Travelling The Explorer’s Route in Quebec…..”Route des Explorateurs”……travel with me to discover the wonders of Québec. This bespoke itinerary was designed by Quebec Original and its regional partners, to give me a taste of the wealth of their combined territories and culture, whilst offering me a chance to sample the legendary “joie de vivre” that has left me with lasting memories.
I’m sitting in a large Rabasaka canoe with several other people, rowing across a vast lake with its shores peppered with old timber huts and ramshackle piers. The sun is already hot and the horizon is hazy with early morning mists dissipating in the gathering heat of the day. Our guide from the Parc National d’Opémican, in the region of Abitibi-Témiscamingue, where I’ve been staying, tells us about “les voyageurs”, hardy French Canadian men who were engaged in the transporting of furs by canoe during the fur trade years. The voyageurs were regarded as legendary, especially in French Canada, but their life was one of toil and not nearly as glorious as numerous folk tales make it out to be. For example, they had to be able to carry two 90-pound (41 kg) bundles of fur over portages. Some carried up to four or five, and there is a report of a voyageur carrying seven for half of a mile. Most voyageurs would start working when they were twenty-two and they would continue working until they were in their sixties. They never made enough money to consider an early retirement from what was a physically gruelling lifestyle. This was day one and the start of an incredible voyage around Quebec, from Gatineau to Montreal, come and travel with me on The Explorer’s Route.
I was on a post-Go Media press trip, The Explorer’s Route, in Quebec. After four days in Ottawa, where Go Media was held this year, 2019, my press trip takes me from the tranquil lakes and rivers of Abitibi-Témiscamingue, to a gold mine in Val-d’Or and the charming skiing and hiking town of Mont-Tremblant in the Laurentians. But my journey starts just over the river from the capital city of Ottawa, in Outaouais. It’s here that my six day Route des Explorateurs starts……
…….after a night of spectacular fireworks, and a fabulous meal in the Canadian Museum of History, the next morning saw me having a private tour of the museum, starting off in the Grand Hall with its imposing totem poles. The Grand Hall offers an introduction to the history, cultures and beliefs of the First Peoples of Canada’s Pacific Coast. With its curving, six-storey window wall and unrivalled view of Parliament Hill. Here you will discover six iconic Native houses connected by a Pacific Coast shoreline and boardwalk, magnificent totem poles, the original plaster pattern for Spirit of Haida Gwaii by celebrated Haida artist Bill Reid, and Raven Bringing Light to the World, a gold-on-bronze sculpture by Robert Davidson. After the tour of the museum, I was treated to a performance by Indigenous Experiences, who through their band of informed ambassadors, offer opportunities to see and listen to traditional songs, stories and dances. I was welcomed with a song, which was followed by being entertained by some of the members dancing and singing…..it was a fabulous experience to see and hear traditional dance and music in a very close and personal way.
After lunch and a lengthy drive from Gatineau to Saint-Bruno-de-Guigues in Abitibi-Témiscamingue, I stayed the night in a ready-to-camp ÉTOILE in the Parc National d’Opémican. The cube-shaped Étoile ready-to-camp cube offers more height, with room for six people and loads of storage. Mine was situated just a short walk away from the shower and WC blocks, and was nestled in the woods in the park. Squirrels and chipmunks scurried across my wooden decking in the morning and I could see the stars shimmering and sparkling at night……this is a real “Dark Sky” area, and the velvety, black darkness of the night sky is at first unnerving, but then as the stars become visible, it’s comforting and extremely peaceful.
After breakfast, and my early morning canoe trip (see above), as well as a hillside hike, it was time to set off for Lieu historique national Fort-Témiscamingue/Obadjiwan. This replica site of an old trading post has an interesting museum inside, with an enchanted forest, examples of the old trading post houses and Rabaska canoes outside. The fort felt very special, situated in the edge of large lake with a native presence dating back 6,000 years, not to mention two centuries of rivalry to control the fur trade, you could almost hear the sound of the voyageurs rowing into the port, with their rousing songs and alcohol fuelled laughter.
The next day dawned and saw me travelling to Refuge Pageau in Amos, about 120 kms away…..this is the story of the Pageau family and their incredible relationship with animals. The Refuge gives shelter to injured, sick or orphaned wildlife, providing veterinary care and wherever possible, returning them to the wild. You will see moose, wolves, white-tail deer, raccoons, birds of prey, and a many other orphaned animals making short or long stays at the Refuge. I loved my visit to the refuge, and especially the very intimate moment that I fed Chewbacca, the porcupine! The success rate for animals returning to the wild is very high, with only a minority of animals that have become human-imprinted or too badly injured being long term residents in the refuge.
