10th September 2014
Baie-Comeau – Quebec
Once again it’s a beautiful day (aren’t we doing well?) and the first thing we notice as we step ashore is the most amazing smell of wood. The air is thickly filled with this rich and pleasant aroma which oozes from the vicinity of the paper mill, the main source of income for the town. It instantly feels like we’re walking through a pine forest on a sunny day, except of course the dockside is concrete and we’re surrounded by containers.
There are shuttle buses laid on to ferry the masses into town, about two kilometres away, but as it’s such a lovely day we decide to walk. Leaving the port area the path around the estuary is flat and very easy, and eventually it opens up into a huge expanse of parkland. The map which was handed out at the port leads us through the park, past a very pretty turreted ‘Manoir’, down through a small housing estate and onto the town beach. Now unfortunately the tide is out and the lovely smell of wood has somewhat been replaced by something a little more ‘fishy’. There are mounds of empty mussels shells, dare I say millions of them, all forming great swathes of bluey black patterns across the sand. Surely this is a visual testament to the fresh, clean, nutritious waters of the St Lawrence Seaway.
We enjoyed a long walk on this almost deserted beach, flanked on the land side by huge multi-coloured slabs of rock, topped by unbroken lines of trees full of crows, rooks and other birds busily feasting on the remains of the mussels.
Time to get back to the town and explore the local area a bit more, so we continue to follow the trail map and find ourselves at the main church. After visiting a grotto dedicated to Mary at the top of the hill, we walked up the steps into the main building. Hmmm my pet hate……they’re charging us $5 each to enter a church!! Ok I accept it costs money to keep these places in a good state of repair etc, and I will always put a donation in the box after a visit, but it annoys me that the money is demanded from me rather than allowing me to give voluntarily. It rankles me I admit, but hey ho that’s just my opinion, moan over.
Anyway it’s an interesting place, very brightly decorated with murals and fabrics, lots of gold and marble etc. But to be honest there wasn’t much of an atmosphere and it all felt a little contrived and sterile for a place of worship (no I’m not just saying that because I was hassled for money at the entrance) Then we overhear one of the guides telling a visitor that it’s no longer used as a regular place of worship. They only hold one service a year in order to keep it as a sanctified building, but the rest of the time it’s a museum and the locals worship in another church just around the corner……ok!
Enough of all this nonsense, time to find a drink and discover the true heart of the community. This time it takes the form of a couple of pints in an almost deserted town centre, probably the smallest and shortest ‘high street’ we’ve ever encountered, but the beer is good, very good in fact and it’s a shame that more of our fellow cruisers hadn’t discovered the delights of sitting outside with an ice cold local bevy. Their loss…….
Anyway, Baie-Comeau in summary. Once again the people are friendly and welcoming, the area is very pretty and it was worth the visit just for the glorious smell of wood. Apparently there is more to do further afield beyond the town which is good, and although first impressions are that this is a very sleepy place there is plenty to do and see.
Back on the ship there is many a moan about the lack of anything interesting to do here, but unless there are naked bears and dancing women (or is it the other way round?) some folk will never be happy. This type of place is unlikely to ever be glitzy or glamorous, there’s no zip-lining through the trees or barrel riding over a waterfall, not even a catamaran trip with snorkelling and endless rum punch. But then if everywhere was the same there wouldn’t be any point in going anywhere different…………would there?