Next time you have a few days off, head north instead of south. That’s exactly what I did a few weekends ago when I headed towards Baie-Saint-Paul in the Charlevoix region of Quebec. It’s about a 4-hour drive from Montreal and a gorgeous spot, nestled between a range of mountains and the Saint-Laurent river. It is believed that Charlevoix is a crater, the result of a meteor-crash that formed the circular range of mountains all around it.
One of the main reasons I wanted to visit Baie-Saint-Paul was to stay at Hotel La Ferme, which is one of the three components of Le Massif de Charlevoix, along with the train and the mountain. There are places in this world that are meant to steal your heart, places that you are predestined to fall in love with and that will carve a special spot in your soul the instant you discover them. They don’t have to be exotic or halfway around the world; they can be quiet and peaceful and just around the corner. Hotel La Ferme is such a spot for me.
This most unusual hotel opened its doors last year and has won numerous accolades and awards for its gorgeous architecture and design since. It all started in 2005 when Le Massif de Charlevoix acquired Canada’s largest wood standing farm to convert into a hotel. The farm was unfortunately ravaged by a fire in 2007 but the hotel was built nonetheless, using the old farm’s “footprint” as a blueprint for the main building.
Hotel La Ferme has managed to find the perfect formula in combining past and present, rural and urban, open expanses and cozy corners. It sits halfway between the river and the mountain and encompasses the Baie Saint Paul train stop, which is the perfect conductor to welcome visitors and facilitate exchanges. It hosts a Sunday farmers market that residents and visitors frequent and look forward to with equal anticipation.
I took a tour of the property with general manager Richard Germain who qualifies it as an “anti-resort”. The 145-room hotel complex is comprised of 5 buildings, the main one and 4 others all named after farm buildings. Each building’s design elements reflect its name, so the Basse-Cour (barnyard) building that I stayed in had barnyard-style doors and a wooden pig in lieu of a side table. The “anti-resort” philosophy stems from the fact that the hotel is open to its surrounding and encourages exchanges with the surrounding community. I have never felt such a sense of community as I have when I was in Baie Saint Paul. It is amazing to see how deep everyone’s desire to use and promote all things local is. It is obvious at La Ferme as well where every element, from the tablecloths to the food on your plate has a strong local flavour.
It is an absolute pleasure to walk around a project where every single detail has been carefully thought out and executed, from the smallest construction element to the larger architectural structures. The former interior designer in me was in absolute heaven! I visited the 4 different pavilions and fell in love with every single one of them. The dormitory-style rooms in the main building’s train station pavilion are ideal for budget travelers who can just rent a bed in one of the twelve, four-bed rooms. The more luxurious Le Moulin (the mill), the tallest of all buildings , features very spacious rooms with extra amenities, like a large bathroom with a view from the bathtub. Some of the rooms in La Basse-Cour feature bunk beds and are ideal for families. No matter which room you chose, all of them feature the same amenities and level of comfort, including the coziest bed, a Nespresso machine, WiFi and a few other lovely perks.
Hotel La Ferme also features a number of indoor and outdoor gathering spaces, courtyards, squares and seating arrangements all designed to fuel fortuitous exchanges and make new friends. The Main Building holds the lobby and the front desk, the train station and the farmers’ market, Les Labours Restaurant, le Café du Marché, a boutique & souvenir shop selling local products, a lovely fireside bar, some meeting rooms and a show venue. Le Spa du Verger is located between the Basse-Cour and Bergerie buildings and is definitely worth a try. The unbelievable vistas from the water circuit baths are breathtaking and the massages are a sure way to get you in the mood for a few days of R&R at this lovely spot.
Hotel La Ferme
50 rue de la Ferme
Baie-Saint-Paul, Quebec G3Z 0G2
+1 418 240 4100
Stay tuned for my post on things to eat, do and see in and around the Baie Saint-Paul area, including dinner at La Ferme’s Les Labours restaurant.