Monday, June 2, 2014

RURAL QUEBEC AND BLUE SEA

The moment you cross the Ottawa River going east, you immediately know the province is different. The traffic lights are strung sideways, there's not a word of English on the storefronts and advertisements, and traffic is just a bit less disciplined.

I'm heading north up into the Gatineau hills for about 100 kms to visit Blue Sea, a place my mother-in-law spent her girlhood summers. I drive up Highway 105, that would be unrecognizable to her; today it's a four-lane freeway for the first half of the journey. Then the road meanders through rolling hills, prosperous farms, and tiny villages. Its ranching country, and fat beef steers and good-looking horses predominate among fields of silage. The landscape is soothing and a lush green from the spring rain. Purple lilacs are blooming in profusions here and their perfume fills the air. There's not a cloud in the sky.


At Gracefield, I turn left and follow a country road for the last eleven kilometres. At the end is a T-junction and the lake. Across the road stands a larger-than-life statue of Jesus of the Sacred Heart, covered in gold paint, that perpetually blesses the community that was founded by the church. Very few people are in evidence this morning. The lake is certainly bright blue and crystal clear. Houses and cottages ring its banks.


I turn right and follow the lake's contour, but cannot see it for trees. After driving for a while, it's obvious that the entire waterfront is privately-owned. Same on the other bank. But at the village at the south end where I arrived, there is a boat launch (one of many around the lake) and a view. Blue Sea is the largest lake in the area - 10 kms by 3 kms - and sports seventeen islands, as well as a lake monster (hippocampus) last seen in 1913. With a population of 678 spread around the lake, it's cottage country and a boaters' paradise.

Without a boat, I search for a restaurant for lunch. There's only one — a tiny unlicensed, family-run cafĂ© with a big name, that tests my French considerably. I speak a bit of Parisian French but not the rural patois of Quebec.

On a glorious sunny day the drive is worth it, but probably not on a grey, dull day. It would be better still with a boat, which I'm sure my late mother-in-law would have had available and enjoyed.

Visit www.bluesea.ca for more info and find out why it has an English name — there's a good reason.


IMAGES: © Photos by Pharos 2014