Win­ter Get­aways

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.

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