Charlevoix

Hugging the north shore of the St. Lawrence from the enchanting village of Baie St. Paul up to La Malbaie and beyond, the Charlevoix region is a year-round tourism destination. During the spring, summer and fall, the local artisans open their farms, studios and workshops to visitors. We recently visited several, and were impressed with the high quality of the products, but also with inventiveness and entrepreneurial spirit of the artists and artisans; from pottery to a highland cattle farm and cheese makers.

Charlevoix

Fromagerie Migneron’s onsite restaurant
has a popular terrace

After passing through Quebec City, we followed Route 362, which just won 2nd Best Scenic Drive in Canada by USA Today. Our first stop on the Charlevoix Route des Saveurs was in Baie St. Paul, which is post-card worthy with its art galleries, pubs, boutiques and tourist-friendly atmosphere. We had an excellent lunch at the Saint-Pub, overlooking the picturesque rue Saint-Jean-Baptiste, the central area for many of the town’s galleries, shops and restaurants. The pub is a micro-brewery, offering their La Vache Folle and Dominus Vobiscum beers, all made without artificial ingredients.

Our next stop in the outskirts of town was the Maison d’Affinage Maurice Dufour, a family-owned award-winning cheese producer. Their cheeses are made from sheep’s milk, which is richer than cow’s milk. The second generation son and daughter are now involved in the business, and the family has introduced red, white and rose wines. Second generation Alexandre Dufour informed us that the grapes were developed by scientists in Minnesota who wanted to produce a hearty vine that could withstand the harsh winters, similar to those in Quebec. The family sells their entire 8,000 bottle production direct to the public from their on-site boutique, where you can also purchase the four Migneron cheeses. We tried them all and purchased two; they’re all tasty and very smooth on the palate. There is an on-site restaurant that is open for lunch, offering a variety of lamb dishes. For dessert, be sure to try their home-made ice cream. The young entrepreneur’s next project is to create a vodka from that part of the sheep milk that is not used.  (www.famillemigneron.com)

Charlevoix

Hélène Garon is the engaging owner/operator of the Pôterie Port-au-Persil

On our second day, we visited the yellow barn housing Pôterie de Port-au-Persil, and this was a treat. In our travels, we periodically meet truly outstanding people who are passionate about what they do and have an unbridled enthusiasm for their chosen work. Hélène Garon is the owner/operator of this pottery gallery/store/school and café; where she shares her passion of providing local potters a gallery to exhibit and sell their work. Hélène enjoyed a successful business career before taking the reins at Poterie de Port-au-Persil, originally founded by renowned potter and glaze specialist Pierre Legault. Hélène’s enthusiasm for the workshop and teaching is contagious. The school offers one-hour courses for individuals, small groups and children. It’s well worth the scenic drive from La Malbaie to visit with Hélène and her colleagues, and ideally – book ahead for a lesson.  www.poteriedeportaupersil.com

Charlevoix

Nathalie pictured with some of their skin care products made from donkey’s milk

A few kilometres down the road in Port-au-Persil, we visited Ferme de l’Âne de Saint-Laurent. While visiting as tourists from France, owners Nathalie and Serge Kremer fell in love with Charlevoix, the farm and its panoramic views of the village and majestic St-Lawrence River spread out below. They bought the farm – and then had to find a way to make it go as a business. Serge had experience working with horses and donkeys in his native France, where donkey’s milk is used in soaps and beauty products. Nathalie and Serge purchased their first donkeys, and began making hand and facial soaps in 2004. They then began developing beauty products, and in 2007 they introduced their line of Shamâne cosmetics. Nathalie and Serge are open to visitors, and they have a well-stocked gift shop selling everything from soaps to their Shamâne line of cosmetics. The internet helps to make this a viable operation, enabling Nathalie and Serge to send their products by mail to their customers – many of whom repeat their orders. It’s a great love story, terrific products and cute donkeys. Visit their website for a complete list of the soaps and cosmetics; plus a photo gallery of their donkeys. There are Shamâne boutiques in Quebec City (Vieux Quebec) and in Baie-St-Paul with all the cool boutiques on rue St-Jean-Baptist.  www.ane-charlevoix.com

Charlevoix

Nathalie Kremer with 3 and 4 month-old donkeys bred to provide milk for their certified Shamâne skin care products

For planning a trip, Tourism Charlevoix has some excellent information available in the Quebec Tourism Centre in Downtown Montreal at the office facing Dorchester Square.  The bilingual Route des Saveurs 2017 (Flavour Trail) magazine is available. It’s online at: www.routedessaveurs.com

Next month we’ll provide descriptions of the other farms and artisans we visited. If you’re planning a trip to Charlevoix before then, here are the places we visited and recommend:
• Pains d’exclamation! in La Malbaie
• Champignons Charlevoix: www.champignonscharlevoix.com
• Ferme Caprivoix: Raising Highland Cattle and goats, www.fermecaprivoix.com

For more information about a Charlevoix holiday, please visit: www.tourisme-charlevoix.com or call 1-800-667-2276. Bon voyage!

To learn more about Charlevoix and La Routes des Saveurs read Peter and Beverley Kerr’s Scenic Charlevoix and La Route des Saveurs, Part II