Quebec City:

Falling for Canada's Old World Charm

By Laura Aiken


Golf. Eat. Drink. Sightsee. I could hardly wait. I spent the hour and a half flight from Toronto to Quebec City watching What Happens in Vegas to pass the impatience drumming through my fingertips in a cacophony of nail noise on the armrest.  There was a lot to be excited about. As a former student in Ottawa it was a chance to learn about Quebec beyond Hull. The province turned up more surprises than the one Christmas I didn’t snoop.


About 100 kms north of Quebec City you’ll find Charlevoix, a region created 350 million years ago by a meteor. A dash of small towns call this crater home, its residents camped comfortably between the sprawling St. Lawrence River and dramatic Laurentian peaks. It’s sort of like life on Georgian Bay, except there are whales in this water and the mountains are more Alberta foothills than Niagara Escarpment.


About two hours into the Charlevoix voyage, we (group of journalists) reached our resting place, the Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu. It’s an original high end destination for old North American money that’s been atop the Pointe-au-Pic cliff overlooking the St. Lawrence since 1899. The sprawling castle houses 405 guestrooms of varying privilege. I sat on the firm mattress of my bed and ate chocolate treats addressed to me as a prelude to dinner while I watched the river unfold into oblivion. The grandeur leaves you feeling a little smugly aristocratic. Le Manoir Richelieu is most appreciated by those who love history, royalty, antiques and classical art, but also BMW bicycles, Amerispa, and salt water pools.  


Charlevoix, a region where they don’t build over three stories, offered some fantastic après golf (see sidebar for notes on actual golf, of which much was played). We ventured to the Casino Charlevoix, which is onsite at the Fairmont. It’s a clean, modern, fresh gambling experience with an airy and spacious bar (note you cannot take alcohol out of the bar area here). One sunny afternoon, warm enough to shed down to bathing suits and kayak between rocky precipices, we paid a visit to des Hautes-Gorges-de-la-Rivière-Malbaie national park. Post-kayak, we hummed down the river on a private boat tour while the operator pointed out etchings in the mountains that resembled people. Standing at the stern, I watched the engine cut the water into rippling shards of glass that melted against the beaver dam banks. No wonder Charlevoix is a renowned source of artist inspiration.


Next, we stopped for a one-day layover in Beaupré at Château Mont-Sainte-Anne. By now, I’ve picked up that Quebec is a forerunner when it comes to environmental sensitivity and Mont-Saint-Anne is an industry leader of the movement. When new owners Sébastien and Henri Roy began renovating the guestrooms into modern nodes of luxury, they hired an environmental specialist to ensure the highest level of ecological standards. The overhaul resulted in a 4 Green Key certification from the Hotel Association of Canada. This award recognizes industry leadership in environmental policies and practices. Mont-Saint-Anne is the only private hotel in Quebec to receive this recognition.


Old Quebec City’s charm is so abundant that you can be single and feel like you’re on a personal honeymoon.  It was a slum in the 1950s before the residents were expropriated and the area was restored to its original state, showcasing tin roofs and chimney sweeping ladders. I’m not sure of the significance of all the bicycles hanging from the building walls in September of 2008, but it sure looked neat. Some of the most decisive history in Canada was played out inside the walls of North America’s only fortified city, where the way in or out is via the world’s largest cantilever bridge. In 1759, the French and English battled for control of New France on the Plains of Abraham, now rolling parkland enjoyed by city dwellers and guests. Ironically, while Great Britain got the upper hand in that war, Quebec City remains 95% francophone.


Le château bonne entente, our final sleep, provided cloud-soft beds, premium spa amenities in-room, and ultimately a very urban experience. Quebec City combines history and modernity with the hand of an expert and the heart of an artist. The city is truly worth a return trip.


Le Menu

Tried, tested and truly fantastic culinary picks


Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu: Chef Jean-Michel Breton

The Saint-Laurent Restaurant: oysters, steak tartare, potatoes in duck fat, lamb, veal, beef tenderloin
Maple crème crepes for breakfast at the clubhouse


Mont-Saint-Anne: Chef Simon Renaud
Bistro : venison tartare, creme brulee foie gras, Barracuda

le château bonne entente Chef Marie-Chantal Lepage


Monte Cristo : Pot-au-feu (oxtail stew/braised jowl/foie gras mashed potatoes), duck tartare with wasabi espuma and poached quail egg, Tuna savoured differently (tataki, sashimi, tartare)


Quebec Golf:


There are about 350 golf courses in Quebec, and Graham Cooke is credited with bringing a lot of affordable golf into the province. Players should keep in mind green speeds will double towards the water and halve their speed towards the mountain.


Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu (27 holes)
Great resort golf with spectacular views. The St. Laurent is the newest 9. The first is a signature hole with an elevated tee deck pointing to a green perched so perilously cliff side it appears to be floating above the St. Lawrence. The Tadoussac is the second oldest nine and more traditional in design with smaller greens. The Richelieu, the original 9, was inaugurated by former US President William H. Taft in 1925.  


Le Grand Vallon (18 holes)
Located beside Mont-Saint-Anne, this golf course is a fitting resort choice at 6583 yards. The course offers pretty views of four lakes and uses bushes as yardage markers, an interesting way to keep it looking natural.


La Tempête
Host of the 2009 TELUS Skins game, this is modern design with an impressive clubhouse that immediately gives one the impression they are in a nice place. La Tempête is the first bentgrass course in the Quebec City area. The layout and 7096 yardage will challenge the slickest stick handlers.