QUEBEC and CHARLEVOIX, Canada: Charlevoix, Canada, where the G-7 summit is being held is, without a doubt, a gem for travelers, environmentalists, and adventurers. The G-7 summit is being held at the Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu (1899), about ninety minutes north of the Capital City of Quebec.
The Le Manoir Richelieu is an architectural doppelganger to the Fairmont property, the Château Frontenac, a National Historic Site of Canada, located in Old Town Quebec. The Chateau Frontenac is replete with old world charm, architecture, and art and furnishings dating back to 1893 when American architect Bruce Price began designing a series of “chateau” style hotels for the Canadian Pacific Railway Company (CPR). Hotels designed for the CPR include the Banff Springs Hotel, opening in 1888, among many others.
Old Quebec’s rich history
Getting to Charlevoix, if you don’t have your own helicopter, means an opportunity to fly into and visit Old Quebec. Old Quebec is rich in historical buildings dating back to 1608 when Samuel de Champlain founded the city where the mighty St. Lawrence and the St. Charles rivers converge.
The location made the city easier to defend from the rivers and land as the St. Lawrence that runs alongside the Old Town naturally narrows so that ships were unable to converge en-masse to attack the fortified city. Today it remains one of the only fortified cities to exist in North America.
Many visitors associate Canada’s national food, Poutine with its history. However, this dish of fried potatoes laden with gravy and “squeaky” white cheese curds only dates back to mid-1970s. However, when in Canada, do as the Canadians do. After having tried many version’s of this national treat, my personal favorite was found at the Le Chic-Shack, conveniently located across the square from the Château Frontenac.
What makes them the best – roasted red potatoes with rosemary are covered with flavorful and tender brisket and cheese curds and their gravy – which starts with a base of chicken, beef, and pork stock, seasonings all triple strained to silky goodness.
Lower Town, Upper Town, and Old Quebec.
Old Town Quebec begins with the Lower Town, Petite-Champlain, considered to be the Most Beautiful Street in Quebec. Summer, Spring, Winter and Fall, Petit-Champlain is a historic area full of ages old architecture and modern day art and shopping.
A must-stop (for many) is the La Fudgerie located at 16 rue du Cul-de-Sac. This little shop offers a variety of fudge including flavors like Wasabi Fudge. More standard varieties include fudge shaped like sausage and sliced caramel and almond fudge brittle.
A Funicular takes riders from Lower Town to Upper Town where The Château Frontenac, looking much like a castle out of Harry Potter’s realm and where the Korean soap opera Guardian: The Lonely and Great God[ -Goblin was, in part, filmed. The Chateau Frontenac is the most photographed hotel in the world, due to its position on the skyline. That red door is actually the emergency exit for the Théâtre Petit Champlain in Old Quebec’s Lower Town.
Inside the walls is the Citadel, built by the British in the early-mid 1800s. Today it is an active garrison, home to the Royal 22nd Regiment of the Canada Forces. It is also open to tourism and you can take a tour of the Citadel, as well the history museum.
Quebec City is the area’s third attraction. Shops, eateries, street vendors, cafe side-walks and fabulous churches abound inside the fortified wall.
The Notre-Dame De Quebec Basilica-Cathedral and the Holy Door
Shrines, Basilicas, and Churches in Canada are as remarkable as those found in Europe. The Notre-Dame De Quebec Basilica-Cathedral is no exception. The church is a Historical Monument of Quebec and is on the UNESCO World Heritage list. It is the first cathedral built north of Mexico and is referred to as the first ancestor of all the Catholic parishes to follow in both Canada and United States.
Viewing the door up-close, regardless of your religious history, is awe inspiring. The door’s exterior opener is Christ’s outstretched hand. The interior of the brass door features the Dove of Peace emanating down to the Virgin Mary. Other images on the door are of women, children, and family.
The Notre-Dame de Québec’ is important to the goal of keeping French alive in North America. The shrine has been a part of the cultural changes shaping religious society over the centuries. Notre-Dame de Québec’ is often said to be the “Rome” of the New World.
