Inn from the cold in Quebec
April 3, 2012
Inn from the cold in Quebec
Story by Jody Robbins
WAKEFIELD, QUEBEC — Wakefield Mill Inn has history, but it sure isn’t old. Ideally situated inside the wilds of 90,000-acre Gatineau Park, this former grain mill was given a new lease on life and converted into a quaint hotel a little more than 10 years ago.
It’s the only accommodation within Gatineau Park, which means guests have direct access to over 165 kilometres of trails for hiking, biking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
Many unique features of the 19th-century mill building have been preserved. Room numbers are made from the leather belts that connected the pulleys in the old mill and the heavy wooden beams featured in the reception area are fashioned from old leavers. The historic theme is carried through to guest rooms with exposed one-metre-thick stone walls and original hardwood floors. Of course, all 28 feet of MacLaren Falls is still there, just as it was when the mill opened in 1838.
Having recently undergone an expansive green reno with the addition of 13 guest rooms in Eco River Lodge, the inn is set to become the first LEED-certified hotel in the National Capital Region.
Says Innkeeper Robert Milling, “When you’re working with a heritage building, you either need to match perfectly, or contrast brilliantly.”
And contrast they did. The new, eco-rooms are sleek and modern, boasting in-wall gas fireplaces and freestanding soaker-tubs with floor-to-ceiling views. There’s even a recharging site for electric vehicles and pollution-free leisure transportation such as bikes, canoes, kayaks, skates and snowshoes made available to explore the surrounding area.
ROMANTIC SPA RETREAT
The Mill is a perfect hideaway for couples to sneak off — so much so, Valentine’s weekend is sold out months in advance (there’s only 40 guest rooms). Families are welcome, but there are only a few two-bedroom suites and not a lot of high chairs. Best to stash the kids with Grandma, while you enjoy quality time pour deux.
Start with a treatment or two in Canada’s most romantic spa — as voted by Glow magazine. Springtime takes the Dream Weaver couple’s massage ($105/person) outdoors, under a canopy tent in the luscious spa gardens. Or, stick to the basics indoors, including Les Chutes facials ($105/60 minutes) and Le Panache ($85/60 minutes) back care, specifically tailored for men.
You’ll be starved after all that pampering, so be sure to make a reservation in the Fine Dining Room. While it’s not stuffy, this is a classy joint, complete with amuse bouche dinner openers and menus without prices (at least for the ladies).
Start with a Kir Neige Royale made with the local apple cider or let the sommelier guide you to that perfect glass. With an emphasis on French and Québécois cuisine, you can’t go wrong with duck magret or cassoulet for entrees. And an inventive homemade apple donut atop shoestring apples with smoked vanilla ice cream is a perfectly sweet ending to any meal.
To provide a bit of colour to your visit, walk up the hill behind the Mill to MacLaren Cemetery. Lester B. Pearson is buried here, along with two of his favourite colleagues in adjoining plots (thankfully, their wives were also included). Talk about an eternal dinner party!
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