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Unique accommodation a stone's throw from Quebec City.

Wendake, Que

A hotel shaped like an Iroquois longhouse with four star amenities isn't your standard country hotel. But just 15 minutes from downtown Quebec City, the Hotel-Musee Premieres Nations, the latest success story of the Huron-Wendar Nation, has recently opened.

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"We started with plans for a museum to record our culture," explained 77-year-old Chief Max Gros Louis. "Then the idea grew to combine a hotel-museum for tourists, but being so close to Quebec City it had to be higher end to attract visitors."

The hotel is an astonishing site. The windowless exterior on the north side looks forbidding, but it is windowless for a reason. It was designed to resemble an Iroquois longhouse and a solid north side keeps out the cold in these days of energy conservation.[dagger]The longhouse symbolizes an important component of Huron-Wendat cultural history when families lived together under one roof.

It's a hotel that cannot be classified by tourist board ratings. Light fills the long entrance hall from cathedral sized south facing windows. Pale walls and a honey oak staircase accented with trendy metal trim adds to its clean airy feeling.

An over-sized dreamcatcher is suspended along the stairwell. Two paintings by Norval Morissseau, Canada's famous Ojibway artist, and loaned by Chief Max Gros Louis to the establishment, hang at the entrance.

A winding hallway displays artefacts and paintings done by talented local artists. The 55 rooms each have a floor to ceiling window and a small balcony overlooking the natural woodland setting of the St. Charles River. Rooms are decorated in forest colors and come with a cosy three-point Hudson Bay blanket on the bed. They contain a writing desk, small refrigerator and coffee maker, free high-speed Internet, comfortable chairs, a flat-screen plasma TV, and plenty of big towels in the bathroom. Dressing gowns come only in the suites, however.

Animal rights activists might be startled by a beaver skin cushion on the bed, but the fur trade was part of the history of the Huron-Wendat Nation.

In the light and airy dining room, tables are set with white tablecloths and upscale cutlery. Chef Martin Gagne, formerly of the Manoir St-Castin, translates 'products of the farm, hunt and fish, flavoured with herbs of the northern forests' into top of the line cuisine.

Hunt might include bison, rabbit or deer. Herbs can be as familiar as fennel, sorrel, or unfamiliar as the labrador, black plum or lycope uniflower.

Breakfast is either from a set menu that includes buckwheat crepes, cheese and fennel mousse, and eggs any style, or from a cold buffet featuring three kinds of granola, homemade muffins, fruit and a variety of exceptional local Quebec cheeses.

"The natural environment, the medicine garden and the hiking, biking and cross-country skiing trails around the hotel are part of the experience," said tourist consultant Jacques Drapeau. A two-minute walk takes guests past brightly painted houses with their distinctive curved roofs and winding outdoor staircases to the Village of Wendake.

Since 1697, the Huron-Wendat Nation has owned and lived in this Quebecois village, now a national Historic Site of Canada. Notre-Dame-de-Lorette Chapel is located in the village and dates back to the time when Wendake was a French mission.

Tsawenhohi House was built for Grand Chief Nicolas Vincent in 1820 and is dedicated to preserving and reaching traditional crafts, and is another must see. If you need deer skin moccasins or a fringed jacket, a beaver fur hat or ash and leather handcrafted snowshoes, shops on the main street specialize in local crafts.

For a plunge into Aboriginal culture, a five-minute taxi drive takes you to Onhoua Cheteke, a re-created traditional Huron village with its own long house, Native cuisine and demonstration of Huron dances.

Guests of the hotel, however, should not miss the accompanying museum. Designed to resemble a Huron smokehouse, it houses treasures hidden for generations in the villagers' cupboards and attics. They create an accurate history of the Huron-Wendat tribe, since their time on the shores of Lake Huron, to their 17th century migration to the village of Wendake.

Displays include everything from bone sewing needles, wampum beads to tools of the hunt, a birchbark canoe and finely beaded moccasins. Overhead a very sophisticated interactive video portrays four seasons on the land.

"With 65 businesses on the reserve, the Hotel-Musee will be the king pin of our tourist development," said Chief Gros Louis. "It is unique, four star and the only combined hotel museum in Canada; maybe in the world."

Hotel--Musee Premieres First Nations is located at 5, place de la Rencontre, Wendake Quebec. Call 1-866-551-9222 for information.

By Katherine McIntyre

Windspeaker Contributor
COPYRIGHT 2009 Aboriginal Multi-Media Society of Alberta (AMMSA)
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2009 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Hotel-Musee Premieres Nations
Author:McIntyre, Katherine
Publication:Windspeaker
Article Type:Hotel review
Geographic Code:1CQUE
Date:Aug 1, 2009
Words:773
Previous Article:Location announced for the 2010 Aboriginal Achievement Awards.
Next Article:The University of British Columbia.
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