Remember IN SEARCH OF THREE PINES, QC, CANADA – 14-16 AUGUST 2018? Well, repeat, albeit different, explorations took place a year and a day later. Same conspirators, different routes, different adventures, but same Auberge with the most inviting porch with a parade of semi-tractor trucks and construction vehicles – too much fun, too many laughs. Much of this post relies upon your memory of last year’s adventures, but at any time please click on the link above to view Knowlton, QC, the town, images of the inn, restaurants, meals, and Inspector Gamache points of interest. This adventure evolved from my desire to ride the Orford Express tourist train out of Magog, QC.
You know my preference. If I have not been on a road before – that is my preference. And, that is how I routed this adventure across the border, and back. To help you plan a great outing, click on the map below and see the route I highly recommend to cross (legally) our border to the north. Get off I-89 and head north on VT-100 towards Stowe. AVOID STOWE (so disappointing as I told you in May 2019), and turn west through Moscow to get to Route 108 north. You will approach the ski slopes, and Smugglers Notch, and then the most amazing road as you climb through the notch, a mountain pass in the Mount Mansfield State Forest – NOTE – Closed in the winter. I had to watch the road, but found this image on line showing you the road winding through many great rocks – glacially placed erratics (and you can click to enlarge to full screen).
This map to the left may be enlarged by clicking. I have highlighted my route north in pink except for the area through Smuggler’s Notch that is marked on the map – Road Closed Winter. An amazing route, one you must take. Following VT-108 through Enosburg Falls, it ends at VT-118 where you turn left (north) to Canada. Quickly you reach the border at the West Berkshire–Frelighsburg Border Crossing. Crossing, the route becomes Canada 237. Of course we were the only car to cross. Frelighsburg was but five minutes away – WOW, perfect spot, and many opportunities for a meal. By the way, food in the Eastern Townships of Quebec is amazing, and with 75 cents buying a Canadian dollar, a bargain (even with the hefty taxes added). The lunch choice was at Aux 2 Clochers.
Inside seating, or on the elevated patio above the small river.
So many wonderful choices. I choose the Grilled baguette with ham, pears, pecans, and Farnham Vigerons cheese. Flavors “to die for”
Crossing the street after lunch, we visited the 1850s Town Hall, and the old Academy building, now a visitor center and art gallery (worth the stop)
BUT – in front of the car are these massive THREE PINES
These three mature pines are at the main cross road in Frelighsburg. During the American Revolution, Loyalists, who would not swear allegiance to the colonies, would escape and cross the border to Canada. No concrete written evidence, but oral history, and some written journals, state that Canadians, to welcome those with allegiance to the crown crossing the border, would plant THREE PINES in their yards to signify that they were welcome at that home. Louise Penny named her fictional town for her mystery series – Three Pines.
The Eastern Townships is wine country, with many opportunities for vineyard tours, so off we went through the countryside.
Ms. T selected Le Vignoble du Russeau in Dunham for a visit. Ended up being the best possible choice.
We arrived, and purchased our tickets for the 3 PM tour. Shortly after the appointed hour we were told no 3PM tour on Friday, the host coming in on a week day was used to the weekend schedules. We were offered a full refund, a glass of wine, and a 45 minute abbreviated tour (for free) – it could not have been better. Started in 2007, an obviously wealthy man wanted to take care of his daughter. She likes wine, so why not develop a winery for her. Everything is “top drawer” including the shop.
We crossed the road for the vineyard. They have developed techniques (soon to be patented) for using geothermal energy to keep soil and roots warm, and facilitate the growing season.
You can see the tubing at the bottom of the vines. I asked about the grapes only growing at the bottom of the vine – that is it. After each season they cut the new growth back, the grapes grow and mature at the bottom, and new growth (to be cut back at the end of the season) continues upwards. We were there before the grapes maturity and tastiness for birds and other critters, but eventually they will be protected once the grapes are tasty to those hungry enemies. The hectares are so well landscaped.
Then we headed to Knowlton and the Auberge Knowlton (images available in the last post), but in the image below, my room is the window on the second floor in the middle of the image. You can see the massive second floor porch on the left, and that is were we planted ourselves each evening making new friends. Dinner the first night was at the Auberge – Thursday is special night – $14 Canadian entrees – $10.50 US, plus taxes and tip.
Breakfast, as last year, was taken at the Star Cafe. Built as a tannery in 1843, a fire in 1903 left only the stone walls. Restoration in 2009 created this wonderful place to eat with a nice atmosphere and servers.
