On the Saguenay Fjord in Quebec is a magical pristine body of water surrounded by enchanting villages and tall mountains. The fjord was cut out of the mountains by a glacier millions of years ago.
The journey from the Parc National du Fjord-d-Saguenay (here’s part one and part two) continues aboard the marine shuttle. After the Bateau Mouche docks in the quaint village of L’Anse-Saint-Jean, (St. John’s Cove), I board the free schoolbus shuttle that meets the ferry at the port in the summer. On the menu is the Covert Pont—the historic covered bridge that has been transformed into a year-round art gallery featuring the work of local artists under waterproof plexiglass.
The bridge is next to the daunting St. John’s stone church and the cemetery with unique Québécois headstones—white marble etched with black writing, some using wrought iron, at the same time eerie and peaceful. Then it’s time for a stop at Patisserie Louise to get Louise’s Pets de Soeur (“Nun’s Farts” pastries), Le Bistro Bar for a local Belle Gueule beer, and finally Mont-Édouard to see the ski area and luxuriate in the Pied d’Edouard Nordic spa.
At the spa the three-step routine is first hot, then cold, then rest. First, it’s the hot Hammam (steam room) or a large barrel sauna as long as you can stand it; next, a dip in the ice water bath; and finally, a retreat to one of three rest areas where your mind, body, and soul will rejuvenate. Then, you repeat the process. This all causes the release of natural endorphins, creating a feeling of euphoria.
There are three silent sanctuaries where the relaxation occurs: a yurt with chaise lounges, a stone and glass room with a fireplace and individual hammocks, and the grotto, which is a cave reproduction with stone lounge chairs and purple-black lighting to highlight the “cave drawings” reproduced from Lascaux originals in France. These havens are soundless except for the New Age music. Massages and special treatments are offered on the top floor—a fish pedicure and manicure! Small Garufalo fish imported from Turkey take delight in munching on the dead skin while cleaning the feet and hands with their natural enzymes. Warning: tickling may occur!
The on-site, 28-room Pied d-Edouard hotel also offers use of the fully equipped kitchen with assigned individual drawers for guests to store food.
Back on the other side of the village, a half-hour ride from the mountain, a sunset kayak trip was the plan. Our expedition was with Kayak au Fjord—conveniently located across from our hotel. The extensively trained and certified guide spent an hour teaching us and dressing us with all the accouterments for the trip. I have to say, it was one of the best experiences I have ever had, and, believe me, after all the Nordic spa treatments, I was reluctant to get out on the cool fjord at all.
The sunset was spectacular and to my surprise, I longed to keep on kayaking until I dropped. I found out that longer kayaking/camping expeditions are offered through Kayak au Fjord, but for us, dinner was waiting at L’Islet, the restaurant overlooking the fjord at the Chalets sur le Fjord, where we each spent the night in our individual one-room condos (also overlooking the fjord). The adventure-packed day was capped off by a delicious dinner as we all splurged on filet mignon, shrimp, scalloped potatoes, red cabbage, and for dessert, the petite blueberry pie!
The next morning I went to “the city” of Chicoutimi to “La Pulperie Museum” to see an amazing piece of work: the actual home of the artist Arthur Villeneuve which he used as his canvas for his folk paintings. This man drove his poor wife crazy by painting on every surface except her bedroom walls. Luckily for us, the house was purchased and brought to the museum, once an old paper mill which has the height to “house” it. No pun intended!
I stayed at and loved the Hotel Chicoutimi, a renovated 114-year-old hotel made into a chic modern boutique property in the heart of Chicoutimi. My room overlooked the Saint-François-Xavier Cathedral and had a view of the Saguenay River as well. We had dinner that night at their International Café, a bustling bistro that must be the most popular in town.
I slept soundly, in the morning took the elevator to the first floor, and enjoyed a very good breakfast at the Hotel with lovely caring waitresses. After, I took a taxi to the bus station and boarded the bus for a two hour ride southwest to Québec City. My husband, Highroad Cam, drove from Connecticut to meet me. In the next and final article on the Québec series (which you can read here), we explore the cosmopolitan city for the weekend!
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