Famous for summer holidays and it’s magnificent golf course, Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu offers a similar kind of magical quality for winter holidays; where guests stay in a castle and dine like royalty after an invigorating day of outdoor activities

Overlooking the mighty St. Lawrence River in the picturesque Charlevoix region of Quebec, the Fairmont Manoir Richelieu Resort has the majestic appearance of a castle, its stone walls, turrets and green peaked copper roofs rising above the shoreline cliff.

On entering this historic property, we quickly came to appreciate that “Le Manoir” is full marks for its 5 Star status – one of a handful of Fairmont properties to have achieved such a high international ranking. With the first snowfalls, the resort becomes the focal point of a Winter Wonderland; with a huge variety of indoor and outdoor activities for couples and families. The resort offers a wide range of on-site activities, nearby cross-country and downhill ski centres; and is especially suited for multi-generational holidays. (Summer brings a different menu of pastimes; including a championship 27 hole golf course.)

Le Manoir Richelieu was originally built in 1899 as a summer resort that catered primarily to wealthy Americans who travelled to the resort aboard the ships of The White Line. Destroyed by fire in 1928 and subsequently rebuilt in 1929 as a fireproof stone and steel structure; the resort is now open year ‘round; offering guests the finest of winter holiday experiences by day; and exquisite 4 Diamond cuisine to create memorable nights.

Fairmont has continuously renovated and updated everything from the latest in-room electronic conveniences to state-of-the-art ovens in the kitchens to remain competitive.

Le Manoir Richelieu was purchased by Canadian Pacific Hotels before the company subsequently purchased the US based Fairmont chain of upscale hotels. $140 million was invested in upgrades and renovations for the iconic resort, and it re-opened after ten months of renovations in 1999 as a 5 Star luxury resort.

The resort has 405 rooms and suites spread out over 5 floors and offering garden views or spectacular panoramas of the St. Lawrence. The Jacuzzi rooms facing the river have proven to be so popular that the initial complement of 10 was doubled to 20 during the recent renovation of the first floor rooms.

The guest rooms have contemporary colour schemes, king, queen, or two double beds, HD TV and HD signals, wireless internet, coffee makers and all the conveniences that Fairmont refers to as their 24 Guest Essentials. “While we have all the means to keep you connected – a visit to Le Manoir Richelieu is a chance to turn off the Blackberry,” noted Sales & Marketing Director Eric Quesnel during our tour of the resort that covers 210 acres.

Skiers have the option of taking a free shuttle service to Mont Grand-Fonds with 14 slopes, 3 glades trails and a Snowpark for snowboarders. It’s an ideal family ski centre with moderate rates and family packages. Cross country enthusiasts have a selection of 160 km of trails, plus 5 km of skating trails.

There are 4 warming huts where skiers can cozy up to the fireplace and enjoy a snack before continuing through the winter wonderland. For more advanced skiers, Quebec’s ultimate skiing experience at Le Massif (highest vertical drop in Eastern Canada at 750+ metres) is within a comfortable distance. Special packages that include accommodation and lift tickets are available.

There are two outdoor ice rinks, one for pick-up hockey and another skating oval directly in front of the hotel.

“We have our own Zamboni, and our skating oval is exactly the width of the Zamboni. We have the best ice east of The Bell Centre!” states our guide, Director of Marketing Eric Quesnel. Sleigh rides of 15 – 20 minutes are complimentary, and those of longer duration into the village of La Malbaie are available at a modest $15 hourly.

If you’ve never tried ice fishing – this is your chance. The folks at Fairmont will even cut the hole in the ice for you. Another guest favourite is dog-sledding. Our host says that it’s a wonderful experience; “As you travel through the woods – the only sound you hear is the breathing of the dogs ahead of you – pulling the sled. Our guests tell us that this is one of their favourite Fairmont Moments.” Wintertime is a great occasion to try new activities and perhaps renew your acquaintance with a pair of skates.

During the 1999 renovations, Fairmont built a Multi-Sports Centre that also includes a fully equipped Spa with 22 treatment rooms, saunas, exercise facilities with floor-to-ceiling panorama windows, an indoor saltwater pool and… la pièce de résistance… two outdoor heated pools open all year! The patio stones leading to the pool are heated; and we thoroughly enjoyed our evening swim in early December.

With the steam rising off the water and fairy lights twinkling on the snow-covered ground – this was a special memory in the making.

Fine dining is a key ingredient for a successful vacation, and Executive Chef Jean-Michel Breton and his staff maintain the Le Manoir Richelieu’s Four Diamond status of culinary excellence, led by the resort’s signature restaurant, Le Charlevoix. Originally from Lyon, Chef Breton brings decades of hotel restaurant experience; including stints with The Ritz Carlton, Montreal’s Sheraton Centre, and Le Chateau Frontenac before being appointed Executive Chef at Le Manoir in 2000.

Fairmont Hotels and Resorts have a policy of using local suppliers which includes contracting and purchasing produce from local farmers. Le Manoir Richelieu is situated near 32 farms within a 50 km radius; and they provide everything from fresh vegetables to meats – all produced organically.

Guests enjoy meals prepared with fresh ingredients; and the local producers have a solid and reliable customer. Beef, veal, pork, lamb, rabbit, and emu are all produced locally.

With floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the St. Lawrence, the intimate Le Charlevoix offers gourmet cuisine in a romantic and elegant decor. In addition to a selection of A-la-Carte items that include beef, fish, fowl, and vegetarian dishes, Le Charlevoix is rightfully proud of their four and five course “Degustation” menus.

