Forest walks, villages and apple picking: Fall in Quebec
As Summer turns to Autumn, Quebecois head out into the countryside to enjoy the spectacular yearly phenomenon – the breath-taking transformation of the trees and foliage. From the greenery of the warmer months, the wilderness slowly and effortlessly morphs as the weather cools into hues of pink, red, brown, orange, and a melange of all of these colours. Since it’s also apple and pumpkin harvest season, it’s also a great time to go apple or pumpkin picking. I was lucky enough to be invited by a local family to take part in this yearly tradition.
Our first stop was Mont Saint Hilaire, in southeastern Quebec, off the island of Montreal, in the regional area of La Vallée-du-Richelieu. It turned out that half of Montreal was here on this sunny Saturday morning, as the parking station at The Gault Nature Reserve was full. Enthusiastic walkers and apple pickers awaited patiently in their vehicles for entry. We decided to pass the wait and invest in the local economy by paying $5 to park in a private apple orchard. It was an adventure in itself parking between the apple trees – very authentic!
We commenced our walk into the reserve, owned by the world famous McGill University. Here I began to fully appreciate the concept of the season “Fall.” Traditionally in Australia, we call the season Autumn. Yet, meandering through the corridors of this park which contains around a thousand hectares of forest, the penny really dropped as to why this time of year is called Fall. Leaves cascaded from their branches, dropping, falling, before me.
There was some interesting wildlife along the way…
Next, we headed for the much anticipated ‘apple picking’ at a nearby orchard. There are so many orchards around Saint Hilaire to choose from, it is hard to go wrong. On arrival, we asked which apples were best for stewing, baking and eating raw. Off we went towards our desired apple trees and filled a huge bag. It was the first time I have picked an apple from a tree! There is always a first, for everything!
Just across the road was a gourmet food store abundant with pumpkins, just in time for Halloween. I was astounded at the different varieties. I never knew so many different pumpkins existed and the diversity and colours were a delight to behold.
Local stalls and vendors offer an abundance of delectables, anything which can be conceivably made with the local produce. There’s every type of preserve, apple sauce (sweet or sour), dill gerkins, garlic pastes, pumpkin jams, apple pies. If you can make it out of apples or pumpkins, it was here!
We had lunch at a lovely restaurant, Le Trait d’Union in Beloeil…and had a well deserved brew to celebrate our day in the country.
Afterwards we burnt off the meal by walking around the river and enjoyed some great views across the Richelieu to Saint Hilaire.
During Fall in Quebec, apple picking and a walk in the country parks is a must-do! For me, it was a definite highlight of the season.