It was then time to head to Magog to the east, and the Orford Express tourist train . Magog is at the northern end of glacial Lac Memphremagog which extends south across the border for a total distance of 31 miles to Newport, Vermont. A beautiful park lines the northern shore with both boating and a boat tour of the lake, and the station for the train. Parking is at a public lot $10C ($7.50 US) for all day, and little jitneys run people back and forth.
soon the train arrived
and it was time to board. There were two coaches and the observation car. A locomotive was at each end.
the coaches were restored and outfitted with comfortable facing seats with a table inbetween
I am sure that the interior of the 1956 Budd Company observation car was outfitted to replicate the ambience of the Orient Express. Wood, appointments, eye candy everywhere.
and, a gallery of two of the appointments – the sculpture at the bottom of the stairway to the observation dome.
and, the dome
and, looking back at the station and lake from the dome.
and, then the 2 1/2 hour luncheon journey began – my friends were impressed. Of course, lunch began with a bottle of wine. The previous day at the winery, posted was a sign asking, “What is a meal without wine? Breakfast!” The wine passed all tests.
and, lunch – stuffed chicken.
The train arrives in Sherbrooke for a half hour layover before the return.
the vintage station has been restored with impressive food stalls
and a farmer’s market and other activities and food venues were outside
remember the image I shared last year, “why you visit the Eastern Townships?” Well, here is a reminder from the park opposite the station – please do click to enlarge.
Desert was served on the way back, along with excellent live entertainment. This young lady serenaded this couple celebrating their anniversary.
all great trips come to an end, and I wandered a tad out onto the dock as the tour boat (owned by the same company) was returning.
and then, back on the jitney to the parking lot. I must mention that Canadians are proud, and their properties impeccable, both private and public. Tacky, colorful plastic yard and children’s toys (seen once we crossed back into the USA) are not to be seen, only colorful flower beds.
I think this a good point to give you a marked up map of the three days’ routes. I encourage you to click on the map for a full screen view. The pink to the west is the route up over the border, side trip to the winery, and then main roads to Knowlton. In yellow to get to Magog quickly I headed up to “interstate” 10, but heading back to Knowlton had to travel back roads – of course. Saturday’s route home headed first down Route 243 to Mansonville (not been in that area before), then back up through Austin to Magog, and then over to North Hatley for lunch. From there back roads through Waterville to Route 147, and south to the border – another “new” route for me.
Friday the 17th was a four-hour repast on the porch. Big lunch, no need for a big dinner. Wine purchased already from the winery with our tour savings, and a stop at the Knowlton IGA for cheese, meats and a baguette was perfect to satisfy all. As usual, I never did open the book I brought to read. Bill and Cheryl from way above Toronto joined us while they ate their picnic on the porch. We all chatted, shared, and learned from each other subjects from agriculture to geology, to local history, some politics, and Canadian medical care. What more could you ask for?
In the morning it was back to Star Cafe for coffee and breakfast shortly after 7. One of our party, to avoid acute crankiness, requires coffee by 7AM. We entered to learn they open at 8, but wait, this is Canada, and we were graciously welcomed to sit, have coffee and wait for the kitchen to open. I went light this morning with French Toast, and the most amazing pulled ham.
Some shopping followed (for the females in the group) before we sadly departed. On the way out of town we stopped at Lac Brome Ducks (essentially correct). Last year a fire had consumed the visitor shop, so we had to see the new facility.
I had worked out some roads before not taken to North Hatley, and then from there south. See the eastern pink markings on the map above. Off south to Mansonville (no not him), to Vale Perkins, Knowlton Landing, through Magog to North Hatley, for this view of the lake from my parking spot.
and, sitting on the sidewalk, for me it was MEXICAN SALAD REDUX.
With this trip, and these two border crossings I have now covered all crossings to and from Canada from Vermont and New Hampshire. RAY RECOMMENDS avoid I-91 and I-89 crossings. It is much more fun waking up sleeping guards at remote spots, but alas, there were three vehicles ahead of us. Did I say this was isolated? Well, the Duty Free shop did not make it as you can see in the gallery below.
Not having been there before, I had to follow Vermont 114 south to Island Pond and below. It follows railroad tracks. Island Pond is isolated, but at least had a gas station. The train station below is lovely, but the commercial block reminded me of some of the remote western towns I saw from my cross-country train trip.
Eventually intersecting with I-91 it was a straight shot home, full of more Canadian memories.
the following is adapted and reiterated from IN SEARCH OF THREE PINES:
1 – Learn all you can about the Eastern Townships, and visit, and visit often
2 – You do not even have to get Canadian money. You can use a credit card for everything, and I did again – have not yet totaled it, but at 75 cents US for $1 Canadian, another bargain trip.
3 – Travel Vermont Route 108 from outside Stowe to the border, BUT particularly through Smuggles’ Notch
4 – Start reading Louise Penny mysteries
5 – AND, travel NOW to the Eastern Townships
I will head back soon (I said it before, and say it again), thanks for traveling with me, yours, RAY