By Waheeda Harris
Although not a lengthy distance, this part of La Belle Province is packed with heritage towns, tempting boites and plenty of Quebecois charm. Many distractions can be found in the Eastern Townships in the towns of North Hatley, Magog, Orford and Brome before ending the journey in Montreal.
Modes of Transport
Driving can make this into a day trip, but take the time to meander off Autoroute 10 to discover some of the lures of the region. Cycling is another way to enjoy the leisurely pace of the Townships, and if a day on two wheels has tired you out, the Taxi-Velo can come to the rescue. From point A to point B its 157 kilometres as the crow flies (just under two hours), but consider taking a long weekend and another 50-75 km for side trips.
Make time in Sherbrooke to visit the 11 al fresco murals that are found throughout the downtown. Each one reveals some history of the town, its citizens and the region, as well as a snapshot of the changes that occurred in the 20th century.
Detour off Highway 10 to Highway 108 and visit North Hatley, one of the popular stops on Lake Massawippi and then head south via Highway 143 to Ayers Cliff, the home of Roses des Champs, a rose garden and nursery that is home to 3000 rosebushes and over 400 varieties of roses. Continue the love affair with flowers with a stop at Bleu Lavande, the largest lavender farm in Canada, for a tour of the farm or a lavender foot massage in view of the lavender fields.
Stretch your legs with a hike in Parc-national du Mont Orford, not far from the town of Orford. Known for its populations of white-tailed deer and Great Blue Herons, this provincial park is home to thousands of sugar maple trees.
Visit Abbaye de Saint Benoit du Lac, founded in 1912 by 50 monks. The distinct architecture and contemplative atmosphere is a unique experience but don’t forget about the Abbaye’s store – the monks’ creations of gourmet items such as apple cider, apple sauce, jam and Mont Benoit cheese are a worthy investment.
Make a stop in Magog’s Buon Gusto – a gourmet grocery as well as a perfect spot for a café latte, lunch or gelato. Offering unique items to add to your pantry or prepared foods to satisfy a craving, this pretty shop is worth a stop.
If you want a real slice of old Quebec, stop at Aux Jardins Champetre, a country restaurant where you’ll feel like a member of the family with a home-cooked meal showcasing local specialties such as veal, trout, venison and duck.
This region is home to several vineyards, so schedule in an afternoon tasting at Domaine Les Brome near Lac Brome. Your palate will thank you for a taste of Baco Reserve, Reserve St. Pepin or Vidal and don’t pass up a taste of the winemaker’s favourite, Cuvee Julien.
Indulge in the regional speciality, Lac Brome duck, which can be found at Aux Trois Canards , which has a lovely view of the mill pond in Knowlton.
Pick a midway point for an overnight at Orford’s Estrimont Suites and Spa. This contemporary hotel offers has an Amerispa as well as a heated outdoor pool, indoor salt-water pool, Finnish sauna, relaxing yurt and four whirlpools to ease roadtrip muscles.
Traditionally styled Domaine Chateau Bromont features spacious rooms and is well-known for its Golf Chateau Bromont. Make sure to visit Spa Bromont Pavilion, offering soothing body treatments, a separate accommodation area for spa guests and a hammam to put you into the right frame of mind for the next leg of the journey.
Montreal’s Daniel Belanger, a perennial winner of the Juno Francophone Album of the Year Award should be on your playlist – the folky pop on his greatest hits album Joli Chaos will be a welcome soundtrack while driving.