I love afternoon tea / J’adore le thé d’après-midi

ritz

Afternoon tea at Montreal’s Ritz-Carlton hotel. Photo: The Ritz-Carlton

Afternoon tea is one of my favourite things in life. I keep a lookout for exceptional examples of this time-honoured indulgence when travelling, so while I’ve never stayed at London’s Ritz or New York’s Plaza, I have enjoyed a few hours at these hotels, living the life of luxury without the massive bill. Beyond five-star hotels, distinctive tearooms can also deliver memorable moments, such as Angelina in Paris and Gunners Barracks on Sydney’s majestic harbour.

I love afternoon tea close to home, too, because above all it’s a chance to press pause on ordinary life and share some special time with friends. Back in Melbourne, I regularly indulged at the historic Windsor Hotel, or at one of many unique tearooms (State Parliament’s hushed, wood-panelled dining room is one the city’s best-kept afternoon tea secrets). So I was disappointed by the comparatively limited afternoon tea options when I arrived in Montreal, but lately things have been looking up. In fact, I’d say there’s a little afternoon tea renaissance going on here. Continue reading

Winter a la carte at Montebello /L’hiver à la carte à Montebello

doglsed Montebello

Dog-sledding at Montebello. Photo: Patricia Maunder

It’s been quite the dud winter so far, with little sign of improvement on the horizon. No snow to speak of until just after Christmas, and generally much warmer than usual so what snow there is keeps melting and, even worse, it sometimes rains! My plans for lots of winter fun, including skating, snowshoeing and tubing down snow slides, has been badly impacted. Fortunately, one keenly anticipated weekend of winter activities worked out perfectly, as a generous 40cm of snow fell in one day shortly before my beau and I checked into Le Château Montebello.

Fairmont’s luxurious, giant log cabin of a hotel set on extensive resort grounds has got to be one of the best places for travellers looking to tick off a bunch of Canadian winter pleasures: snow-and-ice-based sports, crackling fires, a huge Christmas tree, rustic-meets-luxurious vintage decor that’s the epitome of Canadiana (in my mind, but it might seem old-fashioned to locals?). After driving about 90 minutes’ west of Montreal, I was enchanted the moment we drove under the property’s big log entrance arch, across the snow-covered grounds, then checked in in the grand central foyer. Continue reading

Meat-free Montreal / Montréal sans viande

miam kram

Chu Chai’s amazing Miam Kram – one of my favourite dishes in Montreal. Photo: Patricia Maunder

There’s a strange divide in Montreal’s dining scene: on one side a surprising number of vegetarian, even vegan, cafes and casual restos (the local, bilingual slang for restaurants), while with few exceptions anywhere that’s a bit fancy has almost nothing (or literally nothing) without meat, fish or seafood. There’s obviously a substantial population here that doesn’t eat animal products, but either few of them have much money, or most big time chefs have trouble conjuring interesting dishes not centred around flesh.

For most this divide is invisible, but for vegetarians (végétariens) and vegans (végétaliens) living in or visiting Montreal, here’s my take on the good food on offer – including a couple of fancy restaurants that not only cater to us, but also understand that we’re not birds limited to seeds and greens. Continue reading

Charlevoix getaway / Charlevoix escapade

Sunrise at Le Manoir Richelieu, looking across the St Lawrence River. Photo: Patricia Maunder

Sunrise at Le Manoir Richelieu, looking across the St Lawrence River. Photo: Patricia Maunder

Whales, a fancy rail journey, and a grand old hotel: it’s the kind of holiday combination I really like the sound of. So when I discovered it was all waiting for me in the nearby region of Charlevoix soon after moving here, it went high on my long travel wish list. I finally went there recently, though sadly, in the interim, the fancy rail journey has been reduced to a fairly functional affair, so skipped that.

Le Manoir Richelieu is still the grandest hotel around though, and it was peak whale-watching season … plus the weather was perfect, I went sea-kayaking and hiking, and was generally stunned by the natural beauty of yet another part of Québec. I was reminded, yet again, that Aussies who visit Canada but don’t get further east than the Rockies are missing out on a whole lot of wonder just in this province alone … Continue reading