Although brief, my stay at the Relais & Chateaux luxury getaway the Manoir Hovey in Quebec’s Eastern Townships was remarkable in almost every way. More than a simple hotel, the Manoir provides guests with plenty of ways to enjoy their time there, most of which I availed myself of as I got to know this special area of Quebec a little better.
While my experience with yoga is limited, I’ve always enjoyed the exercise because it’s so much more than a workout. It’s a way to relax, stay in shape and become more centered, all in one easy package. That’s probably why yoga classes are so very popular at the Manoir honey during the summer months. In fact, they’re so popular that they decided to offer a unique wintertime version. Snowga is exactly what it sounds like, yoga out in the snowy courtyards around the beautiful hotel. While it was a little strange to put on long johns and a winter coat for yoga, that hesitation soon disappeared as I started my breathing exercises under the expert care of a local yoga pro. The next hour was both outside and under cover, as it started to rain, but it was great. Being outside in the still of a wintry morning was ideal for the yoga experience. There was a sort of tranquility that only nature can provide and because of that, more than anything else, it made my snowga experience something I know I’ll never forgot.
I’ve already written about this fairly extensively, but one of the highlights for me at the Manoir was the food. Relais & Chateaux properties never fail to amaze when it comes to the culinary side of the house, but at the Manoir Hovey they’ve elevated this already high standard to something truly exceptional. Chef Wolf uses the local region and the seasons to dictate his always changing menus, creating modern and elegant dishes that reflect the best of both. While this is fine dining at its best, it’s not too stuffy. The food is approachable since it uses ingredients we all know well, a high-end version of popular dishes many of us love. That expertise in the kitchen doesn’t end with dinner, even breakfast and lunch options are executed with precision and are of course delicious. My only food regret was that I didn’t have time to try everything on the menu.
Local expert Florent Hébert offers guests at the Manoir Hovey the opportunity to join him on the ice of Lake Massawippi in front of the property for an afternoon they won’t soon forget. A local character, his stories, wit and wisdom I think are the stars of the experience, but being out on the lake is fun too. Showing even horrible novices like myself the ins and outs of ice fishing is surprisingly fun and if you’re from a more southerly part of the world, like I am, it’s not an activity you’ve probably ever done before. Florent is also a trained chef and brings with him homemade pizza he bakes in a small oven on the ice along with beverages and a lot of cheer. It’s a fun afternoon of community and bonding and I quickly understood why it’s one of the most popular wintertime activities at the Manoir.
Exploring the Region
Quebec’s Eastern Townships are a popular tourist destination year-round for a variety of reasons. In the summer months, the lakes and rivers are the perfect spots to relax, go boating or try some fishing. Even in the winter though, as during my visit, there’s plenty to see and do. Skiing has been popular here for years, and many guests at the Manoir spend most of their days shushing down the slopes. It’s not all action packed adventure though, the Townships themselves are a beautiful destination in their own right. Driving around, even in the snow, I couldn’t help but be taken by the rolling farms and Green Mountains of Vermont further in the distance. It’s a rural place, but it’s what I needed. I needed a place where I could slow down and relax, and for me the Eastern Townships fit the bill.
One of the best things to do at the Manoir Hovey though is nothing at all. For decades, this luxurious home has been the preferred getaway for the rich and famous as well as the average person like myself. Set alongside the lake with the woods as backdrop, the seclusion creates an air of exclusivity and plenty of opportunities to relax. For me, those opportunities began with the room itself. With only 37 rooms, the hotel really does feel more like a home and each room features unique designs accentuating that point. Modern but elegant, the rooms are inviting and homey, making them the perfect place to relax. In the summer there are plenty of lounge areas outside along the lake, pool or in the many courtyards. In the winter months, the library and the Tap Room Pub onsite are exactly the kind of cozy retreat you’d imagine at a luxury hotel like the Manoir Hovey. No matter how you decide to relax, it’s an easy enough feat to achieve at this remarkable property.
The Manoir Hovey is a special hotel. Small, independently owned and incredibly luxurious, staying there feels like an intimate and personalized experience because it is. Staff spend time getting to know their guests, their likes and dislikes. The result is a bespoke, tailored experience that is itself the very definition of luxury travel. It’s travel personalization at its best. That’s rare, but that’s also what makes the Manoir Hovey such a remarkable place to visit.