A QUICK TRAVEL GUIDE: BAIE-ST-PAUL AND CHARLEVOIX, CANADA
As soon as I stepped off the Léger de Charlevoix train from Quebec City, I knew I had arrived in the French speaking region of Charlevoix when I heard people around me call out ‘Bonjour! Au revoir! Ici!’ Memories of my teacher yelling at me to correct my pronunciation in French class during high school came sweeping back - merde! But that didn’t stop me from trying to speak French and grab my bag from the train platform, because lets be honest, people love it when you try to speak their language and fail miserably.
My destination? Baie-St-Paul. Located on the Saint Lawrence River and nestled amongst the Laurentian Mountains region of the Canadian Shield, this small quaint town is at the heart of the entire Charlevoix region. With only two days and two nights to explore this quaint region, I knew I had to get moving.
WHERE TO STAY
Baie-St-Paul // Les Petites Brasseurs If you are settling into Baie-St-Paul for a night or two, I highly recommend staying at Les Petites Brasseurs. Located in one of the oldest streets in the heart of downtown Baie-St-Paul, this century old home is charming. The common areas are communal with guests breaking up in the evenings to their separate bedrooms (mine came with an ensuite). My room was small but what it lacked in size it made up in coziness, which is exactly what you want after a long day of exploring. Les Petites Brasseurs is well known for its homemade Belgium beer and beer jam, however the home cooked breakfasts are scrumptious, and typically French – not too much, not too little.
Address: 36 rue Saint-Joseph, Baie-Saint-Paul, Quebec, Canada, G3Z 1H7 Website: www.lespetitsbrasseurs.ca Reservations: firstname.lastname@example.org
Charlevoix Region // Auberge Le Relais des Hautes Gorges As Baie-St-Paul is very small, I would advise a day or two is plenty here. So if you plan on adventuring further into the region, I highly recommend staying at Auberge Le Relais des Hautes Gorges. Located on the "Route des Montagnes", a short drive away from the Hautes-Gorges-de-la-Rivière- Malbaie National Park, the French style inn offers old world accommodation but with a surprising restaurant service. The food here, to put it simply, is outstanding. After a long day of hiking and exploring, I suggest you try the three course dinner. And for breakfast, eat it all. Trust me. If you get time, wander around the rock garden, and the herb and vegetable gardens; they will reveal some of the secrets of the cuisine served every day.
Bonus Tip: The beautiful thing about this region is that it’s where the ocean meets the farmlands and the farmlands meet the mountains, so whichever way you go, you will be spoiled with gorgeous vistas showing off the French way of living. Merci!
Address: 317, rue Principale, Saint-Aimé-des-Lacs, QC, G0T 1S0 Website: www.aubergehautesgorges.ca/eng_acc.html Reservations: email@example.com
WHAT TO SEE & DO
Walk down Saint-Jean-Baptiste in Baie-St-Paul In Baie-St-Paul stroll down rue Saint-Jean-Baptiste and explore the quaint boutiques, shops and countless art galleries. I was told this town has the highest concentration of artists in Canada, and you’ll soon see why. Visit sites made famous by Canada’s renowned Group of Seven, as well as countless artists’ workshops and studios. You could easily spend a day walking up and down the main street.
Enjoy French cuisine at L’Orange Bistro Indulge in French cuisine at L’Orange Bistro. A member of The Flavour Trail, the menu designed by Chef Mario Jean features regional products including the famous Veau de Charlevoix (veal), Fleurmier and Migneron cheeses, fresh produce from les Jardins du Centre, Vergers Pedneault ciders and so much more. Signature dishes such as le Migneron fondant and crispy calamari have forged quite a reputation for this establishment. So if you’re looking for a relaxed atmosphere after a day of walking and shopping, this is the place to rest your weary feet and enjoy a classic glass of French wine. If you don’t book, get there early as the restaurant fills up quickly!
Address: 29 Ambroise-Fafard, Baie-Saint-Paul, Québec, Canada, G3Z 2J2 Website: http://www.orangebistro.com/ Reservations: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hit the mountainous trails After a day or so in Baie-St-Paul, you’ll want to jump in a car and explore the Charlevoix region. Your first stop should be the National Park Hautes-Gorges-de-la-Rivière-Malbaie, and it’s only 90 minutes away from town. Grab lunch on the way and climb the Acropole des Draveurs or do a gentle trek. You’ll need to stop by the Visitors Centre first to purchase your park pass so make sure you stock up on at least two litres of water as a minimum and wear proper hiking boots with ankle support. I forgot my hiking boots (stupid) so I had to hike in my New Balance sneakers (idiot). I have a lot of experience hiking tough trails and was fine, but would have really liked my hiking boots! I like a challenge so I hiked to the top of Acropole des Draveurs; it was supposed to take over four hours, but I got to the top and back in under two and a half hours.
Discover The Flavour Trail Ahhh, nothing is more French than bread, pastries and cheese – and The Flavour Trail has it all. Featuring a distinguished list of over 40 local growers, producers and restaurateurs who open their doors to the public, visitors are able to indulge in regional products such as ciders, artisan beers, pâtés, cheeses, spices and fine chocolates, as well as meats, fresh fruit and fresh produce. YUM.
Drive along the River Road Arguably one of the lovelist scenic roads in North America, you cannot come to Charlevoix without exploring the River Road. It’s simply a must do.