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Exotic Quebec: The Small Trips

By Angela Hickman

Fromage, s’il vous plait!
France is famous for its cheese, and it seems that when the French settled in Quebec they brought that expertise with them. The Route des Fromages links dozens of fromageries — including cow, sheep, and goat cheeses — and offers a great way to broaden your cheese horizons and get a sense of the certain je ne sais quoi inherent in Quebec cheese.

Befriend a maple tree
No trip to Quebec is complete without a taste of maple syrup, no matter what time of year you happen to visit. In the spring, when the sap is running, the maple syrup is as fresh as it gets, and on a cold winter day there’s the chance to enjoy warm maple syrup poured over fresh snow. Throughout the rest of the year you can focus on the other maple products, like maple butter and maple sugar. What I’m saying, is you can’t really go wrong.

Meet the ghosts with the most
If the crisp October air isn’t enough to send a chill down your spine, then perhaps a Ghost Tour of Québec City is in order. As dusk falls, follow the costumed tour guide and his lantern through the cobbled streets of the provincial capital as you hear about different side of the city’s history: 400 years of murders, executions, mysteries and ghostly sightings. You’ll never look at the stone walls or impressive architecture quite the same way again.

Explore the city of gold
Although not everything is made of gold in Cité de l’Or, it was the centre of the Quebec gold rush and was a gold mining town for 50 years. A visit to Bourlamaque offers the chance to descend 300 feet down the mine shaft and, above ground, to explore the main buildings of the former mine as well as the mining village itself.

Ski around a mountain
In the winter, mountains act like a magnet, and in Quebec people are pulled to the Laurentians. Mont Tremblant is famous for its European-style ski village and over 600 acres of ski and snowboard terrain on the mountain, but the ski hill also offers plenty to do around its base. Once you get a handle on the hill, take a day to try one of Mont Tremblant’s cross country ski trails, where you can feed the birds right from your hands and enjoy looking at the scenery instead of whipping by it at top speed.

Wander the snowy Woods
Oka National Park is a year-round paradise of natural beauty, but in the winter it offers something unique: snow walking trails. For people who enjoy walking the woods in the winter, often the trails are overtaken by cross-country skiers, snowmobilers, or snowshoers. While Oka offers both cross-country and snowshoe trails, it also reserves three trails along the lake just for hikers looking to admire the icy expanse.

Hunt for fossils
Miguasha National Park may seem like an unassuming bit of land, but its coastline is considered the world’s most outstanding illustration of the Devonian Period called the ‘Age of Fishes,’ dating back to 370 million years ago. The best-preserved fossils of lobe-finned fishes (the ones that evolved into four-legged, air-breathing, land animals) were found at Miguasha, and the on-site Museum of Natural History is the perfect compliment to a tour of the area or a short hike down to the beach where you can try your luck at fossil finding.

Sample some cider
Most people have heard of ice wine, but for a uniquely Quebec tasting experience, head to the Montérégie region and taste some ice cider. The Montérégie Cider Route links up the area’s cider producers, making it easy for you to spend a day sipping golden nectar and driving through orchard-dotted countryside. Learn how the different varieties of apples affect flavour and experience the different tastes that come with orchard, press, and technique.

Reel in a fish
The Eeyou Istchee region of northern Quebec has a wealth of cold, clear rivers and lakes, which makes it the perfect place to cast a line for northern pike, walleye, speckled trout and lake trout. The Cree Tourism will help you find an experienced guide who can help you catch your dinner or show you the best spots for a glorious afternoon of catch and release. Fishing licenses are available on site.

Drink some artisanal beer
Forget pedestrian beer; at Dieu du Ciel, the Montreal brewpub and St-Jérôme brewery, they left behind the obvious years ago. Check out, for example, their award-winning Aphrodisiaque, a cocoa and vanilla stout, or their Bière du Mai, brewed with the branches of spruce, pine, cedar, and fir trees, referencing the Quebec tradition in which, on May 1, a man would plant a tree in front of the house of the girl he wanted to marry in a gesture of love. Too romantic for your taste? Try a Charbonnière, brewed in the tradition of German smoked ales. Really, we could go on (Dieu du Ciel has dozens of impressive brews), but we think you should just go check out their taps for yourself.

Revisit history
When the English and the French clashed at the battle at the Plains of Abraham they changed the entire course of North America. Today, the battlefield is preserved as a 103-hectare city park accompanied by a museum and interpretive centre. Inspect the uniforms of the French and English soldiers, learn how the battle changed the course of history, and wander the grounds imagining each sword thrust and musket shot.

Catch your breath
In the middle of a treeless expanse sits the Pingualuit Crater, a large circular indentation left by the impact of a meteorite. Inside the crater is a lake whose water is impossible clear. The site was recently turned into the Pingualuit National Park, and offers visitors the opportunity to explore a landscape unlike any they’re likely to have come across before.

Be your own train
When the old railway tracks were pulled out of the Laurentides region, what remained as a continuous trails linking numerous small communities. Rather than filling in the space, it has been preserved and maintained as a linear park. The P’Tit Train du Nord is a 200-kilometre route through quaint towns and the impressive scenery of the lower Laurentian Mountains. Whether you’re planning a multi-day bicycle excursion, a day of walking, or a weekend of B&B-hopping, the P’Tit Train du Nord offers you the route as long as you provide your own (non-vehicle) transportation.

Spend the night with some caribou
If it’s not enough to watch camels frolic in the boreal forest at St-Félicien’s Zoo Sauvage, ramp up your visit by spending a night with a caribou herd. After a tour of the zoo, follow your guide on a hike of the surrounding woods and a sundown canoe on Lac Montagnais, followed by dinner around a campfire. Then, after a day full of activity, prepare to bed down in a prospector tent with a herd of caribou (which may or may not snore). It’s a sleep-over like nothing you’ve ever experienced.
When to go Spring, summer or fall

Climb a tree
Don’t be fooled – the tree-climbing experiences offered at La Forêt des Aventures Arbraska are not just for kids (although you can bring them along). Suspended bridges, zip lines and ladders turn the forest’s canopy into a maze of unconventional hiking, and grips installed around tree trunks will revolutionize the way you climb. If that all sounds too tame, try doing it in the dark – the three Quebec sites offer nighttime tours of the treetops, where only your headlamp and the moon light your way.

The BEST holidays

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