Canada. From New Brunswick to Quebec Province. It’s getting a little trickier to find clam chowder now that we have left the ocean coast and are winding our way through the Great North Woods of New Brunswick. At first light we strike our Wal-Mart boondock camp in Woodstock, NB and head across the parking lot to the golden arches for fast food breakfast Canadian-style. Poutine. Hot crisp French fries doused in thick brown gravy and liberally sprinkled with gooey hot cheese curds. Move over Egg McMuffin, and gimme some of that simple French trapper chow. David looks skeptical as I offer him a nice juicy forkful of gloppy fries. But really it’s not half bad. Goodbye sweet Chowderhead, hello Cheese Eater Hottie.
Thus fortified we ease on up the road for a quick looksee in Grand Sault (Great Falls). According to local legend once upon a time a brave young Indian maiden became the heroine for her entire Maliseet village by luring a raiding party of more than three hundred rival Mohawks in canoes over the watery precipice. A carved wooden statue stands beside the visitor center parking lot to commemorate the event, but today it looks like young Malobiannah is tempting the hordes of invading Anglo tourists to take a long dive off a short tower across the water on a Zip-Zag excursion. We admire tourists flying over the seventy-five kilometer tall falls on their zip line harnesses before making our way to the province of Quebec.
On the provincial border we pull over for information and guidebooks. We are greeted by four knowledgeable college students eager to offer assistance, as we are clearly in need of firm guidance here. I take out my list of questions and young Naomi starts pulling out colorful booklets for every region along the Saint Lawrence River. David sits to my right trying to keep up as she answers questions rapid fire and flips through the pages of handy fold-out maps to offer additional information in a mix of grammatically correct French and English. But every time I pass a booklet to David to study, she takes it back to address my next question. David is seriously woebegone and confused by the time we leave. There is really no hope for a deliberate and slow talking Welshman in a fast-moving hip hopping youth culture. We will just have to figure things out in our own sweet time.
We drive to the Saint Lawrence River and take a scenic detour through farm country in the rich delta region, spying berry patches, fields of potatoes in full flower, dairy cows, and numerous smoke houses for drying pork and fish. But the farming operations that most strike my fancy are the string of eel fisheries that dot the lovely coast shrouded in fog.
Taking our lives into our hands we pull into a local poissonnerie (aka seafood market/cafe) in Kamouraska for dinner. Lamentably there is no clam chowder to be had, but they do make up a fine fish soup as well as a tasty lobster bisque. I note with interest several entrees featuring les anguilles (eel) boiled, smoked, or pan-fried. I play it safe and order David the longe de saumon. We will definitely have our work cut out for us over the next six days trying not to eat something we might rather avoid.
We camp for the night in Riviere-Ouelle beside the Saint Lawrence preparing for our siege on the old walled city on the morrow. It is strangely exhilarating to think that one stray participle fired into the air could prove to be our undoing. I suppose there could be worse things than a double order of poutine. Before drifting off to sleep I teach my young son how to order ice cream in French. Crème glacé, s’il vous plaît. Sweet dreams indeed.