We wanted to have a few days off from our busy week and made spontaneous plans to do some camping with our two young kids (ages 8 and 11) in Quebec. For the record, spontaneous for us means having about 24 hours to plan the trip. We didn’t know much about camping in Canada, but after some searching my wife found the eco-campgrounds for Au Diable Vert. Since we were a little pressed for time and figured “camping” was pretty straightforward, we didn’t do as much research as we usually do (i.e., spending some time on TripAdvisor) and set our expectations accordingly. Had we done the usual amount of thorough research that we usually do, I can honestly say that would not have stayed there.
This is unfortunate because we were excited about the place, and the location is beautiful. We had reserved a treehouse cabin called the Paridis Perche, and it looked really cool on the website. The kids were thrilled at the idea of staying in a treehouse, so we went ahead and made plans. The first minor problems we ran into were that they don’t list their prices and we had trouble trying to get ahold of the people there. They never seemed to answer their phones, and it took some time get a response to our emails. I know it’s not a huge deal, but left us uncertain about our plans. When we finally made contact, they told us that the treehouse was available for three days, and we told them we were interested, but did not finalize anything.
Now the first thing that struck me was the price. The cost ($150US) was a little steep, though the treehouse did look cool. We decided not to make an issue out of it in the spirit of our spontaneous planning, and told them we were wanted the room, but for only two nights. They said fine, but we would have to pay a late cancellation penalty of $75US. I thought this was ridiculous, and said as much. We had not finalized anything, and had never received anything in the way of a confirmation. The reality is, they had never asked for a credit card or deposit, and if we wanted to be jerks, we could simply told them that we weren’t coming. They were reasonable and let us off the hook, but it got things started on the wrong foot.
Either way, we were excited about getting away. We packed up and hit the road. The campsite is located in the woods of southern Quebec, about a half hour from the border. The region is beautiful, not to mention a convenient drive from Vermont. There are also several small towns that are charming and well worth a visit, especially Sutton. When we arrived at Au Diable Vert, our first impressions were very positive. The place is beautiful, and the grounds are well maintained.
I’ve read other posts about Au Diable Vert, and I have to confess, while some of the commentary was a little harsh, I have to agree with a lot of the negative assessments about the place. First off, even tough they let us off the hook for the third day that we cancelled, they charged us an extra fee for having two kids with us. I thought this was lame because we indicated from the beginning that there would be four of us, and they never gave said anything about an extra fee for kids. Not only that, but the treehouse was expensive, and it’s designed for as many as 6 people, so how can you tack on an extra $50 for having two young kids with you? It’s cheesy nickel and dime tactics like this that leave a bad taste in my mouth. Plus, it’s a campground, not a hotel.
After a long drive, we weren’t in the mood to do battle, but it left a bad impression. The next negative experience came when we had to go to our cabin. Now I don’t expect posh accommodations when we camp, but at $150/night to stay in a treehouse, I thought it was a bit much to charge $10 to give us a lift in the jitney to our cabin. It would have been better if they simply didn’t offer it. Instead, we piled our bags into this push cart and walked up a long and steep hill with all of our stuff. It was hot, as well, so it didn’t help our frame of mind. I felt like one of Joseph Smith's followers heading to the promised land.
The treehouse itself was nice, the sort of neat place the you first see and think, “That is so cool.” We were all excited, and climbed up the stairs and went inside. The place was as you might expect when roughing it, hot and dark, with hints of mildew. Sure, it was dirty, but were “camping,” after all. My wife found mouse droppings near the upper bunk beds, and the beds were not necessarily clean, but all in all, the conditions were not necessarily horrible. For the price, however, I wouldn’t go back. One of the big issues was water. There was no water close by, so we had to haul it in, and there were empty bottle left over from the previous tenants. There was an outhouse below the treehouse, but the extreme heat inspired me to avoid it and just go by a tree (#1). I’m not sure if this is sanctioned by Au Diable Vert, but I figured we were in the woods. Who was going to complain?
For more extensive bathroom trips, there were nice flush toilets and showers near the base lodge. This brings up another issue I had: the impression of exclusivity, or us vs. them. The owners were not that welcoming and friendly, and I think they stopped to say hello to us only once. Granted, that is not a requirement, but come one, this is a hospitality business. I’m sure this is something my own insecurities have created in my own head, but I noticed that their group, which was big, all stayed in the base lodge, which has a beautiful deck with a BBQ and I’m sure all the amenities of home. It appeared at the time that they were having some sort of family get together, complete with cocktails and grilled food.. The deck and the rest of the main lodge were off limits to common folk like us, and it just left an unfavorable impression watching all these people enjoying their wine and cheese while we were pushing our heavy carts to our dirty and dank room. I felt like a proletariat. I know, you get what you pay for, or in this case, you don’t. I think it would have been better if I didn’t feel like it was being rubbed in my face, or if they owners were even a little bit warmer.
There was a pond adjacent to the main lodge, and we swam in it both days, but again, we were literally the only ones using it. This, of course, made me wonder why nobody else was in there. It sure helped to cool off in the heat, but it’s just strange to me how the owners don’t use, or at least didn’t use while we were there, their own pond. It made me wonder if they knew something we didn’t.
As I mentioned, the grounds are nice, and there are some wonderful trails and some neat things to see. I get a sense it’s really designed for the winter time and XC skiing, though I wonder if they raise the prices during the busy season. We probably would have enjoyed our time more if it wasn’t so darn hot. In fact, fall is probably a good time to go up there. The evenings were nice but our room was sweltering, and during the day, there was the constant sound of the groundskeeper splitting cord after cord of wood, in preparation for winter, I’m sure. I, for one, was glad to get out of there and spend a few days in Montreal.
All in all, I have to agree with many of the previous reviewers in saying that we won’t be going back to Au Diable Vert, which is a shame because they have a beautiful place and they’ve done a nice job with it. I just think they’re not completely tuned in with how to excel at customer service on the business end. Plus, it’s way too expensive for what you get. You’d be better off finding a campground and pitching a tent, maybe even at Au Diable Vert if they listed the prices. The accommodations would not be that much worse than what we got for $150/night.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Au Diable Vert is an unusual concept in the world of wilderness outfitters, agrotourism and recreotourism, but a concept that proves more and more popular and relevant each year. Instead of just a fishing rod or gun, our guests have the chance to appreciate nature and the spectacular view of the Appalachian and Green mountains, with binoculars, camera, hiking poles, a kite or the hand of a loved one. Facilitating the Quebec wilderness experience, no matter the season, is what we strive to do better and better each year. A compelling and unique choice of activities, range from exploring our mountain top site in the mountains, to splashing, paddling and fishing in the valley, to pedalling through the treetops on the unique-in-Canada VeloVolant canopy cycle. ... more less
- Also Known As:
- Au Diable Vert Sutton, Canada - Quebec