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L'evasion francais

Quebec's delicious twists and turns

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The historic, baronial Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu overlooks the St. Lawrence River in picturesque Charlevoix..

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The historic, baronial Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu overlooks the St. Lawrence River in picturesque Charlevoix..

It's easy to be seduced by the allure of dining in France, hiking in the Rockies or paddling the Amazon, but experiences closer to home are among the most thrilling anywhere.

Quebec produces enviable cheese, chocolate, foie gras, wine and beer. It has mountains and forests, rivers and lakes -- with the Orford Express and the Train du Charlevoix rolling through those splendid landscapes. There is terrific food, from the folksy m©choui at the Festival du Cochon in Ste-Perp©tue to the handful of Relais & Ch¢teaux. If you like the sea -- and seafood -- can you possibly do better than Gasp© or éles-de-la-Madeleine?

Here are some of Quebec's most accessible and affordable summer highlights.


I'm in awe of the majestic, 405-room Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu, which overlooks the St-Lawrence River and the Charlevoix mountains. It has 27 holes of picturesque golf, a full spa and an outstanding indoor-outdoor pool system. A battery of charging stations for electric vehicles is new. Divine delicacy: General manager Jean-Jacques Etcheberrigaray owns a duck farm, so expect the finest foie gras in Le Manoir's gastronomic dining room, Le Charlevoix.


Choosing the best beer in Quebec is difficult, so I'm voting for an exceptional beer encounter. The lively Les Brasseurs du Temps in Gatineau embraces a microbrewery, a brasserie and a first-rate mini-museum exploring the history of brewing. The menu features bison sausage, filet mignon and lamb stew, each delicately and deliciously flavoured with beer. Carb alert: The double-decadent chocolate cake is made with stout.


Sea kayaking has both thrills and chills. Mer et Monde âcotours organizes whale-watching excursions in the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park, where the water temperature dips to 4 C, the waves and currents are capricious and the occasional 50-ton whale splashes by. Kayakers start with a lesson on whale habits, safety measures and paddling techniques. Close encounters: Whales have been spotted as close as two metres.


La Traite restaurant near Quebec City blends First Nations inspiration and ingredients from farms, lakes, forests and hunts. Chef Martin Gagn© uses rare herbs, roots and edible flowers to spice dishes such as wapiti with hand-foraged mushrooms, rabbit confit with apple cider, pheasant with haskap berries, lobster and scallops in sorrel soup and trout perfumed with essence of black spruce. Lodging news: The stylish, contemporary H¥tel-Mus©e Premi®res Nations is opening a new long house.


BALNEA spa + thermal reserve, one of more than 40 Nordic spas in Quebec, is bliss in Bromont-sur-le-Lac. BALNEA -- it uses capital letters to stand out -- is a striking getaway with a splendid hillside setting tucked into a forest and overlooking a tiny lake. In addition to steam rooms, saunas and bubbling baths, BALNEA adds paddle-boarding yoga and air mattresses that float among lily pads. Among the 55 spa treatments are the new ayurvedic series and the Abenaki ritual.


The Aquarium du Quebec in Quebec City presents a rare chance to see polar bears, walruses and seals without paddling to their natural habitat.

The aquarium is home to 10,000 marine animals -- fish both large and small, snakes, turtles, frogs, invertebrates such as octopus or jellyfish and the big sea mammals, all living in super-sized tanks or watery outdoor environments. The aquarium is a sprawling park with picnic areas and water games for the children -- a blessing in sweltering weather.


Jacques Cartier was seduced by the beauty of éle d'Orl©ans and you will be, too. You can drive or cycle along the St. Lawrence River and through historic villages. éle d'Orl©ans is 90 per cent agricultural land so there are many farm stands selling products made from berries, apples, grapes and vegetables. The ultimate summer lunch is a lobster "guedille" at Panache Mobile, a gourmet truck stop run by Auberge Saint-Antoine, a Relais & Ch¢teaux. It's nestled in the Ste-P©tronille vineyard with a spectacular view of Montmorency Falls.


The Festival International du Blues de Tremblant will rock the Laurentians with 150 shows July 5-14, starring headliners like James Cotton, Buckwheat Zydeco and Jonas & the Massive Attraction. And Les Rythmes de Tremblant will present free concerts every weekend until Aug. 25

Summer in the city is like a candy store of entertainment. Heavyweights Celine Dion (July 27) and Paul McCartney (July 23) will light up the Plains of Abraham. On the rainbow beat, there is the F�te Arc-en-ciel in Quebec City on Labour "Gay" Weekend? Arc-en-ciel will continue the shindig with outdoor shows, parties in bars and a community fair, mostly in the Old Port and along rue Saint-Jean. You don't have to be queer; the scene is LGBTA, with "A" standing for "allies."

-- Postmedia News

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 29, 2013 E3

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