Just in time for foliage season, the Train of Le Massif de Charlevoix, a full-day, gourmet rail excursion, has begun operations. The train, a must for rail buffs, carries passengers to the Charlevoix region, a World Biosphere Reserve carved by glaciers and sculpted by a meteor. The train departs from spectacular Montmorency Falls, just east of downtown Quebec City, and travels to St. Anne de Beaupre, before edging the shoreline of St. Lawrence as it continues east through Baie St. Paul and on to artsy La Malbaie, where there's a three-hour stopover.
For much of the 140 kilometer journey, the train slices between shoreline and cliffs, delivering spectacular views of headlands and islands, villages and farmlands. Each of the meticulously refurbished train cars holds 60-68 passengers, seated comfortably around tables. On each table, a GPS-triggered iPad highlights the journey, detailing history and heritage of the region—passengers can activate and watch it as they wish; it's deigned to be an enhancement without being intrusive. Music composed specifically for the journey calls attention to key sights.
A three-course lunch is served on the way to La Malbaie and a four-course dinner is served en route back to Quebec City. The menus, which draw extensively from Charlevoix's renowned local farms, were created specifically for the train by Jean-Michel Breton, executive chef at the Fairmont Manoir Richelieu, in La Malbaie.
The genius behind the train is Daniel Gauthier, a co-founder of Cirque du Soleil who now owns Le Massif, a ski resort on the route. Eventually, the train will offer winter service to the ski resort. For now, it's a spectacular way to view the Charlevoix region's foliage.
Rates for the full-day excursion, including meals, are $249 for adults and $199 for children.