We rounded the eastern curve of the Gaspé peninsula and headed south. It was cloudy with some rain, but that didn't spoil the unique beauty of this coastal drive. We picked up some large, smooth rocks at a coastside belvedere — one of the nice lookout/restroom areas that are found throughout Gaspé. The Canadians are consistent and good at providing for travelers' needs, unlike another nearby country that will remain nameless. And it was great to have our own car to indulge my rock desires; it would end up putting on quite a bit of weight on this journey.

And speaking of rocks, we soon got our first view of the rock — the famous Rocher Percé from across the Baie de Malbaie near Belle-Anse. An unmistakable profile across the misty bay. A beautiful area was this, simple homes were alongside horse pastures, and had golden marshes for front yards. Their view to the south included the Rock, Île Bonaventure and all the outreaching cliffs and mountains around Percé. (Warning: if you plan to visit Percé and want to be surprised, it's time to leave this page ...)

Coming into Percé was a thrill ... Rounding the bend of the Pic de l'Aurole, one of several cliffs that surround the area, the town appeared in the valley below. The Rocher Percé and Île Bonaventure were just offshore. There it all was, in one glimpse ...

We stayed at La Hotel Normandie, an elegant small hotel with a grand deck and views. Of course anywhere you went in Percé had a view ...

From every angle and altitude, God and/or mother nature had created cliffs that reach out to it, and coastal, hill and mountain vantage points from which to worship it: the monolith, Rocher Percé, in the round. When the tide is low, you can walk out and touch it, though this seems wrong, sacrilegious.

If that's not enough, Île Bonaventure, a worthy companion, rises up nearby. And the timeless town of Percé semi-encircles these offshore treasures, and modestly goes about coexisting and complementing them perfectly.

My first inclination was to get out there, in the ocean, as soon as possible. We got tickets for one of the small tour boats and were off soon after arriving in town. I was hoping against hope for the weather to improve. But as we boarded the boat, the rain started falling and the wind picked up. (see Boat Ride slide show)

We motored along the length of the Rock: 1,420 feet long, 300 ft wide, 288 ft high, five million tons of limestone and calcium. It was once lying flat on the ocean floor but was forced upright; that's how it came to contain embedded 400 million-year-old fossils of bivalves. The rock is many shades of color, streaked, etched, and carved into its weathered facade. It continues to erode away at a rapid pace ... until 1845 it had two openings. As we turned the bend around the rogue arrowhead-end of Rocher Percé, the sky brightened and blue breaks appeared. It seemed we had broken a plane.

We headed toward Île Bonaventure. The mix of sun and clouds; dolphins racing next to us, arcing up, out and under; and seals popping up playfully along the island cliffs — exhilarating and magical. Then the birds! Hundreds of thousands of them — mostly the madonna-like gannets, large birds with a serene visage and soft creamy coloring. This is the largest gannet colony in North America. It was a spectacular sight — cliffs and rocks packed with nesting birds, and the sky filled with them soaring and talking above us.

Île Bonaventure: click for larger view

After completing the circle around Île Bonaventure, I enjoyed the view of Percé and its setting as we headed back to shore. The Rock, now lit by the afternoon sun, and set off by puffy clouds, was a riveting sight.

I walked the short distance from the pier back to the hotel. It was hard to look away, even for a few moments ...

Several years ago I found some old postcards of Percé (by chance — I buy what appeals) ... views of the town and rock as seen from atop Mont Sainte-Anne. Those old black & white images made such an impression. It seemed a special, foreign place — as in very different from anywhere else I'd ever been.

Then I'm finally, actually there. It was interesting to compare the Percé I'd envisioned to the Percé I was standing in. First, it was a great relief: a yearning had been satisfied, quenched, that I hadn't fully realized had been there since first seeing the postcards. And then as I got to know it better — traversing the town, and boating to the Rock and Île — I knew my initial feeling was right. But of course it was now wrong also: Percé was foreign no longer.

Now that everything was so brilliant and beautiful in the late afternoon sun, I thought we'd better make the most of the rest of the day ... we drove up Mont Saint-Anne, then walked a short trail to my postcard vantage point (see sidebar). It was so nice to find that, from here, time had stood still. Click for a panoramic view.

Now, you might think that's it for Percé ... well, no. Not nearly.

Quebec revisited, Gaspe discovered

Galleries ...
QuébecGaspésiePercé 1Percé 2Percé 3

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