Pages Navigation Menu

Le Massif: A Gastronomic Adventure in Charlevoix — Rails, Mountains, and the Shore

Since September, 2011, a unique train has been running along some of the finest scenery in Canada’s French-speaking province of Québec. From February through April the Train of Le Massif de Charlevoix runs from Québec’s Parc de la Chute-Montmorency to the ski slopes by Grande-Pointe Station. Between May and October, the train continues on to the resort vacation region of La Malbaie.

The journey begins by Québec’s 272’ waterfall–108’ higher than Niagara Falls. It travels past spectacular scenery of mountains on one side and the St. Lawrence River shoreline on the other.

The train runs through the picturesque region of Canada from Quebec City to La Malbaie. It’s all part of a recreation mega-project begun by the founder of the internationally renowned Cirque du Soleil, which began in Baie-Saint-Paul in the 1980s.

The food

The rail trip an adventure in gastronomy and an opportunity to view and savor the local terroir at its best. Menus were designed by Jean-Michel Breton, Executive Chef of the iconic 5-star Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu. Chef Breton is from a renowned family of restauranteurs in Lyon, the gastronomic capital of France.

breakfast aboard the train to Le Massif
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • Pinterest
  • StumbleUpon

breakfast aboard the train to Le Massif

For breakfast, you might be served home made muesli with honey and seasonal berries or maple flavored apple butter crepes with seasonal fruits and coulis.

dinner onboard the train from Le Massif
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • Pinterest
  • StumbleUpon

dinner onboard the train from Le Massif

dinner onboard the train from Le Massif
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • Pinterest
  • StumbleUpon

dinner onboard the train from Le Massif

dinner onboard the train from Le Massif
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • Pinterest
  • StumbleUpon

dinner onboard the train from Le Massif

Dinner might be roasted Quebec veal medallions with herbs baba ganous or duck ballottine braised with almonds and apricots, parmesan shavings with bison and leek parmentie as part of a lavish four-course dinner. The menu incorporates signature products from this fertile agricultural area’s growers and producers, including la Ferme Basque de Charlevoix, La Fromagerie St-Fidèle, Champignons Charlevoix, and Cidres et Vergers Pedneault.

The aromas and flavors of Charlevoix–foods like specialty produce and cheeses, organic meats and poultry and farm-raised fish– are the basis of the dining experience. The menu is based on the area’s freshest seasonal ingredients. Special menus for vegetarians and for those with food allergies are available, and there is bar service.

The ride

The adventure begins aboard one of the eight restored Pullman Standard railcars designed with 11’ ceilings and panoramic windows that bring the outdoors in. The nicely-illuminated white interiors were designed in a contemporary style for comfort, relaxation, entertainment, and convenience. Each section has two tables and eight seats, all designed for enjoying the company of traveling companions.

meal setting aboard train to Le Massif
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • Pinterest
  • StumbleUpon

meal setting aboard train to Le Massif

It’s a leisurely adventure along the St.Lawrence of Charlevoix landscapes with its renowned regional cuisine. Six of the cars accommodate 62 passengers. Two of the cars carry 60 passengers and are adapted for people with reduced mobility.

The sights, lighting, and sounds of the journey have been carefully designed to enhance the on-board ambience and experience. The electronic tablet built into each table provides geolocator-activated content featuring historical and cultural information and anecdotes. Internet access is available. It’s state-of-the-art travel in a time-honored mode of transportation.

The History of the Train

Railroad buffs will be interested in the Model RS-11M locomotives that were built by Monteal Locomotive Works in 1958. They were redone by Canadian Pacific in 1989 and acquired and rebuilt by Groupe de Massif in 2009.

The circa 1955-1956 Pullman Standard railcars were still being used in Chicago when Groupe Le Massif bought them between 2004-2006. The cars were redesigned, each with a kitchen, and refurbished for comfort and aesthetics.

Groupe Le Massif acquired the section of track between Québec City and Clermont called Chemin de fer de Charlevoix in January 2009. The rail trip runs along 87 miles of shoreline.

The railway dates to 1889 and the beginnings of a Quebec City–Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré rail link. This electric line that then belonged to Quebec Railway was known as the Good Sainte-Anne Line for the passengers on their annual pilgrimage to Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré Basilica.

Sir Rodolphe Forget, a businessman and politician, dreamed of a railway along the river from Beaupré to Pointe-au-Pic, where the wealthy vacationed at the Manoir Richelieu. When the scenic Quebec City–La Malbaie route between the river and mountains and its two tunnels and 900 bridges were completed in 1919 it was regarded as one of the most spectacular in all of Canada. In 1945, 2,500,000 passengers traveled the line.

Canadian National acquired this section of track in 1952 and continued passenger transportation until 1959. As more roads were built and automobile use surged, rail use declined and this service was stopped.

