A Man Walks Into A Tim Horton’s…
It sounds like the punchline to a terrible Canadian joke, but I went to Tim Horton’s today in Gaspe, Quebec. Here’s the thing: I don’t even really like Tim Horton’s, yet my Canadian patriotism, enamoured with being on a cruise through my homeland, kicked in and forced me to buy a Petite Vanille Francaise – or a small French Vanilla Latte. This is the same odd patriotism that compels us to say, “I’m Sorry” fifteen hundred times per day and refer to our one and two-dollar coins as “Loonies” and “Toonies.”
My Petite Vanille Francaise was the highlight of my afternoon in Gaspe, as we head into Day 4 of Adventure Canada’s Mighty Saint Lawrence itinerary aboard Ocean Endeavour. And I don’t mean that in a bad way. While most guests opted to take in a variety of hikes today in nearby Forillon National Park, I chose to explore the small town of Gaspe instead.
Adventure Canada offers an active expedition product, which surprises me. I’d had this preconceived notion it would be more sedate. More lectures, sure. Maybe more Zodiac rafting and so-called “soft” adventuring. Instead, Adventure Canada has impressed me by offering a number of decidedly active adventures – and guests have risen to the challenge.
On-tap for today, should you choose to accept it: five different hiking options. These range from a gentle stroll and visit to Forillon’s historic General Store; or a strenuous, 12-kilometre hike with an elevation gain in excess of 300 metres.
But I really just wanted to explore Gaspe. I got some looks from some staff and fellow guests that said, “you’re crazy.” But I like small towns – what can I say? Plus, I wasn’t alone – a handful of other guests had the same idea. So, I wandered ashore.
Gaspe sits on the southern shore of the Saint Lawrence River. If you look at a map, it’s at the southern end as the “mouth” of the river seems to curve around and begins to open up. Its distinctive headland, dominated by Perce Rock (where we’ll be tomorrow) is mere kilometres away. Explorer Samuel de Champlain named the rock in 1607, and it’s been a recognizable landmark for mariners ever since.
Gaspe, traditionally, comes from the Mi’kmaq word gespeg, which literally means “land’s end.” But, its etymology could also be traced from the Basque word gerizpe, or shelter. Which is History’s way of shrugging and saying, “Beats me.”
Shelter, it turns out, is appropriate for Gaspe. The fog rolled in and out all morning as we made our way up the Saint Lawrence. Around 0900 – just as I was treating myself to an hour of well-earned reading time over a cup of tea in the Compass Lounge – whales were sighted off the bow. Rain was also sighted in the sky, which began to pound down with increasing force.
I didn’t move. I looked out the windows, warm and toasty in my Compass Club chair. I flipped the pages of my book, sipped my tea, and proceeded to read through three P.A. announcements and the gentle prodding of my fellow guests and Expedition Team members. And you know what? I had a lovely time sitting there, seeing everything they were seeing – but from my warm perch.
That’s the great thing about Adventure Canada: they gently encourage, but never force, you to take part in anything. They want you to make this expedition cruise yours. And today, I did.
The rain continued when I stepped ashore in Gaspe. Like a bad cartoon, it began to rain the second I stepped out of the Zodiac raft and didn’t stop for my entire time ashore. I walked into town from the Zodiac tender pier; a journey of all of five minutes. I had my Tim Horton’s, and walked through one side of town. I