Diners have the option of wine-pairings offered by the knowledgeable staff, who can also guide your wine selection for the A-la-Carte menu. Dinner at Le Charlevoix is an ‘occasion’ and we recommend that you enjoy a romantic evening of fine dining and impeccable service. (If you’re travelling with children – the resort offers a moderately priced babysitting service.)

Recognizing the economic and cultural contribution of the 1,000-plus artists who live in the Charlevoix region, the artwork for the charger plates was commissioned to local artists: Louis Tremblay for Winter; Rémi Clark for Summer; Vladimir Horik for Autumn; and St. Jude for Spring. Their original paintings were purchased and now hang in Le Charlevoix.

Other restaurant options include Le Saint-Laurent, a French brasserie-style dining room with a selection of salads, sea food, fresh fish, and grilled meats. With a decor in soft pinks and turquoise, there is a distinctly “French” flair to this elegant room overlooking the river.

Bistro Le Bellerive offers casual dining, including a hearty breakfast buffet that will set you up nicely for the day’s activities.

Located on the Terrace level, the glass walls and atrium open to the vista of the St. Lawrence, the clear blue sky and that famous Charlevoix ‘light’ reflecting off the river.

Private Dining For a memorable dining occasion, a group can enjoy a very special dinner right in Executive Chef Breton’s private office and dining room, located adjacent to the main kitchen. The massive table, straight-backed chairs, beamed ceiling and prominent Le Manoir Richelieu Coat of Arms will have you feeling that you’ve stepped back into Samuel de Champlain’s time and his Order of Good Cheer. This unique dining experience also includes a tour of the kitchens where the various courses your meal are prepared. This is ideal for ‘foodies’, a special birthday, or for a family reunion. Chef Breton has a ceremonial sabre used to ‘sabre the champagne’; whereby the server removes the entire end of the bottle in one clean sweep!

In addition to offering flavourful and creative vegetarian dishes, the chefs at Le Manoir Richelieu will consult with guests who have specific dietary requirements or allergies. Fairmont has a policy of preparing food that not only meets a guest’s allergy requirements; but that also provides a delicious and flavourful meal.

Fairmont was the first major hotel operator in North America to initiate environmentally conscious and sustainable practices. National Geographic Traveller described the Fairmont initiative as “the most complete environmental program in the North American hotel sector.”

For business meetings and family receptions; Le Manoir Richelieu has a selection of 19 meeting rooms to accommodate from 15 to 1050 people; including the resort’s signature Tea Room and the old English-style Murray Room. Whether you’re celebrating a special family holiday or entertaining your company’s top producers, a few days at Le Manoir Richelieu is a unique and memorable experience.

Le Casino de Charlevoix is located just across from the hotel’s main entrance; and is accessible by an underground passageway if you’ve had enough fresh air.

The core of Le Manoir’s business is getaway and family vacations; and the entire staff are trained and motivated to make your stay a special event. Whenever we visit a Fairmont resort, we note that a significant number of the staff have worked there for many years – often decades. The same holds true at Le Manoir Richelieu.

Perhaps it’s not surprising that Fairmont has been voted one of Canada’s Top 100 Employers for the tenth consecutive year. After all, it’s the wait staff, spa technicians and other resort staff who make a holiday a memorable event, and it follows that a happy staff will have satisfied guests.

We can heartily recommend Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu for a getaway or full winter vacation. In the spring we’ll provide an outline of the summer activities, including the resort’s unique Observatory.

Winter Packages
There are several winter packages available, including skiing at Mont Grand Fonds, another at Le Massif, and an excellent-value Winter Family Fun Package that starts at just $229 per night for a family of 2 adults and 2 children under 18. It includes: accommodation in a Fairmont room for 2 adults and 2 children, one family movie rental in the room, popcorn and juice delivered to the room, choice of rental equipment for ice-fishing, snowshoeing, or skating per day, access to the Multi-Sport Centre, skating rink and indoor/outdoor pools, a 50% rebate off the regular rate on a second room or a second night.
For snowmobile enthusiasts

The Charlevoix region has the most number of snowmobile trails in North America, and Le Manoir Richelieu has developed appealing packages for snowmobile enthusiasts. Guests can also rent machines, clothing, helmets, and everything needed for a great day out on the trails. Rentals are available by the hour, half day, or one, two and three day periods.

The Deluxe Snowmobile Package includes:

  • Accommodation of a Fairmont guestroom
  • Full buffet breakfast for two people in Le Bellerive
  • Secure, indoor, heated snowmobile parking (up to 2 machines per room)
  • Starting at $199 per room per night based on double occupancy (subject to availability and weather conditions until March 31, 2012

Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu is located on the North Shore of the St Lawrence, just outside the village of La Malbaie, about 90 minutes from Quebec City and a four hour drive from Montreal. We took the VIA Business Class service from Montreal to Quebec City. The fine onboard service and convenient downtown locations of the VIA stations make the train option very attractive. www.viarail.com

Car rentals are available in Quebec City if you select the VIA option. Bus (Intercar: 418-627-9108), Limo (A1 Lime: 418-523-5059) and taxi (TAXI Co-op: 418-525-5191) services are available. In our case, a few days later we traveled on the custom-built Le Train de Charlevoix. After leaving the Quebec City from the Montmorency Falls station, The train travels along the shoreline of the St. Lawrence, a beautifully scenic route. A gourmet lunch and/or dinner prepared in the kitchens of Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu is a main attraction for this trip.

For reservations at Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu, please call: 418-665-3703 or online: www.fairmont.com/richelieu