We moved rather rapidly through Quebec on our way to the Maritime Provinces. Laundry rest stop Oops! They speak and write in French here! In Sherbrooke we spotted an easy chair outside the Lavanderie (laundrateria to you Anglophones!) The attached sign says, in French: "Rest stop. If you wish, rest because you are tired. Sit and sleep in peace because right now it is not forbidden by the municipal code." On the front of the dryer in this Lavanderie we saw another sign: "This dryer must be exhausted." Translation: clean the lint filter.
And then there are the highway signs without any words at all. We particularly liked the sign depicting a surprise just over the crest of a hill. Wordless warning Drive slowly!
The surest way to know you are in Quebec is to spot the large silver-spired church in the village. In the hilly country near Sherbrooke you could spot the churches far across the valleys; as you neared the villages they grew larger and larger. Even though these settlements may have been first made by Loyalists fleeing the newly formed United States, they are now settled and farmed by hardy Francophones.
Have you read the series of mystery stories by Louise Penny? They take place Symbol of Quebec in a tiny village in rural Quebec, a place with no cell phone service and which has been left off the maps. With the aid of the excellent tourist routes plotted out by the Ministry of Tourism of the Province, we followed a map through the Appalachians north of Maine and New Hampshire, wondering which villages we visited were used by Penny as inspiration for her gripping stories of murder.
Many of the villages are at least 150 years old, and it is not unusual for a farm to have been occupied by the same family for all of that time, or longer. Most are dairy farms, including quite a few goat herds, which means cheese-making is a popular craft and business here.
All routes across Quebec must take into account the vast stretches of the Fleuve Saint Laurent, a word that aptly expresses the fact that this is far more than Canadian Navy hydrofoil a river, for all five of the Great Lakes flow to the sea through its waters. Cartier sailed up this river in the first half of the sixteenth century, and founded a settlement along the Saint Lawrence at what is now Quebec City. Ships loaded with furs and lumber sailed down the river and across the Atlantic to Europe. If the French had won the Seven Years War, all of Canada would be as French-speaking as Quebec.
In Islet-sur-Mer we visited the Maritime Museum and learned of the strong sailors and their ships during the heyday of maritime commerce. There we saw two ships on display: an experimental hydrofoil (which was tested but never put into service) and an icebreaker. The village was the home of the almost-famous Arctic explorer, Jardins de Metis Captain Jacques Bernier.
Before leaving the province of Quebec, we enjoyed a return visit to the Jardins de Metis, formerly known as the Reford Gardens. Mrs. Reford married an executive of the Canadian Pacific Railway, and spent years discovering which species of plants and flowers would thrive in this harsh climate. The result today is a sparkling gem of colors and shades, blossoms and branches, pathways and porches, with a modern touch added by international garden competitions.