We naturally endeavored to support the local brewery: I admit to only sampling the Corps Mort 12% brew!
A Taste of Les Îles de la Madeleine! October 5, 2013
My bi-annual Adventure Knitting trips take me all over in the cause of great knitting fun and friends, and we like to seek slightly off-beat travel methods and destinations. With the notable exception of one trip to the Galapagos Islands, Judy Fawcett and I focus our travel trips within Canada. Ours is such a huge and magnificent country, that it isn’t hard to find beautiful and out-of-the-way spots to visit.
This year found me, suitcases in hand, standing somewhat bemused on the docks in Montreal. Along came a coach, happily containing my merry Knitting Gang which had already had some time to tour the city together! It was time for the Adventure to begin.
We dropped off bags and cases (many of which were already brimming with yarn after a few days shopping) and boarded the CTMA Vacancier, our home for the next two days and nights.
We knitted our way down the St. Lawrence River and out into the Gulf until we made landfall at the microscopic chain of islands known by Anglophones as the Magdalen Islands. Their correct french name is Les Îles de la Madeleine. There is very little English spoken in this region of Quebec, which was especially noticeable on this trip. During the English safety talk at the start of our journey, we discovered that the ferry had only a handful of other English speakers aboard apart from our group! This just added to the fun. The crew of the ferry were delightful and the atmosphere aboard simply jolly whatever the language.
We improvised for classroom space and held informal classes in many spots on the ship. We tried a number of different saloons, the dining room outside of meal service times, but best of all was out on deck one afternoon. This further increased my repertoire of weird teaching venues (trains, planes, coaches, ferries, Chinese restaurants, next to an expresso machine, from ship to ship by VHF radio to name but a few I can remember). I haven’t tried a hot air balloon yet – any takers?
I had brought play yarn along for everyone, and, without any undue coercion, everyone decided on tackling a double knit Igloo Cowl or Hat. Originally designed as a top-down hat, it can also be tackled from the bottom up (thus avoiding the perfect circular, tubular, double layer cast-on which is wonderful, but fiddly, and maybe not recommended for poor light situations). For the determined and fearless, the top down version offers more flexibility for sizing and is my personal favourite!
We were well underway by the time we docked at Cap aux Meules Island two days later. Our land program saw us board a school bus and be transported along a 50 km road to the far end of the island to our Inn (or Auberge).
The Îles de la Madeleine are so slender, it’s a wonder they haven’t yet been washed away! Long, thin and windswept would be a brief description. For most of the bus ride we could see sea on both sides. However, this doesn’t do justice to the spectacularly eroded red cliffs, miles of magnificent golden sand beaches and the brightly coloured houses: lime, purple, turqoise, orange, teal, pink, yellow–all of my favorite colours! Unfortunately, I don’t have a photo of the houses; they are so widely scattered it was hard to get more than two into any photo. Just imagine a handful of coloured bricks sprinkled across the hills.
Firewood is created by stacking piles of driftwood teepee fashion out side the houses, it is left this way for a couple of years to wash out the salt before burning. There are hardly any trees of any size on the island. The wind has to be experienced to be appreciated (and it wasn’t excessive whilst we were there). There a number of cycling companies that take their tour groups to the windward end of the island to start their ride each day!
We walked along the beaches, toured some of the many fishing harbours and visited beauty spots, all the while steadfastly knitting on. We tasted and sampled our way around the islands. Fish and seafood were staples. We did once see a cow. In fact, we are sure we saw the same cow every time we went anywhere, but it did look lonely.
We quit our spacious steady rooms at the Auberge on our last Island-Day and returned to the dear old CTMA Vacancier after a slap-up sunset diner at a former convent. It felt like returning home and the cabins no longer felt quite as tiny as they had before. Offloading the burden of yarn I had started my journey with helped too!
The weather was ideal for al fresco knitting on the way back upriver. Our two last ports of call were Chandler and Quebec City. In lovely Chandler we were treated to a magnificent display of gannets feeding.
All in all, this was a magnificent trip with some stunning knitting successes being achieved, although I’m not sure what the rest of the passengers thought of us wearing hats to breakfast on the last morning!
I was sad to say farewell to such a great group of friends and fellow travelers – I can only say I’m looking forward to seeing many of you again in Manitoba in August 2015! We will be going north….