The province of Quebec is the world’s leading producer of maple syrup - with approximately 7,400 producers - and the region is dotted with numerous sugar shacks where you go and consume a huge meal doused with litres of maple syrup. I gather you can also learn about how the sweet stuff is produced, but the meal seems to be the big attraction from what I have seen. Many places offer added attractions such as horse drawn sleighs, pony rides, and petting zoos amongst many others.
Some shacks open all year round, but we thought it would be more fun to do it in season. So, on Saturday we decided to go and sample one before the season ends.
It wasn’t a very successful trip. I think we had just missed the peak of production which, now I look into it, appears to be around February/March to end of April time.
We turned up at a place which had been recommended to us about three-quarters of an hours drive from home and stepped in to the 'shack' to be greeted by a puzzled look from the staff. We explained we just wanted to look around and see how maple syrup was made and that we didn't want to eat. I am not sure this is at all possible - maybe the point of the sugar shack is that you do eat. And eat. This thought was confirmed when they said the meal started at 1pm; as though no one asks for just coffee as it’s all about the eating. We would have had to have waited around for two hours in order to eat, and seeing as how we didn't really want to gorge ourselves on a feat of syrup that day we decided to leave it.
Researching into sugar shacks, it seems most places offer an all you can eat menu which includes regional delights such as: Tourtiere (a meat pie originating in Quebec), Canadian pea soup, eggs cooked in maple syrup, maple smoked ham, baked beans in maple syrup, pancakes, and sugar pie. All rounded off with a sweet finale of taffy, made on fresh snow. There was no snow.
We will definitely put it in our diaries for something to do next year.
However, our plans for a relatively quiet ramble did not pan out – we were making our way down the ‘mountain’ when we met a couple of people sprinting. They did not appear to be joggers (of whom there were many), but more serious looking runners. We walked on, and met a few more runners. And then some more.
As we glanced down the track, our gaze was met with a sea of runners. There must have been hundreds of them! They just kept on coming, and we were forced off the path by this mass as it passed us for a good few minutes. Then they were gone, and the track was once more solely frequented by lone joggers and some dog walkers.
It turns out they were running as a tribute to the Boston Marathon bombings, and similar runs were taking place in Toronto and Quebec.
This route also has an added attraction on the last leg: via a very slight detour, it just happens to go past our favourite bagel shop!
Our order for two sesame and one chocolate was far overshadowed by the guy infront of us who bought 60 bagels!! It wasn’t even for business use; as we were queuing up outside the bakery, the guy's wife happened to tell him their freezer was empty, so he obviously thought he should fill it.
By the look of horror on her face as he came out of the bakery armed with carrier bags full of bagels I am not sure if that is what she meant…
Barbecue complete (and a few screws left over...), T was duly put in charge of cooking the sausages whilst I stayed in the warm indoors – with the excuse of having to keep an eye on the boiling potatoes and guarding my smoked salmon from Albitron, who was wound up after 'helping' T put the barbecue together...