by far not the least was in Saint Anne du Beaupre. We did not have a lot of time but it seemed time was on our side. Upon entering this majestic basilica/shrine it was evident that a Mass was in session. We couldn’t tour at this point so without hesitation we entered the basilica and joined in the service. It was only right. Our guide waited patiently by the door while we attended mass and communion and chatted with the Monsignor after service who told us that it was a ‘special’ mass for grandparents. How cool was that. A quick trip to the gift shop to purchase holy water and a few minutes for a photo op and we reluctantly were on our way. Needless to say I was stunned and overwhelmed with the basilica’s grandeur and energy when I entered. The column of crutches, canes depicting cures as we entered added to the feeling that we were entering a place that had experienced many, many miracles in the past. It was humbling and unforgettable. I know of many who talked about this shrine over the years, but I never expected that I would ever be here. We lit some candles and said silent prayers of intention. I know this was the right thing to do.