Canadian National ran a destination train called Le Tortillard du St-Laurent between Quebec City and La Malbaie for a few years in the 1980s. They sold it to the Quebec Railway Corporation, who ran the train in 1995 and 1996.

The spectacular Quebec City–La Malbaie corridor was then used exclusively for freight transportation until Groupe Le Massif came along in 2009.

Winter

Le Massif is the highest vertical east of the Canadian Rockies. At 2645’, it soars above the St. Lawrence River and offers fifty-three trails and glades and six lifts. The gondola and equipment–like the audio frequency system that uses a digital chip card to open gates and all lifts– are state-of the art.

Mer & Monts Restaurant at Le Massif
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • Pinterest
  • StumbleUpon

Mer & Monts Restaurant at Le MassifMer & Monts Restaurant

Mer & Monts Restaurant at Le Massif
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • Pinterest
  • StumbleUpon

Mer & Monts Restaurant at Le Massif

Once at Le Massif, there is a wide range of dining options. The finest is Mer & Monts Restaurant, which serves Chef Bessone’s Europe’s gastronomic classics, beautifully presented and made from market fresh regional foods and local products.

Le Massif is the first ski area in North America to offer authentic Austrian rodeling, which is luging, or sledding, on natural snow. There’s a 4.6 mile trail with spectacular views of the St. Lawrence and there are two options for enjoying this activity.

With the1 1/2 hour classic style package, a snowcat takes you from the Summit Chalet to the rodeling trail head at Mont à Ligouri. There’s a juice break at a mid-mountain hut before returning to the summit by gondola.

The 2 1/2 hour authentic package is a one-hour snowshoe run to the rodeling trail head with trained guides. There’s a soup break at the mid-mountain hut and return to the Massif Express boarding area.

There are two types of sleds. Traditional sleds, made in Québec, are used in a sitting position. Hammerhead sleds, made in Vermont, are used horizontally, head-first, for a sportier ride.

Minimum rodeling age is 10. Helmets are required and provided free on request. A maximum of 15 people are allowed per departure.

The first of the rail packages offered is one of action and adventure known as Trail and Rail. This Winter Ski Train Package includes the morning breakfast trip, day lift ticket, and gourmet après ski fare on the return.

The Overnight Getaway is offered on Saturdays. It includes a three-course lunch en route to La Malbaie and a one-night stopover. The trip is a chance to explore this charming area of Charlevoix. The return trip on Sunday includes a four-course gourmet dinner. Costs depend on lodging selection, which includes the Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu or Auberge des 3 Canards.

The One-Day Getaway is offered on Sundays. It includes a three-course lunch en route to La Malbaie, a 2 1/2 hour stopover in La Malbaie, and multimedia entertainment and a gourmet dinner on the same-day return trip.

There is a shuttle from Place-Ste-Foy that stops at hotels in Québec City and Beaupré.

Daniel Gauthier, businessman, visionary and co-founder of Le Cirque du Soleil originated this project as a way to create four-season sustainable development principles in Charlevoix. Additional activities are planned.

When complete it will include rodeling, alpine, off-trail, Nordic, and telemark skiing, snowboarding, hiking, mountain biking, climbing, science edutourism, and interpretation of natural phenomena.

Summer and Fall

From late spring to fall the rail trip includes a four hour stopover at Hotel La Ferme and a 30 minute stop in La Malbaie.

La Ferme is comprised of a hotel, railway station, public square, restaurant, shops, and a spa in an agricultural community. The multipurpose room will accommodate 500. It is designed to serve the train passengers and be a gathering place, a multifunctional venue and cultural and gastronomic hub. La Ferme is on the site of an old farm, Ambroise-Fafard, that was destroyed by fire in 2007.

This beautiful Charlevoix region is an area long known to artists and artisans. Now many of its highlights are part of the ever-changing scenery enjoyed through the windows of the train. The view includes Montmorency Falls, Île d’Orléans, Cap Tourmente Wildlife Reserve, Petite-Rivière-Saint-François, Baie-Saint-Paul, Isle-aux-Coudres, Saint-Joseph-de-la-Rive, Saint-Irénée and La Malbaie.

The area’s resort vacationing began over two centuries ago with vacationers enjoying the rustic charm of La Malbaie. It’s now a place to stroll Rue du Quai in Pointe-au-Pic or go up the beautiful Chemin des Falaises. This is the area known for exceptional whale-watching cruises and the Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu, its golf courses, spa, carriage rides, restaurant and Le Casino de Charlevoix. It’s a place to enjoy sea kayaking on the St. Lawrence, paragliding, rock-climbing, hiking, and bicycling.

The voyage is a great way to celebrate a birthday, anniversary, or other special event. Railcars may be chartered for groups and corporate meetings.

Reservations fill quickly. Better start planning, eh?

For reservations, updates and more information on packages, schedules and fares for the upcoming season call 418-632-5876 / 1-877-536-2774 or go to the Le Massif website.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This

Share This

Share this post with your friends!