Québec had been high on our bucket list for quite a long while. Despite living in Toronto for several years, which is just a hop, skip, and a jump from Québec, we never actually made it out east to the gorgeous province. Even more surprising was the fact that my Canadian husband had never been there either, despite having traveled all over Canada for both pleasure and work. We were originally planning on heading to Québec in the fall to sample the last of the changing foliage colors, but we pushed our visit back a month to get a glimpse of the picturesque snowy landscapes that Québec boasts each winter. Wine, cheese, and snow in Québec – what could be better?
The official language in Québec is French, and while my French is a little rusty, my husband is pretty much fluent in the language. Despite spending so much of our time in Canada, Québec feels as if it’s in its own charming world of its own. With architecture in the Eastern Townships resembling that of New England in the United States and the official language spoken everywhere you turn being French, this was an environment we both felt completely at home in from the moment we arrived.
Our tour of Québec began is what is known as the Eastern Townships. We traveled about 2 hours east of Montréal to the charming little town of North Hatley. The first snowfall had already preceded us, much to my excitement and joy. Our home away from home for our first few nights in the region was at Manoir Hovey, a stunning Relais & Chateaux property located right on Lake Massawippi (which means “deep lake”). Our gorgeous lakeside retreat featured a magnificent suite with a large balcony overlooking the grey-blue water surrounded by pristine white snow. With a gorgeous crimson colored living room adorned with a giant stone fireplace overlooking the snowy lake, I immediately felt at home here and could have happily spent a week in this homey spot. I can only imagine how stunning this retreat is in the autumn season, being surrounded by colors of red, orange, yellow, and violet.
For dinner, we dined at Le Hatley restaurant, where we were spoiled rotten by the head chef and our server who had an extensive knowledge of fine wine. Québec cuisine highlights ingredients that hail from the region specifically, including seafood from the nearby lakes and rivers, but also including garnishes such as birch and maple. Québec is also very proud of their cheese, which I took no time in ordering several selections for myself. Goat, sheep, or cow – it doesn’t matter. Québec cheese melts in your mouth and pairs excellently with the perfect glass of Québec wine.
Speaking of Québec wine, I would have never guessed that the Eastern Townships is home to several wineries. As my husband hails from British Columbia, I am a bit more familiar with BC wines but I had no prior knowledge of Québec wines before our trip. Unfortunately, I became ill with a severe virus during our Québec visit, but Torrance was able to visit Vignoble Le Cep d’Argent in nearby Magog. The name is a tribute to its location and purpose, with Le Cep meaning “vine” in French, and Argent meaning “silver”, in reference to the shimmering reflections on the lake. In this charming venue, Torrance learned about winemaking in the region and how the vines are preserved during the brutal winter months. He also learned different methods of making sparkling wine, including special fermentation that he was able to sample. Jean-Paul Scieur, who owns the winery with his brother François, hail from France and were kind enough to let Torrance in on the secret to making true French champagne. In the end, he came back to the hotel with several bottles of wine and sparkling wine that we enjoyed with friends back home in Los Angeles.
For our final morning in North Hatley, we woke up to a gloriously unexpected heavy snowfall. As someone who chases snow every winter, I was squealing that I was able to get such a beautiful whiteout on our visit. Sick or not, taking a few minutes to run in the snow always soothes my soul.
After a few days at Manoir Hovey, it was time to say au revoir to North Hatley and make a quick pit stop in Magog before continuing on to Bromont. One visit on our itinerary that peaked my interest was a stop at La Grange du Parfumeur. As someone who is very keen on scents, meeting with Alexandra Bachand and Eric Delbaere in their picturesque barn outside of Magog was a highlight. Torrance and I got a one-on-one, private tour into the creative process of how Alexandra and Eric bring an incredible, unique scent to life. It was fascinating to learn that Alexandra has been tapped by museums to create scents for exhibits showcased around the world, including an exhibit of World War I flowers a soldier sent back home to his daughter from France every week. After getting a behind-the-scenes look at their creative lab, we were then treated to savoring each individual scent they had on display, including Alexandra’s very first scent Rêve à Paris/Dream in Paris (which I purchased and am going to make it my Parisian scent in April). Scents play a big part in my memory-making on all of my travels, so I selected some scents to take home that I knew would not only remind me of Québec, but perhaps be one or two to be saved for an upcoming special adventure. My favorite scent was La note Jazz/Jazz Note, and it’s become my new winter signature scent.
With a heavy snowstorm well under way, blanketing the serene landscapes in soft, velvety snow, we slowly trekked west towards Bromont. The ski season had not even begun yet, as this whiteout snowstorm was a bit premature for this time of year. With the snow continuing to fall well into the afternoon, we checked into Hôtel Château-Bromont located across from Bromont’s ski lift. After dropping off our bags in our corner suite, which overlooked the valley and the mountain, we then headed to the nearby Balnea Spa for some much needed R&R. While I did not participate in the thermal baths due to my illness, the spa experience itself reminded me so much of a Scandinavian spa experience we have previously enjoyed in both Iceland and Finland. Alternating between pools of hot water and cold water, this relaxing treatment rejuvenates the body especially on a cold, snowy day. We sat down for lunch at the spa’s main restaurant Lumami, where we indulged in burgers and fresh tomato soup while sitting on luxurious couches that overlooked the snowy forest landscape ahead of us. We couldn’t have spent our last day in the Eastern Townships any better.
