By Maureen Littlejohn
Le Germain Hotel Charlevoix is not your usual country abode. An hour’s drive from Quebec City, the hotel is surrounded by farmers’ fields, and tucked between the mountains and the river.
But instead of a single structure, it comprises numerous buildings containing a variety of accommodations, as well as a spa and the main building with lobby and restaurant. The guest rooms are modern and clean (think white and woodsy), large windows invite the outdoors inside, and some even offer views of resident farm animals, including shaggy red highland cattle. And the upscale rustic décor was named Top Design in the World in 2013 by the Retail & Leisure Interior Awards.
I was lodged in a superior room with a balcony where I sat in the morning with a coffee surveying the agricultural activity, namely deliveries of hay to my new redheaded friends. Serving a range of guests, the hotel also had a four-bed dormitory, family rooms with bunk beds for the kids, a junior suite, and an an airy studio. Some rooms, I noticed, even had coffee tables in the shape of a pig.
The building I was in was furthest from Les Labours, the restaurant, which was fine with me since a brisk walk was in order before and after the delicious meals. Charlevoix is a gourmand’s paradise and Les Labours highlighted the region’s offerings, from creamy, fragrant cheese, to locally produced meats, vegetables and fruit. Some restaurants have a chef’s table, but at Les Labours, every table would qualify because the chef and his team did their magic in an open kitchen in the centre of the room.
At brunch, the dishes were laid out on counters surrounding the kitchen. I heaped my plate with scrambled eggs, ham and sausage stew, maple pudding, and Migneron potatoes (similar to cheesy scalloped potatoes). My companion dug into piping hot quiche, a slice of frittata, and waffles with salted caramel sauce. We didn’t have any more room but other options included shrimp salad, cold cuts, pork spread, oatmeal, pastries, fresh fruit, smoothies, toast and jam.
At dinner, the Table d’Hote offered a starter, main and dessert for one price, $49. The menu changes seasonally but when I was there starters included wild shrimp and smoked whelks, mains included pork belly and scallops, and dessert was Charlevoix cheese.
Thermal spa experience at Hotel Charlevoix
To counteract all the good food, I headed to Spa Nordique Le Germain for a thermal experience. Bopping from Finnish sauna (where I could see grazing sheep through the picture window) to cold (brrr!), then warm (ahhh!) outdoor pools, I rested and then tried the eucalyptus steam room, followed by a snow rubdown. The snow comes from an indoor “fountain” and is actually finely crushed ice. It sounds scary, but is a great way to get the blood moving. I was positively tingling at the end. The thermal experience is included with all massages and other body treatments (but not manicures or pedicures).
During the day, there were lots of outdoor activity options. Hiking, biking and fishing is excellent from spring to fall, and I was told there’s skating and snowshoeing in winter. No matter what the season, guests gather at the fire pit each evening to toast marshmallows. On Friday and Saturday nights, the hotel’s casual eatery, Le Bercail, has a DJ and live music.
If you are looking for bucolic charm with a modern twist, Le Germain Hotel Charlevoix is the place. For me, the outstanding décor and cuisine brought a whole to perspective to the phrase “farm to table.”
Maureen Littlejohn has been writing about entertainment, lifestyle and travel for longer than she’d care to disclose. Currently, she is executive director of Culture Magazin (no e!).