Mellow in Montebello
It's no wonder Montebello was the site of the Three Amigos Summit in 2007: the town has just as many attractions in summer as in winter. There's snowshoeing on the grounds of the Fairmount hotel – a trip into a veritable winter wonderland – and visitors can take advantage of dog sled rides starting from the hotel grounds. The warmer season is the time to check out the Manoir Papineau, home of Louis-Joseph Papineau: leader of the Patriots, and the French-Canadian equivalent of Upper Canada Rebellion leader William Lyon Mackenzie.
The Manoir is painted a light blue and was built in 1850. Used as a summer residence, it was part of a “seigneurerie”, since even after the Conquest of 1759, the British did not abolish the Canadian nobility and the seigneurial landowner system instituted by the Ancien Régime in French colonial times. The Papineau clan was political from the start: Louis-Joseph’s father Joseph was a deputy in Parliament.
The style of architecture is neo-classical and the interiors are exquisite if compact. Sofas in the reception area are Louis XV Regency style. Chandeliers and gilded mirrors abound. No photographs are allowed within, as light deteriorates the materials of the furniture and interiors. In the parlour, the wallpaper has been painted with real gold. On the grounds is a 300-year-old oak tree, which must be supported by two vertical beams lest it come crashing down.
The coat of arms featured in the manor contains symbols of the Patriots: the beaver and the maple leaf, both of which were appropriated by the Canadian government over time. On the balcony, there is also an axe: I learn this is a revolutionary symbol dating back to ancient Greece. It symbolizes judges slicing through debates.
Bits of gossip: 1) Papineau’s daughter was only 3 foot 6 because of a congenital illness – which didn’t prevent her from marrying Henri Bourassa, founder of Le Devoir, one of the most important papers in Québec even today. 2) Papineau himself favoured a unique hairstyle resembling that of Tintin (the Belgian comic-strip reporter); maybe the cartoonist got the idea from looking at historical pictures.
After a very pleasant tour of the Manoir Papineau, and a relaxing bicycle tour around Château Montebello trails on the riverfront, there are many restaurants to choose from. One is the Resto-Bar Le Zouk. It's a lovely log-cabin structure on the main street with a large patio, spacious and well-designed modern washrooms as well as a good view of the adjacent golf course, with the river farther out. Some innovative music with a New Age flavour and a touch of world-beat sound pipes softly through the speakers, reminiscent of Buddha Bar CDs.
Photos (winter and summer)