Baie-Saint-Paul

Inspiration of yore

Inspiration of yore

A Town of a Thousand Tales
With An Illustrious Past
That Has Inspired So Many

Baie-St-Paul is a town with a rich past. Since times immemorial, lovely stories have circulated, as reflected in its many of points of interest. Everywhere across town are winks to the past. Art and culture have undeniably fashioned its spirit and over the years, contributed to its renown.

City of Art, Cultural Capital of Canada

City of Art, Cultural Capital of Canada

Short on inspiration? Head to Baie-Saint-Paul. Did you know the town was named Cultural Capital of Canada in 2007? Not surprising, should you glance back in time. Many artists came to find inspiration in its colours, mountains and sea, wide open spaces and surrealist light. So many in fact that to count them, you’d need both hands and feet – and even then… Giants like Clarence Gagnon, A.Y. Jackson, Brymner, Cullen, Goldhamer, Jean Paul Lemieux and Marc-Aurèle Fortin all made Baie-Saint-Paul their home port at one time or another. And we’d be remiss if we didn’t also mention the contributions of popular modern artists Yvonne Bolduc, Georges-Édouard Tremblay and Mary Bouchard.

Certain homes where great masters once lived are now genuine mini museums open to visitors. Such is the case with the home of a formidable coureur des bois and artist who marked more than one generation of local painters. It is also said that contemporary artist Guy Paquet – known for his endless Charlevoix skies – spent hours recreating the world on one great master’s front porch.

For all these reasons, Baie-Saint-Paul is a beacon to art lovers. Just take in the high concentration of art galleries on rue Saint-Jean Baptiste (25+), the gorgeous cluster of exhibitions showcased at the Baie-Saint-Paul Museum of Contemporary Art, a refreshed look at culture and heritage at Carrefour culturel Paul-Médéric, the success of each edition of the International Symposium on Contemporary Art (34th edition in 2016) and that of the Rêves d’Automne art festival, celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

For a quick glance at Charlevoix’s history, go for a spin over by Rivière du Gouffre (behind Caisse populaire Desjardins) where, under Leclerc Bridge, an immense fresco spins the tale of Charlevoix’s history. With the changing seasons, it showcases its agricultural, cultural, recreational and religious heritage. Entitled D’hier à aujourd’hui, the opus was created by three talented Baie-Saint-Paul artists: Jean-François Lavoie, Jocelyn & Serge Gilbert.

City of Art, Cultural Capital of Canada
City of Art, Cultural Capital of Canada
City of Art, Cultural Capital of Canada
The Energy of a Meteorite Impact Crater

The Energy of a Meteorite Impact Crater

Few Quebecers can boast of sleeping at the bottom of a crater. You must visit Charlevoix to appreciate how you sleep like a baby here. It is often said that Baie-Saint-Paul’s special energy is owed to the meteorite impact that occurred over 350 million years ago. One thing is certain, the crash carved out the territory’s very strange terrain, a large valley encircled by soaring mountains that tumble down to the majestic St. Lawrence River. Were it not for this cosmic phenomenon, the entire territory would have presented a much more austere and unfriendly face, unfavourable to human settlement.

At 56 km in diameter, the crater is among the fifteen largest in the world. Experts suggest that the projectile that shaped it was most certainly an asteroid with an estimated diameter of 2 km, weighing 15 million tons and striking at a cosmic speed of 10 to 20 km per second (about 60,000 km/hour). A huge dent in our famous Laurentian mountain range!

If you are just a little perceptive, you can see its effects with the naked eye or by taking a tour with a naturalist guide. The best way to observe the crater is definitely from high above the inhabited zone, by helitour, or by climbing Mont du Lac des Cygnes in Parc national des Grands Jardins. One way or another, it’s totally wow!

Midway between Baie-Saint-Paul and La Malbaie, mont des Éboulements mountain soars to an altitude of 768 metres, making it the central point of the impact zone. The best way to explain its unique shape? Toss a pebble into a glass of water and watch the resulting tsunami ‒ not to say tempest in a teapot. Like a ‘wave’, this mountain was carved out by rebound effect. When you realize the beauty of Charlevoix’s landscapes was borne of catastrophe, it reminds us of how great life really is ‒ for better or worse!

Copyright: Randonnées Nature-Charlevoix

The Energy of a Meteorite Impact Crater
The Energy of a Meteorite Impact Crater
The Energy of a Meteorite Impact Crater
Streetside History Tour

Streetside History Tour

In Baie-Saint-Paul, we love tours. After the Heritage Tour, all across town the user-friendly Commemorative Plaque Tour winks at passers-by. Plaques and monuments abound, outdoors! See a bust of Claude Le Sauteur over here, admire a sculpted monument of artist Gérard Thériault over there. Around the presbytery, in front of the church, in the park by the marina, at Cap-aux-Corbeaux’s unparalleled roadside lookout, and even under the bridge – where you can’t miss the fresco Hier et aujourd’hui or Yesterday & Today, Baie-Saint-Paul tips its hat to each and every person who, at one time or another, found their inspiration here and for whom la belle Baie was an anchorage or stopover.