The Cathedral of the Holy Trinity Quebec
The Diocese of Quebec was founded in 1793 and by 1804 The Cathedral of the Holy Trinity opened its doors. The Cathedral was designated a National Historic Site of Canada and it is protected under provincial heritage legislation.
The Church’s Palladian style architecture is modeled after the St. Marin-in-the-Fields Church in Trafalgar Square, London. King George III paid for the church’s construction. The bell-towers eight bells are the oldest change-ringing peal in Canada.
Quebec’s history-rich hotel Auberge Saint-Antoine
A boutique hotel located in Old Quebec’s lower-town, the Auberge Saint-Antoine is impressive in its design, individualized rooms, and farm to fork dining at Chez Muffy.
Auberge Saint-Antoine, located along Québec City’s Old Port, and facing the St. Lawrence River features more than 300 years of Quebec history. Over its history, the property has been a wharf building, then a cannon battery, and then later in use by British merchants. The hotel is the result of combing three different buildings.
As the three buildings, one of which served as a bank and rooms still feature the vaults, fireplace mantels, architectural oddities and other items from the original structure. The construction of a below building parking lot became an archaeological dig that revealed new artifacts, some dating back to 1600.
Those artifacts, bits of pottery, household items, original exposed brick walls and century-old exposed wood all add to hotels unique charm where, around every corner, there is something new to talk about.
With over 300 years of history to its name, the Price family is dedicated to preserving Auberge Saint-Antoine’s history while providing a modern and luxurious 21st Century hotel experience.
During the construction of Auberge Saint-Antoine, a final large-scale archaeological dig was held that led to the discovery of several new artifacts, some of which date back to the 1600s. The objects discovered shed new light on a part of Québec City’s history. These precious items were documented and restored by the conservation center and are now on display throughout the hotel. You can find these artifacts featured in the common areas and guest rooms as a tribute to more than three centuries of Québec history.
The property also includes impressive business meeting spaces and projection theater room.
On to the G-7 Summit in Charlevoix
Heading north to Charlevoix travels along the path of three destinations worth stopping at. The first is the Parc de la Chute-Montmorency or the Montmorency Falls. This massive flow of water is 30 meters higher than Niagara Falls, though not as wide.
The original Manoir Montmorency was built at the turn of the 19th century but destroyed by fire. It was rebuilt in 1994 and is open for tours, event and business rentals. The falls are a family destination with the young and not so young playing in the mist. A cable car takes visitors up the cliff, where they can cross a suspended bridge across the top of the falls. You can also drive up to to the top.
Ile D’Orleans lies in the middle of the St. Lawrence River. A quick fifteen-minutes from Quebec, turn right over the car bridge at the Montmorency Falls to find this designated historical area.
The island highlights ages old agritourism, remarkable landscapes and a heritage that includes more than 600 historic buildings recognized for their heritage value. Visitors will find plenty of fresh, island local food and produce as well as restaurants serving them. Though not tried, the lobster poutine at l’O2 L’Ile is highly recommended.
Also on the island is the oldest rural church in New France, Église Saint-Pierre (Saint-Pierre-de-L’Île-d’Orléans) built between 1716-18. Check their website for dates and times when the church is open for touring.
The Basilica of Sainte Anne de Beaupré
We might hope that our world leaders would find their way to the Basilica of Sainted Anne de Beaupré. The Basilica is recognized by the Catholic Church with many miracles of curing the sick and disabled.
The church receives more than half-a-million religious pilgrims every year.
Hopefully, the spirit of St. Anne de Beaupré is reaching the G-7 participants.
There are places where life is as it should be. A provincial life that while short on the excitement of a big city, is filled with plenty of actives, laughter and for all that is old, plenty of things that are new,
Charlevoix is home to Baie St Paul and the L’Isle-aux-Coudres. Baie St Paul is a place of exciting new foods based on heritage farming and husbandry. The area is known for its unique artisans, galleries, shops, and restaurants featuring the regional foods – from emu to tomato wine.
