Beautiful People (Part 1)
Resorts out of season are creepy-ass places. Combine that with the cold North Atlantic, desolate cliffs, leafless trees at the end of May, and an overall sense of quiet abandonment and despair, to truly understand the wrist-slicing atmosphere of Percé, Gaspésie. I went over there on a trip with mom, because I needed to spend some time with her, and because I needed the 1000km drive from Montreal. Things weren’t so smooth over here, so I felt like I had to touch the road. As you probably know by now, running away from stuff has been the prime reason for many of my travels.
Of course, when planning this particular trip, I hadn’t noticed our course would take us way North and into the cold grips of the Labrador current. I thought it would be more like ‘Go East till you reach the ocean!’ Well, I was wrong. So on our first morning there, when mom and I went out for a first walk around town, I couldn’t believe it was five degrees outside. Oh, and it was all rainy and whatnot. I was desperately looking for a reason to be happy besides the fact that mom was there and that the whole area was, in a savage way, mad beautiful.
I found it in the people that lived in that quiet fishing town. I’ve always liked men of the sea and considered myself to be one of them. And these were very courteous and polite men of the sea. As we walked around Percé, we were greeted with warm smiles and words of welcome everywhere we went.
At the docks, a tour operator from Les Bateliers de Percé pulled us over for a few words. White haired, jolly, possibly in his fifties, he was eager to tell us a bit about his lifestyle and about the capricious weather of his hometown. We talked thus for a while, always looking towards the sea, where bits of Bonaventure Island were sticking out from the fog. Naturally, the discussion shifted towards the island (which, if you are interested in a bit of local trivia, is home to the largest colony of Northern Gannets in the world), and it wasn’t long before politics got involved.
I quickly understood that the government, whether federal or provincial, wasn’t very popular around these parts. One case in point was the story of Bonaventure Island, which had once belonged to the people but had now been turned into a national park, coming under the jurisdiction of Parcs Québec and effectively denying locals any access to it.
“As kids, we used to go camp there for days,” reminisced the jolly tour operator. “We’d smoke weed, pass out in the bush, and whenever we got tired of the wilderness, we’d head down to the Inn.”
Recounting memories and complaining about the government, the dear man kept a tight grip on my attention until I felt my mother stirring, bored with the conversation and eager to leave. So we bade him farewell and were on our way.