For the past twenty years, I’ve had a love affair with the province of Quebec. I lived in Quebec City in 1999 for nine months to learn the language and grew to love the culture. Now that our son, David, is in French immersion, it is further motivation to explore Quebec, so this summer, the family friendly Quebec Eastern Townships and the city of Sherbrooke was our destination.
Where to Play
Sherbrooke is the economic and cultural capital of the Eastern Townships. A person could easily spend their entire vacation in Sherbrooke, where one of our favourite attractions was the Sherbrooke Museum of Nature and Science . The museum is incredibly interactive and should come with a sign saying ‘please DO touch’. We visited a hall filled with taxidermic (stuffed) animals of every sort, and I admit to succumbing to some minor fears that it would be like Night at the Museum where the animals come alive. David was given an iPad which he used to complete a scavenger hunt. He scurried around from animal to animal, finishing the scavenger hunt in record time. We also checked out the multimedia show, Terra Mutantes, which gave a geographical overview of Sherbrooke from the beginning of time until today. The last exhibit we saw was Indigenous Ingenuity. We got to shoot a bow and arrow at a virtual target and took part in a virtual canoe race.
Capelton Mine – Located about twenty minutes south of Sherbrooke, a visit to the mine is like stepping back 170 years. The mine was first started during the American Civil War when there was a huge demand for copper. Fast forward to 2019; the mine has now become a tourist attraction that welcomes thousands of visitors every year.
We took a wagon ride pulled by a tractor to reach the mine which took about fifteen minutes and added to the fun and adventure. We entered the darkened mine shaft and had to adjust our eyes to the reduced light. Our guide, Matis, filled us in on the severe working conditions the miners had to endure including long work hours and extreme physical labour. Most of the tunnelling was done with pick-axe and progress was very slow. Child labour was also the norm. Mules would be brought down in the mine and would spend their entire lives working in the pit.
We descended further into the tunnel, and Matis turned off the interior lights and lit up a candle. Every miner would be supplied a candle (which they had to pay for), and this would be their only source of light. Luckily, we now have electricity, and Matis flipped the lights back on.
After about an hour or so, we re-emerged from the mine and hopped back on our tractor chariot. At the visitor’s centre, we had a delicious sandwich and the speciality of the region, Bull’s Head ginger ale .
Capelton Mine is a family-owned business, and we appreciated the friendly hospitality of the staff. The visitor’s centre is located right along a major bike pathway; thus, it is the perfect location to bring your bike.
Parc de la Gorge and Foresta Lumina – Set in the picturesque community of Coaticook, Parc de la Gorge is a great place to visit in the day or evening. The park offers numerous hiking trails including the Gorge ‘Canyon’ Trail. The canyon trail features the longest suspended footbridge in North America. I am not the biggest fan of heights, so I did not appreciate my son’s mischievous attempts to sway the bridge as I passed on it. I did, however, appreciate the spectacular views of the gorge from the suspension bridge.
It was my birthday, so I wanted to treat myself to a nice restaurant. We tried out Coffret de l’Imagination, which offered fine French cuisine in a relaxed setting. David ordered his meal entirely in French meaning those immersion classes were working.
As the sun started to set, it was time for the main reason we had come to the park. During the evening, the park trails turn into a 2.6 km multimedia experience, Foresta Lumina. Designed by Montreal’s Moment Factory , Foresta Lumina combines lights, film and music to create a magical experience. I could not believe how the same trail we walked during the day had been transformed. At times, you could a mythical creature had really just run past or a ghost tapped you on the shoulder. It felt like you had stepped into a fairytale.
Where to Eat –
There are no shortage of great restaurants in the Eastern Townships. As mentioned we greatly enjoyed Coffret de l’Imagination and it’s European ambience. We also had an excellent meal at OMG Resto in Sherbrooke. The restaurant is located in a renovated church with several pews still intact, and they emphasise local ingredients. David swears by their chocolate sundae.
Where to Stay –
We stayed at the Grand Times Hotel Sherbrooke. The hotel was ideally situated close to the downtown, farmer’s market and Magog River. Every morning, we woke up to joggers and cyclists enjoying the pathways along the river. The hotel also offered a delicious continental breakfast that got the day started right.
For ideas about more things to do, festivals to see and more information about the Eastern Townships, visit www.easterntownships.org
Eastern Townships Tourism covered the author’s accommodation and attractions. They did not review or approve the article.