Among our many weekend road trips from Boston, our trips to Eastern Townships region of Canadian Quebec are the most exciting. There are not that many places in the Unites States that offer cross-border weekend trip opportunities and we consider ourselves quite lucky here in Boston!
Crossing the Border into Eastern Townships
It takes approximately 4 hours of driving to reach Canadian border from Boston’s southern suburbs and another half hour to the town of Sutton in Eastern Townships.
Eastern Townships is a region in south-eastern Quebec, Canada, situated to the south of the Saint Lawrence River towards the U.S. border. Its historical towns and parishes, the many nature parks and picturesque lakes and mountains – not forgetting the wine route and the spas! – offer plenty of recreational opportunities year-round! One of the draws of the region are its French cultural roots which makes our weekend adventures here even more special!
We have already visited the Eastern Townships in spring and summer on a couple’s wine and spa retreat and explored the wine route, Fall Harvest Fest and several spas. This winter weekend in the town of Sutton was a family one ( minus – or, actually, PLUS – mommy spa “detour” – saved for the end of the post!)
Settling in: Our Own Little House in the Woods
This was love from first sight: the moment we saw our own little house in Huttopia Village of Sutton, we have fallen in love with it (you can also book via Booking.com)! It has only been 4.5 hours since we left home that morning but we already felt oceans away from the hustles of daily life! We had our own little place in the forrest – and that is precisely what Huttopia is all about. You are having a vacation experience in the heart of nature, yet with many conveniences of a home. Huttopia Sutton is first North American location of the French-based Huttopia, and I am sure more Huttopia villages will come here in the future.
There was no TV or other electronics in our chalet, but there was plenty of “smart” space so that each member of the family was able to find their own place to relax. On the first floor, there is a bedroom, living area, kitchenette with a dining nook, and a bathroom with a shower.
Up the stairs there is another bedroom and a den with a pull-out coach.
During May through October you could also choose from four different Huttopia stationary tent styles – the most popular currently being a 2-bedroom Trappeur with cooking and bathroom facility! There are outdoor sporting facilities as well, but we will have to come back and check them out in the summer months!
Huttopia Sutton also houses a fully-updated hotel Horizon, and all chalet (and tent) guests can enjoy the pool and a communal game/living room located in the hotel. On our first night in Sutton we had dinner in the cozy dining room overlooking the mountains (well, technically we were only able to SEE the mountains during the day light at breakfast).
Mount Sutton ski resort is less than a mile away from the property (there is a ski shuttle), but from Hotel Horizon’s terrace you actually see another nearby mountain – Mont Bromont.)
Trying on the Snow Shoes
As much as we loved our new home, the woods were calling and we could not wait to get out and get moving! Our first fresh air adventure in Sutton: Plein Air Sutton center on chemin Maple, just outside the Huttopia village/Hotel Horizon (midway between the hotel and Mount Sutton). Plein Air is located inside the 200-acre forest and offers miles of interloping trails for hiking, cross-country skiing, and fat biking. The forest is 100-year old!
General Manager Micheline Côté has personally helped us select among several types of snow shoes for our first snow shoeing experience and before we knew it we were on a trail! We picked the easiest 1-km each way trail to a Hut (and back). Although the terrain was never fully flat, snow shoes make your feet stick to the snow-covered ground without sinking or sliding. You have to wear some type of winter boots underneath the snow shoes, but nothing special is required for beginners – just something warm and stiff for good ankle support. Snow shoeing is easier than snow walking in regular shoes, and it is a great winter family workout. The 3 of us pretty much kept the same pace on the way to the Hut (Vi got a bit tired going back).
Back to Basics: Mother-Daughter Ski Lesson at Mount Sutton
On the morning of our second day in town, we headed out for our all-day alpine skiing adventure. With its 60 trails, 204 junctions, a snowy microclimate and striking views, Mount Sutton offers plenty of affordable family skiing fun and its glade skiing is considered unparalleled in Canada.
But there was no glade skiing in sight for this family of weekenders. It was back to basics, mother-daughter style, with our instructor Martin.
Mount Sutton instructors were the best we have encountered: in-tune with your specific needs and hands-on!!
The mountain has recently changed ownership and remodeling plans are underway (which might, I suspect, be bittersweet for some loyal locals who are used to Mount Sutton’s “look and feel”). I am anxious to come back next winter to see all the updates!
We loved the gentle experience (and the affordable CAN $34/day “family slopes” ski path) so much, that Vi and Vit came back the following day, while I went for…
Mommy Retreat at SPA BALNEA
To tell you the truth, I would have visited the region for its spas alone. BALNEA SPA in a nearby town of Bromont (fifteen miles away from Sutton) is my new region’s favorite: located on a 400-acre private natural reserve, it overlooks Lake Gale and the mountains of Sutton and Owl’s Head.
You can observe the nature’s beauty as you relax in the outdoor whirlpool tubs/waterfall, and through a glass wall of sauna and relaxation rooms.
As you go through traditional spa heat-cold-relax cycle, you have a choice of experiences (including a cine-spa and Moroccan-theme relaxation alcove), so that it never seems crowded and everyone can find their own favorite corner of Zen.
There is a café on the second floor serving light dishes (and a beautiful vista to go with them!), but I made a mistake of going for a full meal at Lumami, BALNEA’s restaurant, in the middle of my spa experience. My dish of faro risotto of wild mushrooms and duck was delicious, but I should have known better to enjoy it after the spa experience!
Lumami offers an extended list of refreshing teas.
I cannot wait to go back to Balnea in the summer (and bring my spa-loving husband with me).
Daily Specials are in French!
Going to Eastern Townships always means an opportunity to enjoy its French cousine. After a day of skiing, we walked through the village of Sutton’s many artsy stores and then cozied up for dinner at town’s favorite Auberge des Appalaches (234, rue Maple). The owner Patricia Gérard personally greeted her guests in the inn’s traditional dining room which is known throughout the region for its locally grown food.
I would define the food at Auberge des Appalaches as casual gourmet: interesting, yet not “heavied” with too many ingredients. You could have a trout terrine or a burger, enjoy a romantic evening as a couple, or a family night on the town.
As we were finishing our dinner, Micheline from the Plein Air came to say hello. We have only spent a weekend in this charming town, and already felt connected!
TIP: If I may leave you with one tip for your own visit to the town of Sutton, be sure to make dinner reservations at least a day ahead, if not more. The most popular restaurants fill up quickly on the weekends. (This is how we did not get into the Micro-Brewery Auberge Sutton Brouerie on a Sunday evening!)
(Stay tuned for my four Seasons of Eastern Townships Spas story).
We thank Tourism Eastern Townships and Huttopia Sutton for hosting our stay in Sutton. We can’t wait to be back!
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