Friday, September 11, 2015

Where to stay and eat in Saint Felicien, Quebec for kayakers and cyclists

I don't usually talk about accommodations, but when visiting the Lac Saint Jean region in Quebec, Canada for cycling and kayaking, this was my biggest problem!

Figuring out what was available and where to stay. I didn't know the area at all. Internet research left me scratching my head. The most common lodging to be found in this area was B & Bs (gite), my least favourite type of lodging.

B & Bs are hit and miss. But I stumbled across this little jewel, Maison Banville in Saint Felicien, by sheer luck. In the heart of town, you'll find it at 1086 boulevard du Sacre-Coeur. Or visit their website at www.lamaisonbanville.com.
This is where cyclists like to stay while touring the 256 kilometre Veloroute des Bluets that circles Lac Saint Jean. It's perfect for road warriors. You've got services: B & B, bistro with great food and a company called Equinox Adventure shuttles cyclist's luggage from accommodation to accommodation around the Lac Saint Jean region so you can cycle all day and not have to haul heavy saddle bags. It's called "Credit Card Touring."

Equinox Adventure also rents kayaks and bikes. If you don't like travelling with lots of gear or don't own any, you've got options here.

The cyclists I talked to love the Veloroute des Bluets and the local services in the small towns along the way, especially visiting local cheese and chocolate shops and devouring the small, fresh, local blueberries that the region is famous for.

Maison Banville B & B and bistro is conveniently located on the veloroute and is waterfront on Riviere Ashuapmushuan.

We arrived in Saint Felicien hungry and doubting our instincts on where to eat, so we asked cyclists with nice road bikes where we could find a good lunch. They told us the Maison Banville bistro was great. The patio looked inviting and we could keep an eye on the bikes.
The cyclists were right. It was a great stop for food and drink and a relaxing break. Cute, clean, friendly atomosphere, varied menu, reasonably priced, good service and excellent bistro-style cuisine. When I asked for my vegetarian panini extra crispy, it was perfect. The panini combo comes with a choice of one of their wonderful homemade salads or soup. The food was great and fresh.
I met the owner of Maison Banville, David, who manages the B & B and bistro with his wife, Aurelie. I asked him if he would give me a tour of the B & B so I could share information about this neat little spot.
He was a gracious and friendly host and gave me a wonderful tour, answering all my questions. I'm a blogger. I ask lots of questions! Since this region is very French, I asked him if he also spoke English, he replied, "Yes!" He spoke English very well. So no worries if you need help with the French menu or information about the area.

The locals and local merchants in the Lac Saint Jean region seem to really enjoy the cyclists and kayakers visiting the area. They are proud of their beautiful region and are curious to learn where you are visiting from. I was often asked, "D'ou viens tu?" (Where do you come from?) We found the region a very welcoming environment, and you meet people visiting from all over.

I found the interior of Maison Banville B & B (gite) cute, quaint and clean. It has 5 bedrooms, 3 with private bath, 2 with a shared bath and a charming common room for meals with waterfront views.

Of course, I asked about the water access for kayaks. Behind the B & B they have a nice, private waterfront access on the Riviere Ashuapmushuan. No, I can't pronounce the name of this river either! But you can paddle down this pretty little stretch of river towards Lac Saint Jean, about 4 kilometeres. 
Now lets look down from this beautiful view and see how we'd launch kayaks. Opps. A little too steep and nasty for us with 17 foot long fibreglass sea kayaks.
But the good news is, just up the street from the B & B is a beautiful, public boat launch with free parking and clean public restrooms.

Maison Banville has it's own, private parking in the back so you don't have to park on the street. Two thumbs up.
We drove to Saint Felicien from Alma (about 75 kilometres) to explore the cycle route along the way. The two sea kayaks and gear were of course along for the ride. We were ready for what attracted us most. Cycling or kayaking.

Next up I'll share a great place to launch a kayak for a pretty paddle, and a favorite section of cycle trail we found in Saint Felicien.

Happy trails!
The BaffinPaddler

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