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    Following the Blue Road on the Steps of Kenneth White in Quebec : Episode 7

    Kenneth White The Wanderer and the Charts Polygon Books 2004

    Kenneth White The Wanderer and the Charts Polygon Books 2004

    I’ve always delighted in the reading of old geographers and explorers.You feel in their texts the first tentative steps, see the earliest visions, register the initial astonishment at the appearance of the world in all its phenomenal strangeness.

    (Kenneth White – ‘Along the Atlantic Coast’ – The Wanderer and his Charts – 2004)

    Kenneth White The Blue Road 1990 Mainstream Publishing

    Kenneth White The Blue Road 1990 Mainstream Publishing

    In the morning, I’m standing at the Old Pier of Seven Islands, looking out over the big blue white-flecked river and thinking of Jacques Cartier, whose Travels of Discovery in Canada have been with me ever since I left France : ‘On the Thursday we came upon seven high islands…’

    That was 19th August, 1535.

    Four and a half centuries later, the same seven islands are still there to see; the Big Basque and the Little Basque, the Corossol, the Big Boule and the Little Boule, Manowin and the Ile Dequen, bathed in the rosy haze of a St Lawrence dawn.

    (Kenneth White – The Blue Road: The Wind at Seven Islands’)

     

    Weather cock 'weatherduck' road 138 Côte-Nord Quebec PC Scotiana 2010

    Road 138 'weatherduck'© 2010 Scotiana

     

    Now, where are we going today on our blue road itinerary?

    It will be northward up to Sept-Îles and then eastward to Havre Saint-Pierre, on road 138,  in the Côte-Nord region of the Province of Quebec.

    In this post, however, we’ll go no further than Sept-Îles which is only 39 miles (63 km) from Port-Cartier, our starting point in the morning. This part of road 138 is particularly beautiful and the town of Sept-Îles, built on a magnificent bay, is not only well worth the visit but also a turning point in Kenneth White’s Blue Road

    Québec-trajet-Les-Escoumins_Pointe-Parent Scotiana Modified Google map

    Québec-trajet-Les-Escoumins_Pointe-Parent Scotiana Modified Google map

    October 8th :

    8 a.m… Motel Le Château, Port Cartier…

    I open The Blue Road at the chapter entitled ‘The Wind at Seven Islands’. Kenneth White’s book is more inspiring than the Gedeon Bible, which we often find in our motel bedside tables, to prepare us for what is waiting for us there, up in the north! Kenneth White is second to none to make us feel the sense of a place,  in a very lively way, with past and present mingled in a geopoetical vision of things.

    The Voyages of Jacques Cartier University of Toronto Press 1993

    The Voyages of Jacques Cartier University of Toronto Press 1993

    ‘The edition I have of Cartier’s Travels came out in Paris in 1968. Which is an interesting coincidence. For a good many people in France at that time wanted to see the end of a certain culture and were feeling out for the beginnings of something else. That ‘something else’ has still to be discovered, but it seems to me that it will mean among other things a move from history to geography. Which is why in the Autumn of ‘68’ I got down to reading and re-reading all the old travel-books I could get my hands on.
    I love the sense of freshness they gave me, the rhythm, the direct simplicity. What a relief after all the verbose militancy, all the querulous ideology, all that flat-footed moral-political discourse that kept going round and round the same dreary topics and had no sense of world at all. We were suffering from cultural claustration, and that kind of stuff was no cure, it was part of the disease. We needed something a lot farther out.

    (The Blue Road – Kenneth White)

    The ‘end of a certain culture’, the need for ‘something else’, the ‘move from history to geography’, the reading and re-reading of old travel books (written by explorers and adventurers at a time when there were few maps, no roads and no modern means of communication…), these are key-concepts in Kenneth White’s ‘geopoetical’ vision of the world. Indeed, we owe to the great Scottish-French author this revolutionary concept of ‘geopoetics’.

    Motel Le Château Port Cartier Scotiana Octobre 2010

    Motel Le Château Port Cartier © 2010 Scotiana

    We leave our Hollywood-style motel at 9 am, aiming to go as far as possible on road 138. The place looks quite empty now. All the workers and truck drivers who occupied most of the rooms of this strange ‘castle’ have already gone to work since a long time. There are a lot of industries in the area: wood and iron derived activities, hydroelectric power stations, big roadwork. I can’t help feeling that it must not be a prince’s life for the workers to live here…

    It was pouring rain yesterday evening when we arrived at our motel. A gloomy, dark atmosphere and no coffee in the rooms. The motel is not unpleasant though and it’s being refurbished. Now, as we’re going to resume our trip to the north the weather is grey, wintry and fresh with only a few shades of blue in the sky.

    We hope to arrive at Sept-Iles before noon. It’s from this town that Kenneth White took the train to Schefferville, Labrador, though he pushed up to Havre-Saint-Pierre where road 138 ended thirty years ago and where we would end in the evening, at motel l’Archipel. Just as a funny coincidence, I would like to mention that ”Archipel’ is the very same name of the international Institute of geopoetics website (http://www.geopoetique.net/).

