By Train Along The St. Lawrence River
By Jeffrey R. Orenstein, Ph.D., Simply Smart Travel
September, 2015 As our taxi pulled in to the train station in Quebec City, our about-to-commence train trip from Quebec City to the Charlevoix region of Quebec was already off to a spectacular start. Right behind the station platform. the mighty Montmorency Falls as the river of its namesake tumbled into the St. Lawrence from a height of 275 feet, the highest in Quebec and 98 feet higher than Niagara Falls. The station afforded an amazing view of the cataract and was so close to the falls that the roar and mist from the falls were hard to ignore.
As impressive as they were, the falls were just a hint of scenic vistas about to unfold out the windows of the train. As we settled in to our European-style short two-car train, we found the seats to be comfortable and the windows were large and clean.
The journey toward Baie St. Paul, two and a half hours distant down the St. Lawrence, began with a passage through suburban Quebec City. The view of roads, homes and shops soon gave way to incredible vistas of the St. Lawrence River, sometimes mere feet away from the rails. For long stretches of the journey, the railroad makes a leisurely passage along stretches of the St. Lawrence’s undeveloped northern bank that are otherwise inaccessible by road. After a stop at St. Anne de Beaupre and its impressive basilica (located adjacent to the station), the rain heads into the wilderness in earnest. Occasionally, we pass through some very small towns and glimpse into the back yards of riverfront cabins.
The train passes through one tunnel and offers a constantly-unfolding view of the great river. The surrounding mountains and the glimpses of passing oil tankers and an occasional cruise ship using the river as a water highway between the Atlantic and the St. Lawrence Seaway are truly extraordinary.
Baie St. Paul, our destination, is a delightful and picturesque town of 7,332 on the St. Lawrence, where the Gouffre River flows into it. It is the seat of the Charlevoix Regional County Municipality and is filled with hotels (including the beautiful hotel Le Germain, right at the train station), art galleries, shops and restaurants.
The railroad continue to nearby Malabie which is the jump-off point for the Massif of Quebec ski areas and whale watching cruises. Rail shuttles from Baie St. Paul to Malabie operate year-round. During the summer months, the railroad operates at least two round trips from Qubec City to Charlevoix daily. Food and drink are available on the train.
If you enjoy great scenery and want to see a remarkable stretch of the St. Lawrence valley from a perspective not available by road, take this train next time you are in Quebec City. Although you can the round trip in one day, I recommend that you stay at least one night in Baie St. Paul and enjoy a stroll among the galleries and a gourmet dinner.
For information on the train, go to http://www.quebecregion.com/en/guided-train-tour/charlevoix-light-rail-transit/ or http://reseaucharlevoix.com/index.php/?___store=english___from_store=english