What the Beetle Sees: Iles de la Madeleine

What the Beetle Sees: Iles de la Madeleine
Originally uploaded by mellowkitty.

The house behind the one I'm renting, as seen through the Bug's windshield.


One of the other reasons why Madelinots might not go in for bistros and cafes (see previous post) is because of the price of fresh produce. Forget about getting mesclun greens with your panini. Every salad I’ve had since New Brunswick has consisted uniquely of the following: iceberg lettuce, green pepper, vaquely red tomatoes, and radish. Nothing destroys radish. Nothing. Insects and radishes will be the only things to survive a nuclear blast. Salad ingredients are not a question of a lack of gourmandises…it’s a question of availability and cost.

Grapes were 6.99 a pound on Les Iles. Oranges were .60 a piece. I managed to find pineapple on special at the local Co-op for 2.25. It may not ripen before I leave, so I may transport it back to Montreal with me next week. Oh! the irony! I did find lettuce grown locally. It looked like real lettuce and had what looked like buttery, fragile leaves. When I opened the plastic package, two small worms, a baby snail and a not-so-baby slug tumbled out. I forced myself to quickly get over the gross factor. That’s the price you pay for real food. I put the worms and the baby slug in the compost and tossed the slug out the back door (don’t ask me why the slug received a slightly different fate). I washed the lettuce very carefully. Then I checked each leaf. Then I ate the lettuce in a salad. The salad accompanied the freshest crab legs I have ever had. Living close to your food source has its merits.


The tourist season hasn’t really started here on Les Iles. Went to visit Havre-Aubert hoping that a cafĂ© recommended to me was open. Alas, it wasn’t. I did come across 5 women baking up a storm in one of the shops nearby. Come back on Sunday, they said, we’ll be open then. I regretfully closed the door on the heavenly smell of cinnamon raisin bread.

Les Madelinots don’t have a culure of going out to quaint bistros and cafes. They certainly exist, but only for the tourist trade. The establishments that are open right now are all situated on Cap-aux-Meules (where the ferry deposits you). Visited Le Central yesterday, a bar in Cap-aux-Meules. It’s pleasant enough, but doesn’t have the cachet demanded by visitors to the Islands. Instead, it has all the familiarity of a local watering hole, rendering it a safe and comfortable place for locals to gather. Last evening, two middle-aged women sat at one end of the bar talking over a couple of beers. At the other end, a group of men did the same. In the middle was a younger woman – who looked a little like Marjo (the quintessential Quebecois rocker chick)—who was speaking with a guy who seemed to be part of the artist/artisant community.

I sat at a table, where I asked to be served the beer that’s brewed here. Alas, Molson has a stranglehold on this establishment and they don’t actually serve the local beer in the local watering hole. I’ll bring a case back with me. Among the other table patrons was a group of three very grano twenty-somethings, a young guy on a computer, and a couple who seem to have been having a semi-fight. Every time the woman got up, her metal chair hit mine with gusto. Normally, a Madelinot (heck, even a Montrealaise) would acknowledge this and apologize. She just kept pulling her chair forcefully into mine. I took it as punishment for being a stranger in a strange land.

Minou de la Madeleine

Minou de la Madeleine
Originally uploaded by mellowkitty.

It doesn't matter where I go, they always find me. Here's a charming young Madelinot feline peeking in through the window.


View of Entry Island: Iles de la Madeleine

View of Entry Island Originally uploaded by mellowkitty.

Second day on les Iles de la Madeleine. I’ve been watching the lobster boats come back from their first day of emptying the traps—the traps first went into the water on Saturday. Tomorrow, I’ll eat my first boiled lobster. Les Iles are actually linked by sandbars. I’m on Havre-aux-Maisons, considered the most picturesque—probably because it has no commerce to speak of. All the major shops--including a Tim Hortons--is on Cap-aux-Meules. I did a bit of reconnaissance today, driving to Cap-aux-Meules to get a sense of where services were. There’s the Jean Coutu. Here’s the SAQ. There’s the local bar. I picked up a few brochures at the Tourist Centre. I plan to visit Entry Island, which I can see from the house I’m renting. Entry Island is home to about 100 English-speaking Anglicans, who all seem to be named Welsh – Arlie, Borden, Dazil, and Waldrin are a few of the more charming given names. Since the accent of the francophone population is so pronounced (it sounds a bit like Old English, which sounds a bit like Old French), I’m pretty sure that the accent used by the folks on Entry Island is just as pronounced. Recently, the Entry Islanders have voiced their concerns over Hydro-Quebec’s proposal to install wind generators on the island. The local paper reported a resident worrying that the monster windmills would overwhelm the silence the Island is noted for. “We would have to leave the Island,” he said. Of course, if they left the island, the need for electricity would be moot. But, that’s what fascinating about the community on Entry Island: it’s so small, it could disappear in a single season, yet it has endured for centuries. Other concerns on Les Iles revolve around housing. Les Iles is subject to gentrification, just like our cities are. There’s a huge problem with locals being booted out their rentals come June to make them available to vacationers. Indeed, the house I’m in is exclusively rented to “mainlanders”. A fisherman, who I’m told is leaving in June, currently leases the house behind me, owned by the same dudes who own my rental. I’m half suspicious, but haven’t confirmed, that he’s leaving to make way for someone willing to pay $1000.00 or more week for what he pays considerably less. Just like folks in the city, local residents are loath to make use of the Regie de Logements in order to protect their rights. Indeed, the community is so small here that no one locks their door. As a potential criminal, you are a captive audience, the only place to run is the sea. I’m fairly confident that if Eudore’s son stole my laptop, his neighbour Procule would find out about it, tell his wife Alma, who would mention something to the cashier at the local Co-op. The Surete Quebec would return my laptop the next day. I’d refuse to testify and Eudore’s son would decide to pursue Lettres at CEGEP du Limoilou, would return to Les Iles and open a restaurant specializing in seal sausages. You can really purchase seal sausages. No kidding.