For a little B&B in a backwater Canadian town we were surprised at the quality of the breakfast, feast, served up. It reminded both of us of my brother in law John, a chef by trade, who does not serve up meals but works of art that look too good to eat. A bowl of fruit and yoghurt was followed by a warm croissant then four cheese and spinach omelette for Stef, leak and bacon quiche for me. The latter were served with decorative flowers, blueberries, icing sugar and a quartered apple cut in slices along the quarter so it tiered out on the plate. It all tasted as good as it looked.
|Brewing lavender has a funny effect ...|
We chatted for a while with Danielle and Jean, the owners, before leaving. Danielle has been to some of the places we are planning to go to in Indonesia and showed me her photos. As I expected, we will be back into hot, humid and very poor countryside. We retrieved the cheeses we had bought yesterday from their fridge and finally set off at about 11am.
The insurance was still a problem. The difficulty seems to be that the insurance broker has been told by the garage that we will be driving in the US, which we will not be. Because it is such a litigious country, Canadian insurers are wary and will not cover us. When we said we were not going to the US things got easier but not easy. We need to get a letter from our UK insurer confirming our claims history. They are shut in the UK now so that is a problem to sort out tomorrow.
Our route took us south along Lac Lovering and through Fitch Bay to Bleu Lavande, Canada's largest lavender producing farm. It was recommended to us by Jean at the hotel. With hindsight I do not know why we went there as neither of us are particularly partial to the scent of lavender, despite having some in our garden at home! As with the vineyards, here it is a relatively new set up. Apparently there are very few pure strains of lavender left in the world and there are trying to keep a pure strain here. As such all their plants are sterile (how? surely this is tampering with nature too?) so each year they totally replace their stock with new plants from Australia.
They have four different varieties (Pure English and Hidcote were two of them) planted here. We had a short talk about how they set up the operation and, because it was harvest time, we also saw the distilling process in action. A huge still crammed full of lavender twigs. The smell when the lid was taken off was very heady and overpowering. Its is strong enough that the man who runs the distilling process finds himself getting very relaxed and snoozy as the day day progresses.
We had an amble down among the plants and a quick look in the gift shop. Even the bags for people to take home their purchases are lavender in colour. Back out in the car park they had a harvesting tractor cutting the crop in a small demonstration field. Again the scent was overpowering. Back in the car, the air con went on full pelt again because it’s another very hot day. When he had parked we were next to other cars and a couple of Honda Goldwing bikes. When we got back our car was an island of one in a big pretty empty car park - we looked a but daft!
As we were close to the border with Vermont, USA, we decided to drive down to Beebe Plain, the last town on the Quebecois side. It turned out to be one of those places where one side of the main street was in Canada and the other side was in the US. The border actually cuts through one house so that the person who lives there goes from Canada to the US every time they leave their bedroom to go to the bathroom. The house used to be the Post Office and the international mail was passed through a hole in the wall.
We stopped to take photos of the US and Canadian borders and promptly got bawled out by the US side. Stef went to ask if we could get stamps in our passports -possible if we crossed the border and paid US$6 each! With much form filling, but no finger printing this time, we were allowed through. Their border checks of the locals were cursory and gruff but they still let everyone through.
I doubt that the insurance for our hire car covered us in the States but that did not deter Stef. We did a loop round and about twenty minutes later were back in Canada through a different border crossing. On our way into the States I do not think the guys at the US border control believed us when we said that in mainland Europe you just drive through the border with no checks. Perhaps they just did not care!
|Bridge of Coaticook|
We worked our way up through Ayers Cliff and Massawippi (they have great names here!) before turning back to go to Coaticook (pronounced Co-at-i-cook) another Danielle and Jean recommendation. There is a river valley here where the river has carved a deep gorge. Spanning the gorge is a Guiness World Record, the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in the world. It is set in a small national park and a walking trail takes you winding through. It is cleverly done with little information panels through the park telling you about the history of the town as you go.
The views from the suspension bridge were great, almost as much fun as I had wobbling the bridge for Stef's benefit - his vertigo had well and truly kicked in. I know it was cruel but it was worth it so see the look on his face. For safety, I did not tell him until we were off the bridge that I agreed with him that some of the planks had seen better days - he would not have made it across!
Through the park, the path took us past some odd rock formations, vertical tunnels created by stones that had been caught up in whirlpools in the river, then up to an observation point. This was a tall (120 steps) wooden tower built in memory of a local businessman. From the top there were wide views down on to Coaticook and out across the surrounding valleys. From here I could just make out a deer in the surrounding woods reaching up to pluck leaves from the trees, the closest I have been to a deer in the wild.
The path wound down to the river, past a dam, concrete replaced the wooden one in 1921, which is still used as part of the town's hydroelectric plant. To improve the water pressure a tunnel had been carved through 180 metres of rock to divert the river. A small access tunnel is still open, with the original 1920's lighting. It is carved through flint rock and must have been tough work to build. Lights had been laid out through the woods so that the pople working on the tunnel could see their way through to work (there were no access roads so they had to walk through the forest). One still remains, now about 15 metres up, its height has increased as the tree it is tied to has grown.
In a hut further on the original turbines are still working, producing about 10% of the electricity needed by Coaticook. On the way we passed a woodpecker busily working away to get bugs from a tree. We were about two metres away and it did not move away. The speed and force of its pecking was incredible,. Back at the entrance we stopped for an ice cream. Stef asked for banana and strawberry. I did not bother ordering one. His small ice cream had six huge scoops - very big even with both of us sharing it.
Back at the car we made our plans for the nights (it was already after 6pm) and decided to head for North Hatley. We had nowhere booked to stay and tried a couple of B&Bs with no success. The hotel at the crossroads into town did have a room free so we checked in. It was a bit like Fawlty Towers. A gruff French woman was behind reception. What looked like a very hen pecked husband was hovering around and parked our car for us. We seem to have hit on a run of very hot rooms to stay in - this one was no different. We both showered to wash away the heat and stickiness. A few minutes after leaving the the luxury of air conditioning though we were back to hot, sweaty and sticky mode. We quickly checked mail and then headed on for dinner.
There seemed to be a choice of one place - or at least that was all that was instantly visible. North Hatley is at the top of Lake Massawippi and we were sat by the lake. The local duck population were happily swimming and quacking their way by. Signs asked people not to feed the ducks though to that they do not become dependent on humans for their survival!
After dinner we went for an amble out on to the lake and briefly watched the stars. It is even quieter here than Magog and there was no-one else in sight. As we walked back past the restaurant at 10pm it was just closing up.