After a few days of exploring the historic, but extremely touristy, provincial capital of Québec, a leisurely drive to the countryside can come as a welcome relief. The tranquil Île d’Orléans, an island located 15 minutes outside Québec City, provides one such pastoral getaway.
Accessed via the Pont de l’Île suspension bridge, the Île d’Orléans encompasses sleepy villages, old churches and undulating farmland. It was immortalized in the song “Le Tour de l’Île,” written by singer Félix Leclerc, who spent most of his life here. As we turned onto the Chemin Royal, a well-maintained 47-mile-long road that encircles the island, time seemed to slow down. The Île d’Orléans was one of the first places in the province to be colonized, and its six towns have preserved their centuries-old character. Agriculture continues to dominate the island, and many restaurateurs either own their own farms or source their products from local growers.
We were happy to wend through the countryside without a specific destination, stopping to enjoy a magnificent view of the St. Lawrence River or visit a picturesque winery. Especially memorable were a cider tasting at Le Cidrerie Verger Bilodeau and the chocolates, many filled with locally made berry jams, at La Chocolaterie de l’Île d’Orléans. The unique cassis (black currant) liqueur produced at Cassis Monna & Filles makes for a fine gift to bring home. Its on-site restaurant incorporates currants into each of the dishes, and lunch was one of the highlights of our trip. The warm goat cheese salad paired with black currant honey was exceptional, as was the grilled cheese sandwich accompanied by a currant-onion confit.