With warm weather on the horizon, many Canadians have already booked a big fat summer vacation — they may even be rubbing it in your face. But if you haven’t booked some time away because of expensive plane rides or a lack vacation time, you’re not out of the game just yet. Get ready to unwind in a whimsical cedar castle and stuff your face with handmade artisan chocolates. Pack your fancy lounging apparel, folks; we’re heading to Montebello, Quebec in the beautiful Outaouais (ooh~tah~way) region.
Built in 1930, Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello is only an hour from Montreal and is situated along the Ottawa River adjacent the spectacular Laurentian Mountains. Constructed to resemble a chateau in the Swiss Alps, it was built by a 24/7 construction crew in just four months. Though originally a private retreat for well-to-do members of the Seigniory Club, like Lester B. Pearson and Princess Grace of Monaco; in 1970, Le Chateau Montebello opened to the public and has been one of the province’s premiere, wilderness retreats ever since.
Entering this place is like stepping back to a time when craftsmanship was king. In the lobby you will find a three-story atrium held up by some of the 10,000 cedar logs used to build this place. In the center of the lobby stands a massive six-sided, 80-foot tall stone fireplace. Surrounding the monstrous but somehow cozy space are bars, seating areas and Monte, the hotel managers golden retriever who keeps a doghouse by the concierge desk. A walk up the wide, opulent wooden stairs to your ‘chambre’ allows you to take in the craftsmanship and appreciate the sheer size from every angle.
It’s impossible to list every activity at Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello because the options are endless. During the winter months hotel staff can arrange for guests to go cross-country skiing, dogsledding, skating, snowshoeing, ice fishing and tobogganing. In the summer, it’s golf, horseback riding, kayaking, boating and for the luxury off-roading enthusiast: The Land Rover Experience Driving School — so cool.
After all that nature and activity it’s time to get down to the real business of vacation: relaxing. Not to be bossy, but start with a swim in the pool. A 25 metre, eight lane tile pool under a vaulted ceiling makes you feel like your dip is the most spectacular swim of all time.
Hungry? You should be. It’s been a busy day. Here you have two options: a delicious gourmet meal delivered to your rustic cabin suite, or fine fusion cuisine prepared by head chef Jean-François Fortin in the Aux Chantignoles restaurant overlooking the hotel grounds and river. The menu changes with every season and guests can enjoy beautiful food sourced regionally and paired with great wines. Just leave some room for dessert…
Économusée’s are a growing network and aim to gather artisans wishing to connect with the public. They preserve dying trades (and history) presently being lost in our “cheaper, faster, now” society — including artisanal handcrafted chocolate.
Head Chocolatiers Gaëtan Tessier and Luc Gielen take on a small apprenticeship of students each year to teach them traditional, ethical and organic chocolate making techniques. They produce and sell a range of chocolates and visitors to ChocoMotive can watch the masters at work in their studio. I loved this place. Not only is the chocolate superior to anything you can by in any store it is preserving an amazing trade and reinvigorating the lost art of mentorship.
How to Book:
Fairmont Le Château Montebello
392, rue Notre Dame
Canada J0V 1L0
Telephone: (819) 423-6341
The writer was a guest of Outaouais Tourism and the Fairmont Le Château Montebello. They did not review or approve this article in advance.