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

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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

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

Québec’s fairytale capital / Capitale de conte de fées de Québec

Looking along Terrasse Dufferin to Chateau Frontenac. Photo: Patricia Maunder

Looking along Terrasse Dufferin to Chateau Frontenac. Photo: Patricia Maunder

I don’t write about Québec City as often as I should. The province’s capital and prettiest city is only a few hours’ drive east of Montreal, so since moving here I’ve added annual visits to the two earlier trips when I travelled all the way from Australia. I tell friends coming to the region to include it in their itinerary if they possibly can, primarily because the fortified, historic heart of the city overlooking the St Lawrence River is utterly charming and picturesque (for North Americans, it’s like going to an old European town without crossing the Atlantic). So let me put it on record: Québec City is not only one of the best places to visit in the province, it’s also one of the best places on the continent.

Earlier posts have covered a few of the town’s pleasures, including the ice hotel and winter carnival. There’s so much more though. On a recent weekend, my packed itinerary mostly involved returning to some old favourites (including the recently renovated Chateau Frontenac), but also some new experiences. Follow me and get some more ideas for your next, or first, Québec City sojourn … Continue reading

Sweet treats / Douceurs sucrées

Everyone's making a beeline for the maple shop at Sucrerie de la Montagne! The buckets on the tree trunk at right are collecting maple sap. Photo: Patricia Maunder

Everyone’s making a beeline for the maple shop at Sucrerie de la Montagne! The buckets on the tree trunk at right are collecting maple sap. Photo: Patricia Maunder

So, the long, cold winter seems to be behind us in Montreal – though not before we had a few centimetres of snow a couple of weeks ago. It pleased me, as I still find snow beautiful and fascinating, but long-time residents were aghast at this late burst of winter! What is there to do now snow sports are over, but before the pleasures of warm weather begin on Montreal’s buzzing terraces and in parks bursting with colour and life? Eat!

In recent weeks I’ve enjoyed three tastebud-tickling places in and around Montreal that have done nothing to help me get in shape for summer: a high-end chocolate shop; an all-day afternoon tea salon with vintage elegance; and a sugar shack, or cabane à sucre, that goes all-out traditional on the Quebec maple syrup experience. Let me put on my purple Willy Wonka coat and hat, and I’ll show you around … Continue reading