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CAP-AUX-MEULES
ILES DE LA MADELEINE QUEBEC TOUR

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Located in Les Iles de la Madeleine (also called the Magdalen Islands), Cap-aux-Meules is the second largest island in the dozen-island archipelago.

Grindstone Hill and CTMA Vacancier viewed from the Coastal Trail
Grindstone Hill and CTMA Vacancier viewed from the Coastal Trail
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

The name "Meules" comes from Grindstone (meule in French) Hill, which contains the stone used to make grindstones. It overlooks the harbor where we docked on the CTMA Vacancier ferry from Montreal.

The best view of Grindstone Hill is from the red sand beaches along the two-kilometer-long Coastal Trail that begins near the hill.

The ship's Flavours package included a tour of "Grindstone Island" and three of the other islands linked together by Route 199.

Martine Viens in Les Saveurs de l'Art chocolate shop
Martine Viens in Les Saveurs de l'Art chocolate shop
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Chocolate gifts

We began our tour in Cap-aux-Meules, the port town that bears the same name as the island. At Les Saveurs de l'Art (address: 97 Chemin Principal), Martine Viens creates homemade chocolates, truffles, nougats and caramels.

Made from French and Belgium chocolate, her imaginative flavor combinations include honey-lavender, butter apple cider and chocolate-covered L'Ariel raspberry liquor cream fillings.

After watching a video on how to make homemade chocolate and tasting free samples, we couldn't resist buying not only some filled chocolates, but also chocolate fish and crab-shaped chocolate lollipops.

Artist Francois Forest with fusion glass plate in Boutique d'Art Tendance
Artist François Forest with fusion glass plate in Boutique d'Art Tendance
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Decorative stained glass

Another good place for buying gifts and souvenirs in Cap-aux-Meules is Boutique d'Art Tendance (address: 715 Chemin Principal).

Artist François Forest showed us his beautiful fusion glass plates, sand art sculptures and works of art made from driftwood, mussel shells, local alabaster and sandblasted beer and champagne bottles.

Cap-aux-Meules has several good restaurants, including Les Pas Perdus, Bar La Cuesta and the best restaurant in the Magdalen Islands, La Table des Roy. Its menu features the foods and drinks of Les Iles de la Madeleine.

Microbrewery beers

A l'abri de la Tempete (address: 286 Chemin Coulombe, L'Etang-du-Nord) brews eight unique Magdalen Islands beers. On a tour of the microbrewery, we saw the stainless steel tanks used to ferment the beers.

Tour of the fermentation room in A l'abri de la Tempete Microbrasserie on the Magdalen Islands
Tour of the fermentation room in A l'abri de la Tempete Microbrasserie on the Magdalen Islands
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Jean-Sebastian Bernier and Anne-Marie Lachance opened the microbrewery in 2004 in an old fish factory. Using containers of malt that have absorbed the smoky aromas from the fish smokehouse, Le Fumoir d'Antan, they brew Corps Mort, a barley wine. (The name means dead body and refers to the herring strung from wooden sticks in the smokehouse rafters.)

Magdalen Islands flowers and herbs are used to flavor other beers, like Belle Saison and Terre Ferme.

Sampling Vieux Couvent wheat beer
Sampling Vieux Couvent wheat beer
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

After viewing the bottling line, we entered the pub where Mary Christine Picard offered us samples. Our favorite was Vieux Couvent, a herbal wheat beer served at the Domaine du Vieux Couvent restaurant.

A blackboard menu offered not only A l'abri de la Tempete beers, but also plates of Iles de la Madeleine cheeses and smoked fish from Le Fumoir d'Antan to go with them. Like all of the Magdalen Islands foods and drinks that we discovered here, these bieres des isles are only available in Quebec.

Herbal oils

Cap-aux-Meules herbs are also used by herbalists at L'Anse aux Herbes (address: 187 Chemin Belle-Anse, Fatima) on the north coast. Nouane Giguere and Alain Lapierre grow savory, thyme, oregano, parsley and other herbs in aromatic gardens overlooking the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Nouane Giguere and Alain Lapierre at L'Anse aux Herbes in Fatima
Nouane Giguere and Alain Lapierre at L'Anse aux Herbes in Fatima
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

The couple combines the dried herbs to make seasoning blends like Mer & Terre (Surf & Turf) to flavor meat, vegetables and seafood. They also make basil mustard and aromatic oils, including tomato, sea parsley and an exquisite lobster oil to flavor sauces, soups and pizza.

Bottle labels depict beautiful Iles de la Madeleine seascapes and red sandstone cliffs, eroded by wind and waves into pillars, caves and tunnels.

Fresh lobster

Nouane and Alain don't have to go far to find fresh lobster to make their lobster-flavored oil. Down the Cap-aux-Meules coast, in L'Etang-du-Nord fishing harbor, we watched fishermen unload lobsters from their boats. After weighing the lobsters, they loaded them into Homards des Iles trucks for shipment.

Fishermen sort lobsters.
Fishermen sort lobsters.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

A massive sculpture of fishermen hauling in a boat is the centerpiece of the nearby Site de la Cote public park. Les Pecheurs was sculpted by Roger Langevin in 1990 to pay tribute to fishermen lost at sea.

The Gulf of St. Lawrence, around Les Iles de la Madeleine, can be treacherous. Depending on the person you talk to, there are between 500 and 1,000 shipwrecks in the sea around the Magdalen Islands.

The Church of Saint-Pierre de La Verniere (address: 1318 Chemin de La Verniere, L'Etang-du-Nord) was originally built from wood salvaged from shipwrecks. First built in 1876, the church is the second largest wooden church in North America and an historical monument.

Cap Herisse Lighthouse at Cap du Phare
Cap Herisse Lighthouse at Cap du Phare
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

At Cap du Phare, the red and white Cap Herisse lighthouse flashes lights to warn ships about shallow sandbars. Because it faces west, locals and visitors come here to enjoy pink, tangerine and coral red sunsets.

Hiking at Cap du Phare and La Belle Anse, along the west coast of Cap-aux-Meules, offers splendid views of rust-red sandstone cliffs, eroded into caverns, pillars and arches. Hikers need to stay away from the fragile, crumbling cliff edges.

Back in the town of Cap-aux-Meules, we climbed 188 steps to the lookout platform on top of Grindstone Hill to view CTMA Vacancier and the colorful fishing boats in the marina. As we departed on the return journey to Montreal, we once again photographed the hill that gave its name to Grindstone Island.


TRAVEL INFORMATION

CTMA Vacancier: www.cruisesctma.ca

Iles de la Madeleine Tourist Office: www.tourismeilesdelamadeleine.com

Le Quebec Maritime Tourist Office: www.quebecmaritime.ca

Tourism Quebec: www.bonjourquebec.com

More things to see & do in the Magdalen Islands/Iles de la Madeleine:

Best Lobster in Grande Entree

Culinary Tour of Havre-aux-Maisons