An impressive history gives way to a brilliant present. It happened after the turmoil of the American Civil War that wealthy Southerners made their way to North Hatley, and built summer mansions on the west side of Lake Massawippi. The most splendid of all, on North Hatley’s prime site was “The Birches” built in 1898 as a summer home by Henry Atkinson, owner of Georgia Power in Atlanta. In 1950, it was converted to an inn, and in 1979, its present owners, Kathryn and Stephen Stafford, purchased the property. Manoir Hovey, winner of a dozen prestigious hospitality awards, stands alone in its charm and elegance. Oblivious to the seasons, it offers kayaks, canoes, paddleboats, tennis and private beaches in the summer, and snowshoeing trails in winter. All equipment is supplied. I came to Manoir Hovey on a whim, in the middle of a stringent and successful weight-loss diet. Discipline and a fierce desire to shed 15 pounds allowed me to view the glorious gastronomy served to my tablemates without feeling disenfranchised. Chef Roland Menard (a 30-year veteran at Manoir Hovey, and the winner of top honours at the Quebec Grand Prix de Tourism) and chef Francis Wolf (who trained at New York’s top tables) are both masters of modern Quebec cuisine, enhanced by a 700-label wine list. My dietary requirements were resolved with extreme finesse. They know that first we eat with our eyes, and their presentations of simple dishes allowed me to feel total equality with my gormandizing friends. Sprightly garden salad (sans an oily dressing) seemed freshly plucked from greenhouse trays. My fish entrée was so aromatic with fresh herbs and lemon zest that the lack of butter and cream went unnoticed. My meager ration of a few ounces of fruit was presented in four goblets, each with a different brightly coloured diced fruit. In fact, some dining mates cast envious glances at my dessert. In winter, the soft white blanket of snow calls for cocooning in my seriously comfortable surroundings, but show me a village with stylish boutiques, art galleries and antique stores, and weather does not hold me back. A few hours later, carrying my precious purchases of antique teacups and saucers, I return to Manoir Hovey. Staff is trained to the tips of their polished shoes, and welcome us back as if we are honoured guests. Soon, the time for stringent dieting will arise again, and you can be sure I will head for Manoir Hovey.