Baie-Saint-Paul, Quebec

Baie Saint Paul in the fallThe dot had a name. Baie-Saint-Paul.

Saint Paul. Another one who’d seen something unlikely on the road. And whose life had changed.

“We’re on the road to Damascus,” said Armand with a smile. “Or Charlevoix anyway.” It was an area so beautiful, so unique, it had attracted visitors for centuries. At least one American president had had a summer home there. But what Charlevoix mostly attracted were artists, Quebec artists, Canadian artists. Artists from around the world. (The Long Way Home, Chapter 21)

Louise has described the Charlevoix Municipality and specifically Baie-Saint-Paul as “an area so beautiful it almost defies reason” and by simply looking at these photos you can see why. So stunning, in fact, that the region was a favorite locale of the Group of Seven, a.k.a. the Algonquin School, a collective of landscape artists who immortalized the area and spawned the first major Canadian national art movement.

Baie-Saint-Paul

Established as a part of New France in 1678, the village is situated in a valley at the mouth of the Gouffre River and bordered by steep cliffs. Baie-Saint-Paul’s geography made it isolated and nearly inaccessible for almost 150 years, until a road was built in 1812 connecting the settlement to Quebec City.

An odd and unflattering historical side note: Baie-Saint-Paul first came to international prominence in the 1770s when Dr. Philippe-Louis-François Badelard named a local ailment he was researching the “Baie-Saint-Paul maladie.” The condition, it turns out, was a strain of venereal disease and his conclusions became one of the first medical studies published in Canada.

On a more entertaining note, Cirque du Soleil was founded in Baie-Saint-Paul in 1984 by former street performers, Guy Laliberté and Gilles Ste-Croix.

Today, its quaint narrow streets make it a premier destination for tourists and it has one of the highest concentrations of art galleries and craft boutiques in all of Canada. The surrounding countryside offers kayaking, bicycling, bird-watching, and miles of hiking.

Louise mentions both Auberge La Muse and the Galerie Clarence Gagnon in the acknowledgments of The Long Way Home and notes that she took some “artistic license” in describing them.

The “real” Auberge La Muse is a beautifully appointed Victorian Hotel that offers amazing getaway packages including everything from spa treatments to whale-watching. La Muse also houses an eco-friendly restaurant that serves up locally sourced fare and whose philosophy is one of “social, economic and environmental balance.”

The Galerie Clarence Gagnon was the first art gallery to open its doors in the Charlevoix region back in 1975. It is named for the great Québécois painter and Baie-Saint-Paul resident, Clarence Gagnon, who is credited with “inventing a new kind of winter landscape that consisted of mountains, valleys, sharp contrasts, vivid colours, and sinuous lines.” Aside from the traditional buying and selling of works, the gallery also offers appraisals, framing, and restoration.

Oh, and that American president who had a summer home in the region? That would be none other than William Howard Taft, who the locals jokingly referred to as the “Little Judge” on account of his enormous size.

Discussion on “Baie-Saint-Paul, Quebec

  1. Kathleen Wheatley says:

    Beautiful! Thanks for the info. It looks like a fun place to visit.

  2. Julie says:

    These pictures are breathtaking, and Clarence Gagnon’s paintings are heartbreakingly beautiful! How I would love to see this place one day. Thank you for this “real places” series – I’ve so enjoyed seeing them.

  3. As a travel writer/photographer who has travelled the world, one of my all-time favourite destinations is the Charlevoix. The B&B’s were amazing and of course the cheese made there is divine! Loved reading about it in Louise’s book.
    The Bootlegger Steak House, Maison du bootlegger has a clandestine history dating back to 1860 and a maze of passageways throughout.
    Looking forward to seeing Louise in Vancouver, August 24th!

  4. Oh another place to visit. Has Gamache ever visited PEI ? It is very restorative. Someone could create a tour guide for all these places. Oh, perhaps that is a job for me? Yes, indeed, another thing to add to my bucket list. I am a silly old woman who keeps adding to her bucket list, instead of making it shorter.

  5. Neill Smith says:

    You are inspiring me (as has Inspector Gamache) to visit the Eastern Townships. As a young man I spent time at Expo ’67 in Montreal staying with the family of a taxi driver when my hotel reservation disappeared. It was an amazing experience and I still remember Lucien and his English-speaking wife from Gaspe. I do need to learn some French though.

    • nicole massicotte says:

      Bonjour Neil Smith ,
      Should you wish very much to visit Baie St.-Paul and the Charlevoie region , knowing French is a plus , but most people in the province of Québec are bilingual . and will gladly answer and converse with you in your language Of course they would be very happy to help you with your French . and grateful for your efforts.
      A beautiful place does not necessarily need a apecific language….?
      Bonne journée,
      Nicole

  6. Helen says:

    My sister in law and I did a 2 day tour in late July… It was a fantastic success!!! Knowlton, Manoir Hovey, Georgeville, Montreal, Knowlton, Sutton …. I highly recommend it!!

  7. J0anne says:

    We went there for our anniversary in march. We stayed in a beautiful bed and breakfast near the church. It is an amazing and superb place.

  8. Sue Jackson says:

    My husband and I were in the Eastern Townships the first week in July; it truly is a beautiful place and Louise does an incredible job of describing the area and these fabulous sites. Thanks for this series of the ‘real’ places. Excellent info!

  9. A visit to Baie-Saint-Paul is on my bucket list.

  10. Eldora Kroon-Kiely says:

    I am a bit disappointed that as the author moves on in this series, she uses or refers less and less to Canadian phrases. Has her publisher suggested this? I miss reading true Canadian phraseology. It was wonderful in her early book to read about a song from a few years past; La foque d’Alaska. There was a perfect time to introduce food aboard the boat or at the terrace in “The Long Way Home”. Don’t let either your editor or your publisher cut the French language.

  11. I was born in Sherbrooke, lived in the Sherbrooke/Lennoxville rural area , attended Bishop’s University, and moved to Montreal to teach. In contrast now I live in very small town Saskatchewan. Every fall I feel homesick for the reds and oranges. Pretty here too but not ever the same as I remember when growing up.
    So, I am of course enjoying “The Nature of the Beast”, especially being a bit familiar with that area and altering spending time in the summer in Ayer’s Cliff North Hartley area. Thank you for writing your books. I am recently retired and am learning how to write, your books are helpful.

  12. Isobel Williams says:

    Thank you for the Gamache books, Louise. Each one sn un-put-downable joy to read.
    I was thrilled that the Garden of Cosmic Speculation in Dumfries, Scotland was visited by Peter Morrow. It is a wonderful, magical place to visit. I was bron and brought up in Edinburgh and have visited the gardens several times with family and friends. I now live in Berlin, Germany, but Peter’s paintings really took me back to the garden.
    http://www.scotlandsgardens.org/gardens/garden/6f8a52d7-f7b0-45c2-91fc-999e00d2ac95

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