    The weather is becoming greyer and fresher and as we drive northwards the vegetation changes and becomes more austere. We’re entering an area of boreal forest, mainly composed of conifers. The ‘Côte-Nord’ is the most forested area of the province of Quebec.

    Sainte-Marguerite River dam road 138 Côte-Nord Quebec PC Scotiana october 2010

    Sainte-Marguerite River dam road 138 Côte-Nord Quebec PC © 2010 Scotiana

    The lanscape is often breathtaking and we stop at River Sainte-Marguerite to watch the dam’s whirling waters rumbling down the abyss. It’s quite impressive, all the more since the wind is blowing heavily.
    The combination of height, noise and roaring waters makes us dizzy.

    Aylmer Whittom Park road Côte-Nord 138 PQ

    Aylmer Whittom Park road Côte-Nord 138 PQ © 2010 Scotiana

    Further on the road, we stop at Aylmer Whittom. The view is beautiful here but it must be icy cold in winter.

    Aylmer Whittom Park stone memorial Sept-Iles Côte-Nord Road 138 PQ

    Aylmer Whittom Park stone memorial © 2010 Scotiana

    Indeed there is a stone memorial to Jean-Marie Conan, an ‘eudist’ priest who perished there in 1908, trapped under the ice. I pause a moment in front of the stone, wondering what it means to be an ‘eudist’ and also why God did not come to the rescue of his faithful servant who suffered such a horrible death… The place becoming suddenly colder, we get back in the car.

    I’ve found an answer to my interrogations about ‘eudism‘ in the very interesting blog of Rivière-aux-Graines, a small village situated 10 km off road 138, which was formerly known as Saint-Victor de la Rivière-aux-Graines. Kenneth White would certainly appreciate the change of name! Just imagine: in the olden times, the villagers used to be called “Saint Victoriens” et “Saints Victoriennes”. Gaetan opened this very lively blog two years ago. Next time we’ll probably make a detour to discover his beloved village. And guess what! On Gaetan’s blog, we have voted for a more practicable road to be built up to Rivière-aux-Graines 😉

    Jacques Cartier Great Explorers Education Art Poster Print

    Jacques Cartier Great Explorers Education Art Poster Print

    On arriving at Sept-Îles we first stop at the tourist office to find information about the place and to get the address of the ‘Côte Nord’  bookshop enthusiastically mentioned by Kenneth White in The Blue Road. Didn’t he find there a literary treasure!

    YES ! The bookshop  is still there, in Place de Ville, says the receptionist who was checking the address in the local directory and we’ll go there first.

    Sept-Iles Tourist Office Côte-Nord PQ Quebec PC Scotiana 2010

    Sept-Iles Tourist Office earth globe aluminium ingot © 2010 Scotiana

    We linger in the Tourist Office, discussing with the cheerful ladies in charge of the place and looking at the local memorabilia displayed here: an earth globe, an aluminium ore ingot among other interesting items…

    The town has been nicknamed ‘The Iron Klondike’ after the river Klondike which had witnessed the Gold Rush at the end of the 19th century. The population of Sept-Îles is about  26 000 and about 1000 people work in the Aluminerie Alouette, which processes and exports aluminium all over the world. Sept-Îles has one of the biggest deep water port in Canada and when driving along road 138 we often saw in the distance big ships crossing the St Lawrence River.

    Place de Ville Shopping Centre Sept-Îles Côte-Nord Quebec PC Scotiana 2010

    Shopping Centre Place de Ville Sept-Îles © 2010 Scotiana

    Brrrrrrrrr ! ‘Fait frête’ 😉

    In fact, it’s freezing cold outside and we now understand what Kenneth White means when he writes: ‘In the middle of the Place de Ville, there’s a big commercial complex. It’s like a little city on its own, with spacious alleys, and it’s warm in there. When the winds are howling down from the Labrador and the temperature’s way below zero, the citizens can walk and shop there in comfort. In fact, you can spend a day in there, for there are cafés and restaurants too. ‘


    Sept-Iles  Librairie Côte-Nord PQ Scotiana october 2010

    Sept-Iles Librairie Côte-Nord © 2010 Scotiana

    I even found a bookshop.

    NORTH COAST BOOKSHOP.

    What a name for a bookshop!

    You imagine it full of books to find the true North again, books of mental navigation, books crammed with physical metaphysics and poetic cartography…

    I go along the shelves.

    One title intrigues me.

    ‘Le Passage du Nord-Ouest.’

    I flip through the pages. The kind of chaos-cosmic thinking and exploring I like.

    I buy it and retire to a café to read it.

    (Kenneth WhiteThe Blue Road )

    We spend a lot of time browsing in the bookshop, one of our favourite pastimes 😉 We don’t find Michel Serres’s book but instead I buy a very tempting book of Quebec recipes 😉 I feel like trying first ‘Grilled cheese de pancakes aux bleuets et au mascarpone’. I think I’ll will come back to that soon on Scotiana… Janice, Iain and Margaret will probably agree with me on that. We’re not forgetting our project to publish recipes on our blog !

