Sports Camp 2: Le Château Montebello

(Montebello, Quebec, Canada)

The Château Montebello is a famous hotel located on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River.   Like the Manoir Richelieu, it is a self-contained resort with a rich history.   It has been described as the largest log cabin in the world, as it is built from 10,000 logs.  Being so big, of course, also makes it difficult to photograph.  As a result, I don’t really have a satisfactory photo of the entire complex.   You’ll have to take my word for it:  it’s big.

The drive-thru check-in at the Château Montebello

Although I had certainly heard of the Château Montebello, I had never stayed there.  In fact, I had never seen it, as it is set back quite some distance from the road and it is impossible to see unless you drive all the way in.  After dropping off our bags at the drive-thru check-in, I entered the famous hotel for the first time.

The huge fireplace in the main lobby of the Château Montebello

It is quite something:  the hexagonal core of the hotel is huge and is anchored by an equally huge fireplace.  The rooms are located in 4 wings that radiate out from the hexagon.  There is wood everywhere; it must be very cozy in the wintertime.   The logs aren’t just on the outside:  they also make up the interior walls of the rooms.

The hub of the sports camp at Château Montebello

It had only been about a week since we visited the Manoir du Lac Delage and enjoyed an immersion into summer sports.  It soon became clear that Château Montebello was going to be the site of Sports Camp Part 2!  With the main sports equipment pavilion just south of our wing, it was going to be very easy to indulge in multiple summer sports.  And we did!

Part of the marina at the Château Montebello

The sports this time around included mini-golf, basketball, badminton, horseshoes, pétanque (again!)…and our brave journey onto the raging Ottawa River.  Our canoe at Lac-Delage had felt a little tippy, despite the extremely calm waters, so we were looking for something a little sturdier on a river that had an actual current.  The obvious choice seemed to be the pedalboat:  this is a two-seated craft where your sole means of propulsion (other than the current) was pedal power.  How hard could it be?

Our wing at the Château Montebello

As my camera got soaked when we got into the canoe at Lac Delage, I decided not to take it with me when we went out in the pedalboat.  Although I don’t have any pictures of our pedalboat journey, I will never forget how wiped out we felt after about 45 minutes out on the river.  Don’t be fooled:  pedalboating is probably the most exhausting way to travel on the water.

French Toast at the Château Montebello

After more than a week of holidays and eating out, we weren’t really ready to eat a lot of rich food at the hotel.  Taking advantage of the refrigerator in the room, we self-catered almost all of our meals.  However, as we decided that we should experience at least one meal here, we had breakfast in the hotel on our day of departure.  As you can see, the tablecloths were very white and the dining room is opulent.   We sat behind the buffet serving area in a room that overlooked the hotel grounds.

Breakfast buffet at the main dining room in the Château Montebello

After two nights at the Château Montebello, it was almost time to return home.  There was just one more stop to make…stay tuned for our visit to an entirely different community on the shores of the mighty Ottawa River!

Icefishing, Poutine, and Sir Wilfrid Laurier

(Lachute, Québec, Canada)

We are now slowly making our way home.  We decided to travel west from Quebec City on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River…but not on the fast, busy Autoroute 40.  Instead, we took our time on Route 138, also known as the Chemin du Roy.   It took us through a series of smaller communities that we would otherwise never have a chance to visit.

Birdhouses in Portneuf, Québec

Lunchtime found us in Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pérade, Québec.  We had never heard of this town, let alone set foot in it.  However, a few minutes in the tourist office made it clear that this was the self-styled Ice Fishing Capital of the World!  Obviously, there was little evidence of this on a warm August day, but we saw plenty of winter pictures showing hundreds upon hundreds of ice fishing huts on the Sainte-Anne River.   Who knew?

Typical house in Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pérade, Québec

The only large city on our route was Trois-Rivières.  We did not have high hopes, as some other similarly-sized cities in Quèbec seemed to have fallen on hard times.  But Trois-Rivières appeared to be doing well:  the streets downtown were closed off because there was some kind of Grand Prix auto race taking place.  Alas, we were unable to stick around for that evening’s gala outdoor concert or the Symphonic Beatles show that was playing at a downtown theatre.

Downtown Trois-Rivières, on Grand Prix weekend

That night, we stayed in a small roadside motel “somewhere west of Trois-Rivières”.  It was a deliberate cost-saving measure, as the preceding night’s stay and the next two nights were all at hotels that exceeded our usual budget.   We were happy to move on from the motel, but also happy that being thrifty that night allowed us to indulge ourselves a bit more on the other days.

The Sir Wilfrid Laurier National Historic Site in Saint-Lin–Laurentides, Québec

The next day found us in another “Prime Ministerial” town: Saint-Lin-Laurentides, the hometown of Sir Wilfrid Laurier.  Laurier was Prime Minister of Canada for 15 years and the site of his childhood home is now a National Historic Site.  While his actual home no longer exists, the current house is very similar to what Laurier would have called home.  Key impression:  the ceilings and doorways are very low!  We often had to duck and dodge to avoid beaning ourselves.

The last stop before our final destination for the day was the city of Lachute.  I was surprised to see that a big rodeo (charmingly subtitled as the “Festival du Cowboy” – see photo at the top of this post) was coming up in a few days.   While we didn’t get a chance to see the rodeo, we did have a chance to indulge in Quèbec’s most famous contribution to fast food:  the artery-clogging poutine.

Poutine Italienne (Lachute, Québec)

Poutine can now be found all over Canada:  the standard formulation is french fries covered with cheese curd and gravy.  It’s best not to think of the calories involved.   I don’t generally eat poutine, as I am not really a fan of gravy.  Alas, there is a poutine for everybody…and mine is Poutine Italienne.  It’s the same as regular poutine, except that the gravy is replaced by a tomato and meat sauce.  How could I resist?

Poutine Italienne: the halfway point (Lachute, Québec)

As you can see from the photos, I was able to find this delicacy in Lachute at a take-out place called “O’Frites”.  I was extraordinarily thirsty afterwards but nonetheless felt good about consuming the Dream Team (pizzaghetti and poutine) of Quèbec fast food during the same trip.  Luckily, our next stop would allow me to work some of this off…stay tuned for the details!