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Charlevoix and Saguenay trip report - LONG!

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Aug 12th, 2018, 05:04 PM
  #1
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Charlevoix and Saguenay trip report - LONG!

Hi all,

Sharing this info in case it is useful for someone else. DH and I are a couple in our 40s from Ontario. Planned this road trip to Charlevoix and the Saguenay while our kids were away at an overnight camp at the beginning of August. I especially love markets and local products so was very excited to go to Charlevoix and explore the “route des saveurs”. We moved around every few days, staying mostly in B&Bs. We had booked many restaurants in advance and were glad as it was definitely high-season! I speak French fluently but my husband does not so some parts were more challenging for him in terms of communication.

Day 1 – Ottawa to Baie St. Paul

Stopped before Levis on the south shore opposite Quebec City at a cute brunch placed called Café du Vire. In addition to the restaurant (very busy but they take online reservations in advance) they also have a blueberry patch and sell all kinds of blueberry-related products. Highly recommend. We also stopped at the Parc des chutes de la chaudiere in Levis to stretch out our legs. There is a nice hike down many stairs (and back up!!) to the water as well as some wooded trails that lead to a suspension bridge. Very nice rest stop.

Made a pit stop at the Lavande Azulee lavender farm in Baie St Paul (BSP) since I love lavender. Very nice proprietor who took us around the garden and showed us her beautiful products. Then drove a few minutes to check in to the Germain hotel which was our “splurge” lodging. This was an amazing hotel with its own farm and Nordic spa. Walking distance to town (7 minutes). Room was very well appointed and the one meal we had there was very good as well. After doing a circuit at the Nordic spa we went to dinner at Le Diapason in BSP. Good Alsatian pizzas with a nice terrace.

Day 2 - BSP

Today was agro-tourism day! Drove up into the hills behind BSP to visit the emu farm (self-guided tour and tasting of various emu products and cosmetics). Also stopped at two “fromageries” – Laiterie Charlevoix (too busy with many bus tours but nice shop where I got some microbrews) and Affinage Maurice Dufour for the famous Migneron de Charlevoix cheese. Lunch was at Faux Bergers – onsite restaurant at Maurice Dufour. One of the best meals of the trip – amazing pizza with their cheese and lamb as well as soft serve sheep milk ice cream. So good! Relaxed by the pool at Le German in the afternoon and had dinner at Le Mouton Noir in town. This was one of the best meals of the trip. On Sundays there is a farmers’ market right at the hotel so that was a nice surprise – bought a beautiful painting and some other “produits du terroir”.

Day 3 – BSP to Ile aux Coudres

Today we walked around BSP and visited the Contemporary Art museum. It’s quite small but we enjoyed the exhibit on Borduas. Walked back to the hotel via the BSP marina – noticed a place to rent kayaks/paddle boards on the estuary and a small beach. Next time! Today was a driving day to catch the ferry to Ile aux Coudres. It was quite busy and we had about an hour wait for the ferry (which is free). Rented bikes at Velo-Coudre and made it halfway around the island. It was quite windy and I was glad to turn around and head back out of the wind! Stopped at the Pednault orchards to try various ciders/wines and visited the wind and water mills. The latter were interesting but the “animation” was only in French. Checked into our B&B and did a small hike to a lookout point on the eastern edge of the island. Dinner was on the terrace at Le Corylus to try the local “soupe aux gourganes” (some kind of bean) and pate croche (sort of like a tourtiere but in a turnover). Both were very good as was the lobster roll. The people were very kind but I wasn’t blown away by the island – there were some nice “sea” breezes but it was not as picturesque as I was expecting.

Day 4 – Ile aux Coudres to Malbaie

Woke up to a rainy and foggy morning so took an early ferry back and stopped in St Joseph de la Rive to visit the Maritime Museum of Charlevoix and the papeterie St Gilles where they are preserving the art of paper making. The museum would be especially great with kids with actual boats you can go on! We learned about the “seafaring” history of the St Lawrence. Had a so-so lunch at an inn in Les Eboulements and stopped at the Alpaca farm. Beautiful products in the store but I didn’t enjoy this self-guided tour as much as the emu farm. Checked into the Auberge des Falaises – it was comfortable but didn’t wow us. There is also a “Nordic spa” but nothing like Le Germain! Drove back to Ste Irenee to sit on the terrace at Café St Laurent for dinner as we didn’t feel like another “gourmet” meal. Fresh cod was good. The skies had cleared so we were able to enjoy the coastal views.

