Cozy fireplace? Check. Outdoor activities? Check. Cool shops? Check. Whether your dream winter weekend is a romantic escape, a family adventure, or a getaway with friends, Laura Byrne Paquet offers itineraries for three ideal spots — all within an hour’s
NO MATTER HOW OFTEN I DRIVE TO CHELSEA, I’m always amazed that this laid-back village in the Gatineau Hills is just 15 minutes from Parliament Hill. However, that proximity — along with its location at the edge of Gatineau Park — means it offers more shops and services than other small towns.
New to the region is O’Brien House, which opened earlier this year in a 1930s mansion just west of the village. The former O’Brien family cottage was renovated to the tune of $5 million — and a few million dollars buys a lot of rustic-chic luxury. For example, a stone fireplace and artworks from the NCC’s Crown Collection dominate the Canadiana Room, a living room/dining area with sweeping sunset
views of Meech Lake below. There, you can gaze into each other’s eyes over executive chef Patrick Marion’s daily six-course tasting menus (one for vegetarians, one for omnivores). The food is local, so if whatever is fresh that week isn’t your favourite ingredient, that might be an issue.
If romance is your aim and money is not an object, book Room 12, the bridal suite with 270-degree views of the lake and hills, a deep soaker tub, and a shower big enough for two.
Step outside that rustic luxury to find the snowshoe and cross-country trails of Gatineau Park, offering everything from short loops to full-day treks. Hotel staff can arrange for equipment rentals for guests to explore the nearly 50 trails accessible from their property.
Nearby, Camp Fortune ski centre has 24 runs, including 12 lit for night skiing, along with seven lifts, two lodges, and a terrain park.
Ease aching muscles and improve circulation by soaking in the hot pools, then plunging into the cold pools, at
Nordik Spa-Nature. There’s something oh so Canadian about being enveloped in clouds of steam in a hot tub as snow falls gently. For a little extra, try one of the new experiences, such as floating in the cavernous Källa saltwater bath. (One of only two such pools in the world, the pool aims to replicate swimming in the Dead Sea.) Or sign up for the Russian-inspired Banyä treatment, which involves Russian treats and a gentle flailing with birch branches (the latter to improve blood circulation). For the more traditional, massages for couples are available. The spa is open daily from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. (until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays).
And make sure to take a stroll through the eclectic village — pick up colourful handmade paraffin-wax candles at Doozy Candle. Check out the new cafés on the strip: Californiainspired Palmier Café offers excellent coffee and high-end snacks, and Meech & Munch serves up sophisticated comfort food. A renovated Biscotti invites hungry hikers, while Tonique offers nouveau comfort food; Les Saisons is another great option for coffee, tea, and light snacks.