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Quebec: A Romantic Winter Interlude
It doesn’t matter what you do in North America’s most romantic city as it seems to awaken passion the second you arrive in its walled bosom. Cozy up by the fire in the circular St. Laurent lounge in the Chateau Frontenac and savour a glass of vintage port while sampling a plate of fine Quebec cheese. From the palatial windows you can look out onto the frigid St. Lawrence and feel relieved that you arrived here 400 years after Champlain. Afterwards snuggle in the back of a horse-drawn carriage as it clip-clops through the cobblestone streets. Under thick blankets and jaunty chapeaus you can take in the traditional French architecture and have your driver stop for photos of the St. Jean Gate and Place Royale. Have your carriage pull over on Cote de la Fabrique so you can pop into La Maison Simons for some of the most fashionably affordable shopping in the country. Treat your beau to something from Philippe Dubuc’s new collection.
From Old Quebec you can see a steel bridge stretching out into the St. Lawrence and connecting the mainland to Ile d’Orleans, a wonderful place to spend a couple hours touring around the six villages — three of which belong to the association of beautiful towns of Quebec. It’s also the prefect place to bunker down for the night in one of the many B&Bs. Gite La Maison du Mesnil, in St. Laurent offers year-round accommodation and a romance package including champagne upon arrival and candlelight breakfasts. Make sure to request a fire place room — the perfect locale for spending an amorous afternoon. If chocolate helps awaken the goddess within stop by the Chocolaterie de l’Ile d’Orleans in Sainte-Petronille. If ice cream in winter doesn’t scare you order a soft-serve cone dipped in pure Belgian milk chocolate — its shell is so thick you can bite the top off and scoop the creamy centre out with a spoon — and it’s perfect for sharing.
The spectacular two-hour drive from Quebec City to Tadoussac winds its way through ski hills and down-right lovely towns, offering magnificent views of the St. Lawrence. The half-way point is the artist village of Baie-Saint-Paul, (also the birthplace of Cirque du Soleil) so named because it has inspired generations of artists captured by its charming heritage and surrounding natural beauty. Quaint B&Bs, restaurants and, of course, art galleries line its main street and make an ideal pit stop. Auberge la Grande Maison offers impeccable dining, four-star accommodation and a full-service spa and is the ideal place to stay if skiing Le Massif if also on your agenda.
Fairmont Le Manoir Richlieu, La Malbaie
This 100-year-old chateau rises majestically from the cliffs of the St. Lawrence river’s north shore and is the ideal spot for lovers looking for 5-star amenities without crowds or kids. Ski bunnies and winter enthusiasts alike can hit Le Massif for world-class slopes or partake in any number of out door activities including snowshoeing, skating, dog sledding or horseback riding. But for something a little more subdued why not cuddle under fur blankets on a horse-drawn sleigh ride through the snow-covered forest. With only the sound of snow falling from the laden branches it’s the ideal time to connect without words. Afterwards relax your tired muscles in the saltwater outdoor pool and hot tub. Linger in the soothing 95 degree oasis while silent snowflakes disappear on the water’s surface. Afterwards book side-by-side massages or make reservations in one of the three onsite restaurants and you’ll satisfy all your senses.
Ryan Jennings is a travel and food writer based in Toronto. He’s the bestselling author of Cooking with Booze. Visit his website at www.cookingwithbooze.com.