Magazine article Sunset

Northeast of Quebec, You May Feel You're in 17th-Century France

Magazine article Sunset

Northeast of Quebec, You May Feel You're in 17th-Century France

Article excerpt

Northeast of Quebec, you may feel you're in 17th-century France

Downriver from the city of Quebec, the St. Lawrence widens. Mountains rise to the north, and small villages cluster along the shore. Shaggy peaks and imposing headlands alternate with narrow valleys and rushing streams, inspiration for the many artists who come here to paint.

In this area, about 400 miles north of Boston but at the same latitude as Seattle, the flavor of 17th-century France lingers. In an outing of a day or two from Quebec, you can sample fine food, browse in art galleries and craft shops, visit a tiny island, stay in a historic inn, or hike in a nature reserve. As you travel, try your French or navigate in English; you're welcomed in either language.

Summer offers mild weather with some rain, but less heat and humidity than farther south. And this year, with the Canadian dollar about the only major currency not rising against U.S. money, a trip north of the border can give you the flavor of France at much better value.

Provincial Highway 138 runs northeast along what's called the Charlevoix coast 156 miles to Tadoussac, at the mouth of the Saguenay River. (For attractions in Quebec and vicinity, see the October 1985 Sunset.) Here are Charlevoix highlights.

Beaupre coast to Baie-St.-Paul (33 miles). Best known along this stretch of shore is the much-visited shrine at Ste.-Anne-de-Beaupre. Cap Tourmente wild-life area protects the habitat of the greater snow goose, which stops here in spring and fall; nature trails lead along the shore and into the woods, while displays interpret the area's ecology. Close by, Ste. Anne falls (chutes) roar through a gorge; a 1-mile trail takes you close to and over the water. Admission is about $1.75 U.S.; you'll find a snack bar and lots of tour buses here.

Galleries, shops, and studios mark the summer art colony of Baie-St.-Paul. Walk around the small town with its 200-year-old houses and mills.

Baie-St.-Paul to La Malbaie (23 miles). Leave Route 138 here and take Route 362 as it follows the ups and downs of the coast. This is the prettiest section of road, with ever-changing views of land and water; the small towns of St.-Joseph-de-la-Rive, Les Eboulements, and St.-Irenee are all worth stops.

In an old schoolhouse in St.-Joseph, the Papeterie St. Gilles uses 17th-century methods to turn cotton pulp into high-quality paper. If you visit (8:45 to noon and 1 to 4:45 Tuesdays through Saturdays), you can see the process and buy finished paper, some with ferns and other plants embedded in it. …

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