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Abitibi-Ouest: Charm Offensive

I love to wander through Abitibi-Ouest and let myself get carried away by its beauty. There’s something poetic about the place. There’s a reason so many artists have found inspiration and settled here. People like Roger Pellerin, Jacques Baril and his wife Liliane Gagnon...

There are picturesque villages like Clerval, Gallichan, Macamic, Rapide-Danseur and stunning lakes like lac Duparquet, dotted with hundreds of mysterious island (including île Mouk-Mouk – yes, for real!), or Lac Abitibi, with its legendary Algonquins. Then there are the covered bridges, idyllic rural roads and seemingly endless horizons. Here, tranquillity reigns. And there’s the Café Elkoza, where time stops and contemplation begins. In truth, I lead a crazy life, and Abitibi-Ouest calms heart and soul.

Photo: Hugo Lacroix
La Sarre - Photo: Hugo Lacroix

For example, my ride along the Cyclo-Voie du partage des Eaux bike path last year did me a world of good. The countryside paraded lazily by with each stroke of the pedals. We crossed the parc national d’Aiguebelle. We watched a turtle amble across the path.

My earliest memories of Abitibi-Ouest date back to primary school. We went to the École du Rang II for some kind of school outing. It seemed pretty weird to me to leave school to go to a school. But what a delight it was to experience a typical 1940s school day with “Mademoiselle”! I returned as an adult, and found the same pleasure. The parish priest and school inspector didn’t let a thing slip past. I suffered a number of ruler whacks. Ouch!

Whenever I go through La Sarre, the regional county seat, of course I have to stop at the Fromagerie La Vache à Maillotte for a dose of fresher-than-fresh cheese curds.

Along the way, the gang from the organization Les Voisins inevitably springs to mind. I remember the mad races they organize, fleeing zombies or running with elves, or in Speedos... I love their daring and that they don’t take themselves too seriously. I also think of the Festival des langues sales, a celebration of French-language performing arts that I’ve promised myself to attend in the coming weeks. Their “Concours de bitchage de village”, a friendly village-rivalry roast has been on my bucket list for years. And speaking of La Sarre, I can hardly wait to see this summer’s musical comedy by La Troupe À Cœur ouvert! Producers of the play Le Paradis du Nord, they really know how to put on a show!

But then, every day is a show in Abitibi-Ouest. Pastel sunsets softly give way to night, and far from urban light pollution, the sky glitters with starry views and, if you’re lucky, maybe the Northern Lights. Photographers always come away with the most amazing shots. Small wonder there’s talk of building an observatory in the region. I really do hope the project happens in parc national d’Aiguebelle.