Day 644: Percé Merci

Leaving Campbellton, Laetitia and her group crossed the Restigouche River and drove along the north shore of Chaleur Bay. They were now in Quebec on the Gaspé Peninsula. Their destination was specifically Rocher Percé or Pierced Rock, the massive sheer cliff in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence pierced by a 20-meter arch near one end. On arrival, the group boarded a chartered boat to get close-up views of the rock and to visit the gannet colony on nearby Bonaventure Island.

After spending the day outdoors, Laetitia made the usual arrangements with her group at their hotel in Percé and went off in search of a libation and limerick. The gossip floating around the bar was about a young British lad who wooed a local girl by way of an Internet correspondence. The lad was both pious and naïve, and after arriving to claim his bride, he returned home when a local jokester told him that the town’s name signified the condition of maidenheads among the community’s women.

When a callow Brit fellow named Percy
Who arrived for a French bride from Percé
Found it means “pierced” in French
His plan he did quench
And he went back to Henley-on-Mersey.

Day 643: Chaleur Wow

Laetitia and her group followed the coastline of Chaleur Bay, making frequent stops to view wildlife and take pictures. When opportunities arose, they went on some short hikes. At one overlook, there was a sign telling the legend of Chaleur Bay’s phantom ship. The apparition appears to most observers as a flaming wooden sailing ship, and apparently has been seen by thousands of people. One explanation is that it is the ghost of a French frigate sunk by the English at the Battle of Restigouche, the final naval engagement in what is called the Seven Years’ War in Europe and the French and Indian War in the United States. Another is that it is the ship of Captain Craig, a pirate whose vessel was cursed by two Indian girls after his attempt to kidnap and rape them was exposed and thwarted by a local pilot. Other less fanciful explanations include St. Elmo’s Fire, the slow discharge of electrical energy from the atmosphere, or marine phosphorescence.

The tour group’s destination was Campbellton, on the New Brunswick side of the Restigouche River opposite Pointe-à-la-Croix in Quebec. As is true of much of Atlantic Canada, the settlement that eventually became Campbellton was originally French and became English in 1760 after the Battle of the Restigouche. In Campbellton, Laetitia took her group on a hike in Sugarloaf Provincial Park. Then, after dropping them at their hotel with arrangements to meet later for dinner, she went off in search of a pre-dinner libation in the area near the local community college.

Arriving at the licensed premises a little before happy hour, Laetitia sat at the bar next to a college woman with fiery red hair who was about her own age and introduced herself as “Chaleur Fantôme.” Laetitia wasn’t fluent in French, but she thought the name meant something like “hot phantom.” Chaleur told Laetitia that she was from Petit Rocher on Chaleur Bay. With the family surname Fantôme and quirky parents, she was named after the Chaleur Bay phantom fire ship. Chaleur said, “Having a first name that can be translated as ‘hot’ doesn’t do one’s social life any harm, and neither does having a mysterious surname.” Chaleur spoke the truth. When the happy-hour crowd came in, a throng of admiring young men surrounded her, and she managed being the center of attention with grace and style. Laetitia didn’t mind the competition. She had her limerick of the day.

The coed named Chaleur Fantôme
Plays her pedestal role with aplomb
And it sure doesn’t hurt
That this loquacious flirt
Is a well-endowed redheaded bomb.