Honouring the region’s maritime past, the vision of our early pioneers or the talent of our artisans, marking the English Conquest or the artistic legacies of Blanche and Yvonne Bolduc, Marc-Aurèle Fortin, Clarence Gagnon or René Richard, all are good reasons for building a monument, creating an obelisk, sculpting a bust, striking a plaque. Let it be known: living memory abounds in Baie-Saint-Paul! Sometimes enormously so! As we are reminded by the monumental piece by Gérard Thériault, called Oeillée vers le large, representing an Amerindian looking out toward the unseen. This giant sculpture, in front of René-Richard Library, is fashioned from shaped metal wire. On the plaque is a poem by the artist. A single word: Splendid!

Taking the Commemorative Plaque Tour is a fine way to discover Baie-Saint-Paul, from its pier-side promenade to rue Sainte-Anne, Chemin de la Pointe, Halte de la Batture, the church square and Place du Citoyen. A tour map is available at the Tourist Information Centre. Let’s bet there’s a plaque nearby!

Streetside History Tour
Streetside History Tour
Streetside History Tour
Architectural Heritage Tour

Architectural Heritage Tour

There’s nothing like treating yourself to the architectural heritage tour on foot, by bike or by car. Travel back in time on a lovely route featuring downtown Baie-Saint-Paul’s dozens of pretty century-old homes. Some streets stand out more than others, with typical architecture attesting to the days of early colonization, back in 1678. Tie those laces tight!

With its mansard-roofed residences, rue Saint-Joseph was where Baie-Saint-Paul’s very first merchants set up shop. This pretty street hugs Rivière du Gouffre for almost its entire length. That’s certainly why it has long been referred to as le chemin de l’Anse ‒ or Inlet Road. A stroll down this picturesque Baie-Saint-Paul street is well worth the detour.

119 rue Saint-Jean-Baptiste is an address that has seen a lot. The home was built in 1870 by Hercule Fortin and then turned it into a shop. Later it was a general store, then an art gallery and a cabinet-making workshop. Further down the street, 170 is where Monseigneur Léonce Boivin was born. It proudly displays a double-pitched roof with dormers, as well as lovely six-paned windows so typical of the late 1800s. Then off we go to admire Moulin Gariépy, a splendid stone mill that dates back to 1756. The tour also covers rue Sainte-Anne to rue Saint-Adolphe – you’ll love it – and then down elegant rue Ambroise-Fafard. The latter is dotted with all types of residences, from American colonial and Victorian to quadrangular rural, Regency cottage, neo-classical farmstead. Others are inspired by Norman and English architecture.

The tour’s 11 downtown addresses and 6 others in close vicinity have interpretation panels providing interesting information about the architecture and owners of these fabulous homes. Ah! Such beauties, these heritage homes! Don’t miss a beat ‒ get your Heritage Tour map at the Tourist Information Centre.

Architectural Heritage Tour
Architectural Heritage Tour
Architectural Heritage Tour
© Cirque du Soleil
This is the Birthplace of Cirque du Soleil!

This is the Birthplace of Cirque du Soleil!

In the early 80s, Guy Laliberté and Gilles Sainte-Croix were frequent visitors at the now legendary Balcon Vert, Baie-Saint-Paul’s youth hostel. That’s where the pair of circus performers – one a fire-eater, the other a stilt-walker – dreamt up a circus with no animals, and apparently no borders! Club des Talons hauts [the High-Heel Club] and their imagination knew no limits.

At the time, the two illuminati developed several events for la Fête Foraine, a summer fair and a genuine festive odyssey through the streets of Baie-Saint-Paul. Along with patchouli, the rich fragrance of Peace & Love sweetened the air, elephant pants were the rage and girls rarely wore bras. A restaurant on rue Sainte-Anne soon became headquarters for all these beautiful people – the stuff legends are made of.

The rest is well known. Globally, Cirque du Soleil is a top ambassador for Québec talent. In 2009, the City of Baie-Saint-Paul wished to mark the Cirque’s 25th anniversary by organizing L’Éveil du Géant, an immense celebration with the atmosphere of a funfair to which were invited Gilles Sainte-Croix, Guy Laliberté and Daniel Gauthier ‒ three iconic celebrities here in the region. The latter was also top dog at Le Massif de Charlevoix.

