After a nice four and a half hour drive up from Saint Andrews, NB, though lush rural New Brunswick, I arrived in the village of Notre-Dame-du-Portage, QC, situated right on the east bank of the St. Lawrence not far from the small city of Rivière-du-Loup. Traveling along the river down a small, quiet and shady road abutted on either side and here and there by homes, B&Bs, old churches, and small inns of charming French character, I came to the Chute Couette & Café B&B, which my previous Airbnb host in Saint Andrews had helped me find. Stepping out of my rental car, the first thing that struck me was the peacefulness of the setting and the sweetness of the air. I took a deep, refreshing breath and immediately felt myself down-shift and slip into a much more relaxed and slow-paced mode. My whole approach to my way-too-ambitious drive-till-you-drop and see as much as you can road trip changed, and I decided to let myself sink in and enjoy.
I was greeted at the door by Francine's husband, Colbert, who greeted me in French and English. I had been looking forward to an opportunity to use my long-dormant knowledge of the French language and, though it came back awkwardly at first, Colbert's warm manner and willingness to tolerate my gaffs encouraged me to relax and keep trying. Amazingly, little bits of phrases I hadn't recalled in years started bubbling up from the depths and over the rest of my stay I became quite comfortable letting it out with gentle corrections from both Colbert and Francine.
I love to experience other peoples and cultures, to learn to share their language, and for a time, however short, to be in and experience their daily life. In this regard especially, my stay with Francine and Colbert was quite rich and enjoyable. Francine and Colbert were completely welcoming and a pleasure to be with.
On first arrival, they showed me my upstairs room--small and homey with a leafy view of the St. Lawrence (or St. Laurent in French) just a short way though the neighbor's yard across the road. After I freshened up a bit, they showed me their public areas which included a sitting room, a large table in the connected kitchen where breakfast would be served, and a small outdoors balcony with a river view where one could sit and relax, or take coffee in the morning. From the balcony, Francine pointed out that the Chute Couette was situated right next to a waterfall on a tiny stream that flowed under the road and down to the river, and that, on the street level, there was a lovely private patio next to the stream that was accessible to guests.
Having arrived around dinner time, Francine and Colbert suggested a nearby restaurant, Auberge au Mer, that could be reached by walking along the gravelly river shore. There, I had a wonderful meal followed by a restorative rest back at the inn. Voila!