The “Cantons De L’Est,” as the region is called in French are, to Anglophones, the Eastern Townships of Quebec, some 80 or so towns and hamlets with populations anywhere from 750 to maybe 3,000.
Blessed with some of the best preserved, least commercial trails, lakes, mountains, streams and authentic villages, the townships so moved an editor of Yankee Magazine, that in his article on the region, he said, “It is embarrassing how little we know about this exquisite pocket of beauty and charm.”
A Special Family Place
Every so often I come upon a place that makes for a special family experience, a place where all the elements come together uniquely: value; great customer service; terrific activities; beauty, a buck that goes very far and a different culture.
This is Jouvence, an all-inclusive family resort located in the Eastern Townships.
From Montreal’s Dorval airport, it’s an hour or so drive.
And because it’s 94% French, vacationing at Jouvence and the Townships provides a linguistic and cultural experience that’s fun and enriching…especially for families interested in having their kids exposed to other ways of life without having to cross an ocean.
Of course, with the relatively strong Canadian dollar and moderately favorable exchange rate families still save on the price of a lift ticket here on Mont Orford or Owl’s Head, including accommodations and meals.
Activities at Jouvence
Free of charge and unsupervised:
• Canoes; Pedal Boats, Kayaks; snowshoes; Skating; Broomball; Hiking Trails; Volleyball; Cross country skiing; Surfbike; Rowboats.
Supervised Activities and an additional fee include;
• Mountain Climbing; Archery; Interpretive Hiking; Sailing; Windsurfing and Pontoon boat-ride, Skiing
• Super Quiz
• Jouvence casino
Because the entire region has so much to offer, it’s important to explore and experience its diversity.
Odd as it may seem, winemaking flourishes in these parts because of the “microclimates” and fertile lands. There are several vineyards that welcome visitors and invite them for wine tasting and guided tours.
Visit Le Cep D’Argent Vineyard in Magog. Winner of several awards for its fine wines, it also has a boutique, bistro and terrace open summer and fall. 1 877 864 4441 www.cepdargent.com.
Also, one of my favorite places, the Saint Benoit Du Lac Abbey. The Benedictine monks celebrate their liturgies with memorable Gregorian chants…and produce excellent cheese and cider. 819 843 4080
With Lake Memphremagog as its backdrop, this is as close as you’ll get to being in a French village on this continent. It’s a strolling town with very attractive shops, excellent cafes with diet-defying pastries, art galleries, stores, terraces and restaurants. Don’t miss the Fete des Vendanges (Harvest Festival) in September for locally produced wine and farm goods.
The provincial capital, and largest city in the Townships, Sherbrooke offers every kind of architecture from Victorian style (Musee des Beaux Arts) to Greco-Roman. The town is attentive to families and provides tandem bikes, trailers for little ones, lots of picnic areas and festivities. There’s quality shopping of course, and many international events including a huge fireworks competition in July, theatre, puppet shows, etc.
Everywhere there are truly charming Auberges (country inns). There are also condominiums to rent, ski chalets, full service resorts, city hotels and many very attractive B&B’s.
For a treat (rather expensive one) visit the Manoir Hovey in North Hatley (1 800 661 2421 www.manoirhovey.com). This is an actual Southern mansion, built by Southerners who refused to escape the heat by vacationing in New England after the Civil War. Located on sprawling Lake Massawippi, this 40 bedroom manor is gracious living personified.
I actually know visitors to the Hovey who refuse to tell others where it is! They want it for themselves.
At least have dinner there one night. Try the hickory smoked salmon with caviar and saffron…
A fun place for families or anyone is Le Pilsner or the Pilsen Pub in North Hatley. (819 842 2971). The town has a about 800 people, and the center of town perhaps a half dozen stores. Pilsen is just on the river with chairs and tables that sit right above it. Across the river are the typical colored homes of the region.
The food is deceptively simple…that is, it’s artfully prepared and presented, but in an atmosphere that’s casual and full of good energy. In summer the place hops.
For any kind of help in exploring the Eastern Townships, contact Tourism Cantons 1 800 355 5755 www.easterntownships.cc
For information on Jouvence, contact them at 1 800 567 3134 www.jouvence.com