All year long, everyone enjoyed visiting Dreamweavers ‒ Cirque du Soleil Costumes, an exhibition presented at the Baie-Saint-Paul Museum of Contemporary Art. As well, there was a photography display featuring the best pics of Les Échassiers de la Baie by photographer François Rivard, the charmed witness of Cirque du Soleil’s baby steps here in Baie-Saint-Paul. 2009 also marked the creation of a monumental sculpture, Le Phare [The Beacon], created by internationally renowned artist René Derouin, in tribute to Cirque du Soleil. It can be admired at Hôtel Germain Charlevoix, next to the train platform.

Also recommended is a stroll over to Place du Citoyen, where artist Danielle April created an immense piece, L'équilibre précaire. Built on a granite base shaped like a sun, two stilt-walkers stand in balance on a giant metal ring inscribed in French with a quote by David Suzuki: “The planet’s future is in the hands of us all.” Inspiring, eh?

© Cirque du Soleil
This is the Birthplace of Cirque du Soleil!
© Cirque du Soleil
This is the Birthplace of Cirque du Soleil!
© Cirque du Soleil
This is the Birthplace of Cirque du Soleil!
The Legacy of the Little Franciscans of Mary

The Legacy of the Little Franciscans of Mary

Pulling into Baie-Saint-Paul by night? You can’t miss the three belfries on the Little Franciscans of Mary Convent, veritable beacons in the city’s nightscape.

Arriving from the United-States at Curé Ambroise-Martial Fafard’s request, the nuns quickly rolled up their sleeves. They were soon operating a farm that for decades ensured the survival of their community as well as of Hospice Sainte-Anne’s residents ‒ nearly 1,500 people, at its peak. Enterprises included a herd of cows and a dairy, pigs, chickens, bees and even a hydroelectric facility. Avant-garde, you say?

By the mid-60s, Québec was changing and social structures too. Institutions were emptying and as a result, the number of beneficiaries at Hôpital Sainte-Anne dropped considerably. Needs became increasingly fewer, and the farm was eventually sold to Louis-Philippe Filion, on March 30 1972. Did you know that this farm – with its 62,500 square feet of floor space ‒ was long considered to be Canada’s biggest wooden barn structure? Visionaries, you say? A skip over to their Museum Space is sure to shed light on the congregation’s impact on their community.

For some fresh air, head straight over to Franciscan Lane that crosses the tracks and meanders down to le Boisé du Quai’s maintained forest. It’s a bucolic stroll down to the river’s edge to be enjoyed with your sweetheart, friends or family. Nearby is another must: le Jardin de François, a garden commemorating the congregation’s patron saint, St. Francis of Assisi, also a lover of flora and fauna.

Care to see what this farm everyone is talking about looked like? At the train station, a model is on permanent display. Created by the workers of Centre de jour de Notre-Dame-des-Monts, this masterpiece required over 10,000 hours to complete. These Little Franciscans are indeed inspiring! We are also pleased to learn that the City of Baie-Saint-Paul has just become its newest proprietor and in so doing, writes a new page in history.

The Legacy of the Little Franciscans of Mary
The Legacy of the Little Franciscans of Mary
The Legacy of the Little Franciscans of Mary
Early Colonization

Early Colonization

Baie-Saint-Paul’s history dates back to 1678. The town’s first pioneer families, the Simards and the Tremblays, today number in the hundreds, accounting for approximately a third of the population. Not surprising that the Canadian Tremblay Association erected a monument in their memory, right next to Carrefour Culturel Paul-Médéric.

Most of the land was once owned by the Company of One Hundred Associates, and later to by Québec’s bishop, Mgr de Laval. It was to Noël Simard called Le Lombrette that newly cleared land was entrusted with the purpose of building a farm and two mills, one for grinding wheat, the other a wood mill. In 1679, Pierre Tremblay started building the mills and farming a first tract of land, near today’s Centre éducatif Saint-Aubin. By 1710, one of his sons – also called Pierre – became Seigneur des Éboulements.

1759 marks a dramatic turn of events: an important English flotilla has sailed upriver, conquering the land, forcing residents from Isle-aux-Coudres and Petite-Rivière-Saint-François to retreat to Baie-Saint-Paul. August 4, the English set foot in town where they are met by a large contingent of militiamen comprised of about one hundred Abenakis, with Sieur de Montcalm leading the way. Without intending to belittle these events, it is said that the cries of crows – similar to the Amerindian war cry – drove the English to take to their heels.

To check it out and imagine what the English invaders would have seen and heard that summer day in 1759, head over to Cap aux Corbeaux and stop at the Baie-Saint-Paul lookout (Route 362, heading towards Les Éboulements). What you see is nothing short of spectacular. Selfie opp!

Early Colonization
Early Colonization
Early Colonization
Inspire now.summer
Baie-Saint-Paul,
inspirations of the moment