Some things get better with age. Québec’s Val-Jalbert is one of them. What began more than 100 years ago as a company village, has aged gracefully into an ideal place to spend the night in Canada’s relatively undiscovered Saguenay-Lac-Sainte-Jean area. History buffs will love its authenticity, outdoor enthusiasts will love its waterfalls, and everyone will love its rustic-chic luxury.
Val-Jalbert is located in Chambord, a little less than a three hour drive from Québec City. Centered around a once busy pulp mill, the entire village was planned by a company in the early 1900s. The village’s eighty houses were ahead of their time with modern conveniences like electricity, water and sewer lines. Spending the day is an education. Spending the night is an unexpected lesson in pampering.
With 40 original buildings, the village is well preserved and still feels authentic. Along with a school there is a general store, post office, pulp mill and a number of company employee houses. Inside and out, some homes look just as they did when the mill was thriving. But tucked inside the historic facade of half dozen or so homes in the village and atop the general store are 24 modern rooms that make you want to brush up on history more often.
White bead board walls are accented with black and white photos of Val-Jalbert back in the day. Aged wood acting as a headboard makes the bed, topped with a white, fluffy comforter the focal point of the room. Leather and khaki cloth-covered furniture combine with wood floors to give the space a warm, welcoming feel.
Everything you’ll want and need is in the room, it’s just not hanging in plain view. Amenities like the television, refrigerator and microwave are tucked away in cabinets. Most rooms also have Murphy beds, but if you didn’t know it was there, you’d probably never find it.
The seamless blend of old and new carries into the bathroom. A pocket door slides to reveal a large glass shower with rainfall shower head and a large, stand alone soaking tub.
As tempting as it might be to relax in the room, the village is ready and waiting to impress. Exploring on foot is easy and chances are good you will run into characters dressed in period costume. Trolley bus tours run regularly, and are a good way to get a lay of the land, but the majority of the live commentary is in French. English speakers receive a handout to help fill in any blanks that might get lost in translation.
Climb the 764 steps to the glass platform that overlooks the heart of Ouiatchouan Falls. You may have never heard the name, but they are higher than Niagara Falls, so once you see them, you won’t forget them. If hundreds of steps isn’t your idea of a vacation day, just hop aboard the cable car for a scenic ride that includes views of Lac Saint-Jean.
The Falls plummet next to the old pulp mill. A multimedia show that explains the history of Val-Jalbert plays throughout the day in the grinders’ room in the mill.
All stays include a sit-down dinner and breakfast at the mill restaurant. Menus are inspired by regional products and a chef with personal ties to the village. Chef Carl Murray grew up listening to his grandfather tell stories about what it was like to work and live in Val-Jalbert.
Prices can fluctuate with exchange rates, but the typical cost of a one night stay for two people at Val-Jalbert is $221 US plus tax. Val-Jalbert operates seasonally, opening every year around the end of May and closing in mid-October. You can also make your reservations through Expedia or Travelocity.
Review and photos by Dana Rebmann. Her trip to Val-Jalbert was organized by Tourisme Saguenay-Lac-Saint-John and Tourisme Québec, but as always her thoughts and opinions are her own.