Lunch was enjoyed at Cité de l’Or and the Village-Minier-de-Bourlamaque in Val-d’Or…..where I become a miner for a day, and enjoyed the unique experience of descending 91 metres (300 feet) into an ancient underground gold mine. I was also able to visit the ground facilities of this former mine, which included an analysis laboratory where I was shown an introduction into ore processing, and the mine’s history through the exhibition “Gold in our veins”, which is about the various mining trades. This was a totally unique experience and one that I recommend, however, you must be able to cope with confined spaces, as the trip underground can be a little claustrophobic.
After my fascinating trip underground, it was time to visit the cultural site of Kinawit in Val-d’Or. Kinawit is an amazing place where you can discover the rich Aboriginal culture amidst nature in a very tranquil location. If you are looking for authenticity and unique discoveries, then you will love the many cultural experiences available at Kinawit, which include guided visits, cultural workshops, and accommodation in rustic cabins and teepees. I learned about the Walking Out Ceremony, which is a Cree tradition…..and I was very privileged to visit the site of a Sweat Lodge, which was hidden in the midst of the trees by the side of a lake….it was a very spiritual place, which made me feel instantly connected with nature. It was here that I enjoyed freshly made Fry Bread and iced Labrador Tea after my tour around the site.
It was an early start next morning, as we needed to drive to Ferme-Neuve (343 km) through the beautiful Boreal forests of La Verendry Park. La Verendrye Provincial Park is a waterway provincial park located in Ontario, Canada. The park stretches from Quetico Provincial Park through Saganaga Lake, up the Pine River, across the Height of Land Portage, then down the Pigeon River to Pigeon River Provincial Park on Lake Superior. The park is named after Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, sieur de La Vérendrye an early explorer of Canada. La Verendrye Provincial Park is also part of the historic voyageur fur trade route from Lake Superior to Winnipeg, and features several scenic diabase-capped mesas, as well as several types of rare and unusual plants. We were now heading towards the region known as the Laurentians, with lunch and a tour around Miels d’Anicet, an organic honey farm. The family’s passion for beekeeping started in 1978 when Marie-Claude Dupuis and Claude Desrochers acquired their first beehive in Ferme-Neuve in the Upper Laurentians. After a honey tasting and tour around the farm, I enjoyed lunch in their beautiful “Canteen”, which specialises in organic ingredients, with honey of course.
After lunch I visited the stunning Windigo waterfalls, which is at the foot of the 2nd highest peak of the Laurentians……
……and then it was probably my favourite experience of the whole trip, discovering the beautiful Laurentians landscape from the air with Air Mont-Laurier, in one of their float planes (sea planes). As I soared over the rivers, lakes and reservoirs in a 1962 De Havilland Beaver float plane, I was mesmerised not only by the view that unfolded beneath me, but by the fact that I was sat “up front” next to the pilot, watching his flying expertise in this lovely vintage plane!
My bed for the night was at the L’Achillee Millefeuille, a B and B that offers sustainability in both its accommodation and food. The next morning before checking out, I was given a tour of the ecological gardens, which are nestled among the trees in la Vallée de la Rivière Rouge in the Laurentians. Cultivated in harmony with nature (Biodynamic Agriculture), their small yet extremely varied gardens of flowers, berries, herbs, medicinal plants and vegetables occupy one acre of their nine-acre property, and many of the herbs in the teas and tisanes that were on offer in my room are grown and dried on the property.
It was then time to travel to nearby Mont-Tremblant, where I discovered Tremblant from the top of the mountain, after taking the Panoramic Gondola ride to the top. Mont-Tremblant had a similar feel to Whistler, which is in British Columbia on the West Coast….so, it wasn’t a surprise when I was told that the resort had been planned and built by the same consortium. It’s a charming town, with gaily painted houses, numerous pubs, restaurants and shops and although it is marketed mainly as a ski resort, like Whistler, there is lots to do there outside of ski season, such as zip wire, hiking, biking, canoeing, kayaking, paddle boarding and rock climbing. I loved the laid-back vibe of the resort, which also boasts lots of 4 star and 5 star hotels and simpler accommodation. It’s only a two hour drive from Montreal, and if you want to travel to Canada for the ski season, then it’s a much shorter plane journey than to the West coast, and Whistler, making it more accessible. You can also take direct flights from Toronto to Mont Tremblant airport, if hiring a car isn’t for you.
