Magic in Montebello – 7/2/16

First of All -

  • First day cruising in Ontario Province waters
  • First bridge on the Ottawa River
  • First cigarette boat race encountered
  • First gourmet barbque buffet attended
  • First time being asked for directions (and knowing the correct answer)

Namely Speaking-

  • Chute-A-Blondeau
  • Hawksbury
  • L’Orignal
  • Montebello

Loop Log:

  • Miles Cruised today: Power: 28; Sail: 0
  • Total Miles Cruised to date: 5,520
  • Hours Underway: 4 1/2
  • Fuel: NA
  • Morning House Battery Reading: 12.88
  • Wind Speed: 15 ; Wind Direction: W
  • Daily High Temperature: 68
  • Water Temperature: 70

DSCF4831It pleases me when I awaken to a stiff westerly breeze, since it validates our decision to anchor out instead of remaining tied up to the lock wall, completely exposed to west wind. The sign posted at the lock wall graphically warns of the hazards of that place. We head out of our bay under gray skies and steer into 1 to 2 foot wind waves. As we near the town of Hawksbury I see a pair of jet skies, each flying bright orange flags, zipping along. One peels off and heads our way. He pullsDSCF4835 alongside and I cut our speed so I can hear him call out that very fast speed boats are coming, and we should stay clear of mid-river. I thank him for the heads up. Apparently, some sort of speed boat race is scheduled for this morning. As we proceed up the Ottawa River, however, I begin to doubt that anyone could stage a race today. The wind is strengthening, and wind waves are building to more than 2 feet, steep faced and close together. At the narrows near the entrance to Baie De L’Orignal, we actually hit a set of genuine 4 footers, which lift our hull high into the air and then pound back down. I’m getting a lot of spray in the face. No way could they race speedboats in these conditions. The wind surfers, on the other hand, are loving it. We see several guys out surfing with parasail kites. Their athleticism is amazing. The waves diminish a bit in size as we near the upriver end of the bay, and as I round a corner I hear a thunderous sound, accompanied by huge rooster tails of white spray. The race is indeed on. We’re well off the main channel, and we watch with awe as a dozen or more sleek, powerful cigarette boats blast their way down river, oblivious to wind and wave. I’m later told that one of these boats spent more than $1,500 on fuel making a series of training practise runs. This is clearly a sport for the wealthy.

DSCF4836Shortly after noon we draw near to Montebello, which is our destination for the day. There are two marinas to choose from. We opt for the more modest of the two, and are comfortable with our choice. The owner is helpful and friendly, and the boats here feel like our kind of people. The other place is a very upscale resort type marina, located right in front of the impressive Le Chateau De Montebello, and it’s filled with large motor yachts. Not a single sailboat there. We are, howevere, within comfortable walking distance of the Chateau, and once we’re checked in, we begin our 3/4 mile walk in that direction. We take a lovely, winding path through the forest which leads us to the Seigniory (estate) of Louis-Joseph Papineau. Papineau was one of the most important figures in the history of 19th century Lower Canada. He was outspoken on behalf of the rights of French speaking Canadians, and was one of the leaders in the abortive Insurrection of 1837. When the uprising failed he went into exile. After 8 years he was granted amnesty and returned to his estate, building theDSCF4851 great manor house and other structures which stand here today. They are now owned and managed by Heritage Canada, and are beautifully preserved for current and future generations. We visit the chapel where Papineau and other family members are buried, and then go on a guided tour of the manor house. The tour is excellent. A butler in period costume greets us in living history mode, and introduces us to our tour guide, who leads us through the house. It’s richly furnished with many original articles from the time of Papineau and his heirs, who lived here until 1929.

DSCF4856Following our tour we walk a short distance further, to the impressive Chateau De Montebello, which was constructed by the Sportsman’s Club, which acquired the estate property from the Papineau family. The Club constructed a massive lodge, reputed to be the largest log structure in the world. Today it serves as a luxurious hotel, part of the Fairmont hotels. We visit the lobby and marvel at the towering stone chimney in the center of the room. We snack on ice cream and admire the landscaping out on the patio, then make reservations for their famous barbque buffet. When 5:30 rolls around, we’re seated at a lovely table, warmed by the evening sun and looking out on the landscaped flower beds and lawn, directly in front of a pretty fountain. Our waiter is friendly and engaging, and he makes us feel perfectly at ease. The meal is memorable in every way. After our drinks arrive, we walk over to the appetizers and select fruit, cheese, shrimp and mussels, being careful to not overdo things, since we want to save plenty of room for main course items. For meats they offer tender strip sirloin, grilled to your specification, along with lamb t-bone, sausage, chicken skewers, ribs and more. Fish choices include Pacific salmon, mahi mahi and red grouper. One chef mans the wok station, and he serves up a delicious shrimp or chicken stir fry. Not to be slighted are the vegetables. Fat but tender spears of asparagus, vine ripened seasoned tomato slices, grilled corn on the cob. Quality ingredients, expertly prepared. Our waiter removes each plate as it is emptied, and as soon as the sun dips behind the lodge roof a staff member arrives to light our table’s propane space heater. Somehow we exercise enough self control to save room for dessert, with many delicious items to choose from. We will long remember our delightful buffet supper at Le Chateau De Montebello.

Our walk back to the marina is just what we need to settle our meal. We take an alternative route, along the main street through town. While strolling along a car pulls over and the window rolls down. They start to ask for directions, but hesitate when they realize that we’re obviously tourists. However, when they ask if we know the way to the Chateau, we’re just the folks to ask. We point them the right way, telling them the buffet is outstanding. They say that’s where they’re going. Usually we’re the ones asking for directions. The evening is complete with a pretty sunset, another outstanding day on the Loop.

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