Winter is over and as much as I’m happy about the snow leaving us for another year, I also love making the most out of every situation (even the cold ones). With that, came some much needed winter exploration. And trust me, there’s no shortage of winter here in Ottawa.
So, my other half and I decided that we would head off to Montebello, Quebec where the hills are rolling and the adventures are a plenty. Located just one hour from downtown Ottawa, this beautiful village is a quick escape from the city noise, all year ‘round. It was officially time to press the reset button and soak in some much-needed R & R.
Luckily, we were able to hop in the new 2016 Ford Escape to get there – isn’t that name just so fitting? With the ability to sync my phone directly to the car, we were able to safely navigate our way out of town while still being able to jam to all of the best road trip music (you know you love that 90’s alt rock). The 4-wheel drive system was perfect for the winter weather and was able to adapt to the unpredictable terrain we had in store.
Montebello is a small village of only 950 residents and is surrounded by national parks, nature trails and beautiful views of Quebec. It’s most famous for the Fairmont Le Château Montebello – the largest log structure ever built, and Amnesia – Canada’s largest rock festival. Located at the eastern edge of the National Capital Region, the village has an area size of 7.95 kms of awesomeness.
So, how was my trip? First off, thank you for asking – that’s extremely polite of you. And second, well… why don’t I just show you?
Here are the highlights from our escape to Montebello:
If you haven’t had an Elk shove it’s slobbery face into your car before, you just haven’t lived, my friend. One way to truly experience nature is to allow it to stick itself right into your personal space while you’re trying to feed it carrots (yes, I used local organic ones).
Parc Omega is chock-full of amazing Canadian animals from the Prairies, forests, mountains, lakes and the Boreal Region. The coolest part is that you can drive your car right up to an animal you may have never been able to see up close. But don’t get me wrong, it’s clear that they have a strict respect for nature and the well-being of the animals and their natural habitats.If you’re looking for more than just the awesome animal park, then check out their walking trails, accommodations and even seasonal activities!
This stunning piece of architecture is the largest log structure ever built. The hotel was host to the 1981 G7 Economic Summit ad the 1983 NATO Nuclear Planning Group. With your stay at the Chateau, you can experience the Canadian wilderness with comfort and in style.
Located in the heart of Montebello, the hotel was founded as a private club in 1930 and is now an ideal destination for both business and leisure. Year-round activities include golf, cross-country skiing, hiking, snow shoeing, curing, tennis and squash!
Along with the many activities outside of the hotel, you’ll also find many wonderful things inside – including the largest fireplace I’ve even seen in my life. But that’s not all! They even have the largest indoor swimming pool in North America. If that wasn’t enough, the food and atmosphere are top notch.
The chalet-inspired interior of our room allowed for wilderness to come to life. We were even more excited when we found out that we were staying in Margaret Thatcher’s room! As with every Fairmont hotel or resort I’ve ever been fortunate enough to experience, the charm was present and the staff were all warm, friendly and consistently accommodating.
One word… chocolate. Do I even need to say more? Oh but, I will anyways. This village Chocolatier won a gold metal for best attraction in Quebec. Kudos to those awards for recognizing this fantastic family-run business that adds awesome ingredients like chia seeds, cranberries, maple, lavender and even beer to their delicious chocolates. Oh and did I mention that all of the cacao and sugar used are Fairtrade and organic?
Aaaaaaaaand chocolate. Just get in my face forever.
Cheese. Yes, cheese. Think about it… a village cheese-maker who won best blue cheese in Quebec.Oh and they use local fresh sheep and cow’s milk and make all that goodness in house! Yeah, it’s cheese. That is all.
With a quick escape out of town, it’s easy to feel like you’ve just pressed the reset button. So next time you’re in need of some time away, remember that it’s easy to find something fantastic right in your backyard – if you just take the time to look. In my many years of travelling, I came to appreciate and to truly embrace being in the moment. The key is in allowing yourself to take in all of the beauty that is right in front of you, while being hopeful for whatever lies ahead.
Catherine Sugrue, CNP
Photos: Catherine Sugrue
Car: 2016 Ford Escape