Famous Pet Friendly Highway Stop – Le Madrid, Quebec
As travellers, we have seen our fair share of highways. And highways in North America have their own, odd ball markers. In Canada, I can think of the giant apple near Trenton, the world’s largest hockey stick on Vancouver Island, Calgary’s giant Guitar Pick, the Pysynka (Easter Egg) of Vergreville; and in Quebec, they had Le Madrid.
The story goes, that it all started because a man, named Mr. Arel, fell in love with Monster Trucks in 1985. He was so enthralled in fact, that he decided to build his own! And once he had, he decided he needed a place to park it and it did not fit in his driveway at home.
That is how, with no experience at all as a restaurateur, Mr. Arel bought a restaurant on the edge of the highway, so he could show off his truck to all that drove past. Of course, with time, the collection grew! And after re-painting the place white, adding a red roof and castle turret… he added 75 life-size fibreglass dinosaurs!
The place became a legend, and it’s popularity grew. Kids loved it for all that craziness the trucks and dinosaurs brought to the place; and adults did because, Le Madrid boasted the best poutine to be found on highway 20!
Sadly, even if business was booming, the place was sold in 2011, and the new landlord (Immostar) auctioned off the monster trucks, many of the dinosaurs, the multiple fish tanks and the famous Zoltar; a mechanical fortuneteller booth much like those seen in movies from the 1940’s.
And now – it is just a common stop. Le Madrid family restaurant has been replaced with gross fast food. No more vegetable soup and salads. No more delicious poutine. Just a McDonald’s. Yuck. And a St. Hubert. Yuck.
Some of the dinosaurs remain! They have been given a facelift, placed with respect in their own little area, still visible from the highway and now have interesting fact “sheets” posted near them so that they act not just as a visual interest for kids and adults, but also an educational tool. What has changed is that you can no longer climb all over them.
We nearly always stop when we drive from Ottawa to Quebec City to visit grandma. We feel we have to. It’s a tradition, but also it really is a great spot to stop if you have a canine.
Before you get excite, the indoor restaurants and gas station store are not pet friendly. This is the norm for Canada. But dogs are allowed to visit the dinosaurs!!
It certainly is a fun way to stretch ones legs! But even better than the dinosaurs (I know… what could possibly be better?) is the path (between the dinosaurs and the highway) through a wild field, down a hill, to a trail along a river.
A place where a dog can run a bit, maybe even off leash and enjoy a little freedom away from the car! And since the river pathway is below the highway, its also surprisingly quiet.
So the next time you are on highway 20 with your canine, and you need a place to stop, get a bottle of water, maybe a snack, learn something about dinosaurs and stretch your legs, give Le Madrid a go. And if you are into this kind of thing, you can often find all sorts of fun cars and/or motorcycles there as well.
It is a spot infused with history. For example, René Lévesque, was a regular and always ordered the vegetable soup. Quebec crooners, comedians, assorted hockey stars and, most of all, hundreds of thousands of travellers have stopped there since 1985.
Yes, it is true, it no longer is what it once was, and is only a shadow of its previous kitsh. But it is still a fun stop and interesting location. It’s where a Quebec institution infused by a wacky French-Canadian je ne sais quoi, was born. And it’s the best stop for those travelling with their canine companion.
Have you ever visited a fun highway stop like Le Madrid? Do you even have something like this on a highway near you? Please share!