What does lavender, rosehips, luxury trains, gourmet cuisine and fabulous country inns have in common? Who would have guessed the Eastern Townships of Quebec?
I have fond memories of downhill skiing at Owl’s Head and often wondered what it would be like to visit this region outside of winter months.
The Eastern Townships are made up of a number of towns and villages to the South East of Montreal. I boarded a VIA Rail train at Union Station and enjoyed the relaxing five-hour ride from Toronto to Montreal.
About 50 minutes east of Montreal is the charming Victorian village of Knowlton, famous for its Loyalist roots and heritage buildings. We stayed our first night close to Knowlton at a four-star inn Auberge Quilliams. The Inn has great canoeing and kayaking through the reserve close by. The beach across the road in front of Lac Brome was a quiet place to unwind.
Close to Auberge Quilliams we visited two tourist sights that were inspiring: Rose des Champs and Bleu Lavande. We also spent an evening on the Orford Express Train belonging to the conductor and priest Father Donald Thompson. The Orford Express has three restaurant cars seating up to 212 diners who travel through the landscapes that link Sherbrooke, Magog and Eastman.
Everything is rosy
One day, Norman Benoit decided that growing roses and converting the petals into rose products would be an interesting and feasible alternative to traditional farming. So he transformed the farm that had been in his family for four generations and together with his sweetheart Claire Mercier started growing roses. With the philosophy “to do good” they developed a unique four acre private rose garden called Rose des Champs, where they grow some 2000 rose bushes and 800 varieties of roses.
I adore the smell of lavender and just a few minutes south of the quaint town of Magog, there is Bleu Lavande, the dream child of Pierre Pellerin. Pierre had a successful electronics business but at the age of 42 fell sick with a neurological disease that seemed to be stress related. He sold his business and bought the 160 acre property and along with his wife Christine began planting lavender, and the rest is another dream come true. I loved walking through the stunning fields of flowering plants.
A foot massage with lavender oil out in the middle of the lavender field was delightfully relaxing.