Hôtel La Ferme
50, rue de la ferme, Baie-Saint-Paul, Quebec; 1-877-536-2774; lemassif.com; 145 rooms from $199.
Should a hotel owned by Cirque du Soleil's co-founder be as whimsical and captivating as a live circus performance? Naturally. Daniel Gauthier's Hôtel La Ferme (literally, the Farm Hotel) is an extraordinary country-meets-chic property made up of low-rise wooden and glass structures that evoke a modern yet modest look. A performance venue and a tall statue of clowns climbing up a tower on the hotel's grounds are fanciful nods to its owner's circus ties.
Though it only takes one hour to drive to the hotel from Quebec City, the scenic 2 1/2-hour ride aboard Le Massif de Charlevoix's touring train is the most leisurely way of getting there. Guests can enjoy a gourmet breakfast while the train passes through quaint towns, offering spectacular views of mountains, trees and the majestic St. Lawrence River. Best of all, the train lets you off a few metres from the hotel's main lobby. Guests may also walk or bike less than one kilometre to Baie-St-Paul's charming city centre where they can browse antique stores, gourmet food shops and art galleries.
A total of 145 guest rooms are divided into five separate pavilions – the Main Building, Le Clos, Le Moulin, La Bergerie and La Basse-Cour – with one pavilion's architecture, décor and ambience different from the next. The four-storey Le Moulin, with its seven open-concept lofts draped in botanically themed decor, is the most luxurious of the pavilions. Nordic-style furniture and accessories – cabinets, curtains, bedding, hand-woven pillows and carpeting – created mostly by local designers and artists are also featured in the spacious rooms. A gleaming white freestanding soaker tub beckons guests to enjoy a bubble bath as they look out the floor-to-ceiling windows to watch the sun set over the hotel's landscape.
Without a doubt it's the outdoor thermal experience at Spa du Verger. Make three rounds of the Nordic bath circuit – sauna, cold plunge, lounge chair, then kick back in the hot tub or thermal pool – and you'll feel completely rejuvenated as you take in the peaceful views of the surrounding farmland. This is an especially indulgent après-ski treat after a day on Le Massif's slopes.
Eat in or eat out?
Eat in to savour Charlevoix's renowned cuisine at Les Labours. Sit at the counter of the central open kitchen to chat with chef David Forbes and his team while they prepare meals right in front of you, using ingredients such as classic Quebec cheese le Migneron de Charlevoix, smoked salmon, locally sourced beef and fresh vegetables and herbs from the hotel's gardens. The wild mushroom salad, smoked sturgeon gnocchi, and duck magret are standouts. And save room for more – the carrément-choco, a sinfully sweet all-chocolate dessert.
Two additional on-site eateries serve up equally tasty, fresh local fare – diners can order duck pâté with fresh crusty bread at laid-back Café du Marché or enjoy a casual lunch of fish tartare and thin-crust, wood-oven pizzas in the lounge-style atmosphere of Le Bercail.
Room with a view
Book into Le Moulin – the loft suites are the swankiest and most spacious rooms of all the pavilions and offer the best views of the hotel's unspoiled farmland and the St. Lawrence River.
If I could change one thing
It was lovely to have a Nespresso coffeemaker, artisan bath products and flat-screen TV in my room, but I'd have appreciated a few more practical amenities – such as an iron, a minibar and more drawer and closet space.
Whom you'll meet
The majority of hotel guests are Quebeckers so there are plenty of opportunities to practise your French. Wander around and you'll get the feeling this is the "glamping" kind of crowd who likes a nature-filled vacation, but still needs a luxe warm bed and a hot shower.
The writer was a guest of the hotel.