Interesting to note is that Bail St Paul is where the popular Cirque du Soleil began. It is also the location of the first show using the name Cirque du Soleil during “La Fete Foraine de Baie-Saint-Paul” in 1984.
It is also the Regional County Municipality seat for the region.
Tomato wine, emue, ducks and goat cheese
Lā Ferme Bāsque de Chārelvoix is a place to see Muscovy Ducks running in the sun, or enjoying the rain, much as they have for time eternal. From their bounty, Miura Isabelle and Jean-Jacques Etcheberrigara create a variety of products whose flavors all benefit from the sun, wind, and rain of this mountainous region where even in May we can see evidence of winter past in snowy trails and mounds still left, slowly melting. Practicing terror farming, from May to November, ducks are raised outdoors, on grassy courses where they enjoy growing outside, with green grass, warming sun and healthful fresh air.
Respecting the specifications of the Certification of Origin “Terroir Charlevoix”, their food is produced locally and contains a minimum of 50% of grain from the region of Charlevoix, oats, wheat, and barley ( Lā Ferme Bāsque de Chārelvoix)
A favorite preparation is the duck wing and neck meat, filled with flavor and duck fat, that is simply prepared and perfect as a snack on fresh soft bread or an appetizer served on toast points. On her shelves find pates and preparations that speak to the years of heritage farming they use.
La Maison d’Affinage Maurice Dufour
La Maison d’Affinage Maurice Dufour is often called the best cheese of Charlevoix. The winner of multiple regional and national awards for their fresh goat cheeses. Peering down into the cheese room, wheels are setting, aging to perfection. Though health codes no longer allow cheese to age in underground caverns, as you drive in, don’t miss the double wooden doors that once protected and enhanced the aging.
The goats are often found in the fields, but being cold and overcast, the majority are relaxing in the barn, creating a cacophony of noise as feeding time nears.
Located in Baie-Saint-Paul, the Maurice Dufour Ripening House is the Migneron family-owned company involved in the production of artisan fine cheeses. Joe Migneron is building a distillery from which he plans to distill vodkas, and possibly other spirits, from the serum by-product of the goat’s milk used in cheese production.
Another great food coming from the region is Emu, a prehistoric bird whose meat is filled with vitamins and minerals, including potassium. Milder than duck but much more flavorful than chicken, it is one of those meats a true foodie must try.
A number of products including food, creams, soaps, painted eggs and more are created from the emu and they are available at Emeu Charlevoix.
Wine from Tomatoes
Pascal Miche’s grandparents created the recipe for Tomato Wine. Miche perfected it.
Omerto Tomato Wines made from fermented tomatoes that have a slightly acidic and sweet taste are grown by Miche on his property. And while the taste of the tomato is more of a suggestion than a note, it does create a lovely white wine perfect with vegetable and pasta dishes.
Hôtel Le Auberge Grand Masion in Baie St Paul
A small town, Baie St Paul is filled with a city of artist shops, regional wares, cooking and food emporiums. Walk down the streets, wander in and find treasures unique to the area. Throughout the area, in the local Bed and Breakfast, Hôtel Le Auberge Grand Masion where friendliness and much more than a continental breakfast is available.
A fabulous spa provides a deep and enjoyable massage that you can follow with a soak in the properties unique hot spa. Visit the site to view 360 images of the rooms, each different and creatively decorated. A unique property for sure.
From Grand Maison, it is easy to walk through St Bail Paul you will find the creations of artist inspired by the seasons, the mountains and the land.
Hôtel & Spa Le Germain: Contemporary and chic in Charlevoix
One of the most creative and enjoyable hotels in the world, the Hôtel & Spa Le Germain Charlevoix. The property was once a dairy farm that was purchased to re-purpose as a hotel. A 1997 fire destroyed the original wooden buildings. In rebuilding the property, the architects and designers from Lemaymichaud, incorporated barn-inspired wood features, including plenty of exposed wood, exposed lights, textiles, floor to ceiling windows and balconies.
