Les Laurentides is a beautiful area, especially in the fall. I’m originally from Montreal but I don’t ever remember taking the Oka-Hudson ferry. This 100 year old service links the towns of Hudson and Oka on the Ottawa River just west of Lake of Two Mountains and the island of Montreal.
Right beside the ferry docks on the Oka side is a magnificent stone cathedral and La Mairie, Oka’s town hall. There’s a tourism booth in it so, we stopped and got a map of Les Basses Laurentides (the Laurentian foothills). Oka is famous for its cheese, which was originally made by Trappist Monks so, I asked if the factory was close by and if we could visit it. Turns out it’s just five minutes away and while it does not have tours, it does have a store. Glenn thought Magasin Abbaye Oka was a bit of a tourist trap but I was impressed with the place. Not only is there a huge selection of Oka cheeses including Oka curds (which were really good), the store has cheeses from all over Quebec including the Portneuf, Saguenay and Charlevoix regions. It also sells locally made bread, homemade chocolate and apple cider. We managed to polish off a bottle of it in a matter of minutes, it was so good. L’Abbaye Oka also has some wonderful artisan works for sale including beautifully woven textiles, local pottery and little oils depicting local winter scenes which I thought were well rendered and priced at just $130 each.
Back in the car, we started exploring the region’s back roads and discovered that the Basses Laurentides region is big apple country. There were vergers (french word for orchards) everywhere. Our favourite town was St-Joseph-du-Lac. Perched high above the river valley, its Quebecois farmhouses with their steeply sloped roofs house many artisans who’ve obviously been drawn here by the area’s exceptional beauty.
We hope to get back to this part of Quebec and explore it further. It really is a piece of paradise.