A major tourism project has been completed in Charlevoix, a region of considerable charm and beauty on Quebec's north shore that should be on more travellers' radar.
Cirque de Soleil co-founder Daniel Gauthier, the man financing the development, began by transforming Le Massif, a ski area, into an all-seasons resort.
The last element, Hotel La Ferme, opened this summer in nearby Baie-St-Paul, with guest rooms, a farmers' market and its own railway station.
Then there's Le Train, created to bring sightseers and potential guests in from Quebec City, 85 kilometres to the west.
It offers several options, depending on the season. Right now, passengers can do a round trip between Quebec City and Baie-St-Paul, extend the journey east to La Malbaie, or include an overnight stay at La Ferme. Four short tours also are available from Baie-St-Paul. (Visit www.lemassif.com/en/train or phone 1-877-536-2774).
It's 140 km by rail from Quebec City to La Malbaie, and 85 of them are along the St. Lawrence River. En route, Le Train passes Montmorency Falls, Ile d'Orleans, Cap Tourmente Wildlife Reserve, Petite-Riviere- Saint-François, Baie-Saint-Paul, Isle-aux-Coudres, Saint-Joseph-de- la-Rive, and Saint-Irenee.
GPS locators in the refurbished rail cars activate a multimedia presentation of the region's history, culture and attractions, and gourmet food is promised.
Charlevoix is rich in all those. Landscape painters have long been inspired by its scenery, foodies by its veal, cheese, and foie gras.
When my wife and I stayed there during a driving trip several years ago, the woman running our bed and breakfast near La Malbaie said Charlevoix was a favourite getaway for couples from Quebec City and Montreal.
We had fun trotting out high-school French and were impressed by the food, the people, the hospitality, and the number of things to see and do. A six-night stay wasn't nearly long enough.
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