With its bucolic vistas, fine dining and luxury inns, Eastern Townships, about an hour from Montreal, offers the perfect home-away-from-home retreat. Jet-setters come here to escape their respective concrete jungles for fresh air and outdoor adventure, knowing they can do so without compromising on taste. Established in the late 18th century by Loyalists from New England, this Quebec outpost charms with a distinct East Coast facade that’s still evident in its picturesque villages and trails, offering ample opportunity for frame-worthy pics along the way.
What to do: Explore quiet country roads, glass-like lakes and lush national parks by bike, canoe or foot to experience some of the area’s sigh-inducing scenery, which includes storybook farms, historic homes, and Bleu Lavande’s lavender fields. Beyond summer, fall offers a spectacular patchwork of colourful foliage, while winter promises snow-covered dreamscapes for ski adventurers.
For those who prefer explorations of a culinary kind, the Wine Route boasts 20 vineyards to sample. (Interesting factoid: The Townships have pockets of mild microclimates that allow grapes to survive through the winter.) At Saint-Benoît-du-Lac Abbey, try sparkling cider and cheese made by Benedictine monks.
Where to sleep: Recent renovations at Hovey Manor have upped the local glitz and glamour factor. Some families have been coming here for generations, and it’s not hard to guess why. On the outside, this vintage lakeside estate will have you feeling like the belle of the ball, while indoors, contempo-chic decor and suites that feature a small balcony and fireplace will you have crooning home sweet home. Nowadays, Chef Roland Ménard’s revamped menu make this 37-room inn a discerning food lover’s must.
Where to spa: Fashioned after the spa resorts of Europe, where “taking the waters” has been a popular treatment for pain relief and illness for centuries, Spa Eastman has recently updated its facilities to include an expanded hydrotherapy area comprising two hot exterior baths, one Nordic bath, a hammam (steam bath), a Kneipp hydrotherapy circuit for the legs and a new relaxation area. With its extensive spa menu (not all serious, there are beauty treatments as well), wellness programs, fitness classes (hello yoga) and health-focused cuisine, the popular destination spa is sure to renew both body and mind.
Photo: Tourism Eastern Townships (Bleu Lavande)