At the end of August, I had the chance to win the Explorer Wanted contest presented by Tourisme Chaudiere-Appalaches, that gave me the opportunity to go out and spend three days discovering the Chaudiere-Appalaches region together with my sister Érika. It was a trip filled with laughter and wonderful discoveries and surprises!
Day 1 – August 26
For our first day in the region, our itinerary started at Domaine Joly-De Lotbiniere . As soon as we arrived at the site, Hélène, the general manager of the estate, welcomed us and spent a couple hours helping us get to know more about the site, into which she has poured her heart and soul for more than 30 years. Following a snap of the fingers by Hélène, we were transported back in time to 19th Century New France, at the time of the seigneurial regime.
Hélène was passionate about the estate and a genuine treasure trove of information, sharing her knowledge about the history of the Joly-De Lotbinière family. Among other things we learned about the role that Pierre-Gustave, the first seigneur, and his descendants played in the evolution from New France towards the Quebec that we know today. Besides other things, they gave special importance to the construction of railways, roadways and forest conservation. Hélène also explained what a typical day was like for citizens of the day, including their customs and traditions. As there was no roadway at the time, she told us that when young men wanted to visit their acquaintances on the other side of the river in Portneuf, they had to cross it by boat!
At lunchtime, we tried out a healthy meal, prepared directly on-site at the little café on the estate, all made from local ingredients. Yum!
My favourite places at the estate:
Maison de Pointe Platon
Today, the country residence of the seigneurial family of Lotbinière, built in 1851, is open to visitors. It’s been set up as a museum and an art gallery, in a way that lets visitors relive the social and cultural life of the 1920s. Thanks to some generous donors, Hélène and her team have been able to find and acquire some of the original furnishings that furnished the home during the seigneurial period. Quite impressive, wouldn’t you say?
In order to follow the ecological mission of Henri-Gustave (son of Pierre-Gustave), Hélène and her partners filled the property and the eleven gardens of the estate with many varieties of trees, plants and fruits and vegetables, from a little of everywhere in the world.
The water’s edge
The estate directly accesses the river. All along the bottom of the estate, after having travelled down a short trail, you’ll find some simply breathtaking landscape. So much so that we’d be surprised if a nicer view existed anywhere! It’s the perfect place to take a little breather at the water’s edge, sit on a rock and enjoy the breeze.
After having spent about three hours at Domaine Joly-De Lotbiniere , we thanked Hélène and her team and got back on the road in the direction of Montmagny , where we planned to spend the night. We decided to make a couple stops along the way, including one at Fromagerie Bergeron to buy a few products, including freshly-made cheese curd. No point in telling you that it was delicious! Next, as it was getting close to 6pm, we continued on until Berthier-sur-Mer , to enjoy the last few rays of the day’s sun and watch them disappear into the night. It was magnificent!
Day 2 – August 27
The first stop of the day for our second day was the Musée Maritime du Québec in L’Islet-sur-Mer. As soon as we arrived at the museum site, we noticed two massive ships sitting out in the yard: the NCSM Bras d’Or 400 Hydropter, a prototype built by the Canadian Navy in the 1960s, which was tasked with detecting Soviet submarines, as well as the Ernest Lapointe icebreaker, named as the flagship of the Canadian government in 1955. The first can be visited together with a guide, while the second can be visited on your own. When you visit the Ernest Lapointe, I suggest that you ask for an audio guide; they’re offered for free at the museum reception. You can then roam freely around the ship and learn about the icebreaker and its crew. Visiting the Ernest Lapointe was one of the highlights of my visit to the museum. It was the first time that I had the chance to explore a big ship like this from top to bottom and I can say that I was truly impressed. During my visit, I could really picture the crew living on the ship: on the bridge, in the engine room, in the sleeping quarters, in the kitchen or playing cards during their breaks.
Inside the museum building, make sure you visit the permanent collection that presents the Saint Lawrence River as an icon of the Quebecois identity. The collection shares the history of the river and contains many remarkable artifacts and videos that present some moving testimonials from various parties for whom the river had a considerable impact over the course of their lives. Another section of the permanent collection is dedicated to Captain J.E. Bernier, who became Captain at 17 years old and crossed the Atlantic 250 times. You have to see it!
Our visit to the museum was ended and our heads were full of nostalgias, but our stomachs were empty and so it was time for lunch. We got back on the Route des Navigateurs in the direction of St-Michel-de-Bellechasse with the idea of getting a bite to eat. On the way, we came across a small flea market near Saint-Vallier . We were curious and decided to make a short stop. Well, we ended up doing some shopping! I ended up leaving with 5 great classics of literature for $15. I was quite proud of the deal I made and my little sister got tired of listening to me brag about it! Ahhh, love between sisters!
Arriving in St-Jean-Port-Joli, we immediately went to La Belle Époque, our lodge for the night. It was a pretty Bed & Breakfast inn, housed in an impressive Victorian house dating back to 1893, which at that time served as a general store. The hosts, Nathalie and Guy, are simply charming. When we arrived, they kindly welcomed us and presented the various attractions in the area. They were equally helpful and lovely when serving breakfast the next morning.
For our last evening in the region, we went to dinner at LA Queue de Homard, a seafood restaurant that looks like the legendary sea shacks of the American east coast. On the menu: rolls, lobster, tartars, fish n' chips etc. On our side, our choice fell on the famous lobster roll and it was simply delicious! For meat lovers, the menu also contains several options that are sure to please.
We then ended the evening at Ras L'Bock , a microbrewery with a friendly atmosphere and warm decor. When you enter it, you have the impression of being in a log cabin, with friends. It is even possible to borrow board games behind the bar to liven up your evening a little. For our part, we were happy to be able to take it easy and sip local beers between two or three games of Battleship!
Day 3 – August 28
The third and last day of our stay. We were devastated that we had to go back home... That morning, the skies were a little grey, but the weather was still quite comfortable. While on the hunt for a bit of coffee, we came across Café La Bonté Divine, an artisanal coffee-roasting company that offers a selection of the best coffees from the four corners of the earth. We were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the service and the variety of original brands of coffee. There’s also a charming boutique section. It’s worth a visit!
With our dose of caffeine in hand, we headed towards the St-Jean-Port-Joli marina to fill our lungs with marine air before heading back towards the city. What’s more relaxing than looking out into the great expanse and listening to the lull of the waves. We stayed there for a time just to appreciate the moment and to talk about how much we had enjoyed our stay.
Just before setting off for Montreal, we made a stop at Vignoble du Faubourg . When we arrived, it seemed to be deserted, until a man in his fifties with smiling blue eyes came towards us to wish us welcome. It was Sébastien, one of the owners. For over 15 years, he and his wife have owned this place and enthusiastically operated it. We had a good chat with Sébastien regarding his products and his vineyard. He told us that every year, when harvesting time comes around (generally at the end of September and the beginning of October), everyone is invited to come participate in the daily harvest (as of 9am), and then celebrate in the evening with a succulent BBQ offered by the winery. Definitely a not-to-be-missed activity, either with the family or with friends! If you’re a wine enthusiast, you definitely need to visit Vignoble du Faubourg and discover their products - white wines, rosé, red and fortified wines, wine vinegar, jelly and more!
For my sister and I, these three days in Chaudiere-Appalaches not only let us spend some quality time between sisters, it also gave us the opportunity to discover a magnificent region and have a number of surprising and unexpected encounters. The people we met over this weekend touched us in their own ways. Either through their generosity, their warmth, their kindness or their uniqueness, they really contributed to making our stay an unforgettable one.