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Forestville for February Fun

Now I don’t know how many of you (probably not that many) sprang out of bed some morning in January and said to yourself, “What I’d really like to do is spend the better part of February living out of a motel in Forestville and hobnobbing with the locals all day,” but I did. You might be saying to yourself right now, “They’d have to PAY me to spend February in Forestville” and I agree. In fact they are paying me to do just that, so here I am, firmly ensconced in a surprisingly classy Econolodge, an hour’s drive downstream from Tadoussac, quietly watching Les Canadiens get thumped again, and preparing for (dare I say it?) WORK tomorrow.

That’s right. No longer a parasitic pensioner living off the generosity of an economically challenged nation, I’m now a productive member of the workforce. Well, actually I’m still a parasitic pensioner but, egad, I’m a double dip! I never saw this one coming.

The sordid course of events that led to this state of affairs include that genetically irrepressible need to educate that has plagued most descendants of my dear old Dad, and that some of us have in spades. Tadoussac’s other Anglo, Shawn Thompson, usually has this gig but this year he had a project of his own encroaching on his time so I leapt into the breach; “this gig” being teaching English to about a dozen adults. The CEGEP of Baie Comeau sets up two such classes these days, one here in Forestville and one in Les Bergeronnes, in an effort to help people in the tourist trade to better accommodate their English-speaking customers. It’s a good idea, but I hear it’s not that easy to find someone who knows enough English to teach the program, so they were delighted to find Shawn, and delighted again when Shawn found me. So delighted were they, that no one from the CEGEP interviewed me, checked my qualifications, or even met me until today, which was the second day of classes, and then it was simply to drop off about 40 pounds of books, and 30 pounds of electronics. After explaining how to fill out the time sheet and the expense claims my, er, “boss” beat a hasty retreat back to Baie Comeau. I’m starting to wonder what they’re not telling me…

Jane, for her part, was very supportive. “What? You’re going to be away for a few days out of each of the next five weeks? No, I don’t mind being out here in the woods in the middle of winter all by myself, bringing in the wood, clearing the snow, looking after the dogs, and doing, well, everything. Here’s your coat, when are you leaving?” Hmm…, perhaps a little too supportive…

The first order of business on Day 1, which was yesterday, was for me to introduce myself, make a presentation about the course, and tell the class what they could expect, all in French. I figured after that they would likely be thankful when I switched to English, (“Oh good. Now we can understand him!”) but that wasn’t the case. The sad truth is that my damaged use of the French language is the only lifeline of communication between us, and getting them to speak English is a challenge. As you can imagine, after all of our efforts to do the right thing and speak French as best we can in Tadoussac, it seems absurd to be speaking English in a room full of French people, but that’s what they’re paying me for. I can certainly relate to their frustration!

So for twenty hours over a four day week, for five weeks, I’ll be having fun in Forestville. My first tourism-related question to the class was to direct me to all trails that were good for hiking, snow-shoeing and cross-country skiing. After class today I had a great hike on a “Sentier Pedestre” on a mountain down by the ferry wharf and it was spectacular.

I had 8 pics but this was the only one I could put up for some techy reason.  The sign referred to the hiking trail, not my new job.  Really.
I had 8 pics but this was the only one I could put up for some techy reason. The sign referred to the hiking trail, not my new job. Really.

Tomorrow we’re expecting big snow so perhaps I’ll get the skis out of the back of the car – they have set ski-trails a few hundred yards from the motel. The only thing that gives me pause is a conversation I had with my brother-in-law Ian, on Saturday. It was during that that I realized that of my three siblings, one is in Thailand, one is in Hawaii, one is in Costa Rica, and I’m in, (what? gasp!) Forestville?

Quills have come to Tad, so sad!

A short September cruise turned into more of an adventure than it was supposed to be.  Fortunately,  I pulled a “Pam Price” which ended up pretty much saving the day.

Jane was off to Montreal to gather grandkids for a longer long week-end than their working parents could provide, so I headed off with the dogs to have an overnight up the river on my (so far still floating) sailboat Trillium.  There at the marina was a university student from Switzerland who had arrived in Canada ten days previously knowing no one, and who had decided to hitch-hike down the road from Montreal for a little sight-seeing before school.  More than once at dinners at the Prices, Jane and I have been introduced to strangers from afar whom Pam had found in Cotés (or somewhere) and adopted like lost puppies.  We followed her example last fall when a delightful French family of three with a Belgian friend asked to camp on our park property which proved to be very pleasant for us all.

Just passing through!
Just passing through!

