Boulangeries and Mercis: Canada's French Eastern Townships

The fields of deep lavender (bleu lavande) stretch vividly toward the green hills.

Donkeys at the donkey ranch nuzzle their mistress, and the honey bees buzz about at the Miellerie Lune de Miel, the honey farm.

About 150 miles south of Quebec and maybe 90 miles east of Montreal, The Eastern Townships of Canada (Cantons De L'Est,)  are so French, you may have to brush up on your language skills.

The villages and hamlets are French Canadian enclaves, and while the 95 Cantons may bear English names they boast a very French soul. Some have only a few hundred people living among the rolling hills, meadows and lakes.

But the French Canadians have done what they do well: touched up their small towns with whimsical design and bold dashes of color. The town of Magog, for example, bursts with flowers, small shops and lively street scenes.

Smells of baking bread and pastries drift from open doors of local Boulangeries like the Owl's Bread where we sat overlooking the river with a fresh chocolate croissant and very good coffee in hand.

The owner invited us to her kitchen, where she proudly introduced us to workers who were twisting the pastries and baking the bread. "We could become the Canadian French Riviera," she said. We have the river, the shops, the spirit. And we have good people."

Maybe she's right. Everywhere we went we experienced a joie-de-vivre.

Hovey Manor is probably the most elegant place to dine (or stay) in the Townships, but the Auberge Aux 4 Saisons, or Four Season's Inn, in Orford was perfect for our needs.   

The new, simple, eco-friendly lodge next to Mt. Orford, has a nice mix of comfort and techno; soft pillowtop beds and chrome.

Best way to see the Eastern Townships is to lose yourself in the country roads and road-side bistros, and be sure to practice your "merci's"

There's a lot here to be thankful for.

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