Montebello, Que., attracts crowds, political elite with history and scenery
MONTEBELLO, QUE. — Montebello — a small municipality in western Quebec about an hour’s drive from the nation’s capital — has a long history of attracting crowds that range from families to Canada’s political elite.
The most famous attraction is Fairmont Le Château Montebello — a log cabin built in 1930 situated along the Ottawa River and adjacent to the Laurentian Mountain range.
A Finnish builder supervised its construction and teams of workers, including as many as 3,500 at the peak of its construction, who used red-cedar logs cut and set by hand to erect the three main buildings on the resort.
For the first 40 years of its history, the site was a private retreat of the Seigniory Club, which garnered attention from prestigious business and political figures such as former prime minister Lester B. Pearson.
In 1970, the resort was acquired by Canadian Pacific Hotels and it opened its doors to the public for the first time.
It is now maintained by Fairmont Hotels and Resorts.
Over the years it has been used for a number of historic gatherings, including the 1981 G7 economic summit attended by figures including then U.S. president Ronald Reagan, British prime minister Margaret Thatcher and Canadian prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau.
It was also used for the 2007 North American Leaders Summit — with then U.S. president George W. Bush, Mexican president Felipe Calderon and Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper — and has attracted celebrities and royalty.
Château Montebello is also very popular for family vacations, said marketing representative Jennifer Wilson.
“There’s a lot you can do on the resort, many activities. We have restaurants as well,” she said.
“It is a nice place to gather, relax, have a good time and enjoy the Montebello region.”
The hotel, which brings in a wide range of visitors from across Canada and the world, also offers a number of activities on site including horseback riding, kayaking, swimming and biking in the summer months.
Winter activities include ice fishing, curling, dog-sledding, sleigh rides and cross-country skiing.
“The hotel really represents the Canadian essence,” Wilson said.
It is possible to pay a fee for activities without incurring the cost of a night’s stay, Wilson said, which means people from nearby cities like Ottawa and Montreal can enjoy the property during day trips.
The municipality itself is home to a number of local vendors and restaurants, including a microbrewery, a savoury burger joint, a chocolate shop and a local cheese factory.
Montebello has also been a huge draw for animal enthusiasts for the past 25 years.
Parc Omega, located about 10 minutes from the hotel, is home to more than 15 species of animals, including elk, red deer, caribou, coyotes, black bears, boars and buffalo.
It is best known for its path allowing park-goers to feed carrots to some animals, such as deer, from inside their vehicles.
Laughing can often be heard as a result of the close interaction, said zoologist Azalee Gaudreau.
The park itself features different environments such as lakes, a forest and a meadow.
“In all parks that I’ve been to, even around the world, I would say here it is really special and it is really nice because the animals are really free in the park,” said Gaudreau.
The park offers other activities as well, including picnic areas and hiking trails and there is an option of staying on site overnight.
There are a few options for accommodations including a log cabin, a teepee and a lodging space that can fit up to six people.
Enjoying the view of the Ottawa River at Chateau Montebello.