Later that day, I took a hike around Mont-Tremblant National Park; with its six large rivers and 400 lakes and streams, and more than 40 mammal’s species including wolves, Mont-Tremblant National Park offers a rich blend of Quebec heritage along with stunning scenery and again, with lots of activities and there’s a variety of accommodation on offer within the park too. Along with my nature guide, I walked the beautiful “Diable” Waterfalls Trail, ending at the waterfall, which was part of the Voyageurs route too. After a fabulous dinner atLe Grand Lodge Mont-Tremblant, where I was staying for the night, I ventured out for an enchanting and magical nocturnal hike in the mountain. Tonga Lumina is an extraordinary sensory walk…..after a chair lift ride up to the starting point, you then hike you way down the mountain amongst laser lights and whilst following the story of searching for the giant of Mont Tremblant. The website says:
“What secret does he have to share?
Will the journey be a risky one?”
The curious and inquisitive souls who set out to uncover the giant’s mysteries will embark on a quest where the real meets the fantastical. Their precious amulet will help guide them to places that still bear the marks of the forgotten people’s veneration for their illustrious giant.
Clues left along the winding path will guide you into the heart of this mysterious mountain. The giant is waiting. Are you ready to follow his tracks?
After a busy previous day, I walked over 18kms, it was nice to start the say with a drive to OKA on the Chemin du terroir, a signposted trail that takes you through more than 226 kilometres of country back roads and byways, with discoveries to make at every turn. This was followed bya trip to the Lavender fields of La Maison Lavande, and then a visit and lunch at the authentic and the first Apple Shack in Quebec, Labonté de la pomme. The lunch comprised multiple courses of delicious hand made specialities from the orchard and was utterly delectable. After lunch, I had a tractor ride around the orchards, which carries out eco-responsible farming practices. There are also bee hives on the farm, and many honey based products in the shop, as well as maple syrup and apple bakes and cakes.
My day (and the trip) ended with a visit and wine tasting at Vignoble Rivière du Chêne; here I tried a selection of their wines, as well as visiting the cellars. It was time to fly back to the UK, from Monreal airport, which is only half an hour away from the winery.
Travelling The Explorer’s Route in Quebec had been a fascinating experience, visiting places I would never have known about beforehand, tasting amazing local produce, as well as participating in some unique activities. This would be a fabulous holiday for any one wanting to experience unique Quebec, and who don’t mind driving, which I found to be a relaxing contrast after lots of hiking, canoeing, eating and drinking! I travelled in late summer, which was perfect, but of course for the skiers amongst you, Mont Tremblant would be a great alternative to Whistler in the ski season, and as I mentioned before, it’s closer to the UK and Europe. One tip, speaking French becomes a handy skill to have, the further out of the big cities and towns that you travel, so take a phrase book with you, and you’ll be fine. And don’t forget, Quebecois French can be a lot different to French French, which gave rise to some very humorous moments! I hope you have enjoyed my virtual trip around Quebec, I’ve added a Fact Box below, with restaurants and accommodation. Karen
Disclaimer: This was a press trip with Quebec Original and their regional partners. All of my accommodation, food, activities and transport was paid for, and I was not paid to write this post.
Why not read about my other trips to Canada….
Where to eat and drink in Outaouais:
Brasseurs du Temps
170, Montcalm Street, Gatineau, J8X 2M2
We recommend making a quick tour of the beer museum while you wait for your food. You will understand why Gatineau was called little Chicago during prohibition.
Where to eat and drink in Abitibi-Témiscamingue:
Éden Rouge/Table champêtre
51, Principale Nord, Saint-Bruno-de-Guigues
819 728-2622 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Chef Angèle-Ann Guimond concocts meals bursting with freshness and flavor using farm and regional products as per the “farm-to-the-table” concept. Located under the tall pines and above the rock walls of Lac Témiscamingue, the ready-to-camp sites offer total comfort in a breathtaking setting.
862, chemin du Vieux-Fort, Duhamel-Ouest 819 622-0922 | email@example.com
A unique atmosphere thanks to the restaurant’s proximity to the magnificent Lake Témiscamingue, the breathtaking view and the natural setting. The fabulous meals, inspired by regional flavours, are prepared by seasoned cooks. Courteous service.
Le Trèfle Noir
145, avenue Principale, Rouyn-Noranda 819 762-6611
The pub hosts several cultural events: concerts, exhibitions, launches. Happy hour menu.