    Comme au chalet Laurent Godbout Les Editions de l'homme 2010 Quebec recipes

    Comme au chalet Laurent Godbout Les Editions de l'homme 2010

    Not ‘food for thought’ this time but, as we say in France, ‘ventre affamé n’a pas d’oreilles’  😉 (= hungry belly has no ears)

    I’ve found Michel Serre’s book since our return from Quebec. I must admit it will take time to me to read it. I’ve found very interesting passsages but it’s not easy reading…

    Le passage du Nord-Ouest Michel Serres Hermes V Les Editions de Minuit Collection "Critique" 1980

    Le passage du Nord-Ouest Michel Serres Hermes V Les Editions de Minuit Collection "Critique" 1980

    Le passage du Nord-Ouest Hermes V Michel Serres Les Editions de Minuit Collection "Critique" 1980

    Le passage du Nord-Ouest Hermes V Michel Serres Les Editions de Minuit Collection "Critique" 1980

    Rowan trees Sept-Îles Côte-Nord Quebec PC Scotiana 2010

    Rowan trees in the streets of Sept-Îles © 2010 Scotiana

    ‘I walked right across Seven Islands, with the rowan trees waving their red branches all along the way…’writes Kenneth White in The Blue Road.

    Big dog rowan tree Subway restaurant Road 138 Sept-Iles Quebec PC

    Big dog with rowan trees in the background in front of Sept-Îles Subway restaurant © 2010 Scotiana

    As we stroll along the streets, we discover a number of beautiful rowans which remind me of the Scottish rowan trees 😉 but here, definitely, is our favourite rowan-picture  😉

    Zen le chien 😉

     Parc du Vieux Quai Sept-Îles Côte-Nord Quebec PC Scotiana 2010

    Parc du Vieux Quai Sept-Îles © 2010 Scotiana

    Though the weather is not inviting, we decide to take a walk  along the wintrywaterfront before leaving Sept-Îles.

    Sept-Îles Old Pier Côte-Nord Quebec PC Scotiana 2010

    Sept-Îles Old Pier © 2010 Scotiana

    A number of pleasure boats, anchored in Sept-Îles marina, are gently rocking to the rhythm of the Saint-Lawrence River which gives itself airs of being an ocean !

    The industrial harbour is one of the most important ports in Canada and a major international maritime hub. We didn’t visit it but, here, I can’t help quoting a very funny passage in French,  from La route bleue, which alas loses its comical effect in the English version.

    En quittant le Vieux Quai, je passe devant le Hudson’s Bay Store et, au coin d’Arnaud et de Blanche, je tombe sur l’entrée du port du fer, l’Iron Ore Terminal : “Pas d’admission sans affaire.”

    N’étant pas un homme d’affaires, mais un homme de l’être* (hé, hé), je poursuis mon chemin. (Kenneth White – La route bleue)

    Here is the English translation:

    Leaving the pier, I walk along the waterfront, passing by the Hudson’s Bay Store, till, at the corner of Arnaud and Blanche, I come up against the entrance to the Iron Ore Terminal; ‘No admittance except on business.’

    My business, if you can call that, being elsewhere, I continue on my way. (Kenneth White – The Blue Road)

    Yellow Tent Old Pier Sept-Îles Côte-Nord Quebec PC Scotiana 2010

    Sept-Îles Yellow Tent on the Old Pier © 2010 Scotiana

    Now… what’s that? It’s looks like a circus. Hum, I think that if we want to make a good idea of what it is, we’d better come back in summer for this yellow tent seems to be the place where  local artists do perform during the touristic season… no doubt that the place must be crowded then…

    The pier Sept-Iles Harbour PQ Côte-Nord Road 138

    The pier at the harbour of Sept-Iles © 2010 Scotiana

    The last word, I leave it to Kenneth White for it will open our horizon…

    The fugitive image of the old pier in a certain village on the West coast of Scotland crossed my mind. And I thought of those citizens of New York Melville talks about, coming down to the piers on Sundays to get a whiff of some larger life. The pier, one of those privileged spots where life is gathered and extended, takes on other dimensions.

    (The Blue Road – Kenneth White)

    Bonne lecture.

    And “A bientôt” for our last episode of “Following the Blue Road on the Steps of Kenneth White in Quebec”.

    Mairiuna

    * i.e “homme de lettres”

    Following the Blue Road on the Steps of Kenneth White in Quebec – Episode 1

    Following the Blue Road on the Steps of Kenneth White in Quebec – Episode 2

    Following the Blue Road on the Steps of Kenneth White in Quebec – Episode 3

    Following the Blue Road on the Steps of Kenneth White in Quebec – Episode 4

    Following the Blue Road on the Steps of Kenneth White in Quebec – Episode 5

    Following the Blue Road on the Steps of Kenneth White in Quebec – Episode 6

    Following the Blue Road on the Steps of Kenneth White in Quebec – Episode 8

    Following the Blue Road on the Steps of Kenneth White in Quebec – Episode 9

    Following the Blue Road on the Steps of Kenneth White in Quebec – Episode 10

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