From my first day in Kamouraska to my final night in Rimouski, I enjoyed the food, wine, art, and natural beauty of maritime Québec. This is the third and final post in my maritime Québec road trip series.
Saint-Gabriel-de-Rimouski to Rimouski via Sainte-Flavie and Grand-Métis
After a lovely day in Témiscouata-sur-le-Lac and a peaceful stay at Domaine Valga in the woods of Saint-Gabriel-de-Rimouski, our group traveled northwest about 15 miles back to the St. Lawrence River and the Gaspésie region of maritime Québec. So began a day of delightful surprises.
Centre d’Art Marcel Gagnon
564 route de la Mer, Ste-Flavie
Open year round
In Sainte-Flavie we stopped at the Centre d’Art Marcel Gagnon, a restaurant, inn, and art gallery to see “The Great Gathering”, a nature and art exhibit of over 100 sculptures on the shore. The statues seem to come out of the sea or go back in with the tides. Then we were on our north 5 miles to Grand-Métis.
A feast for the senses
Les Jardins de Métis/Reford Gardens
200, route 132, Grand-Métis
Open May 30 to September 27 (2015 dates)
If you visit maritime Québec from late spring to early fall, Reford Gardens should be a must-visit site on your itinerary. It was one of my favorite venues on the trip with a combination of highlights – natural beauty in its setting on the St. Lawrence, exquisite gardens, fine dining, and art.
During the summer of 1926, Elsie Reford began laying out the gardens and then supervised their construction here on the grounds of the family’s summer home. Today, the gardens operate under the direction of her great-grandson, Alexander Reford.
We got a special early glimpse of the Himalayan Blue Poppy, a very rare flower that Elsie Reford grew from seeds in the 1930s, one of the first gardeners in North America to attempt to grow this poppy.
At Estevan Lodge Restaurant in the former family home built in 1887, we enjoyed the creatively delicious dishes of Chef Pierre-Olivier Ferry highlighting local products, including sustainable seafood from the St. Lawrence, edible plants, and fresh vegetables from the garden. The “Métis Bloom Spoon” (shown below left) is a gorgeous mouthful of edible flowers hand-picked by the chef.
I was especially drawn to the festival gardens with innovative garden installations, some permanent and others part of the 2015 season. Since the festival began in 2000, landscape architects and designers from all over the world have participated. This year’s collection added five new installations to the 20 from previous years. The installations are fun, touchable, interactive, reflect a connection to the natural world, and express the ecological perspectives of the designers. In the colorful and interactive exhibit shown top right below, “Se mouiller (la belle échappée)”, visitors participate by donning the boots and walking in the water which represents wetlands.
From Grand-Métis, we began our journey south back into Bas-Saint-Laurent for our final evening in Québec.
Fine dining and imaginative accommodations
Auberge du Mange Grenouille
148, rue Ste-Cécile, Le Bic, Rimouski
Open May to the end of October
I imagined myself preparing to take center stage as I entered Auberge du Mange Grenouille where owners Carole Faucher and Jean Rossignol have created a unique experience in their theatrically-decorated inn. Carole, an actress whose flamboyant and infectious personality exudes the essence of the inn, was a delightful hostess.
Each room captures the imagination with diverse and in some cases, avant-garde furnishings, art, and décor. My room was lovely with French doors that faced the woods and coves of Bic National Park. On the opposite side of the room, a window overlooked a small garden and fountain.
The dining room was lively with guests of the inn enjoying a leisurely meal and an ambiance of joie de vivre. The menu offers tastes of locally-sourced products such as Kamouraska lamb and other meats, regional seafood, and vegetables. As beef short ribs are a go-to comfort food for me, my choice was Canadian buffalo short ribs which hit the spot perfectly in this warm and welcoming setting.
Time to say “au revoir“
It was amazing to think how much I was able to see and do on a three-day road trip. I’m looking forward to future excursions into the maritime regions of Québec to experience more of its cultural, culinary, and natural riches.
Travel tip: The closest regional airport to the points of interest I visited in Bas-Saint-Laurent and Gaspésie is in Mont-Joli. There is a car rental facility on site. Check with Québec Maritime tourism for detailed information about getting to and around the maritime regions.
Disclosure: My maritime Québec road trip was hosted by Québec Tourism, but my opinions and perspectives are totally my own — as always.