Thursday, June 23, 2016
After spending the morning at Montmorency Falls, Larry, Bryan, and I drove across the bridge to spend the afternoon on Île d'Orléans. Once again, we knew nothing about where we were going. When we asked the woman at the front desk of our hotel in Québec City about the best way to get to the Falls, she suggested we go to Île d'Orléans afterwards. (This lady was an incredible resource and everything she suggested, including the restaurant we ate at in Lower Town later that night, was excellent. We should have asked her for recommendations earlier in our stay, before we trudged through the touristy neighborhoods with mediocre restaurants full of Americans.) Anyway, she said Île d'Orléans was a good place to spend the afternoon and get something to eat. In my mind, I was picturing a small natural island with a park and picnic tables where we could eat a sandwich while looking out at the river.
What we found was SO much better!
As instructed by the woman at the hotel, we stopped at the visitor center as soon as we crossed the bridge onto the island. Larry stayed in the car to take a conference call for work, while Bryan and I went in. The visitor center lady gave us a map, and then explained everywhere to visit on the island, circling all the places that were currently open for the season. We went back to the car, and I said to Larry, "This place is awesome! Basically it's an island full of vineyards, cideries, breweries, orchards, ice cream and chocolate shops, farms, and bakeries. There's a loop road, and you eat your way around the island!"
Everything I love all in one place! Seriously, was this heaven???
For our first course we started with ice cream, because we're adults and we can eat dessert first if we want to! We stopped at Chocolaterie de Île d'Orléans and ordered dark chocolate dipped ice cream cones (enrobées de chocolat crème glacée). We took our treats outside to eat, and all three of us were moaning in ecstasy. "This is the best ice cream we've ever had! This chocolate is SO good! Oh myyyy goddddd!" Because it was a chocolate shop, the chocolate coating was incredible (made from imported Belgian ingredients), and about 1/4" thick - it formed a sort of chocolate cup around the ice cream, which was also really good. We talked about these ice cream cones for the rest of the day and the next day, too. "I wish we could go back to Île d'Orléans and get a chocolate dipped cone for breakfast!", we said as we were driving back to the U.S. the next day. I also tried to figure out how I could transport a cone back to my ice cream-loving mother. Sorry, Mom, we'll have to take you to Québec instead! Anyway, our first stop was a winner!
We drove onwards, through a series of quaint little towns and farming communities flanked by the Saint Lawrence River. Île d'Orléans was one of the first parts of the province of Québec to be colonized by the French, so it has a rich French-Canadian history. It has been described as "the microcosm of traditional Québec and the birthplace of Francophones in North America."
Our next stop was at a bakery called La Boulange. We took our paper bags full of pastries and sat on a low wall next to a church overlooking the river to enjoy them. I never turn down the opportunity to eat pain au chocolat, which are called chocolatines in Québec. Isn't that the best word?
Our third stop was climbing the tour d'observation at the northeast end of the island, for a view of the farmland and river from above.
Then it was time for the happy hour part of the tour as we drove around the west side of the island which was dotted with wineries, breweries, and cideries. We tasted wines and ice wines at Vignoble du Mitan, local brews at Microbrasserie de L'Île d'Orléans, and ice ciders at Cidrerie Verger Joe Giguère. I had tasted ice wine before (a special treat, and not that easy to get in Virginia), but I didn't even know there was such a thing as ice cider. (Which is made from frozen apples and is delicious!) Everyone we spoke to was so friendly and enthusiastic about the products that they made and the history of the island. Plus, is there anything more romantic than tasting wines poured by a native French speaker?
I wish we could've stopped at every local business on the island - there were many more wineries and restaurants that we didn't get to try, along with art galleries, fromageries, and in the summer - strawberry farms! The main crops on the island are strawberries, potatoes, and leeks, but since we were there so early in the season, many of these places were not open yet. But we did come back with a few souvenirs...
How lovely would it be to spend an entire weekend on Île d'Orléans, staying in a bed and breakfast, biking around the island, and indulging in French-Canadian delights along the way? Like I said, this place is heaven.
(P.S. After writing six posts about Canada, I finally figured out how to type accents on my MacBook! I suppose I could've googled this, but it was much more fun to find out by accident! Just hold down the key for the letter you want accented and a pop-up will appear with all the accent options.)