Mon­te­bello, Que., at­tracts crowds, po­lit­i­cal elite with his­tory and scenery

The Hamilton Spectator - - TRAVEL - KRISTY KIRKUP

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.

SEAN KIL­PATRICK, THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

En­joy­ing the view of the Ot­tawa River at Chateau Mon­te­bello.

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