Friday, September 07, 2007

Back from nowhere

Saturday, J-F and I got in the car and drove. Without a destination, without a plan, and, for the most part, without worries. We had it in our heads to head for Quebec City, not to stay there — we'd done that before — but to explore the villages in its environs. But early on we accidentally followed a road over a bridge to the south shore of the Saint Lawrence. We toyed with the idea of ferrying back across, but the one sign we passed indicated the ferry was closed (other options would've been available further up the road, but that would've involved scheduling). We followed the river on its south side.

Highlights:

The best pizza since we'd moved to Montreal, in a tiny diner called Le Villageois, in a village we don't recall the name of. Not as good as Ottawa's Colonnade, but closer (not too far out of town, and still on the seaway's north shore, I believe), although I doubt we'd be able to find it again. With green peppers still crunchy.

Kamouraska. When I saw it was lying directly in our path, I insisted we stop there, because of its literary connection (to a book I've never read and I've never had an interest reading, but which I'm now intent on tracking down), but mostly because I just think the name is very cool, evoking something exotically romantic and Russian, the exact opposite of the sense I have of Nowhere, Quebec (in fact the name is Algonquin for "bulrushes by the water"). Anne Hébert novelized a love triangle and real-life murder that took place there in 1839, to which the tiny village owes much of its fame. But it's pretty (in a way no photo could ever capture), in such a stark, cruel way. On the shore is a plaque quoting from Hébert's book; the character describes the view from her house, which opens up onto the river, and captures both the harshness of the living conditions and the beauty and hope in the peculiar light that is cast over the landscape. I wish I could cite that passage here, but I didn't copy it down, so that will have to wait till I someday encounter it in context.

A tasty Trois Pistoles ale, in Trois Pistoles. The place is apparently riddled with legends (which I'm endeavouring to learn more about), commemorated in the names of the town itself, its church, and other landmark sites, as well as in the imagery on the beer's label (the devil came in the guise of a black stallion to help raise the church).

A fine romantic dinner in a hotel restaurant in Rimouski. I had lamb rolled in tea and chocolate and exotic spices, on cranberry quinoa.

The village of Estcourt, at the tip of Lake Pohénégamook. A frontier town, bordering Maine, with a distinguished history of bootlegging and border disputes. Several concrete obelisks mark the current US–Canada border. We amused ourselves by circling these and, like Homer, weaving from one country to another, or more ominously proclaiming things like, "My shadow falls across two nations." A few house actually straddle the line. A rickety wooden bridge crosses the border where it veers to split the river; care is taken to maintain it, as, were it ever to entirely collapse, it could not be rebuilt under the current terms of the border treaty.

The fact that our entire journey was somewhat coloured by our having watched Inland Empire the night before we set out. I'm not sure what I mean exactly, and I certainly don't know what the movie means, but our backroad roadstops felt, well, Lynchian — whatever that means — but in a good way if that's possible.
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