The longest day of the year, and did we ever make full use of it! We discovered to our chagrin that the curtains in our little cottage were not very thick, so we were both awakened around 5:30am by sunlight, but managed to go back to sleep until around 7. After a lovely breakfast of bagels, boursin, fruit and hard boiled eggs (from the Chalet Ocean's hens) we headed off to Bonaventure Island.
We got to the dock 15 minutes before the boat was scheduled to leave, which was more than we were told was necessary, and I'd say we were just in time. Everyone who lined up did get on the boat, but we got some of the last seats in the open air on the top, which likely saved Alex from sea sickness, and gave us a great view! The boat goes around Rocher Percé, then around Bonaventure Island before docking at the island for anyone who wants to get off.
Seeing Rocher Percé up close was impressive, although without the comparison of the mainland beside it Chad thought it looked smaller.
The tour around Bonaventure Island was spectacular. We've never seen so many birds in one place. It's one of the few times we wished for a really good camera to capture what we were seeing. It was so impressive, and the photos are highly unlikely to do it justice. We saw flying "penguins" (i.e. razorbills), northern gannets, seagulls, black-legged kittiwakes, and great cormorants all flying, fishing for food, and sitting on the sides of the rock faces. So many birds you didn't realize at first what you were seeing.
Getting off at Bonaventure Island, we decided to do the long walking trail. Walking through the woods was very peaceful, with only the sounds of the birds in the forest. So nice to not have to worry about being loud, as the biggest predators on the island are a few foxes.
The highlight of the hikes is the breeding grounds of the northern gannets. You would not believe the number of birds! Each couple had their own mound that they shared - switching off between sitting on it/their egg (they have one egg at a time) and going out to eat. They are all talking so that their mates can find them when they return. When they do return, they greet each other by rubbing their beaks and necks together. We spent quite a while watching them, with Alex trying to get good photos in focus of the birds flying. She was partly successful.
On our return to Percé, we stopped at one of the art studios we had seen the day before, belonging to Mylene Henry. We'd seen some of her work in other stores and liked it so wanted to see what else she had. They were still setting up the shop for the season (she now lives in Percé in the summers and Montreal in the winters) but told us to feel free to look around. Several of her canvas prints caught our eyes and were quite reasonably priced ($200-300) but in the end we opted for practicality and bought two smaller prints (one of Percé and one of Cap-des-Rosiers which is where we stayed near Forillon) and a book that she has illustrated, which she signed for us. We also have her website now, so if we change our mind we can easily find her!
After a stop at the chalet to unload our purchases, shower and change we were off to Val d'Espoir, where we had been told the best local beer was made (Brasserie Auval). We found it no problem and ended up chatting with the gentleman working there in both French and then English once we told him we were from Ottawa (Alex's accent continues to confuse - he thought we were Swiss or German). We now have 5 new beers to try, which we hope are good but we won't be able to find them anywhere else (even in Percé they were sold out at the stores we checked) so at the same time here's hoping they're not new favourites. (Update: they were all amazing!)
After all this success, we decided to wander downtown Percé to find dinner. We checked out a couple of the souvenir shops on our way, but by and large they were the very kitschy type tourist items you'd find in any costal town. Clearly we'd already gone to two of the best shops in the town - Mylene's gallery and Wazo. There may have been a few others but we were discouraged by the 3-4 we went into and gave up on that. We already had our prints, so didn't need anything else.
We opted to try the dinner at the Hotel de la Normandie, since their menu posted outside said they had gaspesian style bouillabaisse, and Alex always enjoys bouillabaisse. Sadly it turned out that was the only dish on the menu that was not available, but dinner did not disappoint. We both had the table d'hote with appetizers, salads, mains. Alex had the escargots in cream sauce (yum!) a garlicy caesar salad (also yum!) and shrimps and scallops with a creamy ginger sauce that she kept eating even after the seafood was gone (seafood cooked perfectly, and so good!). And then we opted for deserts as well because we couldn't pass up the chance to try their deserts even though we were so full. For desert she debated between the maple syrup mousse and the cheese mousse with fruits, opting for the maple syrup only because she didn't think she had enough room left for fruit. It turned out to be ice cream which was a bit sweet so the cheese would probably have been perfect, but still a great way to end the meal. Chad had frogs legs (which actually really do taste exactly like chicken. Very good!), a tasty salad with fruits, nuts, and gruyere cheese, and cod a la Gaspésie style which was everything he's been hoping for. It was perfectly cooked and delicious. Also looked like it had been cooked in a muffin tin or something similar since it was rolled up. His desert was a chocolate mousse cake. Enough said ;) we almost rolled out of that restaurant we were so full. The food and service was excellent - highly recommend to any future travellers!
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