by Stephen Johnson
It is rare to find a place where a family can truly unplug and relax. We found such a place at the Centre Touristique La Petite Rouge. About an hour and 20 minutes northeast of Ottawa, it’s located in the heart of the Laurentians.
When I first spoke to the staff person by phone, she mentioned that there was no television in any of the cabins. As a huge sports fan, I was concerned about not being up-to-date on the daily scores. Still, when we arrived at the Centre, I knew our weekend would be full. The fall colours were in their full glory and there were over 20 kilometres of hiking trails. Our son, David, barely allowed the suitcases to be unpacked because he was so excited to go exploring. Trail map in hand, we set off to experience nature. David discovered numerous things that only a child can see. Fall leaves quickly became the impetus for a craft project and old trees took on fantastical properties. My wife and I enjoyed the therapeutic aspects of breathing in the various scents of the forest. During the winter, these trails are groomed for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
After about an hour of hiking, we were ready for supper. I normally don’t mention a lot about food but I must this time. While the service was cafeteria-style, the quality was anything but. I felt like I was eating a meal my grandmother had tenderly prepared. Classics such as chicken pot pie and spaghetti were done to perfection. The deserts were also delicious.
At the La Petite Rouge, guests can eat as much as they want; breakfast, lunch and supper are provided. Thankfully, all the hiking we did helped prevent my waistline from expanding too much!
Once we were finished supper, it was time to go see the night sky. David has great interest in space so he was excited to be away from the bright lights of the city. The night sky is something magical when seen in the right environment. David was awed by the full display of the stars. My wife, Sandy, and I were impressed by his knowledge of the celestial bodies.
The following day, we set out to explore more of the centre. There is a beach where guests can use canoes, kayaks and paddle boats. We also found a tennis court, horseshoe pit, and outdoor shuffleboard. Two fire pits provide access for anyone looking to roast hot dogs or have a s’mores fix. Luckily, it did not rain during our time, but if it does guests can access an array of board games, books and craft supplies for younger ones to enjoy indoors.
The centre is conveniently located about thirty minutes from Mont Tremblant and a ten-minute drive from Parc Omega. We decided to make the short trek to Mont Tremblant. We had set out with the intention of exploring some of the shops. Once we started walking, though, David wanted to climb to the top of the mountain. Every time we asked him to slow down, he seemed to have an extra spring in his step! Before we knew it, two hours had passed and we had reached the summit. Our family had a feeling of accomplishment. Thankfully for my legs, we took the gondola down the mountain.
After a short drive back to the centre, we enjoyed another hearty meal. I had completely forgotten about my sports teams and, honestly? I did not mind one bit. We will be making a return to La Petite Rouge in the near future.