Gaspe is the birthplace of Canada. Jacques Cartier landed here, in one of the deepest natural harbor in the world, and stayed for almost two weeks. Before reaching this point he sailed around the southern bay, Baie de Chaleur, where he encounter for the first time the local population of Micmacs with whom traded fur. Meeting also natives from the the Irqouian nation of Stadacone, the current location of Quebec, who were fishing in the peninsula he asked about the name of the country he reached. The natives chief answer “kanata”, the word for “village”, that eventually Cartier associated with the land itself and from here apparently came the word Canada. The MicMac, Mi’kmaq in their own spelling, tribe was the most predominant but in the museum that is dedicated to them in Gaspe I was told that nowadays more than half of them are living in Montreal.
Jacques Cartier arrived in Gaspe in July 24, 1534, planted a cross and claimed this territory for the King of France, Francois I. In order not to antagonize the local tribes he downplayed the importance of the cross as an insignificant symbol. At the four hundreds years anniversary of the landing, in July 1934, a stone cross was mounted in the middle of O’Harra Square, the hub of the town located on the shore of the gulf almost across to the harbor where Cartier landed.
One thing that you cannot fail noticing in Quebec is the race uniformity. The French culture is avidly defended by the locals who formed also a Parti Quebecois that organized several years ago a referendum to separate the province from Canada. French language is exclusively spoken with occasional English mainly for tourists. The entire population is white and you can hardly see any other race in the entire Quebec outside of Montreal. Even the tourists coming here are also 90% Quebecois. Most of the time we were the only English speaking people in an entire load of tourists and travelers. No Chinese, Koreans, Russians or Latino and very few blacks, way lower than you would expect. Coming from New York or even from Europe the population looks incredible uniform and you realize that not the Quebecois who are extremely nice and friendly but mainly the cold is the main cause that kept people at bay to come here. Everywhere you notice the vibe of a pleasant and slow pacing life. Nobody rushes, everybody eats taking their time, relaxing and enjoying the several weeks of summer.
On another tip of the peninsula is the tallest, thou modern, lighthouse of the coast in Cap de Rosier. We spent here a night in a “Gite” and chatted with Jean Remond, its owner, who was telling us about the long winters that this year brought snow up to the second floor of the house. Snows falls till late April or even May and this year lasted on the ground till June. June and July “it rained almost continuously and only now we have a little bit of stable warm weather”. Outside the skies were almost to pour over us and we were wearing a fleece.