This guy, Aymeric, had slept at the Eau’Berge the night before and had been fed in exchange for work. In other instances he had just knocked on doors and asked if he could sleep on a porch or have a meal in exchange for a few dollars.  Talk about traveling light – one small bag that seemed to contain not much more than a university text-book and a sleeping bag!

He was dying to do a leg of his journey on the river because he has some river experience.  His dad has a canal-barge on a river in France (he showed me pictures on his funny-phone) which was beyond luxurious compared with old Trillium.  I told him if he really wanted to cruise on the slowest and most uncomfortable boat on the river in the company of two usually wet dogs and a cranky captain that he could come along as long as he followed one simple rule:  Parles Français and not one word of English.  (I’ll grab my French-Immersion courses where I can!)  He jumped at the chance.

Big low tide in Passe-Pierre
Big low tide in Passe-Pierre
The very exposed point.
The very exposed point.
Ile au Coquart
Blueberryless Ile au Coquart

Off we set for a fruitless attempt to find blueberries in Les Petites-Iles (pun intended) and thence under sail till the wind died to Anse  à la Goelétte for the night.  It rained a bit initially, but once the dogs were good and wet it settled down to a lovely calm, and the sunny evening was spectacular.  Aymeric couldn’t believe the beauty but did allow that, as a Swiss, he found the mountains a little short.  ( I told him about my cousin Jamie marrying a Norwegian and how we’d all had to face the fact that to her gang it was a “Baby” Fjord.  He said, “Qu’est-ce que c’est un fjord?” So I explained that in this case it is basically a more tourist-attractive word for “river.”  )

It was a delightful evening to read and relax but like fore-shadowing in a bad novel we rowed back to the boat after a doggy run ashore to find Ella (by far the more docile of my two dogs) sporting 8 quills on the left side of her mouth.  She stoically let me pluck them out and I insisted to Aymeric that I had never seen porcupine (porc-épic I was to learn) before on the Saguenay.  I knew that the Prices (sons of Pam) had found two down at the Pilot House ten days previously, so now I was starting to wonder if things were changing.  The next morning I knew they were.

Sunrise, nearly
Sunrise, nearly

Up at 5.30 am, as sleeping on Trillium seems to get less successful with age(!) I took the dogs for their morning ritual and decided to walk down the path toward what was advertised as a lookout.  We had gone about a kilometer (and had just passed a “No Dogs Allowed” sign) when I heard Shannon up ahead barking hysterically.  Thinking he had come upon some unsuspecting campers I ran after him in time to see a retreating porc-épic and to be met with Shannon with a face full of quills.  “Oh Shaw!” said I, and meant it.

Back at the boat, me and my pliers got out about 10 quills, then we had breakfast.  5 or 6 more, and then we cleaned up.  A few more, and we got the boat ready to sail.  But 8 were left (out of a total of about 30) and Shannon had had enough.  He wasn’t sitting still for anybody but I didn’t think it was a good idea to leave them in.  Without Aymeric I’d have been stuck.  But he held one end and I held the other.  We forced Shannon to the deck and got out the rest.  Then soaked a towel in cold Saguenay water and held it against his poor old bouche which he really seemed to appreciate.

Ella with a sore mouth!
Ella with a sore mouth!

Aymeric jumped ship at Anse du Roche, intending to walk up to the road to Chicoutimi if he couldn’t get a ride, and then hitch-hike on his way.  A more thankful individual would be hard to find anywhere.

That left me with a lovely NW breeze and a falling current to head down-river with.  I ran down under full sail and dropped anchor at Anse à Sable where both dogs bathed their sore faces in the river, swimming to their heart’s content.  After tidying up the boat we headed off with lunch ready to munch.  But then a not unusual “Saguenay Switcheroo” took place where the NW breeze I was counting on became a SW stronger wind leaving me tacking back and forth, first dousing the mizzen, then double reefing the main, and finally heaving-to in order to switch to a smaller headsail.  This was actually quite fun and just the sort of activity former crew George used to object to.  (“Why can’t you leave the sails in the sail bags where they BELONG!” he’d argue.)

Aymeric enjoying Canada
Aymeric enjoying life in Canada

Still a delightful sail home and the wind dropped enough to restore the full main before we reached Tadoussac.  The two dogs were never happier that night to crawl into the safety of their beds.

The unfortunate post-script is that I told my harrowing tale to a friend in the Marina crowd and he said he had seen a porc-épic in Languedoc Park this week.  I say again:  “Oh Shaw!”