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Charlevoix

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The Charlevoix countryside could have been created for giants - the villages tucked into bays or perched atop summits look like dollhouses left behind by a child. Rustic farmhouses and luxurious summer houses are scattered about, and some have been converted into inns. Although Charlevoix was one of the first regions in North America where tourism flourished, further inland it is still a wilderness area of valleys and quiet lakes.

Although Charlevoix has some of the planet's oldest rock formations, several major earthquakes have rocked the pastoral region since it was first colonized. A bend in the road reveals Baie-Saint-Paul in all its charm, and a slope leads to the heart of the village, which has maintained a quaint small-town atmosphere. For over 100 years, Baie-Saint-Paul has attracted North American landscape artists, inspired by the mountains and a quality of light particular to Charlevoix. There are many art galleries and art centres in the area that display and sell beautiful Canadian paintings and sculptures.

Visitors are sometimes surprised to learn that several whale species live in the St. Lawrence. For several generations, the economic livelihood of Île aux Coudres centred around whale hunting, mainly belugas, and whale blubber was melted to produce lamp oil. Ship building, mainly small craft, was also an important regional industry. This isle is the best place to contemplate the Charlevoix mountains.

The original wood building of the Manoir Richelieu (181 Avenue Richelieu, Pointe-au-Pic), the only grand hotel in Charlevoix to survive, was built in 1899. Destroyed in a fire, however, it was replaced by the current cement building in 1929. The hotel plans were drawn by architect John Smith Archibald in the Château Style. The region's number-one attraction is the Casino de Charlevoix (183 Avenue Richelieu, 665-5300), an attractively designed European-style casino located next to the Manoir Richelieu. Proper dress required.

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