Sep. 15th, 2008

figarofigaro1: (bicycles)

I did wake up in the night from time to time hearing wind and rain. The weather reports were hinting that we might get some wind and rain from hurricane Ike. We woke to clouds and gloomy skies, but no rain. Breakfast was very large, cooked by the host of the B&B. The options were pancakes or eggs and bacon (very home-style). He'd put sugar rims on the juice glasses making it a mix of homey and froofy, very much like the accommodations 

As we got our bikes ready to ride, it started raining. At first it was gentle rain, but then it picked up intensity. It was wet, but not too cold. We were prepared for either or both with our packing. I'd forgotten to change our bike computers to kilometers with instructions at home, so I had to wing it. I couldn't figure it out, so I did what any techie would do: reboot. I took the batteries out and reset from the beginning. I didn't have the chart for converting wheel sizes so I just went with the default size and it seemed to work. Lesson learned nonetheless.

The rain was steady, but not pouring. But starting a bike vacation in the rain is somewhat psychologically trying. I rode the first kilometer with the wind blowing rain into my face on a road with car traffic splashing by. By the end of that first kilometer, I was soaked, gasping for breath through the rain hitting my face, struggling to see. If someone had stopped me there, I would have said, "This sucks!" and taken any offered ride or escape route. By the third kilometer, I'd settled down into a steady pace and accepted my fate as "not so bad."

We rode back through town, past where we'd had dinner and then out onto the open road. The planned route was around 45 km (27 miles) and everyone opted for speeding through and finishing it. B and I average 10 mph (16 km/hour) on big trips and 12 mph (close to 20 km/hour) on short rides. So we knew we'd be done close to noon since we left just after 9 AM.

There wasn't anything much  to see along the route until later on, especially with the poor visibility and the rain. But things cleared up a bit as we rode and there were times where the rain was stopped or nearly stopped. It was better when we made it over to the Saint Lawrence River. We had some views and also saw long nets used to catch eels (on the right extending out into the river in the photo below).


And a goofy picture of me, wet and holding my bike in a strange way, but at least proof that I was there.

The wet wasn't so bad, but the worst was that there were three or four places where they were doing road maintenance. In Canada it seems, when they do road maintenance, they tear up the entire chunk of road, leaving just dirt. We've experienced this in Nova Scotia, PEI, and now Québec. So, dirt plus rain equals mud. When we got to the first one, I thought, "Maybe I should carry my bike through this." But then I didn't. Stupid me. Another lesson learned. Each stretch was very short, but combined, they made for a muddy mess on bikes and bags and clothes. When we got to the B&B, we were all a mess. Ian kindly hosed off our bikes, and we all retired to get out of wet clothes and to deal with mud. I packed our shoes full of newspapers and we let everything else hang up to dry. Eventually the dry mud was able to be brushed off. Later in the afternoon, I changed the newspapers in the shoes. And later still we put them outside to dry more.

Kamrouska is a lovely village strung out along the river's edge. They smoke a lot of fish there and have a reputation for magnificent sunsets. The cloudy dramatic skies made for lots of interesting and moody views.


We had a delightful lunch at Café du Clocher.

We had excellent locally smoked fish (eel, mackerel, salmon, haddock, and sturgeon), tasty sandwiches, and beers. Then it was off to see the village. We found soap makers, flavored vinegar and oil makers, fish smokers, organic sausage makers, and local artists. We bought two collages of sunset photographs from Soleil du Jour and some of the flavored vinegars in very small bottles.

The B&B was large and comfortable and had a health spa in it as well, La Grand Voile (no, I don't know why it's not "grande").


We walked down to the recommended dinner spot, Auberge des Îles and I had a mild freak-out. I speak enough French to get by. And I certainly can make a reservation in French. So I walk in and greet the woman and the first thing I say in French is, "Do you speak English?" Duh. I was feeling timid and unsure (as usual when I first am in these situations). So she says, "No," and then shouts to the back for someone else to come and talk to me. So then, I'm embarrassed to be causing a fuss and say, "I speak a little French" in French. And she shouts again, in French, "Nevermind, he speaks French." Now I feel even stupider. I make the reservation and the woman is quite pleasant through the whole thing and even shows me it on the books so I know I communicated it correctly. We left and B said that he thought I did that well, so I got a little boost of confidence.

It was windy and cold and we kept adding and taking off layers as we watched the sun go down. We didn't get spectacular reds in the sky, but it was quite beautiful. And the skies were clearing. Weather reports promised improving weather the rest of the week.


Dinner at the Auberge des Îsles was fantastic. We had more smoked fish, the same varieties but differently prepared and presented from those at lunch. Then B had some nova lox style salmon, a fillet mignon, and lemon meringue pie. I had lamb terrine, a whole leg duck confit main plate, and crème brulée. Everything was done so nicely. It turned out that the waitress was the woman from making the reservation that afternoon and the chef was the woman who would have come out to speak with me in English. We were the last folks in the restaurant and they were both talking with us and joking. To leave, we had to cut through the kitchen and they both were sitting at a table and talking. We stopped and talked some more and lingered and talked a lot more. Most of it was in French but the one woman also wanted to practice her English. They were so kind and I got into the groove and felt my confidence grow a whole lot as a result of effectively conversing and understanding. That evening was one of the highlights of the trip for me.

My ability to make myself understood is just fine. My comprehension is very poor. I do much better with Parisian-style French than Québec French. The accent is very different and I find that I have to ask people to speak slowly. But I can get by. If I could immerse myself in Québec for a while, I think my comprehension would improve quite a bit.

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