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Walter grew up in the Bay of Chaleurs town of New Richmond and has been long fascinated by the history, stories and legends of his native Gaspe Peninsula. Walter attended Sir John Abbott College in Montreal, and Bishop’s University in Lennoxville, Quebec, and now resides in Ottawa.


A nonfiction travelogue-style guide book to the history, legends, and tourist attractions of the Gaspe. Following a loose narrative recounting a three-week family vacation road trip in the summer of 2021, author and native Gaspesian Walter Charles Willett and his family, embark on a quest to discover his own Gaspe roots. His journey uncovers the authentic story of Gaspe, its folklore, myths and modern tourism attractions. The story begins with a question the author poses; Does the romantic Gaspe described in his ancestor's book, Olive Willett Smith’s 1936 classic travelogue “Gaspe the Romantique”, still exist?

Olive toured the Gaspe with her family during the summer of 1934, and two years later published her famous travel guide that captured her experiences, along with recounting for the reader, the history, legends, and myths of the Gaspe and its storied past. The ‘romantic’ Gaspe she experienced that summer is an echo from the past reminding us of a Gaspe of a different age. The tales of the cod fishery that dominated the Gaspe economy were viewed and recounted from her direct and personal encounters and experiences, an industry still operating among the many outports reliant on its profitability. The long-isolated Gaspe that was in many respects its own jurisdiction, apart from the corridors of power in Ottawa and Quebec City, was part of the fabric of Olive’s journey. The people relied on their ingenuity for survival, where neighbours from vastly different worlds collided in this place of natural wonder and beauty, not really knowing one another, let alone the vastness of other goings on across North America. In these formative years, the “opening up” of Gaspe created new roadways and rail lines that had finally broken the splendid isolation of Gaspe. It was a land unique and different from the rest of Quebec, closer in fabric to the Maritimes or Europe. It was the Gaspe of legends and romance, with unique connections to the Mi’gmaq people, France, England, Scotland, Ireland, the Channel Islands, to America before it became the United States, to our collective past, more diverse and unique than any other jurisdiction in the chunk of soil we now call Canada.

Eighty-five years after her “love letter” to the Gaspe was published, Walter Willett and family hit the road on a quest to retrace and reimagine Olive's journey. Following her route from 1934 as closely as possible. The book captures a journey of discovery, to unravel the changes that eight decades have made to the Gaspe road trip experience and the many ways the remarkable ‘tour de la Gaspesie’ is the same. For anyone planning the famous road trip, considering it again, or seeking Gaspe’s authentic history and story, the author shares the modern Gaspe road trip experience while exploring the legends, myths, and history of Gaspe’s colourful past. Empowering today’s tourists with a travel guide that connects between past and present to reveal the essential Gaspe road trip spirit.

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