Gone North for the Summer: Quebec’s Eastern Townships

Our adventure into Quebec’s Cantons-de-l’Est, or Eastern Townships region, began in North Hatley at the stunning Manoir Hovey. This lovely, upscale inn is the former lakeside estate of Harry Atkinson, founder of Georgia Power – just one of the many surprising stories that we uncovered during this trip.
One of the most memorable aspects of our trip were the meals. Decadent breakfasts of blueberry pancakes and pecan-encrusted French toast, fresh cheeses and breads, and the unforgettable multi-course dinner that was beautifully presented to us on our first night – it was immediately clear that we were in the heart of Quebec’s farming region. 
We enjoyed lovely scenic drives through the pastoral countryside, stopping often to admire beautifully preserved Anglican churches, covered bridges, and charming towns. We sampled lavender lemonade at the Blue Lavande lavender farm, and enjoyed an evening boat ride on Lake Massawippi. While it was too chilly for these Southerners to swim, some of our group tested the water for us when our boat hit a wave!

We also spotted a few of the traditional round barns in this area. This style of barn was once common in the Eastern Townships, and now only a handful remain. We were admiring one rather weathered round barn from the road, when the farmer approached our vehicle and invited us to come and see it up close – by driving our van into his barn! Thanks to some expert driving by Chumley, we made it up the steep ramp into the barn and circled the interior, led by the smiling farmer. He told us that his great-grandfather built the barn in the 1800s, and that his family has farmed on the land ever since. This style of barn was imported from New England, and was once believed to prevent the devil or ghosts from entering and hiding in the corners. We loved spotting these unique structures throughout our trip. 

En route to Lac Megantic, we drove through the town of Stanstead – a place that nearly straddles the border of Canada and Vermont. Memorably, one street was lined with cars bearing Vermont license plates and American flags on one side, while the other side of the street had Canadian plates and flags. In the Lac Megantic region, we enjoyed exploring tiny lakeside towns, pretty churches, and the area’s dark skies. Just across the lake is Mont Megantic, an International Dark Sky Preserve, and home to an observatory and the largest telescope on the east coast. We visited the remote observatory, and pondered some existential questions about our place in the universe.

Finally, we spent our last few days in the idyllic area surrounding Lac-Brome. One highlight in this area is the lovely Abbaye de Saint-Benoît-du-Lac, with its striking geometric interior. We listened to the Gregorian chant, and sampled cider and cheeses produced by the monks. Delightful dining, beautiful drives, and our stay in a 19th century manor home turned bed-and-breakfast made it hard to say au revoir to this lovely region of Quebec. A la prochaine