Day 5 – Parc des Hauts Gorges de la Malbaie

Drove 45 minutes inland to this amazing park! Some of the most beautiful scenery of the trip – hiked some of the shorter trails and also took out a canoe at the Centre des Draveurs. Lunch at the cafeteria was surprisingly good with local dishes. Wish I had brought my bathing suit! Highly recommend this park. Note: you have to take a shuttle from the visitors’ centre as cars are not allowed in the park. It is worth arriving early to catch the first shuttle. Many serious hikers attempting the 6 hour “Acropole des Draveurs” summit! Dinner was my birthday splurge at Vices Versa back in La Malbaie. Food was excellent. Service was kind but slow – there did not seem to be enough front of house staff. Stopped at the Fairmont Manoir Richelieu to check out the views and the casino (which was only meh for me). It would be worth having a drink on the beautiful terrace though!

Day 6 – Saguenay

Left the “route du fleuve” to move inland to the Saguenay Fjord. Beautiful views and a Breton crepe lunch (Café du Quai) at the quaint town of L’Anse St Jean. Many people renting kayaks and taking the little “bateau mouche” on the fjord. Had booked a “Boreal safari” further inland at Mont Edouard with Horizon Evasion. One of the highlights of the trip! Our guide brought us up in a military jeep to the peak (very steep ascent) for some of the most incredible scenery of the trip. Started to pour so we skipped stopping in some of the other towns on our way to the B&B near La Baie. Le Perchoir was a modern B&B on a lake with a great restaurant next door. Had some delicious red deer tourtiere for dinner.

Day 7 – Saguenay to Tadoussac

Rainy and cool again today – planned to spend the morning at the Site de la Nouvelle France and get a taste of Quebec in 1627! Site was very interesting – most of the “animation” was in French but the guides could answer questions in English. The site didn’t open til 10:30 which meant we had no time to explore the town of Chicoutimi on our way around the fjord to the north shore. Arrived in Tadoussac for our 4 pm sea kayak tour. Unfortunately it was very windy and we were refunded our money. Checked into our B&B (Auberge la Mer Veilleuse) and walked around Tadoussac. It had a very maritime feel – but did not enjoy the deluge of tourists flocking there for the day for the whale watching cruises. Secured a last minute table at Chez Mathilde for the best meal of the trip! The room at the B&B was very nice and it had a great breakfast.

Day 8 – Tadoussac to Quebec City

Morning visit to the marine mammal centre to learn about cetaceans! Very nice guides. Hopped on the ferry to Baie Ste Catherine and stopped at the Pointe Noire interpretation centre. Was very happy to see many beluga whales from the shore since we missed out on our kayaking trip! Lunch was at a really good casse croute (snack stand) in St Fidele to have poutine made with the local cheese! Hamburger also had the curds. Sounds weird but it was all really good! There is even a pastry store next door. Arrived in Quebec City late afternoon and checked into our hotel in the Upper town (Ste Anne). We have been to QC on previous trips so this was just to break up the drive. Walked over to the Morrin Centre to visit the first “common jail”. Really good guided tour. Strolled around the upper town and had dinner at Chez Boulay to try “Boreal cuisine”. Very good (but $$). Especially enjoyed the beef cheek main and the seafood planche with interesting boreal touches (pine glaze, fiddlehead butter, etc). Walked down to the Lower Town and back up the “escalier casse-cou” to work off dinner!

Day 9 – Quebec city to Ottawa via Trois-rivieres

Travel day back home with a stop in Trois-rivieres. Did a self-guided tour of the Borealis museum – learned about the pulp and paper industry in Mauricie and had a nice lunch on the terrace. Took the scenic “Chemin du Roy” (Rte 138) instead of the 40 – it was only a few minutes slower and much nicer! Straight shot back to Ottawa avoiding Montreal but taking the 40 north of the city past Terrebonne. Overall it was a great trip and we feel we really got to see some beautiful parts of the province! Thanks all as I found the info on this board invaluable in our planning!
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Aug 12th, 2018, 05:20 PM
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Super trip report, thank you. I was in Quebec and Quebec City years ago and loved it. My husband has never been and his reason is he would rather go to Europe for the same airfare (we live on Vancouver Island). Happy Travels.
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Aug 12th, 2018, 05:36 PM
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Thanks very much! I hear you on the airfare. It's cheaper for us to fly to Paris than to B.C. sadly! But we like Quebec city - it feels like Europe but within driving distance for us. All the great produits du terroir in Charlevoix really reminded me of France too!
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Aug 12th, 2018, 05:40 PM
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Nice report. We went to Baie St Paul from Ottawa last weekend. Took the north shore both ways. Hit what looked like a small microwave sitting on the 40 just west of Trois Rivieres. Bye bye rim and tire.

Quebec City was jammed.
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Aug 14th, 2018, 03:14 PM
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Thanks, xcountry. QC was almost unpleasantly busy - like Disneyland! I had only ever been in the fall or winter and it was nowhere near as crowded. Sorry to hear about your car!
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Aug 21st, 2018, 08:43 AM
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I enjoyed the report. We'd like to take a similar road trip, probably next year.

I was interested to see that you toured the Morrin Center. If you haven't read Louise Penny's mysteries, you might enjoy Bury Your Dead which is set in QC, complete with a murder at the library at the Morrin.
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