Chemin du Roi - B&B network along road to Quebec City
One of the nicest flatland rides in Quebec is to follow the St-Laurence river from Montreal to Quebec city. Plus there's usually a tailwind.
The part of the Route Verte along here here is called the Chemin du Roi, or King's road, and it dates back long before the automobile was invented.
You might already know that it is quite far between Montreal and Quebec city, most cyclists will do it in a multi-day ride, or will visit one section of the route, and spend the day (or weekend, or overnight holiday trip exploring. Nearby mini-trips like this are an innovative holiday option for our new high-cost-gasoline world.
Happily, the local B&B industry is offering cyclists bike-friendly places to stay along this exceptional journey. They even suggest interesting side trips in the several tourist region(s) along the way, such as the lovely La Mauricie. Take it from us, the backroads are usually a lot more interesting!
Here is a Gazette feature on this very subject, get your bike ready, because bicycle tourism has, like spring, arrived in a big way!
A little B&B&B in the Mauricie: bed, breakfast and biking
Six gîtes in the region come up with a way to make cycling tours easy
ROCHELLE LASH, The Gazette
Bicycling and buckwheat pancakes are on this summer's menu of attractions in the Mauricie region, north of Trois Rivières.
Six B&Bs, calling themselves Les Gîtes au pays du sarrasin, which translates as "B&Bs of the buckwheat region," have created Vélo à la carte, in which visitors can bring their bicycles and cycle from inn to inn. Start your visit to the Mauricie region at Maskinongé near Louiseville on the Chemin du Roy (now Route 138), a historic route between Montreal and Quebec City. Here, much of the flat land is devoted to growing buckwheat, a dark flour popular in Quebec recipes in years past for pancakes, muffins and noodles.
Head north past St. Léon Le Grand to the area around St. Ursule and St. Paulin, where cyclists can conquer the rolling terrain with its dairy farms, cattle ranches and cornfields. By the time cyclists arrive at St. Alexis des Monts, they will be huffing and puffing up hills through the landscape of forests, rivers and lakes for which the Mauricie is known.
"The most direct routes are along the main highways, but the back roads are even better, and the B&B hosts will create a personalized itinerary for each group of cyclists," said Johanne Raymond, who with her husband, Daniel Brunet, owns Gîte La Tempérance in Charette. "That's why we called it Vélo à la carte - all the visitors can customize their trips.
"Choosing your cycling route depends on distance, geography and personal interests. Some riders will want a long, strenuous route, and others will want to cycle to antique shops, lunch spots and tourists sights.
"The first step is to choose a B&B and go from there."
With the help of their B&B hosts, cyclists can choose beginner, intermediate or advanced itineraries. They spend the night, indulge in a good dinner and a hearty breakfast, explore the region and wheel off to another inn in another village. The B&B hosts take care of luggage transfers and box lunches, and they can even drive the guests' cars to the next stop. There is no set itinerary. Visitors choose the B&Bs that appeal to them.
Riders at any level can start their journey at Auberge Épicurium in Louiseville on the Chemin du Roy. This imposing Victorian house was built in 1927 by a prominent family. Richly decorated with antiques and rated four "suns" out of five by Quebec Tourism, Auberge Épicurium was named the best B&B in Mauricie in 2007. An industrial town, Louiseville also has boutiques and trendy cafés near the city hall and the historic Église St. Antoine du Padoue.
Épicurium is at the heart of the action on the main street. It is owned by two former Montrealers, Éric Monette, a graphic designer, and Stéphane Bernier, a child psychologist. True to its roots in the buckwheat region, breakfast features eggs Benedict on buckwheat waffles and buckwheat griddlecakes wrapped around boar sausages. Épicurium also serves dinner with such local specialities as boar with caramelized apples, venison with brandy and red wine, quail stuffed with raisins, duck confit, wapiti stew or trout from nearby St. Alexis des Monts.
It's an easy 10.5-kilometre ride from Louiseville to B&B Le Comble outside St. Léon le Grand. Le Comble is a beautiful 1920s farmhouse surrounded by cornfields. Diane Archambault and Yves Déry are far from city lights, and they have a telescope for stargazing. The next étape is the 23 kilometres from St. Léon to St. Paulin. Here, Caroline Collard, a retired pop singer, owns Gîte Le Grandelinois, another country B&B with attractive post-cycling options - a swimming pool surrounded by gardens and a sunroom for relaxation.
From St. Paulin, cyclist can take the hard road or an easier one. Aspiring Lance Armstrongs can head 16.5 kilometres northwest along Route 349 to Gîte La Veille Maison in St. Alexis des Monts. Artist and writer Paulette-Michelle Hétu has created a relaxing hideaway with ponds and gardens. The easier option involves a moderate cycle northeast for 11 kilometres along Route 350 to Charette and a choice of B&Bs. Gîte La Voisine has extensive grounds with walking trails along the Rivière du Loup. Gîte La Tempérance is in a former rectory on the main street of the quiet village.
Among the attractions along the way is Le Temps des Cerises (819-221-3055, www.letempsdes
cerises.ca) in Charette, a farm where visitors can pick their own cherries. More than 3,000 cherry trees have been trimmed to make it easier for picking. The gorgeous pink clouds of cherry blossoms will bloom by the end of this month, and the sweet fruit should be ready by late July.
Fish-lovers will gather June 20-29 at St. Alexis des Monts for the annual Festival de la truite mouchetée (www.festivaldela
truitemouchetee.com) dedicated to the plentiful speckled trout. The town will come alive with fishing contests, kids' activities, and music and dance by performers, including Suzie Villeneuve, who rose to fame on Star Académie.
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If You Go
Louiseville is a one-hour drive from Montreal. Take Highway 40 east to Exit 166.
Vélo à la carte is offered at six B&Bs: Rates are for two and include breakfast. Extra fees for luggage transfer ($15-$40) and car transfer ($5), depending on distance.
Auberge Épicurium: 100 St. Laurent Ave., Louiseville; 866-628-8408, www.epicurium.ca; $85-$120, cycling package for two nights, including dinner one night, bicycles, a snack and breakfast two mornings, $260-$320 for two. Dinner reservations are obligatory, $24-$34 for a table d'hôte.
Gîte Le Comble: 311 rang Lamy, St. Léon Le Grand; 819-228-0612 www.gitescanada.com/lecomble; $67-$77 for two including breakfast.
Gîte La Tempérance: 441 de l'Église, Charette; 866-921-3462, www.latemperance.com; $79-$109.
Gîte La Vieille Maison: 940 Route Rurale 349, St. Alexis des Monts; 819- 265-2363, www.quebecweb.com/vieillemaison; $55.
Gîte La Grandelinois: 3401 Chemin Grande Ligne, St. Paulin; 877-668-2242, www.gite-grandelinois.com; $100-$120.
Gîte La Voisine: 391 Petit Bellechasse nord, Charette; 819-221-3163, www.gitescanada.com/lavoisine; $90.