Fall colours come alive in rural Quebec

A horse drawn carriage takes visitors through Auberge Le Baluchon property in Saint-Paulin, Quebec. (Julia Pelish/Vacay.ca)

At Auberge Le Baluchon in Saint-Paulin, Quebec, a horse-drawn carriage carries guests on a fall foliage tour along the region’s splendid country trails. (Julia Pelish/Vacay.ca)

Story and Photos by Julia Pelish
Vacay.ca Visuals Editor and Spa Columnist

SAINT-PAULIN, QUEBEC — I ventured to Quebec’s Lanaudière-Mauricie region last week with the intent to explore its exceptional spa properties. As a bonus, I experienced colour therapy, as well, thanks to the remarkable fall foliage of the resplendent countryside.

Lanaudière-Mauricie, 130 kilometres (80 miles) northeast of Montreal, is swaggering with fall’s grandeur. During my visit, I covered a circuitous route on a delightful four-day road trip that is no more than two hours by car from either of the province’s two big cities. While Montreal and Quebec City are renowned for their culture and joie de vivre, there is a level of authenticity in Mauricie and Lanaudière that will leave an indelible impression about Quebec’s ability to charm and surprise.

The loop I took carried me through the central area of the region by way of Montreal. First stop was to the Kinipi Spa and Bains Nordiques outside of the municipality of Trois-Rivieres, which is the urban centre of Mauricie, one of several districts in the province. Combining colour therapy with thermotherapy, I celebrated the first afternoon of October in the midst of nature at this first-rate spa. Access rates to use the spa start at $34 and treatments begin at $84.  By early evening, I arrived in the small town of Saint-Paulin for an overnight stay at Auberge Le Baluchon. When we pulled into the country resort at 5:30 pm the sun’s early evening golden rays skimmed across the fields, saturating the colours with the deep intensity of a sunset. As far as first impressions go, this one was a stunner. Auberge Le Baluchon has a full service spa and restaurant as well as a range of activities including canoeing, hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding and cross country skiing. With these types of options there are many different packages to choose from some starting as low as $95 per person double occupancy. Check their website for more specific information.

On the second day of my stay, I entered into Lanaudière and took an afternoon diversion at the spiritual Spa Natur’Eau in Mandeville. The tranquility of nature envelopes this zen-like facility. The afternoon was spent taking in the panoramic views from the hot tubs on the terrace, indulging in unseasonably warm weather beneath the clear blue skies that spanned the horizon. I tried their 60 minute reflexology treatment ($69.95) and it was sublimely relaxing. Prices to access the spa start at $49.95 and there is a menu of various treatments ranging in price that can be booked. Blissfully secluded and away from it all, the only sound to be heard was the crisp fall leaves crinkling in the afternoon breeze.

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Authentic Quebec Life in Lanaudière-Mauricie

The road trip continued north along back roads ablaze with colour as I travelled past farms, homes, and through small country towns before reaching the all-inclusive resort called Auberge du Lac Taureau. It sits on the shores of Lake Taureau in Saint-Michel Des Saints. The lake is one of the largest in a region that includes some 30,000 such bodies of water. Outdoor lovers and families will appreciate staying at this property. It offers many activities including a spa and full service restaurant. All types of packages are available beginning at $175 per person per night.  On a fall day the pristine and peaceful environment of natural white sand beaches on a deep blue lake look especially lovely framed by forests tinged in autumn hues.

On Day 3, I started to head back towards Montreal via Rawdon and managed to fit in yet more spa research at the phenomenal La Source Bains Nordiques. A unique and impeccable Nordic spa, it appeared tucked away like a precious jewel into the mountainside shrouded in variegated shades of autumn. There are hiking trails on the property so I took advantage of the warm weather and explored the woods before thoroughly relaxing in the pools, marvelling at the level of luxury available in such a rural setting. Check their website for prices, presently the spa is offering a duo special: access for two to the Nordic baths as well as duo 60 minute massages for $254.

The final overnight stay of my trip was in the elegant Auberge de la Montagne Coupée, a country manor combined with a wonderful restaurant and spa that sits upon a mountain within park lands in the town of Saint Jean de Martha. A west-facing lookout directly behind the Auberge de la Montagne Coupée dining room reveals breathtaking views of the valley below. Well marked hiking trails can be picked up directly from the hotel property.  As soon as I arrived at the inn, I deposited my luggage and made it to the viewing point in time to experience my last magnificent Quebec fall sunset of this visit. Take advantage of a fall discount being offered through December 1 of $105 per person including a four course dinner and breakfast.

Before arriving at the Montreal airport, I squeezed in a quick stop in Terrebonne. It is a tourist destination that was first settled in the late 1600s, and has preserved its rich cultural heritage and architecture. One highlight was lunch at Chez Fabien, a bistro/restaurant in the historic district. Prices for entrees are in the $25 range and the menu varies according to what is in season. Outside, I enjoyed one last fall photo-op — the wispy yellow leaves of a delicately bowed willow branch perfectly mirrored in the water below.

Nature is putting on one spectacular fall show in this region. If you have time in the days ahead, make the trip for some of the most glorious and unheralded fall foliage you’ll encounter.


More Information About Lanaudiére-Mauricie

All kinds of valuable information, including suggested road-trip routes and itineraries for self-guided tours, are available at the following websites with links to the many spas, accommodations, and fine dining facilities in the region.

A Map Showing Some of the Properties Mentioned In the Article

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A photographer who has worked in the largest media markets in Canada and the U.S., Julia’s travel photos and videos have been featured prominently in the Toronto Star and been exhibited in galleries in Toronto, New York and Vancouver. Her new line of photo jewelry was inspired by her travels. Even though she is an American, one of her favourite travel experiences was spending Canada Day 2000 on Parliament Hill, joining in a parade with then-Prime Minister Jean Chretien and others. Julia is Vacay.ca’s Visuals Editor. See her work at www.juliapelish.com/blog.

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