It has been a great few weeks since we left home in Wuhan for a month of holidaying in Canada and the US. After a layover of four nights in Vancouver, we headed to Ottawa and then on to Missouri for a week with Nancy’s family. From there, it was back to Brockville, Ontario, for a week with my parents. While there, we fit in a one day visit to the wine country of Prince Edward County.
The small island/peninsula of Prince Edward has dozens of estate wineries. Like any wine area, one can spend hours touring and tasting. Most places charged a couple of bucks per taste but didn’t seem to charge anything if you purchased a couple of bottles of wine. The countryside was beautiful and the wines were great. Prices varied from $15-20 per bottle to over $100. We shied away from the latter!!
From Brockville, we boarded the train and headed to New Carlisle, Quebec, on the south shore of the Gaspe Peninsula. I started my teaching career in New Carlisle, left over thirty years ago and haven’t been back since. I have often wanted to return for old times sake and this was a good opportunity. We were heading for Sappyfest in Sackville, New Brunswick to meet up with my son and this was a small three day detour along the way. I had booked a sleeper cabin which turned out to be very comfortable and roomy. Train travel is always fun since you usually get to talk to others along the way and hear their stories. We had dinner with a guy and his son who were traveling to Perce with their bicycles and then biking back for several days to New Brunswick.
We left Brockville around 1 pm and arrived in New Carlisle at 8:30 the next morning. The train follows the St. Lawrence and then heads south to Matapedia. There, it splits into two. One half heads to the Gaspe Peninsula and the other half heads south to New Brunswick. While stopped in Matapedia, Nancy headed outside for a cigarette. Soon after, the train started moving again and…..no Nancy. OMG, I was thinking…she has been left behind, I thought to myself. A few minutes later, it was still moving forward and still no sign of her. Just as I started to get worried, it stopped and began to back up. It was all part of the process of breaking into two parts. She soon reappeared from outside the train and explained to me what was happening!
We arrived in New Carlisle where we were met by the owner of the bed and breakfast where we were going to stay. He was a little surprised we were coming to New Carlisle without a car and being dropped off in the middle of nowhere . Most of their guests arrive by car or bicycle. It is a sleepy little town of about 1500 residents without a lot of amenities and a few hours away from the famous tourist sites of Perce and the town of Gaspe at the end of the peninsula.
The Thompson House we stayed in was built in 1840 and is classified as a heritage house by the Quebec government. It is known as the Maison de Ressourcement Thompson and their website is in both French and English. “Judge Thompson House is a superb survivor from the first half of the nineteenth century. Overlooking Gerard D. Levesque Boulevard in New Carlisle, the house dates back to c.1838 and is one of the oldest buildings on this part of the Gaspé Coast.
Built in a style known as Anglo-Norman Regency, the Thompson House takes its name from Judge John G. Thompson, who was the son of James Thompson, who served in 1759 with the 78th Fraser Highlanders in the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in Quebec City. The younger Thompson was born in Quebec City in 1787, studied law, and was eventually appointed provincial judge in the District of Gaspé court in 1827. In 1859, Thompson was named to the superior court of Gaspé. He died in New Carlisle in 1868.
Large French windows feature prominently on the main floor of the house, as does the wraparound verandah. The interior reflects the well-to-do status of the Thompson family, and retains its nineteenth century charm.” The present owners of the house are fluently bilingual and provided us with an incredible breakfast each morning.
The town of Paspebiac is a five minute drive from New Carlisle and a 45 minute beautiful walk along the coast. Paspébiac was founded by Charles Robin in 1767 as Quebec’s first cod fishing port.. By 1870, Robin’s had a fleet of over 70 sailing ships that brought barrels of dry, salted cod to countries around the globe and returned with supplies of fabric, spices, flour, and hundreds of other products for far-away lands. “A triangular voyage evolved over time. Ships would leave Paspébiac laden with dry cod bound for ports in the West Indies and South America. There they would take on cargoes of rum, molasses and sugar for Europe. From Europe they returned to Paspébiac with manufactured goods. The market for dry fish disappeared almost completely during the 20th century; the Company processed frozen fish for a number of years, but eventually that was given up as well.” Obviously the ships and trading are long gone, but Robins store survived into recent times and was still the major store to shop in when I left in 1978. The old sign is still on the top of the building but the store is now closed.
The fishing port has recently been restored to its former glory and is now a provincial historic site known as the Site Historique du Banc-de-Pêche-de-Paspébiac. Here you can see life in the industry as it occurred in 1870. Buildings include the blacksmith, barrel-making (I know there is a word for that), ship-building and carpentry, and the huge cod processing building. There is also a great little restaurant where I had a lobster club sandwich.
Anyway, that is enough rambling for now. Today we are off to begin our trip to Sackville, New Brunswick. Bus along the coast to Pointe-a-la-Croix, taxi across the bridge to Campbelton, New Brunswick, train to Sackville.