by Stephen Johnson
For the past few years, the Family Day weekend has been a good excuse for our family to plan a getaway. This year, we decided to go visit the Chateau Montebello.
Part of the fun of getting to the Chateau from our house is the drive. To get to Montebello, we have to take the ferry from Ontario to Quebec. The Ottawa River was completely frozen except for a small laneway the ferries use to criss-cross the river.
Arriving safely at the Chateau, we were ready for some rest and relaxation. My wife, Sandy and I were curious to see if our son David had any recollection of the place. He was two when we had last stayed overnight. Understandably, the memories were blurry for David. Sandy and I did not miss hauling all the extra gear needed to keep a toddler happy.
Upon entering the building, David was blown away by the log frame construction. The facility had been built in 1930 with 10,000 red-cedar logs that were shipped by train from British Columbia. David loved the huge stone fireplace that is the centre of all activity in the Chateau.
David had another surprise when we checked into the room. He saw the rooms in our area were called the Pierre Trudeau suite. Upon further enquiry with the front desk staff, he learned that Pierre Trudeau had used our room and the adjoining one for the 1981 G7 conference. David imagined a young Justin playing in our room while his father was doing his Prime Ministerial duties.
After relaxing for an hour or two, David wanted to go swimming. I knew David was in for a treat. We took an underground tunnel that connected the main lodge to the swimming pool. It is located in a magnificent log building with paintings on the ceiling. There is an elegance to the architecture you simply do not see in modern buildings. We spent our time in the pool and hot tub feeling we were transported to a bygone era.
It was soon time to wrap up our activities for the day but not before spending more time wandering around the Chateau. There are photos on the wall highlighting some of the famous events that have taken place there including G7 conferences and other high-level state functions. David knew some of the famous figures in the photos better than myself! We ended our evening appropriately relaxing by the fireplace. It was a cozy setting with families playing board games, reading books or just watching the hypnotic flames from the fireplace.
The next morning, we were ready to start a full day of activities. The perfect way to power up was with the breakfast buffet. It featured Canadian favorites like maple beans and pancakes. The dining room also offered a beautiful view of the Ottawa River.
Our plan was to do a full day of winter activities. At the resort, it was possible to borrow cross-country skis, snowshoes and ice skates. There was even an indoor curling rink with two sheets of ice. The day we visited, the ski trails were off-limits due to icy conditions. We opted to go for a walk on the frozen Ottawa River. David found it cool that we could walk to Ontario via the Ottawa River if we wanted. Our walk was made more interesting as we watched snowmobiles, atvs and even a low-flying airplane go by. Further along, we found a hole used for ice-fishing. Sandy, being from Mexico, found the concept of ice-fishing to be intriguing.
After an invigorating walk outside, we decided to go back to the activities centre. We watched a game of curling where the participants knew what they were doing. Another highlight was meeting a beautiful Old English Sheepdog who seemed interested in watching the curling as well.
We ended our time at the Chateau Montebello by watching dog-sledding which was also offered as an activity. The dogs were considerably more energetic than our sheepdog friend.
We will certainly be back to the Chateau Montebello as we found it made a very family-friendly vacation. There is also a games room on-site and movies are offered during certain weeks like March Break or the Family Day weekend. Parc Omega is also only about ten minutes away so there is no shortage of fun.