Everything was great in Gaspesie but now we had to get back. Google maps was showing about 17 hours drive in smooth traffic toward Long Island. But it’s never smooth traffic on the East Coast….
Baie de Chaleur is the optimistic view of Gaspesie toward the Canadian summer. Here are the beaches where people bask in the “chaleur” for the several weeks of August. But as far as we saw there were more fleece than bathing suits. Also the southern coast, way lower and less rougher than the northern one has most of the historical and commercial traces of the peninsula.
Here, there were formed the first cod canning companies. The Robins who arrived here from the island of Jersey established the Jersey company that had practically a monopoly over the cod fishing. They were buying the entire fish catch from the local fishermen whom they paid in products imported by their own stores from USA and England. Most of the time the fish catch was insufficient to sustain the livelihood of the fishermen who recurred in requesting loans from the company that kept them indebted. It created for the people an almost complete dependency to the company that was able occasionally to manipulate the purchased fish prices. The Robin, Jones and Whitman Store in L’Anse a Beaufils is a perfect reenactment of a general store of 1929 where the local fishermen and their families were shopping.
Further down the coat in Paspebiac are the reconstructed building of the Jersey operation with all kinds of shops needed for tending the boats and for the fishing industry. The triangular fish commerce was exported to the West Indies and South America from where they were loading rum, sugar and molasses brought and sold in Europe from where they purchased manufacture goods to be sold in Paspebiac and around Quebec.
The entire Baie de Chaleurs is charming. The villages are small, with tiny houses with colored roofs, with nice gardens full of flowers in full bloom. It’s looking like the entire Gaspesie, a place where the life seems very peaceful. From Perce, you drive about three hours on this coast where all look the same, all serene, calm, bon-vivant. The last village in Quebec offers the most striking contrast between two civilizations where a metal bridge crossing the narrow bay lands you in another world: on one side are the sparse tiny houses with flowery gardens of Pointe-a-la-Croix, QC and in front you have the massive, brown brick tall constructions of Campbellton, NB like anywhere else in the industrialized north of upstate New York and Pennsylvania. The bridge is looking like is flowing you inside those building on whose top the smoke stacks stand like a symbol of another world and another culture, so far from the one we left but just across one tiny bridge.