The vacation was very pleasant, and relaxing. B&B's are a very nice way to travel, and aren't generally insanely expensive; three out of the four we stayed at were excellent, and the fourth was simply undistinguished, not terrible. We can particularly recommend Le Metayer in L'Isle Verte (near Rivière-du-Loup), Le Presbytèere in Percé, and Gîte Auger in Quebec City. The first is warm and homey; the third is quite bohemian; the second is hard to describe succinctly. It is definitely very comfortable and luxurious, but in a somewhat old-fashioned way. The building is, as its name suggests, a converted presbytery built over a hundred years ago, and reminds me in many ways of my great-aunts' former home in Amherst, Nova Scotia, so it evokes a lot of odd associations, both personal and religious. At all three, breakfasts were excellent, and generally, lunch was light or unnecessary afterwards.
So what did we do? Lots of hiking and bird- and animal-watching, and a good deal of reading, and quite a lot of driving. Also, pigging out. And finally, some shopping and a trip to the Biodome in Montreal.
The new car is still made of happy; mountain roads, dirt roads, heavy rain... lots of exciting stuff to drive in, and soul_diaspora got lots of practice with interesting driving conditions too. After the upcoming cottage weekend, I'm gonna spring for a thorough in- and outside wash.
Gaspésie is indeed beautiful. There's a distinct sense of being at the edge of the world there, with villages hugging the coast and cliffs dropping into an often-misty sea. As regards the cliffs, climbing would be pretty risky, because the rock is in many places a sedimentary agglomerate which is quite prone to significant rockfall. We didn't exactly linger over the drives to get there and back, but there were many breathtaking vistas along the way. We went around pretty much the whole peninsula, driving across through the Matapédia valley to the Baie des Chaleurs and up the coast on the way there, then returning along the South Shore of the Saint Lawrence.
Hiking involved interesting mixes of flat and hilly, open and wooded areas. We saw quite a variety of birds, although not everything made itself visible: boreal forests are dense with spruce, and many small birds hide quite effectively in there. soul_diaspora will likely post a species list at some point. The seabirds were particularly noteworthy. Black-legged kittiwakes aren't all that spectacular, looking like Just Another Damn Seagull, but the same can't be said of the gannets, guillemots and murres. Guillemots and murres are mediocre flyers and poor walkers, but very good swimmers; we saw them on and over the water along most of the shore, and nesting on the cliffs of Bonaventure Island and Forillon. The gannets were even more impressive; they're relatives of the well-known blue-footed boobies, and have many cute mannerisms; look forward to lots of pictures from soul_diaspora over the next little while! They nest on Bonaventure Island in vast numbers, and range far afield in search of food and nesting material, diving into the water and truly impressive speeds to catch fish from below (i.e. on their way back up). Ravens were much more common there than they are here, which pleased me greatly. We also saw a few interesting animals, including porcupines and a black bear, prompting us not to dally on that part of the trail.
I'm trying to learn to recognize the signs left by various animals, and finding it quite difficult without an experienced mentor. Lacking that, the only way to be sure that one's right is, in many cases, to see the animal leave the trace, and while bears doubtless shit in the woods, one isn't usually around to take notes firsthand!
Finally, a couple of restaurants deserve mention: La Maison du Pêcheur in Percé is excellent; not cheap, but very good food and service, with a great view of Bonaventure Island and the Rocher Percé, gannets diving for their (only slightly fresher) seafood in the foreground. La Brise-Bise in Gaspé is a very nice pub with friendly service, good food, and a cozy, cheerful, homey feel.
All in all, a very good trip, although the credit card took a bit of a beating on it; we'll likely be eating out a little less over the next little while!