Barb and Baden’s Excellent Quebec Adventure – Part 6

Country Bound

As today is Wednesday and the half way point of our Quebec Adventure, we’re going to be picking up our rental car and driving to the second phase of our trip going to the Quebec region of Chaudière-Appalaches. Chaudière-Appalaches is the region of Quebec just south of Quebec City and below the St. Lawrence river – stretching all the way to the US border. Our destination that we are heading towards is the small town of Montmagny (pronounced moh-ma-nee) and the place that we will be staying for the next four nights called the Manoir des Erables.

When planning this trip, I didn’t really have any predetermined plans to see the Chaudière-Appalaches region or Montmagny in particular but it was by finding the Manoir des Erables that all of the above became part of our itinerary. To contrast the time that we would be spending in Quebec City, I thought that it would be a nice idea to spend the other half of the trip in more of a country setting. Through searching many of the Quebec tourist web sites and doing Google searches on things like “Quebec winter vacation”, I came to learn the term auberge which is French for country house or inn. It was this type of accommodation that led me to find the Manoir des Erables as it seemed to fit the description perfectly.

We picked up a rental car in Quebec City for our 1 hour drive to Montmagny. On the drive through Quebec City, I couldn’t help but contrast this drive with the last time that I drove a rental a car in another city: in Florence, Italy last October. In comparison to the streets of Florence which in many cases were so narrow that my rear view mirrors were rubbing against parked cars and mopeds, the drive through Quebec City was pretty uneventful. Although I feared that the snows covered streets and steep hills of Quebec would be a problem, our rental car was outfitted with good winter tires so this was never an issue. In addition, the blizzard that we experienced on Monday had all but gone and it was actually (dare I say) warm when we left Quebec City – probably about -1 or so.

The drive out of Quebec City went well enough and after we crossed the Pierre Laport Bridge over to the south side of the St. Lawrence river we headed east on highway 20 towards Montmagny.

Compared to what we’re used to around Vancouver, the history of the provinces on the eastern half of Canada takes on a whole different meaning to the term old. Montmagny, for example, while being a relatively small town of about 10,000 people, was founded in 1678 and the original structure of the Manoir des Erables was built in the 1800’s. Added onto several times, the manoir is larger than the original building and now encompasses many additional buildings spread across the estate.

To the Manoir Bound

When we arrived at the manoir yesterday, we were warmly greeted by one of the smartly dressed staff at the front desk. She gave us a run down of all of the activities that I had booked and confirmed with us our dinner reservations for that night.

Oh, I forgot to mention that she only spoke French.

On the subject of language, I had this impression that Quebec City and the area around it was the hotbed of Quebec nationalism and that speaking anything other than French was considered beneath them.

Sidebar: I’ve also hear this of the people in France too.

Politics aside, I can’t say that Barb or I have ever had any negative encounters with anyone in our Quebec adventure so far and this includes people who spoke no English at all. The same goes for our two trips to France and other countries where English is not the primary language. Without exception, the people of Quebec have been some of the most friendly people we have ever met.

While Barb and I both speak a little French, we are by no means fluent but we have a simple approach that seems to work in virtually every non-English speaking country or region that we have gone to. First, don’t expect that everyone will speak English to you and you should be grateful to them if they do. At the bare minimum, have at least the following local words in your vocabulary in the other person’s language: hello, please, thank you, goodbye and only when you have used all of the above word first, only then use do you speak English?.

I have seen time and time again when someone uses do you speak English? (or worse) saying this in English at the very start that the reaction from the other person goes down hill from that point forward. We’ve learned that courtesy, respect and a sense of humour are the cornerstones of having a good vacation experience.

Last night we arrived in the manoir for dinner (as we’re staying in one of the side buildings called the Pavilion) and were shown to the incredibly elegant dining room. You have to imagine an 19th century mansion that has beautifully made wood finishing on the walls and ceilings at every turn. Everything about the manoir evokes elegance and charm of a previous era.

We were seated by the dining room fireplace and with dinner we had a glass of an extremely good local Quebec wine called Le Closeau. The area around Montmagny is known as the goose region of Quebec and as such it seemed fitting to order the goose for dinner – an excellent choice.

After dinner we retired back to our room to relax for the rest of the night. Tomorrow, Barb will be experiencing the first of the activities that I have planned as I have her booked most of the day in the manoir’s on-site spa. With a combination of exfoliation, essential oil baths and massage, I’m sure that Barb will be a new woman by the end of the day today.

As I had some time on my hands before Barb is finished, I am sitting in the manoir’s Cigar Room writing the last of this update. Around me on shelves sit about 30 different bottles of whisky, scotch and port. However, by far the most interesting items in the room are the four stuffed animals hanging from the walls including the huge moose head looking down on me.

As you can see, the Manoir des Erables is definitely not lacking for atmosphere.


Continue reading the final article in this series

One Comment

  • Peter

    Nicely done, Baden! You can be our travel consultant any time!!…

    If the Manoir offers it, try your hand at snow-shoeing, or ‘des raquettes’ as they say around there…or will you guys be too stuffed and satiated by the food and fireplace as indicated on their website?…;-)