After spending three days in the beautiful Eastern Townships, it was time to trek even further west into the mountains in the region known as the Laurentians (or Le Laurentides in French). Sadly, my illness became so severe that we had to cancel our first day in the region. I do not normally cancel anything on a trip as I wish to see and experience everything I possibly can, but on this day we had no choice but to take it easy.
If you are traveling from Montréal or the Eastern Townships, it is worth making a few stops before arriving in the gorgeous mountains. For lunch, the picturesque inn Auberge Lys et Chardon in Saint-Placide is just the place to make your first stop. It’s also the perfect stop for your first night en route to the mountains, as it is a scenic bed and breakfast as well as a restaurant. Not too far away from the inn is the winery Vignoble Rivière-du-Chêne, which is the perfect place to spend an afternoon savoring unique Québec wines year round. While we were not able to stop in at either spot on our visit as originally planned due to my illness, both destinations came highly recommended and so we cannot wait to visit for ourselves the next time we are back in Québec.
After winding through some gorgeous mountainous landscapes frosted in white, glistening snow, we finally arrived in Tremblant. A charming ski village underneath Mont-Tremblant, Tremblant was already decked out head to toe for the holiday season which made my winter-happy heart very excited. We checked in at our hotel, Fairmont Tremblant, which is situated right at the base of the mountain and overlooks the entire village. Our view from our room was one of the most stunning, with alternating theatrical performances of a blissful snowfall or a gorgeous sunset each evening right from our very windows.
For our first night, we dined at Fairmont Tremblant’s Restaurant Choux Gras. It was the first evening in several evenings where I felt well enough to eat downstairs, and so we were seated right by a modern fireplace that exuded the perfect amount of warmth to pair with our romantic evening. Tor tried several different cocktails, as it is now his goal to try as many as possible as we travel around the world. We then shared a beautifully roast chicken with vegetables and orzo risotto as we looked forward to what our next day had in store for us.
The next morning, we were meant to hit up the nearby Scandinave Spa, another nordic thermal bath spa where silence is the golden rule. However, I did not want to get any other guests sick despite the fact that I was finally feeling better, so we sadly chose to skip it. But had I not been ill, I would’ve been there at dawn! After breakfast, we explored parts of Tremblant’s quaint village that was being brought to life for the new ski season. With holiday music playing and the snow falling, the setting proved to be all the more romantic than we could have ever imagined. We then hopped in a gondola and headed to the top of Mont-Tremblant to get a bird’s eye view of the village, the valley, and the lakes down below. The summit just underwent a multi-million dollar refurbishment for the 2018-2019 season, making it even more welcoming to the many local and international visitors they will be receiving this year. While unfortunately I was not able to ski this trip, I know for next time that I’d love to give it a shot. For those who do not ski and just want to sightsee, the gondola ride is extremely smooth and provides one of the best views you could ever ask for as you reach the top.
Sadly, we only had one night in Tremblant, and so after spending some time up on the summit, it was time to come down and head to our final destination in Québec – Estérel Resort in Estérel. About one hour northeast of the mountains, Estérel Resort sits on Lake Dupuis, providing some of the most relaxing and stunning views from the hotel. Our suite wrapped around, giving us views of the forests and the lake together. Sitting beside the fireplace against the window with a mug of hot cocoa is all I need to make me feel comfortable and happy. Even though I was finally feeling better, I still decided not to risk getting anyone else sick by trekking over to Estérel Resort’s Nordic Spa, although the views from the outdoor baths looked to be the most calming, serene, and picturesque.
Prior to dinner, Torrance and I dipped downstairs into Estérel Resort’s wine cellar to sample local Québec cheese and wines. For our final dinner in Québec, we dined at Bistro à Champlain at Estérel Resort, which we found out from some locals back in Tremblant that it’s one of their favorite restaurants. It was no difficult fete to see why. You can select from either five or six course dinners, and you can even have each course be paired with a different glass of wine to match the dish you selected. Since I was still recovering from my virus, I begrudgingly declined the wine pairings but did settle on a lovely glass of French red wine instead. Each course was beautifully plated and really brought out unique flavors that truly define modern Québec cuisine.
Our week in Québec really made us feel more than at home with the people of the region, and getting to immerse ourselves in true French Canadian culture made us feel all the more honored and privileged to have been able to visit. There were so many other destinations that we did not get to hit up this time, but we know that another visit to Québec will not be too far off into the future. Perhaps an autumn visit when we can visit apple orchards and surround ourselves with the beautiful setting of colorful, falling leaves.
For a list of all of our recommendations in Québec, check out our Québec travel guide.