Eastern Townships, Quebec, Canada.

Pike River

Pike River DSC02921Pike River DSC02922

Pike River 2014-04-09 07.15.10

Bedford, Quebec.

Bedford DSC02924

Bedford 2014-04-08 14.49.23

Philipsburg and Lake Champlain.

Philipsburg United Church 2014-04-08 16.40.46Philipsburg - Lake Champlain 2014-04-08 16.32.29 2014-04-08 16.30.00 Philipsburg Pier, Lake Champlain Philipsburg - Lake Champlain 2014-04-09 07.28.49Philipsburg - Lake Champlain 2014-04-09 07.28.24

These may look like insignificant country towns, but they are very significant to me. It didn’t matter that they were dull with winter and cold.
Coming here was something of a personal pilgrimage: I was happy just to be here and see these places for myself.

Philipsburg.

The village of Philipsburg was established in 1784 by Empire Loyalists who moved to Canada from New York after the USA won her independence from the British. 

Two earlier attempts by the French to settle the area had been unsuccessful. The region was named St Armand by the French in 1748.

The Iroquois had villages here in the northernmost part of their territory, and they lived a settled and peaceful way of life. Across the lake were the Algonquians and some Abenakis, living in the southernmost reaches of their lands. 

  
The village was named after Philip Ruiter, a pioneer in the area.

The Canadian authorities were not keen to see settlement here because they felt it was too close to the American border. It’s easy to see why the settlers chose this place, though. 

  
Located on the shore of Lake Champlain among woods on rolling hills and rich earth for farming, Philipsburg offered plenty of opportunities for farming, hunting, fishing, and enjoying a pretty view of the lake from one’s front porch. 

  

Today, Philipsburg is still a pretty lakeshore village with those same opportunities, within easy reach of the Eastern Townships and the cities of St-Jean-sur-Richelieu and Montreal, as well as convenient access to the US state of Vermont via the border crossing at the Highgate Centre. 

I’ve had the privilege of calling Philipsburg home for only a short time, but I will always love this place. My mornings spent by the lake have been precious times of reflection and serenity, and part of my heart will always remain here. 

Abbey of St-Benoît-du-Lac. 

The abbey of St-Benoît-du-Lac is nestled among the rolling hills of southern Quebec near the town of Magog.

  

The abbey was founded in 1912 by Dom Joseph Pothier, a Benedictine abbott who came to Quebec from the Abbey of St Wandrille at Frontenelle in France. 

The architect of the abbey was Father Paul Bellot, who oversaw the building of the Abbey between 1939-1941. 

  
The impressive looking building is home to about 50 monks who live according to the rules of St Benedict. The decorative brickwork and mosaic tile floors of the foyer and hallways contrast with the peaceful serenity of the church and the smaller private chapel.  

  

  
 
The church also boasts a magnificent pipe organ, situated between the congregation and the choir.  
 

Just outside the church is a stone from the ancient abbey of St Wandrille, in France, which dates back to the 14th century.  The stone has been carved into a maple leaf, symbolising the continuing heritage and bond between the two abbeys. 

This is a beautiful place to visit.  It was disappointing that some of the tourists who were visiting at the same time as me did not show respect for the quietness requested by the monks, nor for the reflection and prayer that was obviously being sought by other visitors. 

Quebec’s Eastern Townships.

South-east of Montreal in Quebec, there is a collection of small villages and towns known as the Eastern Townships. is at its most beautiful in the Autumn. Rolling hills are covered in colours that draw on every shade from green to deepest red in nature’s palette. Streams gurgle over rocks and along roadsides, pouring into larger rivers it into lakes nestled between the hills, surrounded by forests with houses dotted among the trees. Even grey clouds and occasional misty rain can’t dampen the ‘pretty party’ that the earth is throwing around here.  

  

  
 
One such lake is Lac Memphremagog, which stretches for miles south of the town of Magog. 
   
  

     

Another lake which deserves a mention is Lac Trousers. 

Yes. Lac Trousers. 

I saw this sign and thought, “What on earth??”

  

 
  A quick consultation with Google Maps answered the question. 

  

Given that the province of Quebec also boasts towns named Chapeau (hat), Drapeau (flag), Mayo, Asbestos and St Louis de Ha! Ha!, I guess it’s not so surprising. 

The Eastern Townships are just gorgeous, especially in Autumn. It’s a parade of prettiness, everywhere you look. 

   
   

Lac Champlain.

Lake Champlain is a long lake which has shores in Quebec, Canada, and Vermont and New York, USA.

It’s big, and it’s beautiful.

In the morning sun in Philipsburg, Quebec, the glassy water reflects the image so the trees and sky like a mirror. I could sit here and look at this for hours. 

   
  

  
  

Later in the day, I saw that it’s just as pretty in St Albans, Vermont.   

   
 

Quebec #4

Philipsburg, St Armand… Finally.
I have wanted for so long to be here.
It’s a small, quite old-fashioned village. It’s late afternoon on a cold day, so there is nobody about. The crisp air bites at my face as I stand at the shore of Lake Champlain. My mind sees the images of the lake in different seasons that I have looked at so often, taken from this same vantage point.
Today my photographs are of the frozen lake, still deep in its hibernation over winter. I now have a complete set.
The Canadian Legion branch 82 is closed today, but I know what it is like inside anyway.
The church nearby is also closed, but in my mind I see a happy couple and a proud father on the steps, smiling for photographs and enjoying their special day.
I know a number of the locals, although they do not know me.

I take photographs for the memories, but I know I will return. Part of my heart remains here. I’m never really far away.

Quebec #3

It’s common knowledge that the French language is far more prominent here in Quebec than anywhere else in Canada.
I’m glad for the few polite phrases of French that I knew before I got here, and people are very encouraging when I use them. Even so, they recognise my limitations and the people of the Eastern Townships are quite happy to switch to English in order to continue conversation.
I wonder if they recognise how much I love this place, even though it’s my first physical visit. I wonder if they sense my connection.
Whether they do or not, I am feeling it very strongly. Is it odd to feel that this place is my home in some way, or that I belong here because a piece of my heart lives here? In my mind, seeing these places and walking these streets is the most natural thing in the world.
I’m going to work on improving my French so that I can do better when I return.

Quebec #2

Canton de Bedford.
I’m walking down the Rue Principale.
It’s a pretty town, in some ways quite rustic. Charming.
The lady in Boutique Micheline is very friendly, and we chat about the scarf I have chosen to buy.
I wander back down the street, past Cafe Rouge to Metro where I buy things for dinner. I think we got the one slightly grumpy cashier in the place. Everyone else is delightful.
I like Bedford and would quite happily come back.