Whether by bike or by car, Wendake worth the visit

Posted Aug. 26, 2011, at 6:49 p.m.

QUEBEC, Canada — “Kwe” is “welcome” or “hello” in Huron and for centuries the Huron-Wendat peoples of lower Canada have welcomed visitors to their home along the St. Charles and St. Lawrence Rivers of Quebec.

Modern day explores can learn about the regions First Nations people and enjoy that hospitality at Wendake, a Huron-run hotel, restaurant and museum accessible off Canadian Route 573 or the Quebec bike path.

Wendake was the perfect place for a break from riding along the Route Verte — especially since the morning had been a rainy one — and museum officials Danisse Neashit and Jason Picard welcomed us with towels, hot coffee and a sample platter of seafood smoked on the premises.

The 55-room hotel incorporates numerous First Nations inspired decorations and materials including massive wooden beams, stonework and artifacts.

“Wendake is 100 percent tribal owned,” Picard said. “It’s been helped through 25 million in tourism dollars over the last six years.”

There’s an aura of peacefulness and tranquility within the structure that is designed to evoke the image of a traditional longhouse and smokehouse.

On-site the facility offers walking trails, guided canoe trips, cultural experiences and interpretive displays.

As Picard explained, his people called the area around what is now Toronto home, but all that changed with first contact with Europeans in 1610. In just a few decades the Huron population dropped from around 25,000 to 500 thanks to disease and warfare encouraged by the English explorers.

In 1650 the remaining Huron people accepted the invitation from the French in Quebec to relocate under that government’s protection.

Today the people of the only Huron-Wendat community in the world occupy a reservation just 3 kilometers square and are actively working to bring their native language back into common use.

At the same time, Neashit and Picard said they are anxious to share their culture with visitors year-round at the museum and hotel where guests dine on gourmet dishes or enjoy a steaming cup of Inuit tea.

“You can stay at a bigger hotel in Quebec City,” Picard said. “Or you can stay here where it is serene, calm and people are not going crazy with Blackberry devices.”

Given the city is 15 minutes away by car or hotel shuttle, why not, indeed?

The staff at Wendake is more than happy to arrange an itinerary covering a single day or multiple night stay. Information on activities, rates and reservations is at www.tourismewendake.com.

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