Sunday 2 September 2012--Start the day with a drive along the eastern side of Île du Havre aux Maisons. The little lighthouse at Cap Alright
dates from 1928. A nearby hilltop gives a fine view over some of the colorfully-painted houses of the village of Dune-du-Sud and the beach of the same
name, curving away to the north. On the eastern horizon, fifty miles distant, the line of Cape Breton Island is clearly visible. I used
to drive bus tours to Cape Breton several times each summer, and can recall stopping at a viewpoint in the national park, from which the Magdalens could
be seen on a very clear day. Much more often than not, even on sunny days, I would be disappointed, as the horizon would be blurred with mist. On a
very few occasions, les Îles would appear, Brigadoon- like, floating in the pale distant blue. I would point them out to my passengers, telling
them it was a magical place, and vowing to return. Why did I wait so long?
I descend to the beach and stroll along the perforated red cliffs. Then I'm away north, crossing the lagoon and passing through Pointe-aux-Loups and along the Dune du Nord. Past Grosse-Île, the road hooks back southward, through Old Harry to its terminus at Grande-Entrée. Just short of that, I turn up a side road, park at the end, and walk out onto Île Boudreau. The trail leads out to the tip of the island. Unfortunately, erosion has made the last stretch of it inaccessible. It is nonetheless one of those marvelous end-of-the-earth spots.
Back in the village of Grande-Entrée, I have a crab sandwich at Bistro Plongée Alpha, nose around the harbor, and poke into the church. Then it's back up the road past Old Harry. I stroll a while on the Plage de la Grande Échouerie, part of a ten- or eleven-mile stretch that rings a large nature reserve at the northern tip of the archipelago. The spines of two marine mammals are washed up on the beach--the larger is surely some type of whale, and the other is perhaps a seal, or a smaller whale. A little farther up the road, I walk a short way out onto a nature trail through the dunes, but I'm running short of day, and so turn back, reluctantly. I need to spend a couple of days up this end of the Isles.
On the way back south, I stop to walk on the Plage de la Pointe aux Loups. The beach runs ten miles from Pointe-aux-Loups to Grosse-Île, and I seem to have the full length of it to myself. On the south side of Pointe-aux-Loups, the Plage de la Dune du Nord runs another ten miles to Fatima, on Île du Cap aux Meules. I think I could spend an entire summer just walking the beaches here.
I'm back at the guesthouse at 6:00. Shower and head into Cap-aux-Meules for dinner at Aux Pas Perdus. It's crowded, and I take a table out on the terrasse. I don't often have dessert, but there's a chocolate mousse, and I complement it with a Corps Mort, the local brewery's barleywine, named after a rocky islet said to resemble a dead body. It weighs in at 11%abv, which would make the drinker resemble a dead body, I suppose, after a few. It's a fitting cap to a very nice day.