The result is a very contemporary and chic environment that features incredible bathrooms with deep soaking tubs that often look out over the Scottish Highland cows, sheep, and vegetable and herb fields.
Take a moment and peruse their gallery and the five different rooms styles they feature. Then put it on your list for a future visit.
In planning your visit, note that a train does pull into the station on the hotel property, bringing guests from Quebec City to Charlevoix during warmer months. Call ahead to ensure the train’s schedule
Before you head out of Bai St Paul to the car ferry to the L’Isle-aux-Coudres, highly suggested is to grab a box lunch from Al Dente , known for their pasta salads and gourmet sandwiches, box lunch becomes a culinary treat.
Access to the island is an easy, and free, ferry ride for you and your car. Once on the Island, head to Vélo-Coudres Rental Center and choose a multi-rider (two-six) pedi-bike, a bicycle built for two, some specially designed for a parent and small child, a battery bike or a hybrid bike whose propulsion is thanks to a silicon-based band, versus a chain.
This brilliance in the hybrid bike design is that it effectively reduces friction, making biking a pleasure regardless of age or skill. The Island’s road runs around the shore and cuts across allowing for a full island bike tour, a shorter trip. With perfect weather, it is an easy way to enjoy the day and the beauty of the L’Isle-aux-Coudres.
When in France, find a bakery and a cidrerie
The St. Lawrence Seaway surrounds the small island and on this visit a warming sun and blowing breeze create the perfect atmosphere for lunch just outside the Boulangerie Bouchard bakery, owned by Rosaire Bouchard whose joy in creation is present on her ever smiling face.
Rosaire’s specialty includes sweet pies and what the locals irreverently call a Nun’s Farts which are a cousin to the more common Bears Paw, all crisp, flaky pastry, and sweetness.
With box lunches from Al Dente, crisp bread, rich coffee and sweets from the bakery park your bike near the picnic tables looking over the low tide shoal beach with the mountains, still topped with snow, across the seaway, it was easy to while away the time sharing a bottle of apple cider made on the island by Cidrerie et Vergers Pedneault.
The Pedneult Orchards feature 26 different apple varieties along with pears and saskatoon berries in making both alcoholic and non-alcoholic wines, mistelles and ciders. The pear ciders and sparkling juices are highly recommended.
Using recipes passed down through the generations, time spent at the tasting bar will have you choosing bottles to take home (being careful to check border regulations first.
The Hotel CAP aux PIERRES
The Hotel Cap aux Pierres is located on the island’s sunny south side with a clear view of the Mighty St. Lawrence. The property features indoor and outside swimming pools, landscaped gardens, recreational facilities and great restaurants in a heritage property that is perfect for a long vacation or a night or two. The restaurants, The High Tide, and The Skylight both feature river views and cuisine created from the region, featuring cheese, veal, lamb, duck and fish along with seasonal produce.
The property is picturesque with many a place to view the river flowing by.
Nestled on the island is les Mouline, a working windmill that was used to grind grains for the Islanders. The mill was recently restored to its original glory and today people can tour the property and learn how this authentic windmill works.
At the mill, two permanent exhibitions help visitors better understand life on the island. The first is an “Homage to work” and shares the history is the isle’s customs and tradition through works of the folk art artist Alfred Desgagnés. The second introduces visitors to the filmmaker Pierre Perrault who created three films on L’Isle-aux-Coudres during the 1960s.
The Miller’s House is an interpretation center that tells the story of the Isle’s mills. The Miller and his team of docents are able to answer questions and provide information as to both this history and mechanics of working the mill. The mill still grinds flour, which is available in the boutique. Also available is the bread baked in clay to take home or enjoy on the sites green area, beneath the bright red blades of the mill resplendent against a blue sky.