The things we did in Theford Mines~
It’s been three years since my original trip to Quebec and 1.5 since my partner saw his parents. So we figured it was as good of a time as any to visit the land of the French Canadians. This is a visit so different than what I am use to that I continue to absorb the culture and learn with everything that I do here. Although most of this is due to the large differences between city and country living and the pace in which they both operate in. Here I tend to stick out like a sore thumb; between my ornate clothes, to my ethnicity, and lack of French language. This isn’t so much in Montreal, but all the more the further into Quebec farm land that we travelled. The following is an account of all that we saw in and around Thetford Mines, and what I noted as interesting or unique, compared to my life in urban Vancouver.
This recap will be split into two parts: “Things we ate”, and “Things we did”. This is the latter.
We were fortunate enough to get our hands on the new 2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross for the week. It was the ideal sports utility vehicle for our adventuring. It was rugged enough to take on those unpaved paths, yet dressy enough for a cruise around downtown. And best of all it has a great fuel economy, so our money went further as we drove and drove. Although it also helped that gas is 131.9 in Thetford.
The landscape of rural Quebec is flat, the mountains I take for granted in Vancouver, are not visible here. At most the land is given some height from the quarries and the sand dug up from mines long ago. These holes in the ground were carved up to harvest asbestos, well before we found out how long exposure to the stuff was harmful to the miners and the surrounding homeowners. The result is mounds of this black sand piled high to resemble peaks. But unfortunately it is so slippery and potentially hazardous that this sand cannot be redistributed or repurpose to ski slopes or hiking plateaus. Instead here they stand, untouched and perfect for our photo op, above.
A few of the afore mentioned mines (holes in the ground) have since been filled with water which allow for diving, given how deep they go. Although with its black waters, they are often used as a junk pits, and not so much a scenic dive. You can tell these were man made features given the rings around them created by precision digging, from wide to narrow as they descend.
Instead, farm land take up most of the green acres, along side sprawling wooded forests. This untapped greenery is available for hunting in during the fall season. Here is where we would take our time exploring. Playing in the great outdoors, doing much of that which we don’t or can’t do as easily, living in urban Lower Mainland, Vancouver.
Hiking isn’t really all that engaging here. There isn’t much of a view, nor is there really a climb to ascend too. Instead the rugged wilderness is best explored on four wheels. We procured a couple of ATVs and were bound for the forest. They are powerful enough to go up hills and over tree trunks, but you still need to steer yourself down the right path to avoid any necessary tipping.
Here you can ride to the base of one of the town’s 57 windmills. These propellers are the newest thing to add interest to Thetford’s landscape. They harness energy from the wind, which gets processed and stored, before being sold to the US. They offer you that same small feeling when looking up at one, as you would get from BC’s Rockies.
My partner’s father is a hobby hunter, he knew of a couple of places where the forest was dense, but assessable. He took us on a tour of his look outs and quite cabins, where he sits in wait for his prey.
Prey in the form of elk, moose, and deer that he lays year long traps for. He sets up feeding stations of salt blocks, and he digs up water holes to have them congregating within range of his scope and gun, should the season and his permit allow. During non-hunting times, like the summer of our visit, he has surveillance equipment up and running. This allows him to see if his “traps” are working. Motion sensor photos capture the above mentioned hoofed animals. Photos of brown moose licking his blocks and indents of their hoofs in the soften ground that surrounds them.
We would try our hand at the cross bow he can and has hunted with. But instead, our goal was to scoot at a burlap sack stuffed with rags, a makeshift target he uses for shooting practice. The scope and neon orange bullseyes make this an fairly easy feat.
The abundance of water ways and lakes I also take for granted in Vancouver are far and few in between in Thetford, despite Quebec being referred to the “land of lakes”. My partner’s aunt has a cabin on one of the only lakes. A nice place to sit and relax at, but it just isn’t the same when not surrounded by dominating mountains surrounding you.
But if you like farm animals, there is an abundance to drive by and moo at. Cows and horses grazing in the fields, even a llama or two in an enclosure. We visited a dairy farm and got a look at the bovine under chains and visited a fowl sanctuary with rare and fancy ducks, plus black and white swans.
As for the town itself, Thetford Mines doesn’t offer much in terms of tourists attractions or really any art to brighten up the neighbourhoods. Instead you look out into the wilderness, as we did above.
However the following are a few sights worth noting. The first is Thetford’s oldest mill: King’s Mill. It has long since stopped operating, and has recently been renovated into the city’s lone tourist attraction, much to the town’s folks dismay. The city choose to pour monetary resources and labour into the project, which includes refurbishing its rusted facade and paving roads to get to it. This was done instead of repaving the rough main roads that have long lasted the harsh Quebec winters; or filling the potholes created from the filling of water and the expanding of ice within them. All this and not many more people have visited the attraction. We did to take this photo, but even in the middle of the day the mill and attached centre wasn’t open to visitor. We left without getting the full experience: the history of the mill and the town that grew around it.
Next are the churches. There are a handful of them in each town, many of these buildings are hundred of years ago. Erected by those that immigrated to Quebec with their religions. Tall steeples, towering crosses, and ornately carved doors keeping the Christian and Catholic religion alive en mass. A couple of these churches were so old that a new one were built next to the original, and the former stood firm as a memoriam. One such town has a couple, resulting in their church count to hit 11.
Thetford did have a view point, however it just doesn’t have the same gusto without the elevation needed for a successful outlook, or the bustling city below to gander at. You pretty much look right across the land as it runs parallel to the sky’s blue and streaky clouds.
For a longer cruise and more to see, we drove to the neighbouring town of “D’Israeli”, established in 1867, with a population of around 2,500 according to records from 2009.
In D’Israeli, we stopped at the Marina and the “Marina pub” by the water. This is Aylmer lake, it connects many of the cities by water.
At the pub they offer fun cocktails with tiny colourful umbrellas, but given the heat and the area, went for the “Lake Lager”, a hoppy and refreshing beer when enjoyed on the upper deck of their two storey building. Calming waters with boats docked and county twang playing. This is only the second summer this new patio has seen.
We also stopped at one of the town’s popular cafeterias offering fast food like hot dogs and poutine, along with drinks and ice cream. One of “Le Mont Blanc’s” most popular offerings is the their soft served ice creams. We grabbed their largest cones to share, choosing the “twist” option. What I assumed was a mix of chocolate and vanilla swirled together, was actually vanilla and maple syrup soft serve. I never had maple soft serve before, but leave it to Quebec to highlight their favourite flavour like this. Worth noting is how the actual cone has little maple leaf prints encircling it.
Seeing a poster advertise “bubble tea”, I had to order it for curiosity sake. I was surprised that the idea of it got all the way out here. Naturally, I had to order the most “exotic” flavour, which wa the “mango”, made with peach juice and black tea. The “pearls” are actually popping juice balls. I asked for the “black ones”, thinking they would be the regular tapioca balls, however they are actually just blueberry juice balls. Don’t know what I was expecting given Frenchy’s dislike of bbt and having to chew his drink. The clerk admitted that it isn’t ordered often, and this was in fact her first time having to make it. No regrets, but no repeats.
For more of what I ate and the food scene in Thetford Mines, check out part two to my Thetford trip: