Travel: The Laurentians
An area of tangible dualities
By Kate Robertson
Located north of Montreal, Les Laurentides is a region crossed by the rounded Laurentian Mountains. The area features vast forests, more than 9,000 lakes and 100 fresh-flowing rivers, as well as thousands of kilometres of crosscountry skiing trails.
Mont Tremblant National Park, the largest in Quebec at 1,500 square kilometres, is a canoeing and hiking paradise. Guided activities are available through Kanatha-Aki (which means Guardian of the Boundless Earth, in Algonquin) for horseback riding, fishing and visiting the wood bison – the largest land mammal in North America. This Quebec reserve is the only one that is dedicated to protecting these endangered animals. If reserving with Kanatha-Aki, be sure to pre-book a cheese fondue. After spending the night in a rustic cabin or teepee, there’s nothing quite like dipping chunks of fresh baguette into the gooey goodness of melted cheese, while sitting in front of the wood stove in the open-beam lodge.
Originally built in 1936, the Mont Gabriel Hotel & Spa is located on top of a mountain. On a clear day, you can see the Montreal Olympic Stadium from your room, and golf enthusiasts will enjoy the picturesque, 18-hole, on-site course.
The Chenin du Terroir is a 226-kilometre food trail that takes you along country backroads with many enticing stops along the way. Make sure to stop at Tarterie du Verger de la Musique for freshly baked pies and their signature apple bread. This sixth-generation, family-operated business has patented the recipe for their gourmet bread, which includes a full pound of apples in each loaf. During apple season, arrive early to score some of this chewy, cinnamon-y delicacy, as they often sell out of the more-than 500 loaves that they bake per day.
Down the road from the bakery is Vignoble Riviere du Chene. Here you can take a tour, and learn about the typicality of the terroir and grape varietals, as well as the responsible farming techniques and winemaking methods that they use. Tours run from May until the end of October, but wine tasting is available year-round. A soft, fruity rosé named after their daughter, Gabrielle, just might be the perfect pairing to go along with the apple bread, and other tasty treats from the food trail, for an impromptu picnic.
Nominated as one of the best beekeeping farms in the world and recognized across North America for the diversity, and quality, of their products, Intermiel manages 5,000 beehives. The farm also has a 600-tree apple orchard, and 16,000 maple trees that are tapped for syrup each spring. The beekeeping tour is fascinating. Did you know that bees cover a radius of six kilometres to get their pollen? Also, the queen bee lives for five years because she eats royal jelly, but the worker bees only have a lifespan of 45 days. Check out the unique merchandise made from honey and wax that they have available in their store, as well as artisanal alcohol products, which include house-made mead, ciders and brandies – all prepared from the the farm’s own ingredients.
Yin and Yang
Known world-wide for its famous ski resort, the village of Mont Tremblant is the second oldest village in North America. The buildings and cobblestone, pedestrian-only streets are reminiscent of quaint, European styling.
The best of all worlds can be experienced here. If you want an outdoor adventure getaway, you can enjoy the beauty of the area by hiking or biking. D-Tours offers e-fat biking, which are electrically assisted bikes with fat tires. The extra boost is most welcome when navigating the hilly terrain. Take in the stunning panorama with a gondola ride, or enjoy the challenges of some breathtaking golf courses.
For a quieter, more-relaxed holiday, the rustic, Nordic-style Scandinave Spa is located in a wilderness setting. As with traditional thermal spas, there are hydrotherapy baths with hot and cold installations, steam and hot sauna options, as well as relaxation areas. If you dare, you can take a dip in the Diable River, where the temperature is around 12 degrees (colder in the winter). After, wrap up in a large blanket and cosy up in front of the fire pit. Reconnect with your inner self, as the entire spa is a silent zone.
The Laurentians is an incredible, all-season destination, but with its monumental stands of maple trees, along with a bountiful harvest, Fall is a glorious time to visit.