No Woman Left Behind
Injury may have sidelined Tiffany Leigh in Quebec’s Eastern Townships, but it also exposed her to kindness she might not have otherwise seen.
As I waited at the hospital to get a gash on my leg stitched up, two thoughts crept into my head: “Tim Hortons’s grilled chicken wrap for dinner isn’t half bad” and “These Lululemon pants are incredible: no punctures to the leggings, and the blood easily washed out!” Truly odd thoughts—I was delirious and fraught with anxiousness by this time. As a freelance journalist, I’d been travelling for work for over two years, so this adventure wasn’t my first rodeo. But this was certainly the first major injury I’d ever sustained, and because I felt mentally and physically drained, the floodgates of frenzied chaos were unleashed. But life happens. And I learned that there’s always a silver lining—even if it’s difficult to find, at first. Despite what happened, I would return to the Eastern Townships in a heartbeat.
To set the scene, the Eastern Townships is a picturesque area reminiscent of New England but with a distinct Canadian flair and sentiment. Located about 90 minutes east of Montreal, the region is composed of 125 quaint little towns with the population hovering at around 400,000. Hugged by the natural beauty of mountains, lakes and forests, the residents are clearly of “the cold never bothers me” camp. Even in frozen tundra conditions, you’ll see locals merrily jogging, fat biking and kicksledding through snow-blanketed retreats. I’m also no stranger to sports; on the day before my accident, I was overjoyed to be hiking through the stunningly serene Parc National du Mont-Orford, with azure skies overhead and the warm sun beaming down on my face. Unfortunately, Mother Nature was not as pleasant the next day. It was an overcast morning as we began our fat-biking (essentially a mountain bike with thick tires) journey, when very abruptly a snowstorm descended upon us. Our guide asked about our comfort levels. “We’re great!” we shouted back with nervous but determined anticipation.
As the wind picked up and snowflakes began to feel like daggers piercing my face, I hit a patch of black ice and smacked my head on the ground. Round two: Donning snow goggles, we were shown how to kicksled. This seemingly innocuous sport is true to its name: You stand on a sled that has two long, flat blades and propel yourself by kicking off with your feet, building enough momentum to then jump on the blades and careen across ice- and snow-covered paths with ease—or so the theory goes. But then that small hill happened. I was gliding down, and for a split second I thought, “Hmm, if I end up hitting that tree trunk and fall, it’s gonna be A-okay.” But it was too late. I went crashing down; I hit my tailbone so hard, I thought I had crushed it. And then came that blinding, searing pain—I’d split my right leg wide open.
Hours later, I was stitched up and attempting to rest at Auberge West Brome. The staff were kind enough to give me a floor-level suite. At this point, I realized that I was wallowing in misery. It’s easy to succumb to self-pity when you’re injured; I could feel the frog in my throat and attempts to choke back tears when I talked to my husband over the phone. But blubbering like a baby would accomplish nothing, and then I remembered all the unbelievable kindness that had been shown to me: the patients at the hospital who overheard my story and offered to give up their spots so I could jump ahead; the tourism manager, who acted as my stand-in mother the ENTIRE time; and her husband, who brought us lunch and dinner and then drove us to the hotel (an hour away from the hospital) in the dead of night. It made my heart swell with gratefulness and happiness. Despite my inept state, I was determined to see and experience more beauty. The next morning, we set out on a blitz overview. From sipping sweet hot cocoa elixir at Musée du Chocolat in Bromont to soaking up Domaine Les Brome’s 142 hectares of lush vineyards, this was heavenly bliss compared to yesterday’s hell. As I downed a glass of Réserve XP Version 6, whose grapes reap the benefits of this robust and complex terroir, I toasted the Eastern Townships for helping me build a strengthened resolve and develop a new-found appreciation for the kindness of strangers.
I was gliding down, and for a split second I thought, “Hmm, if I end up hitting that tree trunk and fall, it’s gonna be A-okay.” But it was too late.
TRY THE HOT COCOA AT MUSéE DU CHOCOLAT IN BROMONT.
STAY Estrimont Suites and Spa. Situated in the Magog-Orford region, Estrimont Suites and Spa features suites with a fireplace and a large balcony that offers spectacular views of Mont Orford. Bring a bathing suit to take advantage of its Hydrotherapy Centre, which includes a Nordic shower, whirlpool baths, a saltwater pool and an outdoor terrace with a heated pool and relaxation yurt.
EAT Bistro West Brome. Located in Auberge West Brome, this bistro puts a spotlight on local ingredients, including those from the property’s own potager garden, and features such sumptuous dishes as slow-cooked venison medallion with pan-seared foie gras finished with shiitake and red wine sauce.
DRINK Microbrasserie La Memphré. Overlooking Lake Memphremagog, this spot is considered a second home by many; locals frequent this welcoming microbrewery and restaurant for its fine locally produced beers. Opt for a flight of its finest, including La Collective Red Ale, La Grande Dame Witbier and its creamy milk stout.