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Introducing Val d’Or

Born in 1933 around the Sigma gold mine, Val d'Or today looks like a mining boomtown of yesterday, with wide avenues and a main street (Ave 3-ième) that one can easily imagine was frenzied in gold-rush days. That main street retains its traditional rough edge. The Sigma mine still operates, though it's no longer the city's economic engine.

La Cité de l'Or offers guided excursions 91m underground to show what gold mining's all about. On the same site is the Village Minier de Bourlamaque, a restored mining village with 80 log houses. Call to reserve tours in advance, and don't forget to bring warm clothes if you're going underground.

If you're staying the night, the newest kid on the block, Quality Inn & Suites, has modern amenities and friendly service. Recently refurbished Motel Prélude is about as central as you can get in Val d'Or.

The tourist office is on Hwy 117 at the eastern end of town.

Air Creebec flies into Val d'Or from Montréal ($600, 1¼ hours). Autobus Maheux (www.autobusmaheux.qc.ca) buses go to Montréal ($102, seven hours, three times daily), Matagami ($63, 3½ hours, daily except Saturday) and Chibougamau via Senneterre ($87, six hours, daily).