The indigenous tribes that first inhabited the Island of Orleans used to call it Minigo, which means “the enchanted island”, because of its beauty.
Centuries later, the Island has not lost one bit of its ancient enchanting charm, and has captivated my heart at first sight, when my husband and I drove by it last spring.
The island is located in the magnificent St Lawrence River, a ten-minute drive from Quebec City and contains six villages. It is a rural, agricultural and maritime territory that is famous for its fertile soil and is known as The Garden Of Quebec.
In the summertime, the Island is home to the tastiest, world renowned strawberries (no jokes), that you can pick yourself, in one of the many farms that produce them.
But what struck me, being an art aficionado, is the architecture: simple and traditional, but gorgeous. First inspired by the French, who set foot on the island in 1535, and colonized it according to the seigneurial system, which is still apparent today in the island’s design, featuring houses close to each other, and long and narrow fields. The buildings’ structures then somewhat evolved throughout the years to adapt to the cold weather, and follow some architectural trends, with Classical, American and Victorian inspirations.
The housing estate in each village is divided in three plots: the residential one comprises the houses, the institutional one centralizes schools, churches and museums, among others; and finally, the agricultural one contains the farms.
The residences, built along the river, are either made of pastel-painted wood, or river rocks, with colored shutters punctuating the façade; making you feel like you have been taken back to a different era.
To this day, when new houses are built, they must follow specific rules, to maintain the overall architectural harmony of the island.
I’ve learned that the reason why the island has managed to preserve its heritage throughout the centuries, is because it is protected by the Agricultural Land Preservation Act, which keeps 90% of the island’s land for agricultural purposes. The island has also been designated a Quebec Heritage Site, which means that preserving the Island’s cultural and architectural heritage is at the heart of the island’s development strategies.
We spent two days there last July, relaxing with friends and family, in a beautiful hotel with a breath-taking view on the river from the rooms, the terrace, the restaurant and the swimming pool.
I really thought I had seen everything the island had to offer, but boy was I wrong.
For my birthday in late December, we braved a snowstorm and drove to the island.
I was speechless at the beauty of this place, whenever covered by this white coat. It was freezing but absolutely magical. It truly felt like time had stopped.
We stayed at the same hotel as last summer and had the best time.
Oh, and by the way, the Chocolaterie makes the most delicious chocolate filled liquorice!
So if you ever pass by Quebec City, don’t forget to visit the Island of Orleans, and get your camera ready, you won’t regret it!