Twenty-one parcels of land of all different sizes emerged suddenly from the waters. Twenty-one island each with their own unique history, forged over the years by the men and women that toiled their soil. If one keeps alive the memory of the quarantine and epidemics, another continues with traditions long-ago forgotten elsewhere.
This summer, I finally had the chance to discover this fascinating island world for myself. Leaving from Berthier-sur-Mer I spent a good part of the day before noon being carried away by the sun and the fresh river air, listening attentively to the stories being told by theLachance . Natives ofÎle au Canot and sailors for the past generations, they captivated us with their stories. Here, they told us where the strange name of this island originated, and divulged the history of a mysterious shipwreck.
The river and its archipelago have no secrets from them; you could even say that the Saint Lawrence runs in their veins!
Arriving at Île-aux-Grues in time for lunch, I took the time to admire the view and then hopped onto the tourist train. During the couple-hour ride, I had the chance to learn more about the life and the customs of the Gruois (by the way, did you know that children from the island take a plane every day to get to their school in Montmagny?) Besides visiting the village, the tour led us to the Musée de la Mi-Carême, guardian of a long-forgotten tradition. I was surprised to learn about the existence of this winter masquerade and I admired the extravagant costumes from Mi-Carêmes of times past.
At the end of the visit, the train stopped at the Île-aux-Grues cheese factory. Riopelle, Mi-Carême, Tomme de Grosse-Île: so many names all tied to the archipelago and so many award-winning cheeses. It was simply delicious! I bought a little of each to let my family discover these wonders, a very noble intention that was quickly betrayed by my gluttony.
Back on the ship with the Lachances, daydreaming on the swells, I couldn’t help but appreciate the love of Jean-Paul Riopelle for Île-aux-Grues. The friendliness of its inhabitants and the beauty of its landscapes are more than enough to fill the heart of anyone that sets foot.
Enjoy your visit!
Tourist Information Officer