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When the stress of the work day begins to overwhelm you, does the idea of escaping to a rustic little cabin in the woods appeal to you? Do you like the idea of a roaring log fire, cozy blankets to snuggle under and large, hearty meals?
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Do you somehow hate the prospect of chopping all that wood for the fire, do you think comfy blankets stored in an old cabin probably need a good wash and don’t really want to do the groceries you might need? to make those big, filling meals – even if you suddenly wanted to spend all that time in the kitchen?
It’s time to broaden your thoughts of a little log cabin getaway to something much, much grander – a visit to the Fairmont Chateau Montebello, reputed to be the largest log cabin in the world. The fire that burns in his hearth is big enough to warm the coldest and most stressed heart, there is a team of chefs in the kitchen who prepare hearty gourmet meals and I assure you, their blankets are cozy … and clean !
The Fairmont Château Montebello is built on the grounds of the 17th century seigneurial estate of Mgr de Laval, the first bishop of Quebec. The land later belonged to the Papineau family who built the grand mansion that still stands – the Manoir-Papineau National Historic Site of Canada. But this special place first rose to fame in the 1930s when Swiss-American Hubert Saddlemire hired Finnish master builder Victor Nymark to create a giant version of the Alpine log cabins. At the start of the Depression, manpower was plentiful and 3,500 men worked tirelessly for four months to transform over 10,000 red cedar logs into three main buildings soon to be dubbed “Lucerne in Quebec”.
Despite the press promotion this incredible creation received, only an elite were able to stay in what has become the chic private retreat of the Seigniory Club. Those curled up by the fireside then included visiting prime ministers and royalty. Lucky for the rest of us, the glam retreat was bought by Canadian Pacific Hotels in 1970. They renamed it Chateau Montebello and opened the doors to anyone with the price of a room.
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Not that the price of a room is a trivial matter. Now called the Fairmont Chateau Montebello, it is easily one of Eastern Canada’s most iconic hotels.
Whatever the season, there’s always only a hint of wood smoke in the air as you enter the huge lobby – and it’s no wonder. The middle of this huge room is dominated by the fireplace of your coldest dreams – six-sided and – when the weather permits – blazing with a logless fire. Not in a hurry? Sit directly at the nearby Bar Le Foyer and start to relax.
Whether you choose a large room or an even larger suite at Chateau Montebello, the ambiance will be the same. Classic wooden furniture that makes it look like your great-grandfather might have built it for you in his workshop, beds covered with crisp linens, comfy plaid wool blankets and pillows that are as soft and hugs as they seem. There are plush bathrobes and slippers that wrap you around after your bath, and comfy chairs that invite you to snuggle up and read that book you dreamed of stepping into. It’s the luxurious yet understated decor that your family cabin in the woods would have had… if your family had been very wealthy.
If you can get away from the comfort of your room, walk past the six-sided log fire in the lobby and decide to wait until dinner to taste the local delicacies on the menu at Chantignoles or at Bistro La Seigneurie, you can enjoy hiking, biking or cross-country skiing on the well-maintained but still wooded grounds of the Château. You can even host your own tournament at the indoor curling rink, take a horse-drawn sleigh ride, or try your hand at dog sledding. If you’re feeling particularly complacent (and really, why wouldn’t you?) Consider signing up for the Land Rover Experience, where you’ll have the chance to be trained in how a Land works. Rover, as you put it to the test in a special training area in the 65,000 acres of beautiful wilderness of the adjacent Kenauk Nature Reserve.
Finally, be sure to book a massage at Spa Salon Du Soleil, winner of the 2018 Canadian Spa & Wellness Awards – Top 25 Spas in Canada. The sunny living room and tranquil treatment rooms provide the perfect conclusion to your getaway at Fairmont Château Montebello.
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