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By KAT TANCOCK
The first thing you notice as you approach Auberge Le Baluchon is the lack of cell phone service—and that’s kind of the point. (Rest assured, however, that it does have Wi-Fi.) About a two-hour drive from either Montreal or Quebec City’s airports, the property’s raison d’être is its beautiful natural setting: eight islands, forest and plains and the winding, rocky Rivière du Loup, all criss-crossed with 22 km of trails that pass waterfalls, bird sanctuaries and even a beaver dam.
The 88 rooms at Le Baluchon are in four lodges, each with its own lounge area, sauna and whirlpool room. The Auberge sur l’Île or Island Lodge, on its own island across the river from the dining hall, has 22 rooms exclusive to guests doing a spa or health package. The property, built in 1982, is at the beginning stages of a four-year upgrade; 20 rooms in three of the lodges have been renovated in the past year and these are definitely the ones to book: individually decorated in rustic-modern style, they have hardwood floors and overhead beams and simple, modern furniture with brightly coloured accents, plus oversize tubs and walk-in rain showers.
The inn’s many packages are designed for guests of all stripes: the Equestrian Package, for example, includes dinner, breakfast and a one-hour horseback ride; those in need of a complete reboot might pick the Complete Harmony Package, with all meals, snacks, a massage, a body wrap, a reflexology treatment and access to the Nordic spa. The spa, opened in 2011, has a full menu of massage treatments, hot tub, dry sauna and cold plunge pool overlooking the spectacular scenery.
Any package you choose should include the four-course table d’hôte dinner prepared by chef Yan Gabriel Gauthier, whose résumé includes stints in Lake Louise and at the Intercontinental Montreal; 75 per cent of his menu is comprised of local ingredients, including smoked trout, pork and even wapiti, or elk.
DETAILS:Auberge Le Baluchon
3550 Chemin des Trembles
Saint-Paulin, QC J0K 3G0
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