Saguenay, QC, Canada

As it flows into the St. Lawrence River, the Saguenay River winds through a majestic fjord to reveal a host of picturesque villages. Natural beauty surrounds Saguenay Harbor, this vibrant conurbation.

For those who like to increase their knowledge of local culture and heritage, there are many museums to discover. “La Pulperie de Chicoutimi” presents many diverse exhibits including the entire house of famed painter Arthur Villeneuve. The Bagotville Air Defense Museum presents an altogether more military experience with bilingual interpretation panels narrating the history of the Royal Canadian Air Force. Here you can view the only MIG-23 military aircraft in Canada. You might even see the current F-18 fighters in flight.

If natural history is more to your taste, then a visit to the “Centre de Découverte le Fjord du Saguenay” will inform and entertain. The presentations and exhibits explain how the fjord was formed in this glacial valley and the myths and legends of the kingdom. According to folklore, the kingdom of Saguenay came into existence in the 16th and 17th centuries. French explorers colonized the area when the Algonquin Indians told them of a kingdom to the north where blond men lived, rich with furs and gold. The French explorers searched in vain for the riches but to no avail. However, the natural beauty of the region is a treasure in itself.

The Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park is one of the world’s best locations for whale watching, and the whales often converge in the bay. You may see several species including minke, fin whales, belugas and even blue whales. The anticipation is almost overwhelming when you hear their surfacing blows, and you will feel privileged to watch the spectacle in this glorious natural setting.

When it comes to food, the imagination of the Québécois knows no bounds. There is a proud tradition of culinary crafts producing artisan beer, wine and ice cider as well as delicious hand-crafted cheese and jam. Seafood is very important and locally sourced sea produce is identified in shops and restaurants by the blue fork symbol.

The traditional cuisine of Quebec fits the winter climate, consisting of French influenced hearty and warming dishes: Tourtière and cipaille are special deep-filled meat pies, and make for delicious comfort food. Fèves au lard – baked beans with fat bacon – was a welcome feast for those on a meager budget. “Sugar pie” is not a term of endearment but a very delicious dessert, with a sauce made almost purely from sugar. While these calorific dishes may not be part of the daily menu today, they are still served to perpetuate the memory of the country’s culinary past.