15 Gamble Ouest, Rouyn-Noranda
819 762-1949 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Bistro Paramount offers a casual ambience and a gastronomic experience filled with regional flavours.
Music show (Random Recipe) at La Guinguette chez Edmund
14, avenue Murchoch, Rouyn-Noranda
819 797-0888 | email@example.com
Initiated by le Festival de musique émergente en Abitibi-Témiscamingue, La Guinguette chez Edmund is an innovation and inspiring project that energizes the shore off Lac Osisko throughout the summer. At La Guinguette chez Edmund, you’ll be able to attend free concerts, but also dance to the sounds of the best DJ’s in the area, as well as participate in other activities organized by the community. Simple dishes with summer flavors, natural wine and Quebec spirits will be available.
Warm and cosy coffee shop offering a variety of homemade products. Bakery shop, fair trade coffee, paninis, soups, salads and sweets. Catering service and room rentals.
585, 3e avenue, Val-d’Or 819 874-3377 | firstname.lastname@example.org
139, avenue Perrault, Val-d’Or 819 874-3377 | email@example.com
This restaurant combines gastronomic delights, great performances and unique lounge atmosphere. Cuisine focused on regional products.
Where to eat and drink in The Laurentians:
111, Rang 2 Gravel, Ferme-Neuve
In an enchanting decor, the canteen is located in an exterior pavilion in harmony with the surronding nature with an incredebile view on the Montagne du Diable. To complete your experience at Miels d’Anicet, take place at our table to discover our seasonal honey influenced cuisine. Pollens & Nectars canteen is the reflection of it’s territory, it’s harvest and artisan, a work philosophy deeply rooted in us since two generations.
3004, chemin de la Chapelle, Mont-Tremblant , Québec, J8E 1E1, Canada
The Chef and his team pride themselves on delivering an extraordinary culinary experience with their team. Artfully blending styles and Laurentian flavours, the cuisine is rooted in French influences. The menu features the finest ingredients from local producers paired with an award-winning wine list.
The Grand Lodge, Mont-Tremblant
Chez Borivage preserves the Quebec gastronomy by exploring delicate aromas, stunning presentations and exquisite savours, all in a cosy atmosphere. Buffet breakfast, lunch, copious dinner, and a prestigious wine list are awaiting you at this regionally renowned restaurant.
Labonté de la pomme
405, rang de l’Annonciation Oka, QC, Canada J0N 1E0
450 479-1111| firstname.lastname@example.org
Where to stay in Abitibi-Témiscamingue:
555, chemin d’Opémican, Témiscaming 819 627-3551 | email@example.com
$104 a night (low season)
Taxes not included. National park entry fees not included.
Best Western Plus Hôtel Albert
84, avenue Principale, Rouyn-Noranda 819 762-3545 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Best Western Plus Hotel Albert offers guests a unique location near restaurants and bars, just steps from Osisko Lake, the bike path, shopping centres and festivals.
Rates – Double occupancy
Minimum 135 $
Maximum 165 $
Quality Inn & Suites Val-d’Or
1111, rue de l’Escale, Val-d’Or 819 874-8888 | email@example.com
Looking for lodging in Val-d’Or? Whether you prefer booking a room in a motel or bed-and-breakfast, or looking for a extended stay in Abitibi-Témiscamingue, the Quality Inn & Suites Val-d’Or offers everything to suit your needs: newly built, clean and modern. From $123 per double room per night.
Where to stay in The Laurentians:
l’Achillée Millefeuille B and B
4352, route des Tulipes, La Conception
819 686-9187 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Discover our bed & breakfast and ecological gardens at L’Achillée Millefeuille, nestled among the trees in la vallée de la Rivière Rouge in the Laurentians. A wonderful experience awaits you only 10 minutes from Village Mont-Tremblant, right next to the bicycle trail “Le P’tit Train du Nord” and a stone’s throw from the Rivière Rouge and its beautiful sandy beaches.
for 2 people,
includes a delicious, healthy breakfast
|129$ / double occ.||139$ /occ. double|
|114 $ /single occ.||124$ /single occ.|
Le Grand Lodge Mont-Tremblant
2396, rue Labelle, Mont-Tremblant
1 800 567-6763
Are you planning a getaway to enjoy golf, outdoor activities or quality time with your family? Treat yourself with the exceptional comfort and the unforgettable experience at the Grand Lodge Mont Tremblant.
Rates can be found here: Rates and Packages