When we decided to visit Quebec we wanted to see more than just Montreal and Quebec City, so Lac St. Jean seemed a likely destination. This large lake was north of these two cities, deep into the Province, and far away from most of the tourist locations. Hubby was happy because it probably had some fish in it and the drive looked to go through some scenic areas. Our bus tour driver in Montreal warned us there was nothing there and no one would speak English, but what the hey. We did decide to cut our stay from eight days to four days, just in case.
The drive to Lac St. Jean passed through some pretty spectacular country. First it was rolling farms then then, winding along beside the Maurice River, it was high hills, granite cliffs and lots of lakes. Things flattened out again as we got near Lac St. Jean. (also called “Flat Lake,” as it turns out. ) At the campground, the woman in the office didn’t speak English but somehow we got four days paid for, got our site assignment and got settled in. Most of the people around us are seasonal, spoke only french and seemed fascinated with our Florida license plates. This is very much a family summer resort and they don’t get a lot of tourists. The satellite didn’t connect so we were left with four stations via antenna, all in French. On the bright side, we did have high speed internet.
SInce we only paid for four days on the Lake, and our reservation in Quebec City was eight days away, I needed to find some place else to spend a few days in between. I called a half dozen campgrounds all along the route back to Quebec City. No one spoke English, no reservations could be made, the one place the we found that could speak English couldn’t take an RV over 25 feet. We resigned ourselves to staying right where we are, paid for four more days, and hoped for the best.
The eight days went very quickly. We hiked to a beautiful waterfall, Chute Maligne, and found an old historical village, Val Jalbert, that told of the areas history in the pulp and paper industry. Our camp was on the lake so we did a lot of canoeing and fishing. We spent a day and circled the whole lake, crossing rivers, stopping in the many small towns and finding local homemade cheeses, blueberries and crepes filled with fresh fruit, custard and whipped cream. We also found that every town around the lake had a large, centrally located, stone church with a tall spire that we could admire.
Our bus driver was right, very few people spoke English, but with my high school basics and the friendly people we met, we got by. We even managed to play golf. Although to make it through the sign in procedure we had to look up golf cart (chariot) and starter (commenser) since I never learned those in school. One exception was our neighbor in camp. He was originally from Ontario but he married a Quebecer and had not spoken English for a long time. He relished getting back into it and being an avid fisherman he and hubby had lots to talk about. He even gave us some Walleye he had caught. We had cocktails several times with he and his wife, and he just translated back and forth for us. I asked him about all the churches we saw, and if they were all designed by the same person and he laughingly said no, but the local joke was that they had a contest to see which smallest town could have the biggest church.
All in all it was a nice, relaxing stay in a pretty area. Although not speaking the language did make for some frustrating moments, most of the people we met went out of their way to make it work. It also gave me a new compassion for those visitors I meet back home, struggling to get around, not speaking English. I promised to be way more patient in the future.